If those who are summoned to the table of transformation by Jesus are to love God, they are also to love others, and this has significant implications for the issues that swirl around homosexuality and the Church. It works in two directions, and not just one:
First, those who follow Jesus are to love one another in a noteworthy way and they are to love others. “All will know that,” Jesus once said, “you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35). And the Jesus Creed is that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). And Jesus summons his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). So, whatever one thinks, to love or not to love those with same-sex orientation or same-sex sexual relations is not an option.
Perhaps it is here that we should offer a definition of love: it the one I have been using for several years. “To love others is to yearn for, work for, and pray for what God wants for that person.” Of course, I know, it is that “what God wants” that gets sticky — but what I’m striving for in this definition is that love is not blanket tolerance of anything goes for Jesus. His view is nearly that of Aristotle: where it meant the striving together for virtue.
It is not ours to judge who is and who is not a Christian; it is ours to live the gospel, live out the Story, and summons others — whether in the family or not — to live out that Story with us.
Second, it behooves homosexuals who claim to be followers of Jesus to love others, including Christians — even if some them are insufferable about what they believe. Most of the time when we talk about this issue, Christians are exhorted to show more compassion and to show more pastoral sensitivity — and I’ve said and will continue to say this. But, if we are examining how Jesus would deal with the issues involved, Jesus would summon all people to love others. For me, this would also mean that same-sex orientation and sexual relational people would be exhorted to love others. It is not for me, of course, to tell others what to do or even how to love others — but this I’m certain of: Jesus would exhort each of us to love others, whoever we or they might be.
In both of these relational directions, each person is treated as an Eikon, as a person worthy of respect, and honor, and dignity, and conscience. Love does not demonize anyone for any choice they have made; it does not define people off the map; it does not “other”; and it does not assault the viability of the other person.
Furthermore, to love other Christians is to recognize the sweep and flow of God’s people in the history of the Church. I place Church Tradition right here: Church Tradition is what others in the history of the Church have decided; it is ours to respect that Tradition. It is unloving, I’m suggesting, to sweep aside without serious discussion, without serious recognition of the presence of God’s Spirit in the Church. And I’m not saying there is not a place and time for change; I’m saying that place and that time arrive only after careful considerations.
In my estimation, we are back to the table with Jesus: he would have welcomed homosexuals to the table in order to summons them into the Kingdom of God. And he would not have tossed them out of the room; he would have allowed them to sit there as long as they wanted to listen to him and be with him, because Jesus believed in the power of embracing grace that transforms. He would have exhorted them to love God and to love others.
If Jesus welcomed prostitutes, tax collectors, “unclean” women, etc., he certainly would have welcomed homosexuals — and this assumes what I’ve said in the previous two posts about how loving God involves living out the Story of the God of Israel by living out Scripture, and that Leviticus and Romans (probably also 1 Cor and 1 Tim) each teaches that same-sex acts are “out of order.”
Next post: on discipleship failure among Jesus’ followers and how he responded.