Many Christians and church denominations – and those thinking about the faith – are, for one reason or another, wrestling with the issue of “LGBT and the Bible.” And, for many, this matter has become the litmus test for defining bona fide Christianity today. This is sad because it collapses the richness of the Christian faith to a single, contentious issue, just like ‘divorce and remarriage’ and ‘female ordination’ were some years ago. Whatever the topical issue, the result has a tendency to become divisive for the church. Local Churches split, and denominations spend inordinate amounts of time addressing such matters. Without belittling these weighty and complex issues, the time and effort would be better spent in outward-looking mission. In other words, bringing the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, justice, peace, and hope to a needy world – whether we are LGBT or not.
Most Christians want to be “faithful to Scripture.” Yet all too often, loud voices proclaim that there is only one way to achieve that end. That tends to involve a “plain sense” interpretation of the biblical text, one that often overlooks the details of the cultural context in which Jesus and the early church lived. Whatever the issue, we should not approach the Bible uncritically and simply look for “proof texts” that confirm our own point of view. Rather, we must diligently study the text and its context, and then humbly allow the text to “read” us and our context. We have to dig deep and wide in order to appreciate the biblical text, as well as be open to be challenged by its radical message for us today. In that way the Holy Spirit is able to work in our lives to bring about genuine spiritual transformation and Christ-likeness.
I recently came across this interview with Steve Chalke on Canada’s CBC radio. It is challenging and it makes you think! Even if you disagree with his viewpoint (and it is important to watch his talk below, and not merely listen to the soundbites in the podcast), he certainly wants to be faithful to Scripture. This means that those – like me – for whom the Bible is authoritative and normative must at least respond coherently to his perspective/rationale. Such a conversation is dangerous, however, because it might lead to change!
By merely bringing this matter up, I fear that I will become a lightning rod for hate mail and vitriol. Ah well, such is life! My prayer, however, is that Christians can agree to disagree on important issues yet remain in community. Unity does not mean uniformity – just read 1 Cor 12. Rather than polarization and division – there is already too much of that in the world – the church needs to demonstrate a better and more Christ-like way. And that way is based on suffering love – the way of the cross – for we are all in need of God’s grace.