Saturday, October 22, 2011
So Why Did Jesus Refuse to Condemn Gay Folks?
So Why Did Jesus Refuse to Condemn Gay Folks?
If you look at the long list of televangelists who have made it big and if you listen to their teaching, there is one thing we know for sure. Gay folks are bad news. At the very least, they are an abomination to the Lord. Everybody knows this who has any knowledge of Leviticus or of Paul. At the most, you really should stone them to death just like the Bible says. Mind you there are all kinds of people you should stone to death if you read Leviticus closely as you can see from the previous link.
Besides this, it is not just the Right Wing televangelists who condemn gay folks; pretty much the entire world of faith from Christianity, to Judaism, to Islam has a similar dim view of gay folks. The LGBTQ community is one of the last great outcasts for humanity.
So then why did Jesus refuse to condemn gay folks? The Biblical Literalists of his day wanted to know what the greatest law was. Jesus rightly quoted the “Shema”, the foundational commandment for all Judaism; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the universal commandment that really applies to all believers.
But for Jesus there was more; much more. Jesus insisted the we “Love one another” too. He didn’t just make that up because that was his opinion. No indeed! He selected one half of one verse from an obscure place in the book of Leviticus of all books to make his summary proclamation. “You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself. (Leviticus 19:18b)
With all the laws in Leviticus, why would Jesus pick this one. He could have chosen a whole host of other laws to condemn a whole host of people. Not Jesus! Instead he chose that one tiny law that has made all the difference then and continues to do so now.
Jesus was confronted by tiresome biblical literalists then as many of us still are. Somehow there were always Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Doctors of the Law all conspiring to find a pretext to have Jesus done away with. They always seem to want to catch him in his words. I can sympathize with Jesus here.
The same literalists keep showing up. And there always seems to be a note of judgmentalism among this crowd. They always want to find a good reason to condemn people.
When the Episcopal church decided to ordain women as bishops and priests, we had to listen to those who said we’d had done something that we didn’t have the power to do. The male of the species can be priests. Period. So the traditionalists reasoned. We reasoned differently decades ago. We are glad to see that the Church of England has finally seen fit to follow suit.
When we decided to ordain gay folks as priests and bishops and to bless their relationships, you would have thought we had committed an abomination against God and the church. We felt we had finally removed one last great stain of exclusion from the church.
They wanted to exclude the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. They wanted to come up with some kind of reason to condemn gay folks and keep them outside the embrace of Jesus.
But not Jesus! He loved people very much. In fact he went out of his way to seek out folks who were at the margins; sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, eunuchs, lepers and so forth. You name it, Jesus loved them. This is what makes Jesus such a powerful figure in sacred history. He seems to have a special bias in his heart for people, all people! No exceptions!
The Right Wing was a mean bunch then, just as so many of them seem to be still. One day, bright and early, when they found someone worth stoning, they hauled her right up to Jesus and insisted on stoning her to death just like the Bible said we should. You can read that story here. Jesus was aware of their malice. He was also aware of who set this whole thing up. We are told in the story from scripture that Jesus wrote something in the sand. He looked at them intently as he often did. “You who are without sin, cast the first stone”. Notice who walked away first. Interesting isn’t it, that beginning with the elders they walked away one by one. It makes you wonder who had their way with this woman. If you ask me, clergy misconduct is nothing new!
Jesus is a marvel. He knew that the most difficult thing is also the most simple. Love God, Love your neighbor. Love yourself.All three of these great loves are a marvel of challenge to a spirit that is fully alive to God.
So now I put this to you. Are you ready to love God? If you think you are, you may also have to love your neighbor, and that will include folks you may find difficult to love. Who said following Jesus was going to be easy. His first followers had to give their very lives for folks who were difficult to love.
Ultimately you will also need to love yourself. You will need to abound in forgiveness for yourself and everyone else. If you think you’re up to it, then you may follow Jesus.
If you don’t feel you are up to it, you may still follow Jesus. When you find yourself unable to love, Jesus will remain constant, immovable, and always standing on the cross, extending his loving arms, so that everyone may come within his saving embrace.