Learning to Say No – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceLearning to Say No

Introduction

As Christians, Scripture clearly tells us we are to provide help and assistance to those in need. However, events this week have caused me to question – is it okay to ‘Say No’? If so, when?

Spiritual Quote

“A disciplined person not only knows how to say ‘no’ to themselves but ‘no’ to other people when they need to.”
~Joyce Meyer

Thoughts

Many of us do our very best to give to those in need. For some of us, for a variety of reasons, we find it very hard to say no. And, for Christians, Scripture instructs us to give, help the needy, be charitable, help the widows and orphans, etc., etc. But, is that all Scripture teaches us? Are we to give and give and give to our own detriment? And, given all that Scripture has to say about being charitable, can we say no without feeling guilt and without being unChristian?

As I mentioned, events this week have forced me to take a long, hard look at this. And, to be honest, I’ve struggled. I’ve had to say no, when my heart wanted to say yes. I’ve felt guilty, and I’ve felt that I wasn’t living up to the standards set by Scripture. And, I’m sure that you, too, have felt this struggle. When we realize our time and resources are limited, we feel guilty because, we tell ourselves, “Jesus would help, so should I.”

It’s true that Jesus was generous. He gave of his time and his resources – just as Scripture instructs us. But, we’re human, and we have our own obligations. Realizing that I’m human, but struggling with guilt, I started researching to see if there is a time when it’s ok to say no. And, more importantly, did Jesus ever say no? I actually wasn’t prepared for what I found. This was a great exercise – once again, I realize just how many times we read and read various Scripture passages, and never really pay attention to the message they send.

For instance, I was surprised when I realized that even Jesus said no.

Examples

Jesus said ‘no’ to the sick –

While traveling in Capernaum, Mark tells the story of Jesus healing numerous people suffering from various diseases. The crowd was large, but He kept on curing up until sundown. But then, notice what Mark 1:35-38 tells us: And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a [a]deserted place, and there He prayed. And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him, pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out, and they found Him and said to Him, “Everybody is looking for You.” And He said to them, “Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” Obviously the crowd had again begun to gather, wanting Jesus to heal them. But, Jesus said ‘no’. Jesus needed to also go to the people of other communities, not just Capernaum.

Jesus also had to keep his eye on his mission – He came to preach salvation and the Kingdom of God, not just to heal. He had to allocate his time and resources fairly and effectively, and He had to keep His priorities straight. This is true of us as well. We are to help the poor and needy, but we must also take care of our own families and meet our own obligations. Saying ‘no’ isn’t necessarily unChristian – it’s acknowledging the fact that we are limited. And, like Jesus, we have to keep our priorities straight.

Jesus said ‘no’ to requests born of simple desire –

Luke 12:13-15 tells us, “Someone from the crowd said to Him, “Master, order my brother to divide the inheritance and share it with me.” But He told him, “Man, who has appointed Me a judge or umpire and divider over you?” And He said to them, “Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a man’s life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above his needs.” Here, Jesus’ example shows us that we must be discerning when asked to get in the middle of disputes. But, He is also warning against offering assistance simply due to someone’s wants. Jesus could see into hearts, we cannot. But, we can sometimes see that what the person is requesting is not in their best interest, or it could actually do harm the them or to others. The request may not be a wise use of resources. And, the request may be one of desire over actual need.

This last point was particularly poignant for me. When a person in need is offered assistance, but refuses it because it’s not of the type and quality they want, are we obligated to jeopardize our own well-being in order to give them what they want instead of meeting their basic need? This Scripture example shows us clearly – the answer is no.

There are other Scriptural examples, too. For instance:

We are to give because it’s the right thing to do, and we are to do it from the heart – not because we feel guilty or pressured into it. Philemon 1:14 says, “But it has been my wish to do nothing about it without first consulting you and getting your consent, in order that your benevolence might not seem to be the result of compulsion or of pressure but might be voluntary [on your part].” And 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

1 Timothy 5:8 reminds us that giving to those in need is right – but not when it prevents us from fulfilling our own obligations. We are actually on dangerous ground when we give to the point that we jeopardize our own family’s health and well-being: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Finally, people must be willing to do what is necessary to provide for themselves when it is within their power to do so. Even the apostles, who had a right in their society to expect the community to provide for their needs, worked to support themselves. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 reads, “For you yourselves know how it is necessary to imitate our example, for we were not disorderly or shirking of duty when we were with you [we were not idle]. Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without  paying for it, but with toil and struggle we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden or impose on any of you [for our support]. [It was] not because we do not have a right [to such support], but [we wished] to make ourselves an example for you to follow. For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.”

Closing Thoughts

It is true the Scripture is clear – we, as followers of Christ are to be kind, compassionate, loving, and generous. We are expected to give generously – but we are not expected to jeopardize our own family and our own well-being in the process. We must give from the heart, and not because we are pressured into it. And, we are not expected to help those who are capable, but unwilling, to help themselves. This is our challenge, and hence, our struggle. Yes, we must do our very best to help those in need. But, we must also learn what is, for many of us, a very hard lesson – we must learn to say no.

Scripture

  • Mark 1:35-38
  • Luke 12:13-15
  • Philemon 1:14
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7
  • 1 Timothy 5:8
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

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Learning to Say No – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceLearning to Say No – Introduction

As Christians, Scripture clearly tells us we are to provide help and assistance to those in need. However, events this week have caused me to question – is it okay to ‘Say No’? If so, when?

Spiritual Quote

“A disciplined person not only knows how to say ‘no’ to themselves but ‘no’ to other people when they need to.”
~Joyce Meyer

Potential Scripture

  • Mark 1:35-38
  • Luke 12:13-15
  • Philemon 1:14
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7
  • 1 Timothy 5:8
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

Join Us!

Join us this week for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Eternal Peace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceEternal Peace – Introduction

This week, our service will take a little different tack. I left the topic open, and Carole and Marsha selected Eternal Peace. Instead of a regular message, we will have an open message – each person being given the opportunity to describe what Eternal Peace means to them. I have my own thoughts – which I’ll be sharing, too.

The term “Eternal Peace” can mean a lot of different things to different people. I look forward to hearing what it means to you.

Spiritual Quote

After a time, you may find that having a thing is not as pleasing as wanting it.
It is not logical, but it is often true.
~Mr. Spock, Star Trek Episode

Thoughts

As I mentioned, the term “Eternal Peace” can have different meanings to different people. Some think of it as something that we will have or experience once we die. Others feel it’s something we can experience now, in this life. Before I share my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours. What does the term Everlasting Peace mean to you, and why?

