I was so grateful for the energetic conversation in our church this past Sunday, as we reflected together on last week’s United Methodist Judicial Council, and how our congregation can help our denomination become more open. In that conversation, many of you asked for some guidance on how to help understand the Scriptural witness on homosexuality and how to speak with those who believe differently. In the church, the discipline of understanding how we interpret Scripture is called “hermeneutics.” And it is essential to understand that we are ALWAYS interpreting Scripture; because Scripture contains so many internal contradictions(and that is to be expected of a text written over the course of 1000 years, by many different authors), we must bring some interpretive tools to the process of understanding it.
Our first and foremost tool for interpreting Scripture is Jesus. It is through the lens of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we must read all of Scripture. The “Word made flesh” must interpret the “word of Scripture.” If the surface meaning of anything in Scripture contradicts what Jesus has shown us about God, we must find some different way of understanding the passage of Scripture.
When it comes to understanding the specific Biblical witness on homosexuality, here are some important points to bear in mind:
· “God is love,” and no true expression of love can be contrary to God’s will.
· The story of Scripture is the story of an ever-expanding understanding of who is part of the community; it is the story of God overcoming our own narrow-mindedness. Two wonderful examples of this can be seen in the Book of Ruth and the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10.
· Nowhere does the Bible condemn homosexuality. “But, wait! (you say) “I thought that there were those seven ‘clobber’ passages that condemn homosexuality.”
-- The Bible has no understanding of homosexuality as we know it today: a genetic predisposition to be attracted to those of the same gender.
-- The seven “clobber” passages (those that are frequently invoked to justify marginalizing LGBTQ persons) condemn same sex actions that are violent and exploitative. And sexual activity that is violent and exploitative – heterosexual or homosexual – should be condemned.
-- The Bible has no knowledge, as we do, of long-term, loving, monogamous homosexual relationship.
There are a host of helpful resources on the web that address this issue that are listed below and worth exploring. In terms of a detailed analysis of the seven clobber passages, I would highly recommend the Appendix B of the first link, “A Letter to Louise.” Appendix A of that piece is a very nice primer on the discipline of hermeneutics.