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4 Reasons for Being Affirming

On what basis can a follower of Jesus be affirming of gay believers? Here are four compelling reasons for affirming our gay brothers and sisters.

The Certainty of God’s Nature

God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and His love is expressed in Jesus and His incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension (John 3:16). The Message of Jesus is first and foremost one of restoration, acceptance and inclusion.

There is no debate about this glorious truth. The entire Christian world nods in agreement to this statement of certainty. Few believers would downplay the primacy of God’s love.

Sadly, it’s often followed by a “but”. “Yes, God is love but in order to define absolute standards…”.

God’s love is often treated like a modern-day monarch. All figurehead, no governmental clout.

However, the certainty of God’s nature, His Father’s love, ought to GUIDE and GOVERN how we respond to all people, especially those we deem as threats or enemies, and how we moralize in the public domain.

Think on this deeply for a moment.

On what basis do we define morality and standards of behaviour?

Firstly, it would be good to start with how we define orthodoxy. The Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed have served God’s people well in this regard for thousands of years. While not on par with Scripture, they help emphasize the substance of our shared unity and common faith.

Is there any hint of opposing the spiritual and social equality of any person—on any matter such as age, ability, gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity—in the Creeds? Obviously not.

Of course, the Creeds center primarily on the Godhead and emphasize that we have far more in common with other believers than what we don’t. And what we have in common has far greater substance than what doesn’t. For centuries, believers have kept the unity of Spirit in these essential truths. As the saying goes, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things; charity (love)”. Still, as powerful as they are, maybe they’re not sufficient to guide and govern us on morality.

So, again, on what basis do we define morality?

Jesus taught that the Great Commandments sum up all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40): to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Jesus, in fact, did NOT hold up a list of STANDARDS of behaviour that we need to hold others accountable to. Instead, He taught us VALUES that guide and govern us. And primary on His values-agenda was love.

He taught us to be perfect in showing love to all (Matthew 5:43-48), even to those we deem as a threat or see as an enemy. And remember, this is the only time Jesus called us to be perfect: in demonstrating His love. Moreover, it’s worth reminding ourselves often that His sternest words were reserved for those who compiled lists of standards (Matthew 23:1-39).

Jesus then also repositioned the Golden Rule. While most versions taught a negative-reciprocal morality (“Do NOT do to others…”), Jesus gave us a front-footed, love-based morality: “DO to other what you want them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

If followers of Jesus applied the above, we wouldn’t even need it, but we also have the 10 Commandments that unpack this baseline of human morality. (Note, the Big 10 aren’t some highwater mark of morality. They’re the baseline, they separate us from the beasts, protecting society from descending into anarchy and chaos. Loving God and loving our neighbours is the highwater mark; only Gods love inspires the better angels of our nature.)

All the above—the Great Commandments, the Golden Rule and the 10 Commandmentsshapes our VALUES as followers of Jesus, values that GUIDE and GOVERN how we respond to others and how we moralize in the public domain.

Now, in any of the above, is there any mention of opposing social or spiritual equality based on a person’s age, ability, gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity?

And let’s be clear on the definition of God’s love. We’re not talking about the pink and fluffy, warm and fuzzy, sentimental “feeling” version of love. According to John, love is defined by no less than Jesus’ self-giving act on the cross—THE standard John had the temerity to call us to live by (1 John 3:16).

The certainty of God’s nature and the self-giving love of Jesus ought to guide and govern how we respond to all people, especially those we deem as threats or enemies, and how we moralize in the public domain.

Now, obviously, one will correctly point out that God’s nature doesn’t excuse sin. God is certainly a just God. And by its very nature, love balances mercy and justice. For instance, we admire good parents who unconditionally love their children, who provide both consistent parental affection and appropriate loving discipline when required, helping their kids to become balanced, well-adjusted individuals.

For sure, God disapproves of sin and disciplines the unrepentant. In His justice, His righteous anger is directed towards the transgressor, especially those who harm or exploit others. And in His mercy, God is slow to anger, appealing to the transgressor to repent and make restitution.

Importantly, the Scriptures emphatically stress that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), and that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

That’s how a loving God dealt with sin in Jesus.

The question is, are consensual, committed same-sex unions sin?

This brings up the second reason…

The Uncertainty of “Those“ Passages

Debate has raged around the so-called clobber passages for years—the eleven passages that are quoted as evidence against homosexuality. And there are valid arguments made on both sides.

For too many years, I did not take the time to honestly hear the other side of the discussion. I think many Christians are in the same boat.

In a nutshell, the eleven passages in question can all be validly understood as part of God’s moral code in two ways:

  • Forbidding promiscuity in general and promiscuity specifically linked to idolatry and pagan worship, including shrine prostitution.
  • Forbidding violence and the abuse of power, including rape, exploitation and pederasty (the diabolical but ‘accepted’ first century practice of adult men having sex with younger men under their tutelage, adolescent boys in particular).

In other words, the Scriptures condemn sexual acts in specific contexts, the contexts of which condemn the acts … and the contexts are shrine prostitution and the abuse of power.