– Sharing Time –

Here are some ideas that were put forth by the congregants…

  • The way to achieve Eternal Peace is for the people of the world to stop fighting over religion.
  • Eternal Peace, for me, is Peace Within. With so much turmoil and depression in the world, I turn within to find peace…It’s up to me, and it’s how I choose to respond to the world around me. Do we succumb to the world around us; or do we turn inward and let the Lord guide us?
  • Eternal Peace is a spiritual state. When desiring things of the material world, everything must come at the right time and for the right purpose. If it comes too quickly we don’t enjoy it. At the same time, if it comes too late, we realize we don’t really want it any more.
  • Eternal Peace comes from within; it’s not something that comes after we die.
  • Peace is an inner calmness. Turmoil, frustration, chaos, anguish, anxiety, etc. are opposites. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning within and just being “ok with it.”
  • So, what is Eternal Peace? Well, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3rd, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the first Eternal Light Peace Memorial for the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.
    But, does Eternal Peace mean the end of all things? A common expression is “Rest in Eternal Peace.” Does it solely mean that all human souls come from the divinity and are ultimately reabsorbed into it, for the sole reason that men might yet have someplace in which to finally enjoy eternal rest? Is that what Eternal Peace means to you?
    Can the world be in turmoil, and you be at peace within yourself? Sure you can…it’s sometimes difficult, but you can find Eternal Peace.
    When you are at peace you can then focus on the needs of your soul, the eternal you…the spiritual part of a person, often regarded as immortal…Living Forever.
    For me, having Eternal Peace is as simple as seeing a silhouetted tree against a magnificent sunset or walking the roads of life hand in hand with the person I love; or maybe it’s seeing a single flower flourishing in a bed of rocks; or, maybe, it’s just sitting at the edge of a lake with pole in hand and looking at beauty beyond my imagination.
    I sometimes think of my life as a blob of light brown clay, and I am going to allow my teacher, God, to help guide my hands and thoughts to create something magnificent. Then, year after year of molding, I can see the once blob of clay starting to form into something I can be proud of, and the finished product? Well, that’s still in the molding stage. But the classes are great! When I do graduate, I will turn to my teacher and say, “Thank you for helping me to be the best that I can, and to feel good about myself.”
    One thing that I have learned in these classes is that life does leave marks, but it’s how you mold the unwanted marks away that leave you with Eternal Peace.
  • “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~ Vivian Greene

My Thoughts

For me, Everlasting Peace is, indeed, something we can experience here, now, in this lifetime. It comes from having such a strong bond with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit that we are literally filled with a spirit of peace. It comes from being content.

The dictionary defines content as, “Desiring no more than what one has; satisfied.”

Unfortunately, we’ve become a society full of discontentment. Everywhere we look, TV, radio, magazines, catalogs – the whole idea of advertising is to make us aware of what we don’t have; and to make us dissatisfied with what we do have. It fosters an attitude of “keeping up with the Jones’.” I think of Erma Bombeck’s quote – “The grass is always greener on the other side of the septic tank.” We tend to always be trying to obtain what we don’t have instead of being satisfied with what we do.

I’m not saying that having a desire for something more is necessarily bad. It’s whether those desires cause us to make unwise decisions, and basing our happiness on whether or not we get them. We tend to think, “if I had “x,” I’d be happy.”

Whether “x” is a new car, a new house, new counter tops, new clothes, a different body, a spouse, a new job, etc., etc. Then, when we get what we have been hoping for, the happiness is temporary and we quickly find something else that we lack and that, if we had, we’d be happy. Wanting and working for the basics – shelter, food, clothing – is appropriate. Letting ourselves get so wrapped up in trying to get more that we miss the opportunities the life is presenting us on a daily basis separates us from our inner peace. Will Rogers said, “We spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t even like.”

One Scripture that always helps me is Philippians 4:11. This is where Paul is sitting in prison; beaten and chained, not knowing whether he will live or die. Yet, he wrote, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…” And a Scripture that reminds me to be satisfied with the basics is 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

Did Paul enjoy being chained up in prison. No – I’m sure he didn’t. But he didn’t let his circumstance rob him of the inner peace he found in Christ. He knew, no matter the circumstance, it was temporary, but the love of God is eternal.

Now, I’m not saying we should just go along and accept our circumstances to the point of being complacent. When we become hopeless, we begin thinking, “it’s never going to get better so why even try,” and we give up. Complacent means, “contented to a fault, unconcerned.” When we become so content with our circumstances that we become unconcerned, this is contentment to a fault. With an attitude of complacency, we don’t even try.

Yoga Teacher Donna Farhi has said…

“Contentment also should not be confused with complacency, in which we allow ourselves to stagnate in our growth. Rather it is is a sign that we are at peace with whatever stage of growth we are in and the circumstances we find ourselves in.  This doesn’t mean that we accept or tolerate unhealthy relationships or working conditions. But it may mean that we practice patience and attempt to live as best we can within our situation until we are able to better our conditions.”

Eternal Peace for me is found through contentment. Not contentment in things – possessions, activities, or even other people. These things can disappear. Eternal Peace is a contentment that comes from a strong relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. This is a contentment that can never be taken away.

A Personal Story

My sister has been suffering with multiple health issues that have left her frequently hospitalized. Her brain is shrinking faster than it should (all people’s brains shrink with age); various blood vessels throughout her body are shutting down; she’s hyper-sensitive to light and sound; she has trouble thinking clearly, speaking, talking, breathing, and moving; she is 49 years old and requires a walker or a wheelchair; she suffers from involuntary muscle spasms; and she has involuntary emotional reactions – crying one minute, laughing the next. Her brain can think “call ____” and yet her brain can’t make her fingers dial the number. She has suffered for months and months and months; and has almost died several times. Through it all, she maintains the most incredible attitude – one of true Eternal Peace. She doesn’t sit around an play the pity party, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t get angry at her circumstance. Instead, she says, “Most people say to live day by day – take it one day at a time. I’ve learned to take life moment by moment. When I’m having a ‘good moment’ I enjoy it as much as I possible can. When I’m having a ‘bad moment’ I allow myself to have the moment, without guilt or anger, knowing that it will pass in just a moment, and then another ‘good moment’ will come along.”

My sister doesn’t discuss her spiritual/religious views. But, to me, she is a living example of Paul – finding contentment in even the worst of circumstances.

Closing Thoughts

Discontentment comes from negative thinking. We think about ourselves, our problems, what we lack, how we’ve been mistreated or abused, how everybody is doing something to us, we don’t have this, we don’t have that, our spouse doesn’t understand us, and on, and on. This mindset leads to depression, and leads to complacency.

