Saturday, 11 February 2012

Is There Gospel For Homosexuals? (Conclusion)


This is the concluding article in the guest series by Rolo that began here. As before, while I acknowledge that this is a sensitive matter, I ask that potential commenters respond to Rolo with respect, recognizing that he doesn’t approach it as an aloof academic

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The word translated gospel in our English Bibles is based on the Greek noun euangelion and the Greek verb euangelizo. Both Greek words have a base meaning of either good news or the announcing of good news.  While elsewhere in the Roman Empire these words were used to herald all sorts of good news from military victories to political events, in the New Testament these two words are used primarily to describe what had occurred with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In fact, collectively the New Testament uses these words 130 times. On top of this, all four sources of the life of Jesus we have in the New Testament are called Gospels. Clearly, the New Testament pounds away the notion that Jesus Christ in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection inaugurated something worthy of the label Gospel or good news.

Throughout this series we’ve discussed many roadblocks gays face in accepting Christianity. Undoubtedly, they are numerous and diverse. Equally so has been criticism of the church’s response to such objections. Some say the church hasn’t done enough to address leaving homosexuals out in the cold. Others argue the church has been so vigorous in addressing the issue that it’s become an obnoxious obsession of the church. I think both of these criticisms are fundamentally flawed.   If there’s anything I’ve learned as a gay man interacting, reading, and listening to Christians it’s that many of them aren’t shy about voicing their disapproval of homosexuality. In fact, I would argue the church has done a down right brilliant job arguing that the Bible unanimously and overwhelming condemns homosexuality. The evidence for such a claim can be found in the numerous, rigorously argued articles, essays, and books linked to at the end of this essay which all make solid cases for the traditional Christian perspective.  Even the great Greek hero Achilles, however, had his weak point; a weak point which his enemies eventually used to defeat him. Despite the relative vigor which Christians have thrown into the issue an Achilles heel remains. The weakness can be illustrated in the following scenario.   

Tim is a perfectly healthy young man. He has his whole life ahead of him, and is looking forward to making the best of it. One day a man claiming to bear good news arrives at his door. Not just any good news, but the best news Tim has ever heard. Initially, Tim’s more than a little skeptical. The man, however, manages to skillfully procure more than enough evidence to convince Tim of the veracity of his claims. Delighted at the good news but still somewhat skeptical, Tim asks, “Well this is all wonderful, but is there a catch to what you’re saying?” Chuckling a bit, the man replies, “Oh yes there’s a cost, but it’s a trivial price to pay for the benefits before you. All you have to do is chop off your legs and live the rest of your life in a wheelchair. Easy enough.” Tim’s delight evaporates.

The above scenario is very much analogous to what many homosexuals feel when offered the supposedly good news or gospel of Jesus Christ. Like Tim, they hear the good news, but balk at its extreme costs.  To put it simply and bluntly, the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t sound like a gospel at all to their ears. In fact, it sounds like downright terrible news. We have made an extremely persuasive case that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but have allowed our inability to present the gospel of Jesus Christ as gospel for homosexuals to make such a case irrelevant.

When I first converted to Christianity, I too gave little thought to what made the gospel of Jesus Christ good news. I had investigated the truth claims of Christianity found them to be more than sufficiently supported by the evidence, and thus converted. Not much thought was given as to why I was sacrificing my sexuality for this religion I joined. Metaphorically, I had chopped off my legs and chosen to live in a wheelchair for the rest of my life for no reason.

This changed as the months went by and the enthusiasm of my initial conversion experience tapered off. The hard realities of not only being a Christian, but being a gay Christian which I described in part one of this series began to seriously occupy my mind. I knew all too well that the Bible condemned homosexuality. Now, all I needed to know was what that meant for my life and the lives of other homosexuals. Did being a gay Christian mean living a miserable, sexless, and lonely life, or was there perhaps more to it? Was there a gospel for homosexuals after all?

A turning point came when I read John Piper’s “Desiring God”.  While this book didn’t convert me to John Piper’s Christian hedonism, it did open my eyes to some important Biblical truths that are often overlooked when discussing not only homosexuality but the Christian life in general. In particular it brought me to examine verses like Mark 10:28 to 10:31.

10:28 Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you!” 

