Monday, June 29, 2009

A Call for Change

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and in recognition of the many ways that equal rights for all people are being fought for all over the world today, I am sharing the text of a sermon I preached two Sundays ago. 

The text being referenced is Acts 8:26-40, where Philip meets the Ethiopian eunuch on the road.

For the audio of this sermon, see Episode 7 of The Truth As Best I Know It Podcast.


Annual Conference begins today in Brentwood, and we have a lot of work to do over the next few days. The 2008 General Conference approved a number of amendments to our Constitution, and kind of like amending the US Constitution, these amendments have to be ratified by a majority of the Annual Conferences to take affect.

One of the amendments that is being voted on changes some of the language about inclusiveness in our denomination. The change would state that all people are eligible to become members of the United Methodist Church. Sounds like a no brainer, right? All people are welcome in the church! The thing is, though, that there are a lot of people who are opposed to this amendment, but their argument is a bit hard to understand. The folks who oppose the inclusiveness amendment say that stating that all people are eligible to become members of the church would change the church’s stand on homosexuality. That’s not even remotely true, but that’s what they’re arguing. The amendment saying nothing about sexual orientation, and our social principles remain the same. They’re doing this not because they actually think that the amendment has anything to do with issues of sexual orientation; they’re doing it because they know by brining up the gay issue people will get very emotional and they’ll be able to trick them into voting the way they want.

Recently I received a letter from the Clarksville Ministerial Association inviting me to a meeting where a speaker would be informing of how a hate crimes bill that is now before Congress would supposedly make preaching about homosexuality a hate crime. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t go to the meeting. But once again we see someone bringing up the gay issue as smoke screen to scare people into agreeing with their position. These are just two examples of the way we see dialogue in Christian circles devolving from actually talking about issues into misinformation and fear mongering. And as a pastor I’m forced to ask myself why this is.

Now, before I go on, let me say that I’m not here today to tell you what you should believe about issues of sexual orientation. Good, faithful people who love God and consider the Bible to be authoritative come down on all different sides on these issues. There are those who read certain passages in the Old Testament and believe that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. And there are those, myself included, who read those same passages, and looking in light of the historical and cultural circumstances in which they were written, conclude that the Bible doesn’t really say anything about what we currently understand as same gender attraction. Like I said, my goal today is not to tell you what to believe, so I bring this up only to say that there are good and faithful people on all sides of these issues.

Since there is genuine disagreement among Christians about these issues, we should have honest and open dialogue about them. What we can’t do is keep things going the way they are now, because it’s absolutely killing us. We’ve retreated into our mutual camps and lob rhetorical bombs and hollow soundbytes at one another, and a lot of people are getting hurt in the process. People who are gay have suffered tremendous emotional abuse at the hands of the church, and many people who see this kind of stuff go on want to have nothing to do with Christianity.

There was a book that came out two years ago called un-Christian, and it talked about the results of a massive study that the George Barna group conducted about people’s perceptions of Christianity. They found that 91% of non-church-goers and 80% of church goers under 40 perceived Christianity as hateful towards gays and lesbians. The perception wasn’t that Christians had a respectful disagreement, it was that they hated gay people. Of course, there have been a lot of people who have been quick to point the finger at the media, saying that the media is liberal and anti-Christian, but you remember what grandma used to say when you pointed the finger at someone else? You’ve got three more fingers pointing back at you. We can’t blame our image problems on anybody but ourselves.

Now I realize it’s a bit strange for me to say “we” and “us” in this conversation, because I’m largely preaching to the choir here. In the two years I’ve been your pastor I’ve never heard anyone engage in any bigoted or hateful speech against any group, and I proudly tell my colleagues that. Not participating in the evils of bigoted and hateful speech is certainly a good start, but we can’t stop there. Again, I can’t tell you what to believe about these issues. What I can say is that the way we as Christians talk about these issues has to change. We have to take a stand against hatred, because hated has no place in the church that bears the name of Jesus Christ.