Contentment comes from a mindset that is positive. Focusing on the things of the Spirit, what happens is this world is of little consequence. And, when we struggle, Psalm 37:7 reminds us to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

Discontentment, too, is a form of greed. When our lives are filled with wanting more it becomes a vicious cycle. We want more, we get more, we’re still not satisfied, and we want yet more. There will always be something else we want. To become content with what we have, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. Think about this for a moment…when we compare ourselves to others, do we compare up or do we compare down? I think we tend to compare up. We feel our lives are lacking because we don’t have more money, that new car, the bigger house, the newest gadgets. If we stopped and compared down sometimes, we’d realize how much we actually have.

Contentment comes from the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Like Paul, we can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them. And, like my sister, we can choose to see every situation as temporary. We can be grateful for the good moments; and we can remind ourselves that the bad moments are just that – moments; they will pass and soon a good moment will come again.

Scripture

  • Philippians 4:11
  • 1 Timothy 6:8
  • Psalm 37:7

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Eternal Peace – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceEternal Peace – Introduction

This week, our service will take a little different tack. I left the topic open, and church members selected Eternal Peace. Instead of a regular message, we will have an open message – each person being given the opportunity to describe what Eternal Peace means to them. I have my own thoughts – which I’ll be sharing, too.

Spiritual Quote

“After a time, you may find that having a thing is not as pleasing as wanting it.
It is not logical, but it is often true.”
~Mr. Spock, Star Trek Episode

Potential Scripture

  • Philippians 4:11
  • 1 Timothy 6:8
  • Psalm 37:7

Join Us

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Marriage Equality – Teaching

Marriage Equality – The Time Has Come!

Introduction

Over the last two weeks we’ve examined both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures often quoted to demonize, denounce, degrade, and diminish the LGBTQ, especially those who identify as homosexual. We’ve discovered that the verses have been mistranslated, misquoted, taken out of context, and misused. Since we are now comfortable defending our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the next logical topic to explore is Marriage Equality.

Spiritual Quote

“Remember that the successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.”
~Carrie P. Snow

Thoughts

As our country moves forward in bestowing equal rights to all, including gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered, and those who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, state by state, the fight for Marriage Equality pushes on. Many don’t feel homosexual relationships should be recognized at all. While others feel it is valid to recognize such relationships, but we must come up with some other word – just don’t call it marriage. And then, there are those who feel the right to marry should simply extend to all – heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

Personally, I’m not a fan of terms such as Gay Marriage and Same-sex Marriage. These terms place qualifiers on marriage that would make these relationships somehow different. We don’t say Straight Marriage or Opposite-sex Marriage. The two individuals are simply married. The same should hold true for gays and lesbians. They are not, or would not be, “gay married.” They would simply be married. So, I prefer the term Marriage Equality; because that’s exactly what the fight is about – the right to be equal.

Let’s be clear…we’re not talking about the right to marry multiple people, marrying your dog, or marrying children. If people are interested in poly-amorous relationships, let them take up that banner and fight for it. It’s a separate issue.

As far as I know, a dog can’t be a consenting partner, so that argument goes right out the window.

And marrying children? We already have age requirements in place to protect children. We’re talking only about the right for two consenting adults to enter into the marriage relationship equally – whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Many also say that we shouldn’t be redefining marriage because it’s existed for thousands of years. But, that definition in and of itself has changed – it has not been static for thousands of years. In ancient biblical times, men had numerous wives and concubines. And, in ancient times, marriage was often less about any sort of love and more often based on forming strategic alliances. Even when two-person marriages became the norm, there were restrictions. In the United States, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that interracial couples were universally allowed to marry. Over time, as cultures changed, so did the definition.

“Yes, but it was still one man and one woman!” True enough – that’s what it has been. But, just because that’s what it has been, it doesn’t mean that it must always be. Now that we know that homosexuality isn’t a sickness, nor a ‘sin,’ nor is it a choice, it is simply the way some people are born, it’s time for our marriage laws to catch up.

Do I feel two people, who are consenting adults, and have agreed to form a loving, committed, bond, should have the right to marry? Yes! Even if they’re gay? Yes! But, as we talked about over the last two weeks, it’s not enough just to ‘feel’ that it’s right. We also need to see what we might discover by examining Scripture. Most opposition to Marriage Equality comes from a religious viewpoint. We hear statements like, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” This is a very traditionalist stance.

Can a Scriptural case be made regarding Marriage Equality? Let’s take a look at Scripture and see what we can uncover.

Adam & Eve

The story of Adam and Eve was written to help answer the age-old question – where did we come from? Some feel the story is just that, an allegory to explain how we got here. Others feel it is quite literal – Adam and Eve were, indeed, the very first male and female created. And some feel it’s somewhere in between – God as the Source of all Being brought forth life, and over time it evolved into what know as homo-sapiens. For the sake of argument, we’ll go on the premise that there was an Adam and Eve.

The traditional argument goes like this…since Adam and Eve were created heterosexual, it must be God’s plan, and so, everyone must be intended to be heterosexual. There is a flaw in this argument, however. If we follow the logic, then whatever Adam and Eve were created to be, everyone who came after would be the same – there would be no deviation. This would mean that anyone who is of a different skin color, has different color hair or eyes, etc. must be contrary to God’s plan. We now know that people are born heterosexual or homosexual, just as some are born with dark skin, some with fair; some with blue eyes, some with brown; and some are born with blonde hair and some with black. If we start to label the attributes that Adam and Eve had as “right” or “wrong,” we can see how dangerous it can be. Adam and Eve were first, so it would make sense they would be heterosexual, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who came after must also be heterosexual.

Since Adam and Eve were the only two humans, there was no wedding, they didn’t exchange rings, there were no vows, and they didn’t enter into a “marriage contract.” The writers had to assign to them words that would make sense to them – husband and wife.

Well, Adam and Eve were supposed to “be fruitful and multiply.”  (Genesis 1:28) This is yet another argument – gays and lesbians can’t procreate. Well, first off, yes they can. Some people who have been married, and had children, come to terms with their homosexuality. Their children are still their children. Some may become parents through a process other than traditional sexual intercourse – but many heterosexual couples conceive children by other means as well.

Basing marriage solely on procreation has its faults, too. If procreation is the only basis for entering into marriage, then people beyond child-bearing years, infertile couples, and anyone else who will not have children should not be allowed to marry.

And remember, Genesis 1 is an overview of all creation, and Genesis 2 goes back to tell the story again, filling in more detail. The fact is that, before “the fall,” there was no need to procreate. In fact, if all the species had procreated, they would have soon overflowed the boundaries of the Garden. Having children was part of “the curse” after the fall. So, procreation in and of itself was not part of God’s original plan.

Besides procreation, marriage has, indeed, traditionally served other purposes: fidelity, mutual support, companionship, love, intimacy, and a familial bond. This is exactly why Eve, as the Bible tells us, was created – to be a “help meet” so that Adam would not be alone.

All of these attributes of marriage can be met both in a homosexual unions as well as in heterosexual. Simply basing opposition to Marriage Equality on Adam and Eve carries little or no weight at all.

