For many years I have struggled with how to Biblically relate to homosexuality. Of course the references in both the Old and New Testaments are well known. But in light of Christ’s teaching, in His own words, as recorded in the Gospels, lead me to reject the condemnation (and instructions for executing homosexuals) contained in the Old Testament. The old saw about how we should “love the sinner and hate the sin” was my own personal fallback position on this issue.
I had turned to the Disciples leadership for some sort of clarification on this issue. But in the finest of Disciples traditions, they remained boldly standing atop the fence on how to relate to homosexuality, as with many other divisive issues. It’s both the curse and the power of the Disciples church—one must find one’s own answers, even (and especially) when it’s hard to discern the right path.
Such were my beliefs and feelings on homosexuality and the church. As for same-sex marriage, well, on the whole I felt that the best solution would be for civil authorities to only recognize civil unions, for same-sex as well as heterosexual couples. Marriage, after all, is a thing of God, and on the whole the less the State involves itself in spiritual matters, the better things are in general. But by and large, homosexual relations were against the Bible’s teachings, and so same-sex marriage was a thing that the church should not tolerate.
But events would lead me in a different direction . . .
After many, many years of struggling to fight my way up the corporate ladder, at the expense of my family and my marriage, I began to listen to that ‘still, small voice’, and slowly began to come back to God, and back to the Disciples church (I was raised in between the Disciples and the Church of Christ, so I’ve got a great family background in the Campbell-Stone movement). Eventually I moved back to Oklahoma City, my hometown, to be nearly my aging parents and to bring some simplicity and spiritual growth to my life.
I joined New Hope Christian Church in 2009. And in our congregation we have a homosexual couple. They do not make a big production of their relationship—any more than any of our heterosexual couples do. In writing about them, I am concerned about ‘outing’ them, such is the extent of their NOT making an issue of their relationship. But then again, in order to be ‘outed’ one must first be ‘in’, and they’re not exactly ‘in’, either.
But beyond that, a couple of incidents brought things into a much sharper focus.
Within the Oklahoma City metro area, there exists the Christian Church Commission of Central Oklahoma, whose charter calls for them to help start new Disciples churches in our area, and I’m a member of the board for the Commission. Having been around for nearly 90 years, the Commission has had quite a number of successes down through the decades, but has had problems in recent years. In an effort to find out more about the whole church-planting process, I spoke at length to Rev. Phil Ball, who is the senior pastor at Odyssey Christian Church, one of only three Open and Affirming Disciples churches in Oklahoma, and a fairly recent new Disciples church.
In discussing the matter of being Open and Affirming, Rev. Ball mentioned that many LGBT people shy away from worshiping with heterosexuals, that they have frequently formed their own congregations, because of the open hostility they’ve encountered from heterosexual Christians throughout their lives.
I immediately saw the parallels in this with the Black Disciples Convocation. While I certainly understand the historical drives that led to separate Black Disciples congregations, it certainly is (and was) wrong to do so (or to put it more accurately, for the White Disciples to cause the Black Disciples to feel that they had to do so), in contravention to Christ’s own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one . . .” Segregation is never right, is never in keeping with what Christ taught. And that’s whether the issue is skin color, sexual orientation, national origin, religious beliefs, or anything else you can imagine. However, it is a fact of life in our society . . . but that hardly makes it morally right. And the church must always be in the right, morally.
Around the same time, my son was hospitalized briefly last year. Being a good pastor, Rev. Josh Leu came to the hospital and sat with me while my son was in the ER. My son’s condition was not life-threatening, and so having time to kill, we talked about a number of things.
One thing Josh brought up was another hospital ministry visit he had done a few months before, with our homosexual couple. One was facing a life-threatening condition, and while he would recover fully, it was scary there for a while. His partner, however, was nearly inconsolable. Josh admitted that, for a time, he was more worried about the partner than the one in surgery, that he was so terrified of losing the love of his life, his soul mate.
And I thought back, as he was telling me all about this, about my own marriage, how bad things got, how it became just a total travesty of everything a marriage should be, what it was intended to be. All the arguments, the bitterness, the hostility, ultimately the infidelity. In fact, at one point I had been briefly hospitalized for kidney stones, and my wife had ridiculed me about it.
Clearly, these two men were far more happy together than I had ever been in my heterosexual marriage. That they were totally committed to one another. That their love for one another was deep, and true, and, well . . . beautiful. Every bit as much and just as strongly as the best of heterosexual marriages. Probably fewer than half of all married couples are as deeply in love and as deeply committed to one another as these two men are to one another.
This realization was truly an epiphany for me. And I do wish, with all of my heart, that one day I will be as happy and in love with someone as they are with each other.
So, if the apostle John is correct—that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them;” “Love comes from God;” “if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” If John, “the disciple whom Christ loved”, is correct, then that leaves only one conclusion:
That marriage between two people in love with one another—truly in love with one another—is a thing of God, and what God has brought together let no one put asunder.
And so if these two men (or any other couple so dedicated and so devoted) ever decide that they would want to sanctify their relationship through the sacrament of marriage, I would wholeheartedly support them, in every way.
Furthermore, if we are to follow Christ’s own commandment, that we love one another, there can only be one logical conclusion—that the Church, as the body of Christ on earth, needs to be willing to recognize and celebrate and sanctify the union of all couples who are truly in love with one another.
If we truly wish to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, then our path is clear. We must overcome these fragments and forge a Christ-inspired whole, and truly, deeply, and meaningfully welcome ALL to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?