Since the very beginning, the church has, in its best moments, been able to transcend the differences and misunderstandings that divide us and show us that our common unity as children of God is what really matters. That’s what is happening in the passage we just read from the book of Acts. Here we see Philip being led by the Holy Spirit to a place where he will encounter someone who needs him. This man is a eunuch from Ethiopia, and he’s a very important administrator for the royal family. A eunuch is somebody, probably a slave, who was castrated at a very young age so that he could have this administrative position. In many ancient societies it was believed that a eunuch was able to be trusted around women unsupervised because they wouldn’t have any, let’s say, “improper” motives. The thing about being a eunuch, though, is that while that status enables him to have such a powerful position, it also makes him an outcast to everyone else. In ancient societies that placed a lot of emphasis on male virility, a man who couldn’t reproduce was something less than human. And according to the Laws of Moses, someone who was less than a whole person, someone like a eunuch, couldn’t be fully included in the covenant community of Israel. So even though this Ethiopian man is passionately searching for God, even though he’s deeply immersed himself in the scriptures, even though he’s taken the time and expense to come to Jerusalem to worship, he’s not allowed in. Because of his sexuality, or lack thereof, in the eyes of others, he can at best stand on the sidelines and hope that God’s grace is much bigger than what he has been told.

That hope is answered in his encounter with Philip. Philip explains the scriptures to him, tells him about Jesus, and he believes. So the question the eunuch puts to Philip is a very important one. “Look, here is some water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He knows that the answer is probably “because you’re a eunuch, and if I did that I’d be violating the commands of scripture”. But Philip knows that the grace of God made known to us in Jesus Christ is a whole lot bigger than all of these divisions and misunderstandings that keep us apart, even divisions that end up getting codified in religious purity laws.

Philip baptizes the eunuch- an act that would be unthinkable to most Jews, and probably most followers of Jesus at the time. And in doing so Philip proclaims that all of God’s children are welcome in this family. He doesn’t resolve the questions about what he might need to do differently as part of his new life in Christ. Those are questions we see dealt with in great detail later on in Acts. But in this moment, Philip encountered a man who has been told all his life that because of his sexuality he was unacceptable and something less than fully human. So by baptizing this man, Philip says to him, “you are a child of God. You are acceptable. You are loved. You are welcome in this family.”

Today, just like two thousand years ago, we don’t all agree about what constitutes right and wrong actions in many areas of life, sexuality and sexual preference among them. We can and should talk about these issues, but the way we do it has to change. Instead of dialogue full of fear and hatred, half-truths and outright lies, we need to remember that no matter what our differences, each and every person on this earth is a beloved child of God, created in God’s image and that absolutely nothing can change that. I pray that this church will continue to be a place where everyone feels welcome, and that we will have the courage to take a stand against hatred and fear. For when we do that we are truly being the body of Christ in this world.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is an unbelievable twisting of scripture. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are quoting from Acts, but do you not recall that in Acts chapter 15 they had a council in Jerusalem, and that as a result of that discussion about legalism the leaders of the church told the new believers that they didn't have to follow the laws of Moses but they did have to abstain from sexual immorality? Sir, if homosexuality is not sexual immorality, then what is? Is there anything at all that can be called "sexually immoral" in your eyes? Amazing.

iskahleah said...

A good imperative toward inclusiveness. As you said, this is not about whether you think homosexuality is right or wrong, but about whether Jesus loves and welcomes all people into family.

Anonymous proved your point for you, though, in that once you say "gay," all nuance is lost on people and they just slam the door.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it IS about whether homosexuality is right or wrong. If a person is living in a lifestyle of sin, in no way can they be considered a Christian. The question raised was not whether a person should be allowed to walk in the doors of the church, but whether they should be considered for membership. It doesn't seem like asking too much to ask that anyone considered for membership in a Christian church should at least be a Christian. As for the central question of whether homosexuality is sinful or not, there is no nuance in the scriptures. Romans 1 and 1Corithians 6 make it abundantly clear.

B Smith said...

Such passion hidden under the veil of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

B Smith,
I'm always amused when other people act as if my comments have less weight than theirs just because I'm posting under "Anonymous". How much information would I have to give you before you would take me seriously? Full name, age, address, phone, SSN, ages of children? Of course, the only thing I know about you is that you are posting under the username "B Smith", which may or may not tell me anything about you. What's in a name if it's a phony name to begin with? And even if "B Smith" is your real name, do I really know more about you than you do about me? Actually, I don't. So you see, I'm not "hidden" any more than you are. But then again, the content of your post (or lack of content) does tell me one thing about you: you don't have anything interesting or relevant to say on this subject. Thanks at least sharing that much of yourself with us.

