I was in the middle of a two-week road trip when I heard about the Orlando shooting. We were able to catch a few details while eating breakfast in hotels, but my internet-free flip phone never has much to say, and I was too busy driving 6,000 miles to really tune in to the story. When I finally was able to spend some time catching up on the internet, I was deeply disturbed by the tragedy, and equally frustrated by the reaction I was seeing on Facebook and the news media.
Let’s be clear. This act has nothing to do with Christians or Christianity. This was the choice of a hateful individual whose mind had been spoiled by a radical Islamic ideology. If we try to compare what urged Omar Mateen to murder innocent people to the internal conflict and hesitations we find in many Christians, we don’t really understand the difference. In August of last year, a Syrian refugee spoke to the UN Security Council about the horrors of being gay in the Islamic State. Here are some quotes from his testimony:
“In my society, being gay means death.”
“My father, who suspiciously monitored my every move, had learned I was gay. I bear a scar on my chin as a token of his rage.”
“At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding. If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death.”
I have a lot of Christians friends, from the deeply conservative to the radically progressive. None of them would throw a gay person from a building, or hit one in the face, or even claim to hate them. Not one. And it’s not because Jesus told us to love people. It’s because it is absolutely antithetical to what it means to be connected with the God of the Bible.
What about Leviticus? Doesn’t the God of the Bible tell his people to stone homosexuals along with adulterers and rebellious children?
At face value, it would seem that Scripture would support and even applaud the actions of Omar Mateen. But if it does, why don’t we see Jews or Christians acting on these Levitical mandates? Why would Jesus say that he didn’t come to eliminate the Mosaic Law, but to fulfill it, claiming that love for God and man is basically a summary of the Torah? The answer to these questions would fill another blog post, but for now, we should simply recognize that the witness of the Bible and the Quran are as different as the teachings and actions of their prophets.
When the gay marriage legislation was passed, I wrote a post about my own personal conflict over the issue: Ten-Foot Pole.
On the one hand, Jesus, who claimed to be a living witness of the mind and heart of Yahweh, emphasized love above all else. He didn’t speak a word about homosexuals, though he dropped the hammer on the hard-hearted conservatives of his day, claiming that they had more of a relationship with their Bibles than their compassionate, redemptive God.
However, on the other hand, as every parent knows, love does not mean letting a person just have or do whatever they want. When Jesus ate with the sinners and tax collectors, he called them sick, in need of a doctor. Obviously, love and acceptance are not the same thing. Does homosexuality fall outside God’s original intent as the Bible seems to claim? Or are those verses being misinterpreted?
This is not easy. If you disagree, I would guess that you either don’t have a close gay friend, or don’t have a clear grasp of Scripture. Either way, I urge you to be patient with the conversation, doing what you can to listen with an empathetic ear. It’s easy for me, a heterosexual believer, to make statements about what a person of a different sexual orientation should think or do. In the end, however, we will all stand before Christ. Our judgment will be personal. And it will be just.
If you think you are a fair-minded conservative, claiming to love homosexuals despite your conviction of Scripture, ask yourself this question: Would you think it was fair if Jesus allowed a fervent homosexual into heaven while rejecting a hard-hearted fundamentalist? Or would you show the same frustration as a first-century Pharisee, wondering how God could allow the uncircumcised Gentiles to inherit the blessings and promises of Israel?
If you think you are in line with Christ, loving and embracing all people despite their sexual preferences, ask yourself this question: Would you be comfortable with Jesus telling a homosexual that he or she put their own desires above the desires of God, twisting the clear witness of Scripture to move with the tides of popular culture?
I’m not about to assume what Jesus will decide, but I think these kinds of questions can test our hearts, letting us know if we truly love one another as we should, while at the same time truly embracing the authority and wisdom of our Creator.