I've been asked to be one of two participants at church each representing opposing views on the matter of monogamous, homosexual unions, moderated by the pastor. In preparation, I have written the following. In the comments, please do not post any vitriol--from either side. If I think any comment is hateful, I will delete it. Respectful disagreement or questions are welcome, however.
The Experiences that Shaped My Values:
|Photo from here.|
My Position and Values:
- I believe that sexual relations between two people of the same sex is contrary to God’s will.
- I would like to say otherwise but I find nothing in Scripture that allows me to do so.
- BEING homosexual, having a longing or desire for someone of the same sex, is not condemned in the Bible. We all have desires that are contrary to God’s will. The sin occurs when we feed those desires, like Jesus talks about when he calls lust adultery (Matthew 5:28).
- Much cruelty to LGBTQ people has happened because of the stance of the Church. We have not acted with love, compassion and listening ears.
- It is possible to hold difficult truths and still treat people with dignity, compassion and love.
- The laws in Leviticus were given by God himself. The theme behind the laws is God’s holiness and how God calls us to be holy—a theme reaffirmed in 1 Peter 1:16.
- We can put aside most of the Mosaic laws because of the conclusions of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:28, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: … abstain from … sexual immorality.” There were three other things listed and I believe they are relevant to Christians today but not relevant to this discussion. Who defines what sexual immorality is? God, through the law of Moses.
- Leviticus 18 and 20 itemize a long list of sexual prohibitions, of which same-sex sex is only one. The others have to do with incest, bestiality and adultery—sexual behaviours which are still considered wrong by most people. Can we take one out of that group and say it’s now God-honouring?
- We mustn’t change our theology to make following Jesus easier or more acceptable.
- We cannot change how we understand the Bible based on our ideas of justice and mercy but instead, we must change our understandings of these concepts based on what the Bible says—even the most uncomfortable passages that grate against everything that seems good.
- While the Bible is not a legal document and shouldn’t be treated as one, we cannot totally ignore the theme of legality in it. If we do, of what use is Jesus’ death? He died to fulfill the demands of the law so we don’t have to (Romans 8:3, 4)
- One of the criticisms God had against Israel throughout the Old Testament was that “They did what was right in their own eyes.” Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way which seems right to a man but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
- When Jesus talked about the Law, he affirmed that he had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). In many ways he tightened the understanding of the law. Adultery includes lust; murder includes anger; calling someone names can result in going to hell (Matthew 5:21-48).
- We know he had a lot to say to and about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees on what they were doing wrong. At the same time, he told the people to obey them and do everything they told them to do because of their position.
- We have no right to demand that non-Christians conform to biblical truths or directives. We call them to God through Christ, not to God’s laws.
- We are ALL broken. God uses and places his Holy Spirit in broken people. Just because God’s Spirit is evident in someone doesn’t mean she is without sin. Even Saul, after he was rejected by God, was overcome by the Holy Spirit and was prophesying (1 Samuel 19:23, 24).
- Jesus warns us that just because someone is so filled with the Holy Spirit that they drive out demons and perform miracles, it doesn’t mean that they belong to Jesus (Matthew 7:22-23).
- The cost of discipleship is high. Not everyone is willing to pay the price of discipleship. We should never disparage them. The cost is denying ourselves, even to the point of death if needed. No one can tell another to give up their life or part of their life in faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus tells us to expect to have to make such a choice and even commands it but it has to be up to each individual whether or not she will obey.
I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist home. My mother became an Adventist at the age of 14. I don’t think her parents were church-goers but her grand-parents had converted to Adventism a few years before and convinced her that this was the true way to follow God. Mom was devout, even when she was disfellowshipped from the church for having me and living with my father unmarried. He died when I was nine and although that left a permanent scar on my psyche, it also made it possible for all things spiritual to flourish in our home.
My first memories are tied with the Bible, prayer, worship of God and going to church. We lived with my paternal grandparents at the time who had also had a journey into Adventism in the early 1920s and left the Church of Norway to follow in the way they believed God was calling them. Every night we had worship, Bible study and prayer. I was a pre-schooler at the time, but I can remember needing to sit still and quietly during family worship and wondering which position of kneeling was the holiest for prayer—upright or sitting on my ankles. I figured the upright position must be it because it was the most uncomfortable. What we called Sabbath School, equivalent to Sunday School but held on Saturday, was a joy to me. I loved the stories of missionaries, the enormous 13-page charts of pictures that represented the weekly memory verses and felt a sense of accomplishment when I could say all 13 without prompting. I loved the Bible stories that were acted out in sand tables with cardboard figures. I loved the singing. I remember being in the adult service, feeling surrounded by family.
As I grew older, I continued to embrace everything related to God. I especially loved the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) because there was no housework, no cooking, no homework. I loved that we were restricted to Christian things only during this time. We listened to Christian music, played Christian games, read Christian books, went to church, visited with people after church at their or our home, did service projects like monthly visits to nursing homes to sing and visit, and went back to church again for a sundown service. During the week I went to an SDA school where we studied the Bible every morning and where God entered every aspect of our learning. While many of my peers rebelled against what they thought were restrictions, I flourished in and embraced them. When I was 12, I had saved up enough money to buy my own leather-bound study Bible. By the time I was 15, I had a shelf of my own theology books, all written for adults, all of which I had read, all of which I lugged with me to boarding school two provinces away. I read the Bible through several times in addition to absorbing it through studies at school, church and excelling at Bible games. My favourite were books about missionaries. This culture served me well and I’ve had people say to me that they’re jealous of the intense exposure I had to the Bible and God at a very young age. I agree that I was blessed to have had that. Thanks, Mom!