Anonymous said...

Matt,
In all seriousness, I would like to hear how you would respond to the concerns I have raised.

And if "Anonymous" bothers you, just call me Joseph.

B Smith said...

"If a person is living in a lifestyle of sin, in no way can they be considered a Christian."

In that case, I cannot call myself a Christian and I do not know one person who COULD call her/himself a Christian. We spend so much time pointing out the speck in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank in our own eye. I choose to lean on the side of grace. I am a sinner in need of grace and I welcome all sinners to my church because we are all in the same boat.

Joseph, there is no need it me trying to argue with you because you've got it all locked down, right? "No amount of talkin' can change a mind that's been made up."

Matt Kelley said...

Wow, guys, let's keep it civil. Anonymous posts are fine, but you have to be respectful.

Touche on the 'Princess Bride' quote, by the way.

In response to the concerns you've raised, please refer to the part of the sermon where I say how I've wrestled with the texts you've brought up and how I don't believe that the Bible actually says anything about what we now understand as monogamous, same sex relationships.

I respect the viewpoint of those who understand these texts in different ways, but I don't believe being gay is a choice or a sinful lifestyle. None of us is perfect and in the church we are all striving to grow in love and grace together.

My point in the sermon was to say that we don't have to agree, but we should be loving and respectful to one another, and not "be ashamed" of our honest convictions just because they may not be popular.

jodi said...

So much anger, so much fear, so much pain. To engage in discussion requires real desire to hear and even the possibility that the person you are listening to might have something to teach you.

Matt, I appreciate your use of this pericope for a discussion of inclusiveness. I had not considered that the Ethiopian eunuch's powerlessness and just how radical his baptism was. What an example for us today.

B Smith said...

Here is an interesting video on Romans 1 from Dr. John Holbert from Perkins School of Theology. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g2wmxPk9aU

Katie Z. said...

I wanted to respond to a few of the questions that were raised by the first commenter.

1) I find the story of the eunuch to be a really interesting parallel to the discussion about homosexuality because some eunuch's were castrated against their will, and I don't believe that homosexuality is a choice, but a part of who we are. In either case, I don't believe that either constitute a "lifestyle" in the way I believe you are using the term, but become a part of who you are. That is perhaps why I don't think that it is a twisting of scripture, but you do. We start with different assumptions about what homosexuality is.

2) I am someone who does not believe that homosexuality per se is sexually immoral which raises your question of what people who believe that would consider sexual immorality. Let me list a few: marital rape, child molestation, sexual slavery, breaking a covenantal relationship through adultery, worshipping other gods through sexual acts, hetero and homosexual rape... and I might actually make a distinction between those who visit prostitutes and those who are prostitutes - I believe those who visit prostitutes to be engaging in sexually immoral acts, but I know that many who are sex workers have been forced into that position and I cannot make the same judgement... just to name a few.

Anonymous said...

Hello again. There are several people who have posted here in response to my thoughts, and I would like to reply to them one by one.

"B Smith" started by quoting me:

"If a person is living in a lifestyle of sin, in no way can they be considered a Christian."

Then he said:
"In that case, I cannot call myself a Christian and I do not know one person who COULD call her/himself a Christian. We spend so much time pointing out the speck in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank in our own eye. I choose to lean on the side of grace. I am a sinner in need of grace and I welcome all sinners to my church because we are all in the same boat."

You are blurring the distinction between repentant sinners (who are saved) and unrepentant sinners (who are not). If you knew a guy who was married and went out every night to sleep with a different woman, and you confronted him with his sin but he blew you off and kept on doing it, would you call that person a Christian? I hope not. Repentance is not optional for a Christian, it is commanded by Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and James in the scriptures. For example:
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." --(Acts 17:30-31)

"Joseph, there is no need it me trying to argue with you because you've got it all locked down, right?"

No, but God does. And He has given it to us in His word. Your argument is not with me, but with Him. -- Joseph

Anonymous said...