Jesus

But, didn’t Jesus say, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…”? (Mark 10:7 &8) Yes.

But look at the entire message. Based on the texts before and after, Jesus is responding to questions regarding divorce. Jesus, too, left his father and mother – not to get married, but to fulfill his mission. Obviously there were more reasons to leave one’s parents than to enter into a heterosexual marriage.

Jesus’ message on divorce was pretty clear – the only acceptable reason was adultery. The people at the time had no concept of alcohol or drug addiction, spousal abuse, child abuse, and a whole host of other reasons people today get divorced. As our culture has changed, so has our application of Scripture. We should be no less adaptable to our changing understanding of homosexuality and the ability for two people of the same sex to enter into a loving, committed marriage relationship.

Jesus also speaks of three types of eunuchs. In Matthew 19:12 He says, “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake…” We often think of a eunuch as someone who has been castrated. But, the original Greek word, eunouchizo (yoo-noo-khid’-zo and yoo-noo’-khos) mean to be castrated, a castrated person, an impotent person or unmarried man. So, eunuchs are not only those who are castrated (on purpose or by accident), but also those who are “born that way” and those who choose a life of celibacy. It is held by many scholars that non-castrated males were actually homosexual – born that way, and that, because they were homosexual, they would be safe around women. We’ll see this again when we talk about Daniel. For now, let’s understand that even Jesus understood that it was perfectly natural for some not to enter into a “traditional marriage.”

King James I

The most read version of the Bible is the King James. Unfortunately, it also has some of the most errors in translation from the original texts. Be that as it may, it is often held up at the “standard” by which we are all to live. The version was commissioned by King James in 1604, and it was completed in 1611. Many who use this version, and others that came after, are completely unaware that King James was homosexual. It’s true that he enforced laws against homosexual acts – but that was no different than many of our preachers and politicians today. It comes under the heading – “me thinks thou dost protest too much.” Even with his attempts to enforce anti-gay laws on the people, he, at some point, came to terms with his own homosexuality.

Though King James did marry and father children, it was out of duty rather than love. Over time, he had three long-term relationships, the last of which was with George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. At this point in his life, the King was very open and unashamed about his love for Buckingham. In a letter to the Council of England, he wrote:

“I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.”

Even James’ wife, Anne, knew of the relationship, and actually supported it. In letters to Buckingham she begged him to be “always true” to her husband. And, in letters to Buckingham, James even addressed him as his spouse saying, “I desire only to live in this world for your sake…I had rather live banished in any part of the Earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you…God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband.” When King James died, Buckingham was at his side.

Now, I’m not saying that King James was right and that Jesus was homosexual. But, look at the verses in John:

  • 13:23 – “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”
  • 19:26 – “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he saith unto his mother, woman, behold they son!”
  • 20:2 – “The she (Mary Magdallen) runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved…”
  • 21:7 – Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Pter, It is the Lord.”
  • 21:20 – Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; (which also leaned on his breast at supper…)”

It’s easy to see why King James would make the assumptions he did. In English we only have one word for love. In Greek, there are many, depending on the type of love – unconditional love, spousal/intimate love, love for children, love for parents, etc. James didn’t know of the different words used in Greek for love. But, even James, on some level, understood there was something “right” and “natural” about his love for George Villiers.

Are there actual Scriptural examples of homosexuals marrying? No…and yes, in a manner of speaking.

David and Jonathan

The Book of Samuel goes into great detail about the relationship of David and Jonathan. The same word used to describe their love is used to describe Jacob’s love for Rachel in Genesis 29:20; and to describe the love of the Shunamite girl for Solomon in Song of Solomon 3:1-4. I Samuel 18:1 says, “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan love him as his own soul.” Verse 18:3 goes on to say, “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.” Once they had made this covenant vow, 18:4 tells us, “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”

Keep in mind that there was no such thing as underwear. Clearly Jonathan stripped naked. This is more than simply turning over his sword and bow. It would have been strange then, and would be now, which could indicate theirs was more than a platonic friendship. And then David left his father and mother and moved in with Saul…and Jonathan.

Now, Saul, of course, had intended Jonathan to be his heir and successor to the throne. Samuel, though, had anointed David to succeed Saul. This angered Saul, and he set out to have David killed. He couldn’t kill him outright, so he devised a plan to marry David to his daughter Merab. Saul hoped that David would be distracted and fall in battle. Merab married someone else. So, Saul offers up his second daughter, Michal. Michal loved David, but there is no indication that David loved her. It seems he would marry her out of duty, not love. Their marriage, by the way, produced no children. The modern version of verse 18:21 says that David would be Saul’s son-in-law “through one of the two.” That would seem to imply Michal over Merab. The words “one of” are italicized. That means they were added – they were not part of the original text. The actual text reads, “Today you will be my son-in-law through two.” This means David would be Saul’s son-in-law twice – once through Jonathan and once through Michal. Saul obviously recognized the “marriage relationship” of David and Jonathan, even if he didn’t approve of it.

In verse 20:17, Jonathan causes David to vow “because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.” Then, in verse 20:41, the text has been radically changed. The NKJV says, “…David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so.” The original translated text reads, “…David came up from the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and they bowed three times, and kissed each other, and wept with each other, until David became large (experienced an erection).”

After Jonathan’s death, David lamented his loss in song. II Samuel 1:26 reads, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.”

Remember, at that time, and still for Chassidic Jews today, men didn’t have platonic relationships with women. David’s use of “love of women” would clearly be a sexual love. It wouldn’t make sense to compare a platonic relationship with a man to a sexual relationship with a woman.

The love expressed for Jonathan is clearly more than just a platonic friendship. And, though David married many times, nowhere in Scripture are we told of David expressing this type of love for any of his wives.

When one looks beyond the printed text of our modern versions, and we see the words used and the context in which they were used, it’s clear that David and Jonathan were in a committed, loving, supportive, and intimate relationship. They couldn’t “marry” in their culture; but they were, for all practical purposes, married. Even Jonathan’s father, Saul, recognized this fact when he referred to David being his son-in-law twice.

Daniel

Another example of a recognized homosexual relationship is the story of Daniel. Daniel was a eunuch. Remember, eunuchs could have been castrated, either by force or by accident, they could choose a life of celibacy, or they could simply have been “born that way.”

We’re not really sure how or why Daniel was a eunuch, but we know that he was. Daniel 1:3 tells us that the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring “sons of Israel” and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles. Verse 6 goes on to say that Daniel was one chosen from among the sons of Judah (Israel). And Verse 9 tells us, “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.”

The Hebrew words used for “tender love” indicate a sexual, intimate love. And, since God brought Daniel and Ashpenaz together, and since God does not desire intimate relationships outside of a committed relationship, we can deduce their relationship to be one of commitment and intimacy. And that type of relationship is what we call marriage.

