Being Christian and Gay – Part 2: How We Read the Bible

Posted: September 12, 2017 in Being Christian and Gay
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thThis is the second part in a series about being both Christian and gay. Dealing with Scripture is the place we are beginning this conversation. In considering “How We Read the Bible,” I must first give you a statement of my faith: I claim faith in God and in Jesus the Christ, his Son. The totality of Jesus’ life among us—his teachings, his activity, his moral life, his resurrection after having been killed and buried—gives me hope. Yes, I am a gay man. For some people, mashing together my faith statement and my declaration of my sexual orientation creates a conundrum. This series of posts will not change the course of history on this matter. My desire is to put a personal face to the conversation. If you have not already, you may wish to read the Introduction to this series and Being Christian and Gay – Part 1: Context for Conversation.

The place to begin talking about what some people see as an oxymoron or at best as dichotomous, the gay Christian, is to begin with Scripture. To adequately deal with the question, we must deal honestly with Scripture.

Scripture has been used as a tool to condemn homosexuality. The same-sex sexual behavior that people associate with the gay person is seen by some people as a sexual ethic inconsistent with Scripture. It would naturally follow that approving of our otherwise supporting the marriage of two gay people would condone gay sex.

There are also people with a strong faith in God who are Christ followers living a life of faith and who use Judeo-Christian Scripture—the Bible—to inform their relationship with Jesus, the Christ. They are faithfully active in their churches, some in positions of leadership. Their understanding of Scripture does not bring blanket condemnation upon people who identify as gay or express gender nonconformity.

A key to getting past this log jam is to have frank, open, and respectful conversations about Scripture.

One way to read the Bible is to receive it as though it was given by dictation. God dictated the Bible for the biblical “authors” to transcribe and the authors became little more than transcription machines. Some scholars would qualify that statement by saying that the biblical writers wrote under the direct inspiration of God and that everything (some say every word) they wrote was of God’s authorship. Other variations in this broad option for reading Scripture understand that God used the uniqueness of each biblical writer to express God’s message for humankind. This way of reading Scripture treats every word in the Bible as an inspired word of God and each word is imbued with authority.

Reading the Bible this way results in the Bible becoming a rule book, a set of principles for ethical behavior, a guide that reduces relational issues to black or white statements. People who read the Bible this way believe that if we know the steps or follow the rules, we will be blessed. Our response is to obey the words in the Bible, they would say. When we read Scripture this way, we see a lot of righteousness and judgment.

Another way to read the Bible is to understand it as a record of God dealing with humankind. It describes how people have related to God, and how God was real to them. Thus the Bible is the dynamic story of humanity’s spiritual experiences in real life struggles and victories from a human perspective.

The arc of the story is God’s design. He progressively revealed himself to humanity. The biblical author’s stories about God and their relationship to him were shared orally at first and then in written form. This design created an overarching narrative, which was assembled through the spiritual connection between humankind and Creator God by the mystery and power of God’s Spirit.

It is in this grand scheme that we discover who we are, who God is, and God’s purpose for his creation including humankind. If we take this view when we read Scripture, we see a lot of love, grace and redemption.

It seems to me that the first approach to reading Scripture set forth above begins with God, goes directly to me, and leaps over everything in between. It bypasses the real world where pain, suffering, doubt, and discouragement live. It glosses over the joy, happiness, peace, and contentment that I experience. It’s implication is: God says it; I do it. If I do this, this will happen. Scripture is simply rule-following and transactional by nature.

I subscribe to the second of the two broad options for reading Scripture. This option takes into account the real pain and anguish, the joy and contentment of the people, both the writer and the people they write about. The narrative is exciting and comes alive. The story of God’s created order as it interacts with the Creator reflects real life issues. I can put myself into the story because I too have joys and sorrows, faith and doubt, goodness and unrighteousness. I have sin and I reflect the glory of God.

To live a Christian life is not about following the Bible as a set of rules; rather, it is about following Jesus with whom one has a personal relationship. In that relationship, the Bible is not a rule book or a set of principles; it’s not lists of guidelines, or commands to be followed.

The Bible can’t be boiled down into principles to live by. Rather, the Bible is an introduction to God, and, as a Christian, most specifically to Jesus with whom I walk through life. How do I relate to God and walk with Jesus? The Bible tells me. How do people face their frustrations with life, daily anxieties, and stress in relationships? The Bible tells me how people have done it successfully. How do people express joy, worship God, encourage each other? The Bible shows me. How do people express their sexuality and what sexual behavior glorifies God? The Bible enlightens them through real life situations. Because of this record of man’s relationship with God, I often find myself in the pages of Scripture. I can enter the story and the Bible becomes my story. I don’t need rules to obey if I have Jesus with me.

I believe the authors of Scripture were anointed by God and, under the inspiration of his Spirit, recorded their experiences or the experiences told to them. Such inspiration led them to write history, poetry, law, hymns/songs, and how to live a life of faith. Scripture displays for me the arc of God’s revelation of himself to humanity, and provides me a path for practicing my faith. Scripture offers support for how I interpret my conversations with Jesus as I walk with him through my days. I understand Scripture to have a vital place in my life as a gay Christian in the same way as someone who is straight. In the next post, “Specific Bible Passages: Both Hebrew Scripture and Christian Scripture,” I’ll talk about my relationship with Scripture in general, but particularly as Scripture relates to sexuality.

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