Matt also responded to me.

"In response to the concerns you've raised, please refer to the part of the sermon where I say how I've wrestled with the texts you've brought up and how I don't believe that the Bible actually says anything about what we now understand as monogamous, same sex relationships."

What you actually said in the sermon is this: "There are those who read certain passages in the Old Testament and believe that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. And there are those, myself included, who read those same passages, and looking in light of the historical and cultural circumstances in which they were written, conclude that the Bible doesn’t really say anything about what we currently understand as same gender attraction."

This is a bit of a verbal deception. Of course the Bible says nothing about "attraction", I agree with that. But "attraction" is not the issue. What the Bible does condemn is homosexual *activity*. If the person has some kind of attraction to another person that is not a sin. It becomes a sin when they engage in sexual activity with that person. What the Bible condemns in the passages I mentioned is the activity, not the attraction. If you agree with me on that, then we have no quarrel at all. And by the way, the reason I used NT passages is because you used the phrase "certain passages in the Old Testament", as if to say that there were no passages in the NT that address the issue. There are such passages, and they are very clear and unambiguous.

"I respect the viewpoint of those who understand these texts in different ways, but I don't believe being gay is a choice or a sinful lifestyle. None of us is perfect and in the church we are all striving to grow in love and grace together."

I am not concerned about perfection, but about the attitude of the heart. If a person is involved in a sexual affair outside of marriage, be it homosexual or heterosexual, he/she needs to repent from that sin. If he/she refuses, then that is a clear sign that this person is not a Christian.

"My point in the sermon was to say that we don't have to agree, but we should be loving and respectful to one another, and not "be ashamed" of our honest convictions just because they may not be popular."

I'm not concerned about popularity either. I am concerned about faithfulness to what the Lord has commanded in his word.

Anonymous said...

Jodi also responded to me.

"So much anger, so much fear, so much pain."

First of all, please dispense with the claims of "anger" and "fear". This is an example of the "rhetorical bombs and hollow soundbytes" that Matt mentioned in his sermon. Do not presume to know how I am feeling. I do not hate anyone, and I fear only God, as I am commanded to (Matthew 10:28).

"To engage in discussion requires real desire to hear and even the possibility that the person you are listening to might have something to teach you."

Indeed, I have learned already from this discussion. I trust that you will have the same kind of open-mindedness? -- Joseph

Anonymous said...

Katie Z. also responded to me.

1) I find the story of the eunuch to be a really interesting parallel to the discussion about homosexuality because some eunuch's were castrated against their will, and I don't believe that homosexuality is a choice, but a part of who we are. "

If you're also talking about "attraction", then we have no argument. But when I say "homosexuality", I'm talking about sexual activity between two people of the same sex. This is condemned in God's word. So if you understand what I mean by "homosexuality", then you understand that it is definitely a choice. No, I don't think you can help being attracted to certain people, but you can definitely choose not to act on that. Otherwise, there would be no reason to say anything about adultery, because "attraction" would be a defense in every case. But adultery is condemned just as much as homosexuality, because we all have a choice about it.

"In either case, I don't believe that either constitute a "lifestyle" in the way I believe you are using the term, but become a part of who you are. That is perhaps why I don't think that it is a twisting of scripture, but you do. We start with different assumptions about what homosexuality is."

Again, since I am talking about sexual activity and not just "attraction", there is always a choice. If you are unrepentant about regular homosexual activity, then you are living in a lifestyle of sin, and therefore not a Christian.

"2) I am someone who does not believe that homosexuality per se is sexually immoral which raises your question of what people who believe that would consider sexual immorality. Let me list a few: marital rape, child molestation, sexual slavery, breaking a covenantal relationship through adultery, worshipping other gods through sexual acts, hetero and homosexual rape... and I might actually make a distinction between those who visit prostitutes and those who are prostitutes - I believe those who visit prostitutes to be engaging in sexually immoral acts, but I know that many who are sex workers have been forced into that position and I cannot make the same judgement... just to name a few."

I appreciate your response here. I agree with you about most of it. It's interesting that you mention rape. I agree that it is sexually immoral, but the argument from scripture is much less clear than that of homosexuality (meaning sexual activity, not just "attraction").
-- Joseph

B Smith said...