Conclusion

More and more people are realizing that prohibiting two people who love each other, and who desire a committed relationship within the bonds of marriage, is just plain wrong. Once again, we’ve seen how words have been mistranslated, misunderstood, and misused.

Forcing homosexual people to live a life of celibacy is wrong. Even Jesus understood that celibacy (the life of a eunuch) wasn’t for everyone. In Matthew 19:12 He says, “…He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” And to force or pressure a homosexual to marry someone of the opposite sex is ludicrous. That would be the same as forcing a heterosexual to marry someone of the same sex. Consenting adults must be permitted to enter into the relationships that create successful, strong marriages. The key for gays and straights alike depend on the same two factors – finding the right person, and being the right person.

There is no Scriptural basis for denying people of the same gender the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage. And, there is absolutely no need to use a different word to describe such relationships.

Marriage, in and of itself, has changed over time. Men are no longer required to marry their brother’s widow, we no longer sanction polygamous marriages, and we no longer force rape victims to marry their rapists. Were there reasons these types of marriages existed? Yes, at that time. But the reasons no longer exist. Have there been reasons up until now to think of marriage as only being between one man and one woman? Sure. But those reasons no longer exist, either.

Just as in the past, our society grown in knowledge and understanding, and has subsequently changed. Merriam-Webster Dictionary now defines marriage the same way for both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. In this sense, I suppose marriage has a new definition. However, the base definition remains the same. Stripping out the gender aspect, the definition simply reads, “the state of being united to a person in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” That doesn’t sound like we’re re-defining anything. The marriage relationship is the same for same-sex couples as for their opposite-sex counterparts – it is equal. And that is exactly what we’re talking about – Marriage Equality.

And, let’s remember that marriage is governed by civil authority. As equal citizens, same-sex couples should have the right to enter into a state-sanctioned marriage. Churches have the right to decide whether or not to solemnize the marriages. There are still churches that won’t perform marriages for mixed-race couples, or for mixed-faith couples. That is their right, just as it’s their right not to solemnize same-sex marriages. But, there are churches that do solemnize mixed-race, and mixed-faith marriages; and churches should, at their option, have the right to solemnize same-sex marriages as well.

We would do well to agree that this is just another subject on which there will always be differing opinions, move past these divisions, and actually begin to live as Christ instructed – loving God, and loving each other.

Marriage Equality – truly, the Time Has Come!

Scripture

  • Genesis  1:28
  • John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20
  • Genesis 29:20
  • Song of Solomon 3:1-4
  • I Samuel  18:1 & 3, 21, 20:17, 20:41
  • II Samuel 1:26
  • Daniel 1:3, 6, & 9
  • Matthew 19:12
  • Mark 10:7 & 8

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it. Please remember, the comments are moderated and, while some may not agree with the message or with other comments, all comments must be respectful.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

 

Marriage Equality – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceMarriage Equality

The Time Has Come!

Over the last two weeks we’ve examined both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures often quoted to demonize, denounce, degrade, and diminish the LGBTQ, especially those who identify as homosexual. We’ve discovered that the verses have been mistranslated, misquoted, taken out of context, and misused. Since we are now comfortable defending our gay and lesbian bothers and sisters, the next logical topic to explore is Marriage Equality.

Spiritual Quote

Remember that the successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.
~Carrie P. Snow

Potential Scripture

  • Genesis 1:28
  • John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20
  • I Samuel 18:1, 3, & 21, 20:17, 20:41
  • II Samuel 1:26
  • Daniel 1:3 & 6, 1:9
  • Mark 10:7 & 8
  • Matthew 19:12

Join Us!

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Terrible Texts 2 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceTerrible Texts 2

Love Conquers All – Introduction

In response to the recent Supreme Court rulings regarding Proposition 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act, we continue our exploration of the “Terrible Texts” often used to justify discrimination toward and violence against our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered, brothers and sisters. Our examination leads us to one, undeniable truth – Love Conquers All.

Spiritual Quote

“Always treat people with as much integrity and love that your heart will allow,
regardless of how they treat you.”
~Mike Kiser

Thoughts

Last week we examined passages in the Old Testament that are often used to denounce and even demonize LGBTQ people. As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, the Old Testament standard-issue rhetoric condemning homosexuality, especially in an adult, caring, consenting relationship, are simply not valid. And, as Christians, we are not bound by Levitican Law.

Of course, some will say ‘that might be true, but the New Testament talks about homosexuality, too.’ That’s true. But, as with the Old Testament, we may not agree with others’ interpretation of the New Testament passages. However, again, it’s not enough to simply disagree. We must study and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Through a careful examination of Scripture, if a case for our interpretation can be made, we will be empowered – not from a self or ego standpoint, but from a Scriptural standpoint. In that empowerment we can be confident, and we can help others who struggle – feeling as if they have to choose between being true to themselves and having a relationship with God.

In response to the attacks and condemnations justified by passages from the New Testament, this week we’ll examine those very same texts.

New Testament

Paul – A Little Background

There are actually not as many texts as one would think. The most often used texts were written by Paul, in his letters to the churches in Rome and Corinth. Before we examine the texts themselves, let’s familiarize ourselves with Paul.

Remember, before his conversion, Paul was a devout, well trained Jew. He certainly knew the Law as it was written in the Old Testament. As the first Jewish converts to what would become Christianity became more and more vocal and popular, he saw this new sect as a threat to the traditional Jewish way of worship. He was downright mean and nasty – imprisoning converts, even participating in the stoning of Stephen. His upbringing and his education shaped every facet of his life.

Then he has his conversion experience. He becomes an apostle, and goes about preaching the Gospel of Christ to anyone and everyone who would listen. He was just as fervent and rigid as he had been before. But, he was also full of inner conflict. In Romans 7:18 – 24, Paul says, ” For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!…”

We can see the pain and torment he was in. There was something, deep within himself, that could not and would not change. And, according to “the Law,” he felt he was at complete odds with God – living within a deep state of sin. But then, notice in Romans 8:39, he comes to a certain point of reassurance – “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, 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.”

That’s quite a leap. From feeling completely at war with himself, and with God – battling between his body and his mind – he comes to know, deep within himself, with every fiber of his being, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus!

Yes, Paul was tortured and tormented within himself. What was his “deep, dark secret”; why so much inner turmoil? In reading some of Paul’s other texts, we see he had no real use for women, nor for marriage. He felt that the best way to live, and to live a life devoted to God, was to remain celibate.

But, if one could not control his lusts, then, okay, go ahead and get married. He certainly had no intention of going down that road. I’m pretty much convinced that Paul was a deeply repressed homosexual.

