A second theme in the ethical teaching of Jesus that sheds some light on this debated controversy about homosexuality is that of conversion, which is the transformation of cracked Eikons by grace into living out that grace. I rely here on what I have said in A New Vision for Israel and, to a lesser degree, in Jesus Creed. There are two elements to conversion for Jesus: a positive element and a negative element. Remember, too, that this summons to conversion was part and parcel of living with Jesus and watching him live; it involved sitting at table with Jesus.
The positive element involves a process of transformation, a process that is different from person to person, but to one degree or another, the following elements emerge: there is a deliberated decision (see Luke 14:25-33), there is public identification with Jesus (Matthew 10:26-33), and there is a life of obedience to Jesus (Matthew 5–7).
The negative element in conversion involves another process: both internal and external repentance. Internal repentance pertains to the self and the heart; external pertains to those things that we need to leave behind. The external varies from person to person — money, etc.. But there is one thing that is certain about conversion in its negative sense: everyone surrenders the self, the inner being, to Jesus.
Conversion is the process of transformation, it is both an event that happens and that keeps on happening, and the direction of that transformation is that we move into union with the perichoresis of the trinitarian God. You may know that I charted the process of Peter’s conversion in Jesus Creed and I think we are obligated to let God’s work be God’s work, without surrendering our important task of lovingly telling the truth. Forced moral conformity can destroy moral development.
Here’s the text that comes as close as we can get to the bottom line feature of Jesus’ summons to follow him:
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
And conversion is all about identity. In Turning to Jesus I define conversion (at some spot) as the transformation of our identity. Instead of being “Mine” (in the sense of grasping Ego) we become “Jesus’ ” (in the sense of no longer a grasping Ego). It is as simple and as penetratingly complex as that. And I do not mean to be anything other than deeply aware of how intricate, how involved, how deep our own sense of identity is.
I am concerned here with moral logic: moral decisions are made by followers of Jesus, not by appeal to self, but by appeal to life in and with and under Jesus. The Lord who is with us and for us.