10:29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 10:30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much – homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life. 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

In this Gospel scene, Jesus rebukes Peter’s assertion that by following him he has given up on everything. He informs Peter that by choosing to follow him he has actually done the exact opposite.  Peter has gained significantly because of the sacrifices he has made for Jesus. Verses like these made me drastically reconsider my self-pitying attitude towards my present suffering. Suddenly I began to scour the Bible for similar passages; passages that explicitly promised a grand payback for all the sacrifices we make this side of eternity.  Below are just two of the passages I found that describe how humble obedience to God is by far the best investment a person can make.

Matthew 6:19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for you treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

First Corinthians 15:58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  

What these and many other verses have in common is an emphasis on the fact that through Christ no sacrifice is in vain. These verses explode the great myth that Christianity unfairly oppresses GLBT people since they say to those you are obedient and dedicated to him, God not only promises to reward them, but He promises to reward them far beyond what they’ve sacrificed here on this Earth. What this means for me and other GLBT people is that like Peter in Mark 10:28 to 10:31 by faithfully following God we are not denying ourselves, but like Matthew 6:19 to 6:21 we are simply investing in our future life with God.  Furthermore, instead of complaining and whining over the things we have to give up in this world we should rejoice like Paul in First Corinthians 15:58 in the confidence we have in our God to give us eternal life overflowing with abundance. This is a significant part of good news of the Gospel. It is also the Biblical teaching that finally eased my struggles with being gay and Christian.

Of course, there are some objections to the solution I just proposed. “Well, all this talk about eternal rewards sounds great and all, but what about here on Earth,” is probably the primary objection. I would begin answering this objection by pointing to part 3 of this series.  As I argued in that part, suffering and disappointment isn’t just a normal part of life, but it’s something every Christian should expect and prepare themselves for. Jesus suffered, the apostles suffered, and Christians throughout the centuries have been persecuted, tormented, and martyred for their faith throughout history. Gay Christians are no exception. With that said, I don’t think God has simply doomed gay Christians to a lifetime of misery. The exact opposite is true. One of the most wonderful epiphanies of my journey as a Christian has been realizing that the good news of Jesus Christ is good news even before we get to Heaven.  

John 15:10 If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.

2 Corinthians 5:5 Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.  

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

As verses like John 15:10 say if we humble ourselves before Christ and dutifully obey his commandments then the result will not be abandonment and utter misery by God, but rather we shall obtain both the gracious patronage of God and the completion of our joy. Even further we have verses like 2 Corinthians 5:5 and Galatians 5:22. These verses promise us the support of the Holy Spirit right here, right now as we live our lives in faith. Yes, suffering even intense suffering may be the price we have to pay for following Jesus. Nonetheless, if what Jesus and the rest of the Bible promise is true, as Christian apologetics have vigorously argued for centuries, then God has not simply abandoned us on this Earth. Whether straight, gay, transgender, or bisexual, God supports all those who call on His name.

Admittedly one of my biggest sins has a Christian has been self-pity. While other people are busy figuring out what love is and perhaps even enjoying it, I’m on the outside looking in. It is difficult sometimes to see what other people are experiencing that I can’t. If, however, there is anything I wish the reader of this series to take away it is this, “Some things are worth sacrificing for.” In this article, I have described some of the insights that have led me to believe that the good news of Jesus Christ is indeed good news. For me the gospel is more than worthy of any sacrifice I could offer in this life. As I said in the beginning of this series, I make no delusions of providing an exhaustive answer to the issue of whether or not there is a gospel for homosexuals. Hopefully, though, through this series I’ve been able to open minds and hearts to a gospel for everyone including and maybe even especially gays.

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Helpful links addressing the issue of whether or not scripture condemns homosexuality




All Bible quotes from the NET Bible.         
               
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by Rolo Baez

2 comments:

Tim chappell said...

"Admittedly one of my biggest sins has a Christian has been self-pity. While other people are busy figuring out what love is and perhaps even enjoying it, I’m on the outside looking in." Excellent reminder that life is about Jesus, then ourselves. And that there is a hope.

Xavier said...

Hi, Rolo.

Thank you for sharing your Thoughtful Faith here, with us.

Really, our sacrifices are wotth it, for Eternal Life with God by following Christ and really, chast homosexuals as you are, are pearls and jewels in the crown of our King Jesus.. Amen.