Romans

Of course, Paul had a slightly different take on the whole thing. Most people at that time, especially strict Jews, thought of homosexuality as a sin. Paul, on the other hand, considered it to be a punishment from God. To Paul, homosexuality itself was not the sin, but God inflicted homosexuality as a punishment for sin. Looking back at one of the “terrible texts,” Romans 1:21 and 26-27, Paul says, “…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…for his reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…”

Notice the statement, “God gave them up to vile passions.” This would indicate that the turning away from the natural for the unnatural was a punishment from God. Just like people at that time believed that sickness, disease, and even just plain bad luck or bad things happening were a punishment from God. But, just like sickness and disease – they didn’t know then what we know today. They didn’t know about viruses and bacteria. Similarly, Paul didn’t know then what we know now about homosexuality. Some people are born homosexual, just as others are born heterosexual. God made both homosexuals and heterosexuals.

Homosexuality is neither a sin, nor a punishment from God. And, when it comes to sickness and disease, Jesus knew they weren’t punishments; as evidenced  In John 9:2 & 3, ” And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents…””

Look, too, at the phrasing of ‘exchanging the natural for the unnatural.’ If these were heterosexual men and women, who then engaged in homosexual activity, they would, indeed, be exchanging what was natural for them for something that was unnatural – for them. It would also follow that a homosexual who is compelled by fear, loathing, and even self-loathing, who tries to live within a heterosexual relationship is also exchanging what is natural for the unnatural – for them.

Corinthians

Moving on to Corinthians, we come to two lists of those who, Paul says, will not see the kingdom of God:

1 Corninthians 5:10:

  • KJV – Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
  • NKJV – …sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, not even to eat with such a person.

1 Corinthians 6:9:

  • KJV – Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
  • NKJV – Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

On the face of it, one could easily assume that Paul is condemning all homosexuals. But, it’s important to remember that words have been mistranslated and misinterpreted for centuries. The New Testament was written in Greek. Let’s take a look at the Greek words that were actually used, and what they meant.

Two words that were used together were malekos and arsenokoitis.

Malekos means effeminate or soft. In Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon, Malekos means, 1) catamite, 2) a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man, 3) a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness, 4) a male prostitute.

Arsenokoitis means abuser of self with mankind. A common meaning is “a male lying,” generally used in relation to prostitutes. In Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon, Arsenokoitis means one who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual. But note that this is a masculine noun and always refers to males, which, if used to condemn loving, committed, same-sex partnerships, would not include lesbians.

When the two words are used together, the prohibition seems to be against male homosexual acts with boys or temple prostitutes. Look at the meaning of the word catamite. It generally means an adolescent boy kept for sexual purposes, especially in temple worship practice. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines catamite as, “a boy kept by a pederast.”

Pederast is from the Greek word paiderastes; which means, literally, lover of boys. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines pederast as, “one who practices anal intercourse especially with a boy.

Let’s look, too, at fornicator and idolater.

Fornicator in Greek is Pornos, which means ‘to sell’; and is from Pernemi, which means ‘a male prostitute’. In Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon, Fornicator means 1) a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire, 2) a male prostitute, 3) a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse. Compare this definition with our modern definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other.”

The definition from the old Greek is nowhere near the same as how we define a fornicator in today’s language. The same is true for Idolater. Our modern definition, in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is: a worshiper of idols.

But the old Greek, Eidololatres, has a much broader meaning. Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon defines Idolater as: a worshiper of false gods; used of any one even Christian, participating in any way in the worship of the heathen, esp. one who attends their sacrificial feasts and eats of the remains of offered victims. Remember, at that time, pagan temple worship often included human sacrifice, cannibalism, and yes, sex with young boys.

When we look at the original words used, and the meanings of those words, it is clear that the acts described were symbolic of forced, abusive, and coerced sexual acts between men and boys, idolatrous temple practices involving sex with boys, temple prostitutes, etc. Condemnation of abusive and forced homosexual acts, especially if committed against the young, is certainly appropriate. However, nowhere in these texts do we see reference to consensual, loving, and committed homosexual relationships. To use these texts to condemn all homosexuals, and to sanction discrimination and violence against homosexuals, is simply a distortion of Scripture.

Timothy, 2 Peter, & Jude

Only three more texts have some sort of reference to homosexuality. 1 Timothy 1:10 says the law is good only if it is taught properly, and the law is made for the lawless, namely, “for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers…,” etc. The same word we discussed earlier is used here – Arsenokoitis; and is translated as sodomites. However, remember Fornicator referred to male prostitution. And, kidnapper, or man-stealer, in Greek is Andrapodistes; which means, 1) one who unjustly reduces free males to slavery, 2) one who steals the slaves of others and sells them. When taken together, the text refers to forced and abusive male prostitution made possible through slave trading; or, in today’s language – Human Trafficking of Minors. This behavior was, is, and should be considered evil. But, to apply this with a wide brush to paint all homosexual behavior, especially that which is loving and committed, is too big a stretch. Or, to quote Bishop Spong in “Sins of Scripture”: “…to have that kind of behavior used to define all homosexual relationships makes as much sense to me as using the word “rape” to define all heterosexual relationships.”

The last two are Jude 1:7 and 2 Peter 2:6. Both refer to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the destruction God will visit on those who live ungodly lives. We talked about the story of Sodom last week, so we already know how that story has been misunderstood and misused.

Conclusion

That’s it. That’s all the Bible has to say on the subject of homosexuality. And, as we’ve seen, most, if not none of it has anything whatsoever to do with loving, faithful, consensual, and committed homosexual relations. The ‘terrible texts’ in the New Testament use words that carry a common theme: male prostitutes, especially boys, the men who lay with them, and the kidnapper or slave dealer who procures and sells them. In this context, it is certainly probable that Paul was not condemning loving, committed, respectful, supportive, life-affirming same-sex relations. It is in this light that I am convinced that New Testament Scripture is silent on the issue of consensual homosexuality as we understand it today.

The verses so commonly and vehemently used to condemn, attack, and denounce gay men and lesbians have been misinterpreted, mistranslated, and misunderstood for far too long. Last week we discovered the story of Sodom is not about homosexuality, it is about power, control, violence, and gang-rape. Just as the law requiring the death penalty for stubborn, drunken, and gluttonness sons, rebellious children, and adulterers no longer apply in our society today, neither do the Levitican laws regarding homosexuality. In reviewing the New Testament, we find the verses speak to pederasty, child prostitution, child slavery, human trafficking; not about loving and committed same-sex relations.

Will some people still try to use these Scriptures as weapons against the LGBTQ community? Most certainly. They are entitled to their interpretation; just as we are entitled to ours. Will the fight for equality continue? Absolutely! And even when those who might not agree are most vocal, we must remain true to our journey with Christ – as my friend, Mike, said: treating everyone with as much integrity and love as our hearts allow – regardless of how they treat us. In this way, and with each victory in the fight for equality, love will conquer all.

