Jesus and Sexuality: Part I

This week, in the New York State legislature, there is a debate going on regarding Gay marriage.  New York is not unique in this, as this debate has been argued from Hawaii to Maine.  The legality of formalized Gay and Lesbian unions has been the subject of Presididential campaigns, proposed state and federal referendums, and massive media campaigns.  Passions run deep for and against, yet there are very few public forums for authentic discussion and debate regarding this complex topic.

Legality in its truest sense, is based upon concepts of justice and morality.  Laws are to be inacted that enforce or protect that which is considered just.  Justice is not only retributive (if you commit a crime, you will be punished), but restorative (If you are denied opportunity for life, liberty,or the pursuit of happiness), and distributive (equal access to the basics of life).  Each of these concepts of justice is based upon a moral understanding of right and wrong.  Taking someone's property is injust because we find stealing immoral.  Lawmakers assume stealing is wrong from a moral point of view.  My point is that legality is simply a codified representation of our moral ideals.

The debate on Gay and Lesbian unions is really more about our struggle with the morality of homosexuality than it is whether Gay or Lesbian people can be legally recognized as a couple.  Although the latter is its current manifestation, we need the ability to look at the root of this highly debated issue.

For Christians, the understanding of morality is shaped by the Bible, our traditions, our experiences, and reason.  I would go further to state that culture has the power to influence and shape all four of these things.  For instance, I grew up in an African-American, Pentecostal-Holiness tradition.  That influenced the way that understood the Bible, shaped my experiences, and helped form my reasoning.   It is always a mistake to assume that our understanding of morality is outside of culture.  Culture may be overcome, but first its influence must be recognized.  For many Christians, our understanding of morality is just as cultural as it is Biblical.  The development of ethical systems based upon culture can be healthy (for instance, Holiness communities frowned on smoking which actually prolongs life) or unhealthy such as early twentieth century fundamentalism in Holiness traditions that promoted racism.

I am proposing a series over the next week or so, where we take a serious look at the morality behind sexuality (using Gay and Lesbian relationships as a focus, but addressing sexuality in general), from a Christian perspective.  There are volumes written about this, but rarely are they interactive.  My goal is not to develop an all inclusive treatise, but simply to unpack what the Bible reveals about this topic and to identify what may be cultural, both the healthy and unhealthy.

Additionally, I understand that I am a heterosexual male, and within that existence, I have distinct cultural lenses as well.  I am reminded of how many books are written about Blacks by well meaning whites who completely miss the boat.  So, I have arranged for a critique of this series by a writer who identifies themself as both Christian and bisexual.  The purpose of this critique is not debate as much as understanding that I am outside Gay and Lesbian circles and recognize that I have much to learn regarding the attitudes, actions, and faith of those within that community.  Understanding does not mean agreement or acceptance, but the ability to have a clear picture of reality.

I would ask that you join me in prayerfully seeking wisdom regarding this volatile issue.  The purpose is not judgement or condemnation.  The purpose is to develop an approach to this contemporary ethical issue using the ethics and the approach of Jesus.  His approach always incorporated Scripture, prayer, truth and grace.  What we learn from Jesus often times is not how to identify immoral acts, but how to responding to them (John 8:3-11).

Love to hear your thoughts,

God bless,

Pastor M Traylor