Most importantly, what is clear from these passages is that none of them specifically addresses consensual, committed same-sex unions.

Not one.

If you have never taken the time to hear the other perspective on these passages, you owe it to yourself to do so. You can start here: Homosexuality in the Bible.

You may not agree with everything said and you may remain in your position. That’s perfectly fine. The debate will continue, and herein lies the point.

Against the absolute certainty of God’s nature and Jesus’ loved-defined morality, we have the uncertainty and ongoing debate around these eleven passages.

At the very least, the former ought to govern our public witness and restrain our temptation to moralize in the public sphere.

Even if one concludes that the passages in question do forbid consensual, committed same-sex unions, given the overwhelming message of God’s self-giving love, one would do well to practice such convictions as one would other non-essential matters.

The apostle Paul’s counsel was clear:

“Let each be fully convinced in his own mind … let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

(Romans 14:5, 13)

In other words, on non-essential matters, be true to your own convictions, but don’t judge others by them.

If one contends that this issue is in the essential category, not the non-essential category, one is then adding an exclusion not found in the Creeds, Jesus’ comprehensive love-defined morality or the 10 Commandments.

Essentially, one is elevating personal conviction on this matter to the equivalent of an 11th Commandment. The result? The adiaphora, what Luther called the details that don’t matter, are moved to center stage. And when non-essentials are shoehorned into the heart of the Gospel, we miss the heart of God.

When it dawned on me that I was guilty of this mistake many years ago, I realized that it was more a reflection of my own ignorance and fears than anything else.

Paul said emphatically,

“…for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law … if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilment of the Law.”

(Romans 13:8-10, italics added)

Underline that last statement: love is the fulfilment of the Law.

On to reason number three…

The Primary Non-Exclusive Marriage Model

The creation account teaches us that both men and women are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). Together, men and women express the nature of God. And while every sphere of society is better off when men and women function in harmony, marriage between a man and a woman is one of the main expressions of this reality.

But is this template expected of every man and woman? In other words, is it obligatory? Or is the marriage model of Adam and Eve merely the primary, not exclusive, expression of it?

Certainly, marriage between a man and women serves as a primary model for at least two reasons.

  • On the one hand, it is essential for procreation and the survival of our species. That may sound dramatic to us today in a world where overpopulation is a concern. However, the issue of preserving our species and, by extension, our people group, was a matter of critical importance in ancient times.
  • On the other hand, it serves as a primary model for marriage because most humans identify as heterosexual.

(And to be clear, by using the word “primary” to describe God’s model of male-female partnership, it does not imply that other lifestyle choices are “lesser” in value or “inferior” in substance. The adjective serves merely to capture the two reasons outlined above.)

The core question remains: is the model obligatory? Is it the template expected of every man and woman?

Jesus and Paul are our highest examples of moral and spiritual life. And both chose a life of singleness.

Jesus spoke of those who stay single for Kingdom reasons (Matthew 19:12). Paul, in fact, championed the idea of the single life (1 Corinthians 7:7, 8).

In other words, the creation model is not obligatory nor is it expected of all men and women. Singleness is one notable exception.

But is singleness the only exception to the creation model? Well, to claim this is to make a claim that the Bible does not make.

In fact, Jesus mentioned three exceptions in Matthew 19:12, which we explore in detail in the article Natural Eunuchs.

Since there are other permissible exceptions to the creation model, and the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn consensual, committed same-sex relationships, God’s nature must serve as our definitive guide—not personal conviction, denominational interpretation or church tradition.

The Witness of God’s Spirit

In Acts 15, the early church leaders convened to discuss a hot potato issue that had critical ramifications for the spread of the Gospel. For centuries, no Gentile could come to faith without first undergoing circumcision. The matter was as set in stone as one could get. To them, the Old Testament Scriptures were absolutely clear on the issue.

Yet these brave followers of Jesus did a U-turn on entrenched dogma for one main reason: the witness of the Holy Spirit. Peter, Paul and Barnabas shared how God was manifestly working among the Gentiles without the need for circumcision. Peter then summed it up best:

“So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”

(Acts 15:8, 9, emphasis added)

The early church leaders recognized God’s Spirit at work in those they initially thought were undeserving or unqualified, and courageously changed their dogma to align with the witness of the Spirit.

God is not just working in the lives of gay believers around the world, He is manifestly blessing them, “just as He does to” straight believers.

He makes no distinction. He shows no partiality.

God responds to a heart full of faith.

In Conclusion

So, there you have it. Four reasons to affirm, support and embrace our gay brothers and sisters.

We have the absolute certainty of God’s all-inclusive, self-giving love versus the uncertainty and ongoing debate around those so-called clobber passages—passages that, in fact, do not address consensual, committed same-sex unions.

On top of that, we have a creation model that gives us a primary but by no means exclusive or binding template for marriage. Finally, we have the overwhelming witness of the Spirit at work: God blessing gay believers without partiality or prejudice.

Thus, we have four reasons for accepting and affirming followers of Jesus who are gay.

Can I recommend reading Moving Past Our Ignorance where we explain why the usual “acceptance versus approval” formula isn’t applicable and we answer three common objections.