I guess it all comes down to how we view Scripture and how we view our own interpretations. I do not view Scripture, as we have it today, as the infallible, inerrant word of God and even if I did I do not view my interpretation as infallible or inerrant. Here again I lean on the side of grace.
Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Anonymous said...

Hello again "B Smith". On the one hand you say that you think the Bible is fallible, but then you quote from it anyway, as if it was truly authoritative. Interesting, isn't it? You can't escape the temptation to rely on the authority of scripture even in a post where you are questioning it! :-)

Regarding the wonderful passage you quoted, it is important to keep in mind that the letter we call "Romans" was written to Christians, and so the "us" that cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus is referring to those who are in Christ. It only makes sense; we are part of the body of Christ. Of course we can't be separated from him! But those who are not in Christ will indeed be separated from the love of God after death. And the place where this separation will take place is called hell. It would be a terrible thing to let someone think they are part of the body of Christ and then let them die in their sins, so that they end up going to hell. The truly loving thing to do is to confront them over their sins, and plead with them to repent and trust in Jesus alone for salvation. Then they will be saved, and thus heirs to the promise of eternal life. We know from the words of our Lord that the road to destruction is broad and the road to life is narrow. We need to get as many people on the narrow road as we can. A person who is unrepentant cannot be saved. That is why it is necessary to confront people over their sins. We do it out of love, and out of gratitude for the grace that God has shown us.
-- Joseph

Katie Z. said...

Hey Joseph,

I wanted to respond to your discussion of sin and homosexuality by looking specificially at the bibical passages that are today interpreted by many to be referrring in general to homosexual acts. (sorry if I'm hijacking your thread here Matt!)

Quite a few of my references to sexual immorality are taken from passages that many today believe are talking about a sexual relationship between two consenting persons of the same gender. I don't believe scripture really references committed monogamous homosexual attraction OR behavior. I'm not talking on behalf of promiscuous homosexual behavior - just as I would see a difference between promiscuous and monogamous heterosexual behavior.

Leviticus 18:22 (and again in Leviticus 20) says that you shouldn't lie with a man as you do with a woman. In this context, much of the discussion of sexual relations - with women and with animals has to do with property... you can't have sex with a particular woman because she belongs to someone else. The focus of this passage really isn’t on consensual or monagamous relationships, but rather the problem is one of ownership and power... there were lots of ways of "lying with women" that we would consider sexually immoral today that were perfectly legitimate at the time (ie: if you rape a virgin, you have to marry her… you asserted power over her, and as she was previously unclaimed, you are now responsible for her). While it is in part a discussion of what is distasteful (sex with a woman during her menstruation cycle), it is also about social relationships and who has power in a relationship over who. A male asserting power over another male was unacceptable. A male placing himself in the position of submission was unacceptable. Even heterosexual relationships today often are not based on ideas of power and submission – at least not healthy ones.

Katie Z. said...

As far as the New Testament, I'm very convinced by Justin Cannon's interpretation of the word arenokoitai which is used by Paul in both 1 Cor. and 1 Timothy and is today often translated as homosexual or homosexuality. We really do not know what Paul means by this word, but if broken into parts would mean something about men and beds. Looking at the structure of 1 Timothy, he sees a pattern of dyads and triads in 6:9-10...

The lawless & disobedient: two near synonyms
The ungodly & sinners: also two near synonyms
The unholy & profane: two synonyms
The murderers of fathers & murderers of mothers & manslayers: three kinds of murderers
Whoremongers ("pornov" - typically translated as a male prostitute) & "arsenokoitai" & menstealers ("andrapodistes" - refers to a person who enslaves others)
Liars & perjurers etc.: again, two near synonyms.

Using the same pattern of pairing, he suggests the phrase should be:

…male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them... the common theme being sexual slavery. It can also read "... male prostitutes, boys who have sex with men, and slave dealers who enslave them both"

Katie Z. said...

The passage in 1 Corinthians 6 seems to be dealing again with abuse. The Message translation actually doesn't go specific with the list, but in the spirit of the chapter writes: "Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom. " That doesn't sound like a mutually-life-giving, monogamous relationship to me. Both hetero- and homo-sexuals who use and abuse sex and one another should be equally rebuked by this passage and it is what I would consider rape (as is the situtation in Sodom... although their sin is largely seen as an omission of hospitality according to Jesus).