Our exploration and examination of Scripture regarding homosexuality brings us to the conclusion that the Bible is basically silent on the issue as we know and understand it today, and we can feel confident in our position that homosexuality is neither a sin nor is it condemned by God. We can also help to encourage others who have been forced to believe they must choose between acknowledging and celebrating who they are and having a relationship with God and with Jesus.

Now that we’ve affirmed loving, committed, consensual homosexual relationships, the next logical thing to explore is validating those relationships in marriage. There is a huge debate going on about redefining marriage and whether or not gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry. Next week, we’ll dive into Scripture to see what we might discover.

[Acknowledgement – Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong’s book “Sins of Scripture” was instrumental in providing me ideas and opportunities to study Scripture with a greater understanding. I also found numerous websites, both pro- and con-, to be very helpful, even if I didn’t share their position. I encourage everyone to read, research, and, above all, study Scripture for yourselves and listen to what God says to you in the quiet stillness of your hearts.]

Scripture

  • John 9:2 & 3
  • Romans 1:21, 26 & 27
  • Romans 7:18 – 25
  • Romans 8:38 & 39
  • 1 Corinthians 5:10 & 6:9 & 10
  • 1 Timothy 1:10
  • Jude 1:7
  • 2 Peter 2:6

Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it. Please remember, the comments are moderated and, while some may not agree with the message or with other comments, all comments must be respectful.

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

 

Terrible Texts 2 – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceTerrible Texts 2 – Love Conquers All

In response to the recent Supreme Court rulings regarding Proposition 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act, we continue our exploration of the “Terrible Texts” often used to justify discrimination toward, and violence against, our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered, brothers and sisters. Our examination leads us to one, undeniable truth – Love Conquers All.

Spiritual Quote

“Always treat people with as much integrity and love
that your heart will allow,
regardless of how they treat you.”
~Mike Kiser

Introduction

Last week we examined passages in the Old Testament that are often used to denounce and even demonize LGBTQ people. As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, the Old Testament standard-issue rhetoric condemning homosexuality, especially in an adult, caring, consenting relationship, are simply not valid. And, as Christians, we are not bound by Levitican Law.

Of course, some will say ‘that might be true, but the New Testament talks about homosexuality, too.’ That’s true. But, as with the Old Testament, we may not agree with others’ interpretation of the New Testament passages. However, as we mentioned last week, it’s not enough to simply disagree. We must study Scripture and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Through a careful examination of Scripture, if a case for our interpretation can be made, we will be empowered – not from a self or ego standpoint, but from a Scriptural standpoint. In that empowerment we can be confident, and we can help others who struggle – feeling as if they have to choose between being true to themselves and having a relationship with God.

In response to the attacks and condemnations justified by passages from the New Testament, this week we’ll examine those very same texts.

Potential Scripture

  • John 9:2
  • Romans 1:21, 26 & 27
  • Romans 7:128 & 19, 23
  • Romans 8:38 & 39
  • 1 Corinthians 5:10 & 6:9 & 10
  • 1 Timothy 1:10
  • Jude 1:7
  • 2 Peter 2:6

Join Us!

Joins us Sunday for worship and fellowship as we travel the journey from Religion into a Relationship with God.

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Terrible Texts 1 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFirst, I’d like to apologize that there wasn’t a Quote posting this week. WordPress had a few issues and I was unable to log in an create the post. So, for this week, we’ll just post the Teaching. Now…on to the message…

Terrible Texts 1 – Dreams Can Come True

The recent Supreme Court rulings regarding Proposition 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act are, for many, proof that dreams can come true.

Spiritual Quote

“If one person dreams alone…
It is only a dream.
When many people dream together…
It is the beginning of a new reality.”
~Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Introduction

While the recent rulings may be a dream come true for some, for others they symbolize a further societal decline and a movement away from God. Many who see the progression of equality, and especially marriage equality, as a movement away from God bolster their argument with Scripture. For those of us who support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered equality, the passages often used have come to be known as the “clobber passages” or “terrible texts.”

Of course, it’s easy to respond with, “I don’t agree.” But, it’s not enough to simply not agree with their interpretation of Scripture. We must study Scripture and strive to examine, not just what the translated text says, but also the time and context in which it was written. It is only through careful examination that we will be empowered, and we will be in a position of defending our point of view from a Scriptural standpoint.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to examine the so-called “terrible texts.” Not just so that we can be confident in our position, but so that we can also help others who are struggling – feeling caught in having to choose between their faith and being true to themselves. We’ll begin our exploration with a look at the Old Testament.

Genesis

One of the common arguments tossed about is “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Folks tend to want to focus on one little aspect – the mob wanting to have sex with the men (angels) that Lot was protecting. But, there’s much more to the story that is quite often overlooked. And, when examined closely, the argument “Remember Sodom and Gomorrah” quickly disintegrates. To set the background, we’ll be examining the story as it picks up in Genesis 18:1 and continue through Genesis 19:38.

Abraham and Sarah are in Mamre. Three men approach – one is the Lord, and the other two are angels. It was the custom at the time to show hospitality to traveling strangers – offering them food, a place to stay, and offering protection from the dangers of sleeping in the streets – basically, the hospitality code.

Abraham invites the strangers to join him under a tree, offers to have their feet washed, and offers them a “morsel of bread.” Abraham, with help from his wife, Sarah, goes on to prepare an entire banquet – even though Sarah does not eat with them. She was, after all, merely a woman. The story continues with their dinner conversation; which is when Abraham is informed he and his post-menopausal wife will conceive a child. Sarah, overhearing the conversation, laughs at the suggestion that she would bear a son. When God asks why she laughed, she denied laughing. God replies, “Yes, you did laugh.”

The conversation then turns to the city of Sodom. God informs Abraham that He intends to send his two angels on to Sodom to investigate the reports that have come to Him regarding the sinfulness of Sodom. (Question – Why would an all-knowing God need to send angels to spy on a situation and report back?) As God continues to outline His plan, He reveals that if the reports are true, He intends to destroy the city and everyone in it. Abraham begins to barter with God – if there can be found 50 righteous people, God agrees to spare the city. Abraham drops the number to 45; God again agrees. This continues, back and forth, until they reach the magic number of 10. Of course, Abraham has a vested interest – his nephew Lot and Lot’s family are residents of Sodom. The bargaining complete, God leaves and the story shifts to the angels entering the city of Sodom.

