What I Used to Think and What I Now Believe… Sexuality

opchristmas ch

Last week I shared a link on Facebook that gives reasons to not support Operation Christmas Child this year. Along with sharing this, I commented that a much better choice would be making a donation to Lutheran World Relief. Here is the link: http://emilyjoypoetry.com/7-reasons-not-to-participate-in-operation-christmas-child-this-year?utm_content=buffera6fd8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

A few days later I received the following request via message on Facebook. I replied that I would compose a response when I had some time to sit at my computer.

I have been pondering your post about Operation Christmas Child.
Can you help me understand what your position on homosexuality is,
it sounds different than what I read in my bible.

After thinking about it for a few days, I’ve decided to share a bit of what I used to think and how, through faith, I’m able to see a bit differently. So follow along as I a share a bit about how Jesus has opened my eyes.

What I Used to think: 

  • I have to first confess that I never really thought about sexuality much. I don’t remember having any gay or lesbian friends when I was younger.

What I Now Believe:

  • Upon reflection, I’m sure that I did have such friends (or at least acquaintances) but I was unaware…my loss.

What I Used to think: 

  • I also have to confess that when I began my own journey of faith towards ordination, I kind of resented my LGBTQ brothers and sisters without even knowing them. This was because I was in a church denomination (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod-LCMS) that did not recognize the call of God upon women leaders as pastors. A common argument against female ordination (that I heard often) was, “if we ordain the women, then the gays are next.”

What I Now Believe:

  • Really? What a self centered _______. I was very much tempted to not make this confession. But I believe in a God who not only forgives but lovingly gives us opportunity after opportunity to grow and to see the world differently. I now recognize that argument against women’s ordination in the LCMS to be logical. Only now I see it, not as a slippery slope to traverse but rather as an issue of JUSTICE. God loves me, just as I am and God has called me to be a religious leader…a pastor…even if I have the wrong body parts for some people. In the same way God has created, loved and called my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

What I Used to think: 

  • But what does the Bible say? The Bible doesn’t really say much about homosexuality. There is a verse in Leviticus…there is something in Romans… and I’m sure there is something in another place. Just as there  are a few verses that people have used to justify the forever subordination of women, not only in the church, but in the home. I was actually told, in the LCMS, that women cannot lead men because of the order of creation (Genesis 2). The first time I heard this argument, I was still a long way away from thinking that God was calling me to be a pastor. It probably had the opposite of its intended effect. Read Genesis 2…so according to the logic of order of creation, women must be subordinate to men…and all the animals too?

What I Now Believe:

  • I am thankful to have learned, at my non-Lutheran, non-denominational, evangelical seminary (Fuller), how to read the Bible for the whole message rather than pull out verses here and there in an attempt to prooftext. I also believe that it is completely impossible to, as many like to say, “interpret the Bible literally.” The Bible is made up of many types of literature, was written over centuries, and reflects the context of the times that the books were written. Plus, we are faced with contradictions within this sacred text and so we must work together to discern the meaning of the text for us today. Take creation for example. Read Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Which one is correct? Why are there two accounts of creation? Personally, I love that right at the beginning we are forced away from a literal interpretation. I also see God’s grace right there at the beginning (ahh…maybe that is a purpose of these stories).Super important for me is the end of that first creation account, “Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, in our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26a, 27 NIV).

    Isn’t that awesome? We – all of us – were created in God’s image. Male and female were were created! So to fully reflect God’s image we need to include all people… male, female, gay, lesbian, black, white, brown, short, tall, you name it! Not only that, but God looked at creation and called it very good. That is Grace!

What I Used to think: 

  • But the Bible (some more)…our scriptures speak far more about justice for the oppressed, and greed, and gossip, and the general failure to love those around us than it does about sexual behavior. Once, as I was learning…and not seeing fully, I made a personal analogy. You see, I have always struggled with my weight. I firmly believe that if I hadn’t been active for most of my life I would probably be morbidly obese, and when I have occasions of inactivity my weight will raise pretty quickly.So, it was a bit disconcerting to read about the sinfulness of gluttony in my bible. Here is a nice verse from Proverbs (23:20-21): “Do not join with those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and glutton become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”

    I was certainly thankful to understand that Jesus loved me and forgave me. I also saw, and continue to see, overweight people in the church, and I would wonder why their sins were forgivable and why they were welcome, but gays and lesbians were not (please keep reading!).

What I Now Believe:

  • That last paragraph is an example of someone good heartedly not understanding something important and thus being incredibly stupid and offensive. Here is an important truth (and a bible verse, Romans 3:23-24): “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” This is good news for us all, as all of us sin and need forgiveness.But it is important to recognize that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered is how our dear sisters and brothers were created. So I cannot use my analogy of overeating. The truth is that it is not a sin to be who you are. The truth is that we are all created in God’s image and we are precious and valuable and lovable… all of us. Yes we all sin and thus need forgiveness. I am thankful for the gift of grace that we all receive and may I live out that grace in ways that are pleasing to God.

One last one! What I Used to think: 

  • It’s ultimately about God’s grace.

What I Now Believe:

  • It’s still all about God’s grace! This is why I am a Lutheran…this understanding of grace. So, as Lutherans we believe that grace (and thus being made right with God) is a completely free gift from God through Jesus. There is nothing that we can  do to earn this gift… it is truly free. So we don’t have to say a special prayer that accepts Jesus into our heart. Really, we don’t have to do anything…because Jesus has already done everything. What wonderful news for us all… and for my LGBTQ sisters and brothers as well.Jesus loves us and accepts us just the way we are. Anything that we do is a response to that love. And how does Jesus want us to respond? By loving the Lord our God with all our hearts and by loving our neighbors as ourselves. We don’t really need to know more than that.

And with all of this I am eternally grateful that God, through the years has opened my eyes so that I may see this world in all its glory. And some of that glory is reflected in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered folks that I have had the privilege of knowing as friends and colleagues and especially as beloved sisters and brothers in Christ.

I hope this answers the question.