Katie Z. said...

Romans presents a whole different scenario. It walks about exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones. However, if you take the passage in context, you will see that it is talking about a group of Christians, who began worshipping the pagan gods, which involved some kind of sexual orgies and as a result of their whoring after these other Gods and one another, this group of people began having same sexual relations. But this is a direct result of their idolatry and unfaithfulness to God – rather than it being a state of being that they are born into. I don’t believe that Paul is claiming that those who are engaged in same-sex relationships are the way that they are because they have given up on God – rather he is describing and condemning a situation in which Christian heterosexuals gave up their natural desires. My friends who are homosexual and in committed partnerships and have been Christians all of their lives just don’t fit into this description in Romans.

Anonymous said...

Hello Katie,
Well, I must give you credit for this: you work very hard at obscuring the scriptures for your own purposes. The first of this latest group of your posts contains the key point: "I don't believe scripture really references committed monogamous homosexual attraction OR behavior". Of course God does not address it the way that you do, because your formulation of it is a modern invention, brought on by the general social acceptance of homosexuality. When God condemns homosexuality, He condemns it in general terms, without qualification. It does not matter whether the persons involved think of themselves as "monogamous" or "committed". This distinction is artificial, drawn only by those who desire to put a happy Christian face on an ugly departure from God's clear instructions. Let's consider your arguments about the scriptures in question. The passage in Leviticus you quoted is very clear, just as it is about adultery, bestiality, pedophilia, etc. You are saying that the part about homosexuality should be framed in terms of "power and submission", and as long as a relationship is not based on that then the sexual element is not forbidden. Well, that covers verse 22, but what about the prohibitions in verse 21? Is it OK to sacrifice your children to Molech or profane the name of the Lord, as long as you are not exercising "power and submission"? How about the condemnation of adultery in verse 20? Does that go away if the sex in question is consensual? Katie, is there any sin that can't be excused as long as the persons involved all agree to go along with it willingly? What a hermeneutical mess that is! In fact, God does not qualify His condemnation of homosexuality in any way. He just says not to do it. Period. It's only those who don't feel this is right who try to rationalize it away with artful excuses and hermeneutical gymnastics. The true context of the laws given in Leviticus is that God wanted to set apart a people unto Himself, a nation who would not do the things that the other nations of the time were doing. God drove out the other nations from the promised land because of their sins, and in the law He is telling Israel that they need to be different, so that they can show all the other nations what serving God means. That's the context of the passage, and nothing that God demands is unreasonable or unfair. He gave us life; we have no right to refuse to honor His commands. He is God; we are not.
-- Joseph

Anonymous said...

To continue...
Now let's address the other two scriptures. Regarding the use of arenokoitai in 1 Cor 6, Katie says: "We really do not know what Paul means by this word, but if broken into parts would mean something about men and beds." Really now, Katie. I love how you feign ignorance in the midst of a series of posts in which you claim to understand everything else about the passages in question. The word is one that Paul seems to have invented, but as you say it is made up of two other Greek words. Are you really unaware that the two Greek words ("arenos" and "Koite") are the exact words used in the Septuagint to translate the two Hebrew words that we translate as "lie with a man" in Leviticus 18:22. You remember that passage; that's the one you just spent a few paragraphs discussing in the previous post. So you really didn't realize the connection between the two verses? Of course Paul would be reading the Old Testament in the Greek version (i.e. the Septuagint), like everyone else in his culture would have. He was an expert in the Law, and of course he would have known about Lev. 18:22. But let's leave that aside for a moment. Again you assert that the condemnation in 1 Cor. 6 is only concerning the sex that is involved with power and submission. But again, the condemnations in this passage are unqualified. In order to introduce your special qualifications, you need to interpret the words in a way not suggested at all by the context. Whether they are grouped together in 2's, 3's, 4's, or some other combination is not the issue. The true context is the fact that the church, which is supposed to be set apart to God, is acting in the same way as the culture in which the people of the church live. It takes some serious twisting to qualify it all the way you have done. But based on the previous post, you are more than capable.
-- Joseph

Matt Kelley said...