This is where the main thrust of the argument starts to appear. The two angels enter the city at dusk. Of course, there were no hotels or motels; travel was often dangerous – especially for those sleeping in city streets. If a resident of the city didn’t offer hospitality, it left travelers open to abuse, robbery, and other terrible acts – including forcing the men to play the role of women in sexually abusive attacks. (Remember, it was customary at the time for men to show power by subjugating other men, especially those conquered in battle, by gang-raping them and forcing them into the role of a ‘woman.’) Entering the city at dusk, the men of the city saw their opportunity to take advantage of the two strangers. Their plans were thwarted, however, when Abraham’s nephew Lot offered to take the angels in. The mob grew angry, surrounded Lot’s house, and demanded that Lot turn the men over to them for sexual sport. Keep in mind, the text says that all the men – young and old, and all the people to the last man. These would be attackers would presumably have been straight. This planned attack was one of power and violence – not one of homosexuality. Lot refused to turn the angels over to the mob – having offered hospitality, his honor, and that of his household, was at stake, too.

As the mob grew angrier, Lot offers his two virgin daughters up; telling the mob, which included the two daughter’s fiances, they could do as they please with them. Obviously Lot knew this attack was about the violence the mob wished to perpetrate – not about homosexual sex. Otherwise, why offer up his virgin daughters? The mob refused Lot’s offer. The two angels come to Lot’s rescue, strike the men of the city blind, and order Lot and his family to leave the city. The angels knew God’s plan – ten righteous men had not been found and the city was to be destroyed. Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were the only righteous ones to be found and were given the opportunity to escape. (Question – can Lot really be considered righteous when he had offered up his daughters to be gang-raped?) The offer of safety is extended to the daughters’ fiances, but they refuse.

Lot and his family leave, and the city is destroyed. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. The story continues with the two daughters realizing they will likely never marry, nor bear children. They are no longer a part of a tribe or clan, so there are no available husbands for them. What’s a girl to do? Of course…they get dad drunk and have sex with him – both conceiving. One daughter ends up giving birth to Moab – the father of the Moabites. The other gives birth to Ammon – the father of the Ammonites. (Question – Can two young women who get their father drunk, have incestuous sex with him, and bear his children be called righteous?) The story of Sodom and Gomorrah concludes. (Notice the story is always referred to as Sodom and Gomorrah, yet the story centers around Sodom.)

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not a story about wonton homosexual activity. This is a story about the breaking of the hospitality code, violence, gang-rape, drunkenness, and incest. To use this Scripture as evidence against gays and lesbians today is to ignore and minimize the actual sins of the city.

Leviticus

Moving on in Scripture, we come to the two most often quoted anti-gay verses: Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Verse 18:22 reads, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Verse 20:13 reads, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood be upon them.”

These “terrible text” verses have been used time and time again to justify violence, even murder, of homosexuals for centuries. They seem pretty straight forward and clear. But, let’s look a little closer.

These verses come from a section of Leviticus known as the “Holiness Code.” At the time it was written, the Jews had been conquered and exiled to Babylon. Removed from Jerusalem and the temple where they believed God lived, and surrounded by peoples whose practices were in conflict with their own, the code served to unify the Jewish people as separate and unique from those around them. Keeping the Sabbath, strict dietary laws (kosher), and circumcision were among the commands provided in the code.

So why a command against homosexuality? (Question – Why is it that only male homosexuality is ever a concern? Did they not know of female homosexuality?) As a conquered, exiled people, procreation and expanding the Jewish population was of paramount importance. (Perhaps why men are singled out. At the time, nothing was known of sperm and eggs. Men provided the seed, woman were simply an incubator.) Additionally, male/male temple prostitution and fertility rights were often performed by the peoples around the Jews. It was important to prohibit such acts in an effort to keep themselves separate and different. And, of course, they didn’t know then what we know now – being gay or lesbian is not a choice.

As Christians, we are not bound by Levitican law. But, if we were, then there are a whole host of things we’d be doing wrong:

  • Verse 18:19 – a man must not approach a woman to “uncover her nakedness” while menstruating
  • Verse 19:19 – forbids interbreeding of livestock and mixing crops in the field
  • Verse 19:27 – men must not shave around the sides of their heads and must not cut the edges of their beards
  • Verse 19:28 – no cutting of one’s own flesh, and no tattoos (Hebrew word translated as tattoo actually means to cut designs into the flesh – it has nothing to do with ink)
  • Verse 20:9 – a child who curses (in Hebrew, curses = ridicules or mocks) his or her father or mother must be put to death
  • Verse 20:10 – a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, both must be put to death. (Of course, there seems to be no prohibition against a married man committing adultery with an unmarried woman…it seems men can do whatever they want, even have as many wives as they want, as long as they don’t do it with a married woman…Oh wait – didn’t David commit adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah? He even orchestrated having Uriah killed in battle. Were David and Bathsheba put to death?)
  • Verse 24:14 – whoever curses (mocks or ridicules) is to be put to death
  • Verse 24:16 – whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death
  • Deuteronomy 21:18-21 – a rebellious or stubborn son who disobeys his mother or father, or who is a drunkard, or who overeats (glutton) must be stoned to death

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Why is it that the only verses many Christians choose to want to force everyone to live by are the two regarding homosexuality? It’s also interesting to note that the same word translated as “lie” is also used in Ecclesiastes 4:11. However, in this passage, demonstrating “two are better than one” (verse 4:9) we read, “Again, if two lie down together, they will deep warm; but how can one be warm alone?” No one seems to want to acknowledge this little known passage that one could infer indicates an approval of two men lying together.

Conclusion

A huge victory for equality was won this week. It started as a dream of many, and has now begun a reality. The work isn’t finished, but events this week demonstrate that dreams can come true.

As the struggle for equality moves forward, more and more vehement attacks will be heard, most stemming from a certain interpretation of Scripture. Those of us who support equality must equip ourselves with the knowledge and the tools so as to arm ourselves with a better argument than “I don’t believe it.”

To me, the Old Testament standard-issue rhetoric condemning homosexuality, especially in an adult, caring, consenting relationship, are simply not valid. And, as Christians, we are not bound by Levitican Law.

Some will say ‘that might be true, but the New Testament talks about homosexuality, too.’ True enough. Next week, we’ll move into an exploration of the New Testament passages to see what we might uncover.

[Acknowledgement – Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong’s book “Sins of Scripture” was instrumental in providing me ideas and opportunities to study Scripture with a greater understanding. I also found numerous websites, both pro- and con-, to be very helpful, even if I didn’t share their position. I encourage everyone to read, research, and, above all, study Scripture for yourselves and listen to what God says to you in the quiet stillness of your hearts.]

Scripture

  • Genesis 18:1-19:38
  • Leviticus 18:19, 18:22, 19:19, 19:27, 19:28, 20:9, 20:10, 20:13, 24:14, 24:16
  • Deuteronomy 21:18-21
  • Ecclesiastes 4:11

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