Another aspect of Adventist culture was the expectation and experience of suffering for one’s faith. Saturday Sabbath-keeping is not the norm amongst Christians but is a strongly-held doctrine for SDAs. There were many stories of people who chose to keep the Sabbath resulting in loss of jobs (or not getting jobs they wanted) and even in being estranged and rejected by family members because they were different. I even had a friend when I was 12 and 13 who had to sneak out her bedroom window to come to church and was beaten if she was caught. There was much talk about what would happen to Christians during the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble,” when Christians would be persecuted for their faith and the challenge (at least to me personally) of what one would do in such situations. There was the acknowledgement that following Jesus was not for the faint-of-heart and that there could be great cost involved, even to the point of death. At school we studied the persecutions and the martyrs of the Reformation and other times in Christian history. I never doubted the importance of choosing God above all else, despite the consequences, and of honouring the Bible as his Word, his letter to us on who he is and what he wants for us. I especially remember a story of the Waldensians in the 1600s (I think it was) in Switzerland who had to keep their Bible hidden in fear for their lives. Christians in various places around the world still have to do this.
For a time I left God. The circumstances of that happening are irrelevant to this story but when I came back to God I returned with the fervor I had before. There was one question on my mind, however, and I spent hours every day agonizing, praying and searching the Scriptures over it. It seemed that God was telling me to do something that I did not want to do; that seemed impossible, unfair and death-dealing. Most Christians would have probably said that I had no obligation to do this thing and yet I wanted to obey God above all else. So I set up what some call “a fleece,” where if one thing happened, God would be saying that I was right and if the opposite happened, God was right and I had to do what he was telling me. I set up the “test” to be completely in my favour. In fact, it would have to be a miracle for it turn out any other way. And that’s exactly what happened. I was angry. I was beyond angry. But God did a miracle in me and changed my heart about this matter so that I began to look forward to doing what I had dreaded. It wasn’t easy. It’s been almost 40 years and I continue to be confident that I made the right choice but it has often felt like hell.
I no longer attended the Adventist church but an independent, conservative, evangelical church with strong preachers and teachers, one of whom eventually became a leader in the Vineyard Movement and was a strong influence in why I chose the Vineyard when it came time for me to leave there. This is where I raised my four sons, where I formed life-long friendships and learned to be a more diligent and faithful disciple of Jesus. I was surrounded by people I loved and who loved me and I felt alive.
But something had been eating away at me and my moral fibre. I had been introduced to pornography when I was 18. I abhorred it but eventually bowed to the pressure to accept and embrace it. What I found in the magazines and books I looked at and read, was that sex between women was very enticing. I was drawn to it and spent the next twenty years living a fantasy life in my head where this was recurrent theme. I hated myself for this but seemed powerless to stop.
The women in my mind were nameless and faceless, for the most part, until I met Pearl. She was a friend from a Christian Online community I had joined and something about her drew me like I had never been drawn before. I didn’t want to be in a lesbian relationship so I looked for help. I followed the advice I was given and broke off the friendship but renewed it a month later when living without her seemed impossible. Surely we could be friends and stay faithful to God. Apparently not, so I ended the friendship again with tremendous angst, pain and tears on both our parts.
The next two years were spent dealing with the brokenness in me that had lead me to act out in ways I knew were wrong but which seemed so natural and desirable. It was a time of incredible spiritual growth. I got counselling from New Direction, took their Living Waters course, participated in a leadership training conference for Living Waters, met with a Christian psychologist bi-weekly, read every book I could get my hands on about homosexuality and co-dependency, counselled with friends, two of whom were pastors and took the Cleansing Stream course they recommended which focusses on spiritual strongholds and the need for God’s deliverance and went to two associated retreats, one as far away as Colorado. I went through a Neil Anderson-based process of two long, intense and emotionally draining evenings, admitting my sins, forgiving the people involved, renouncing the sin amidst much tears and pain and finally rejoicing in the forgiveness I myself received. I did everything I could find to grow spiritually and become free of giving in to the desires that plagued me and held me in their grip.
I missed Pearl though. Oh how I missed her! Surely now, after all the healing I’d been through it was safe to renew our friendship! And so we reconnected. Time with her was bliss until we crossed the line and I was back where I’d begun. Now what? I reached out to friends and again put out a fleece. One friend had told me in no uncertain terms that I must never talk to Pearl again. The other friend had never been so direct with me. She always responded with questions designed to make me think and lead me in God’s ways but she’d never told me what to do. So the fleece was that I would do what this friend said. I was certain she wouldn’t give me a directive but she did. Break all contact with Pearl or lose my relationship with God.
This was the crux for me. I never doubted that homosexual relationships were wrong but oh how I wanted them to be right. Both times, two years apart, I had to wrestle with what I wanted more, Pearl or God, and it wasn’t a forgone conclusion either time. I chose God but that choice was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. Walking away from Pearl was more painful than losing my son to suicide. I still cry at times. And yet I am glad I chose God. He has never failed me even when I wanted to fail him; even when I did fail him.
I share these stories to illustrate that I don’t come to the question of homosexuality with a theoretical theology. I have a big stake in the matter. I look at others and I wish. I long. I would like nothing better than to believe that a monogamous, homosexual relationship honours God but despite all the arguments I’ve heard in favour of that view, I cannot stand before God and say that I agree. And God comes first.