OK, I'm only going to say this once more. Disagreement and dialogue are good, but disrespect is unacceptable.

We clearly have different interpretations of scripture that arise out of our genuine convictions and efforts to faithfully apply the text.

It is not, however, OK to accuse someone of twisting or distorting the Bible simply because you don't agree with them. Any future comments with such accusations will be deleted, regardless of whether they contain other thoughtful content.

This is particularly bothersome to me because the sermon that seems to have set this whole thing off is an appeal for civility. This discussion has been proof of why the way we approach the conversation needs to change!

Anonymous said...

Matt,
Fair enough. This is your blog and you make the rules. But let me ask you a question. You say: "We clearly have different interpretations of scripture that arise out of our genuine convictions and efforts to faithfully apply the text." In your mind, is there any civil and respectful way for me to state my conviction that there is some dishonesty involved in some of these "interpretations"?
-- Joseph

Matt Kelley said...

I think accusing someone of dishonesty right out of the gate isn't respectful. You disagree, clearly, and your interpretation of these texts grows out of your genuine convictions. Why not give others the benefit of the doubt and assume they're doing their best to faithfully interpret the text just like you are? Instead of accusing people of twisting the texts or being dishonest, why not say, "I think there might be a better way to understand this issue"? That way they might be willing to listen to what you have to say, instead of rejecting what you have to say outright because you're throwing a bunch of accusations at them.

Again, Joseph, I appreciate your viewpoint, and I really love seeing how passionately you love the Bible, but I think you can gain more of a hearing for it if you can set aside your disdain for those who don't agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Matt,
Will do. Thanks for the feedback.

I'll be stopping back later to comment on Katie's views on Romans 1. I promise no accusations going forward.
-- Joseph

Anonymous said...

Regarding Romans chapter 1, Katie wrote the following:
"However, if you take the passage in context, you will see that it is talking about a group of Christians, who began worshipping the pagan gods, which involved some kind of sexual orgies and as a result of their whoring after these other Gods and one another, this group of people began having same sexual relations."

A group of Christians? Hardly. The group referenced here is non-believers, and gentile non-believers in particular. If a person is engaged in idolatry, that's a pretty good sign that the person is not a Christian. The text says "God gave them over" to homosexuality and lesbianism, due to their initial sin of idolatry. In other words, God was punishing them for their abstract sin by giving them over to other sins that have a more immediate consequence. As Leslie C. Allen has written "Because they exchanged the real God for false gods, by way of temporary punishment they exchanged natural sexual intercourse for homosexuality."

Katie: "But this is a direct result of their idolatry and unfaithfulness to God – rather than it being a state of being that they are born into."

Correct. People are always responsible for their sins; they cannot blame God for it.

"I don’t believe that Paul is claiming that those who are engaged in same-sex relationships are the way that they are because they have given up on God "

Given up? No, they have rejected God in favor of false gods, so now God rejects them and gives them over to sins of the flesh.

"– rather he is describing and condemning a situation in which Christian heterosexuals gave up their natural desires."

No, these individuals are not Christians. As the apostle John wrote: "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." -- 1 John 3:9-10

Katie: " My friends who are homosexual and in committed partnerships and have been Christians all of their lives just don’t fit into this description in Romans."

If they are engaging in homosexuality, that is a sign that they are not born of God. They are rejecting the clear instructions of scripture, which are the very words of God. A person who lives in a lifestyle of continual sin is not a Christian. Indeed, John says they are "children of the devil". Are you not aware that many people profess faith in Christ insincerely? The hypocritical "Christian" is almost a cliche in this day and age. Jesus predicted that we would have people like that when he said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt 7:21). Obedience to the word of God is the sign that a person is a true Christian, and consistent disobedience is the sign of a poser. There is nothing in this passage (or any of the others I have mentioned) that limits the condemnation of homosexuality only to those not in "committed partnerships". That phrase is not a "get out of sin free" card. The condemnation of homosexuality in this passage and the others is unqualified. If you have friends who are engaging in homosexuality, it is likely that this passage in Romans 1 fits them all too well.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add my name, but the comment immediately above this one is mine.
-- Joseph