Homosexuality and Christian Leadership: Setting An Example of Biased Grace?
I’ve recently become aware of Christians who lost their jobs in a leadership role within a church ministry, getting fired due to being in a lesbian relationship and not being willing to end that relationship. While there are a host of issues this post could address, such as homosexuality and the Bible, I am not going to go there. I am not a credentialed theologian or Bible scholar, but I do consider myself a student of the Bible who is personally invested in these issues.
I am wrestling with the subject of homosexuality and the Bible myself, trying to process such a profoundly complex issue of humanity’s sexual expression of love and union, and all I can say now is I do not think the Bible is as cut-and-dry on homosexuality, as most Christians I’ve heard of, seem to think it is. I will reserve that for perhaps a future post, but if you want more on what influences me in this process, check out this video.
I respect and honor that Christians in church leadership are trying to consciously live out their interpretations of the Bible on personal matters, and model that for those in their flock out of a sincere place. At the same time though, I cannot understand how the Bible justifies terminating Christians in ministry due to openly being in a loving yet imperfectly human, committed, consensual, homosexual relationship.
Why are certain “lifestyle choices” OK to rationalize away, while others (namely openly being in a committed, loving and consensual homosexual relationship) will cause you your job and ministry if you will not end it? What is the limit as far as what is acceptable and not when it comes to living according to what’s concluded or defined as Biblical principles? There are more Bible verses that speak against being indifferent to the poor, gossiping, and greed than there are about homosexuality. Will a person in a church or ministry leadership role get fired for not giving a certain percentage of their income to the poor, while they go with their basic needs met with more to spare? Or will they get fired if they gossip about a homosexual’s “lifestyle choices” or any other lifestyle choices they do not approve of all while being disguised in “prayer needs”? I highly doubt it.
There seems to be something wrong with this picture. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but my gut instinctively acknowledges and feels the ick factor. Terminating jobs due to one living consistently within their homosexual orientation AND their walk with Jesus certainly does send a message, but the message is one of a double-bind. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. It paints a picture of biased or conditional grace, is that a Biblical principle? It implicitly supports playing favorites when it comes to who is “in” and who is “out” in non-impartial standards of godly living, while holding a professional position in Christian ministry. I’m pretty sure THAT is inconsistent with the message of the gospel and the life Jesus died living out: Him willingly laying down his life and dying on the cross for all people, including those who invalidated his proclamations of having a divine-identity unlike no other, which therefore gave him the authority to reframe religious laws that were being used by religious leaders to marginalize people (whom God made and loved) through scapegoating them.
Jesus carried this message and lived it out through the ways he related with certain people who were commonly looked down upon by religious leaders in his time; the prostitutes, Samaritans, tax collectors, and Gentiles (that’s most of us unless you’re an ethnic Jew). With Jesus relating to these people as friends and even as examples to others, the religious leaders in his day looked less than godly, which was something intolerable because feeling and looking godly to certain others was a source of life to them. It is a false source of life though. Isn’t the message of the New Testament that the only source of life is God’s profound love for us, which is proven and demonstrated by what Jesus did on the cross despite what we have or have not done? And isn’t it true that part of Jesus’ story (per the Bible) involves him being tortured and murdered by an agenda promoted by the religious leaders of his day, whose particular interpretations of Scripture were used to justify and demand his death-penalty? Jesus was put on trial and crucified by the religious leaders/experts who distorted the Scriptures’ essence in order to justify finding Jesus guilty of blaspheme.
“So woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You hypocrites! You tithe from your luxuries and your spices, giving away a tenth of your mint, your dill, and your cumin. But you have ignored the essentials of the law: justice, mercy, faithfulness. It is practice of the latter that makes sense of the former. You hypocritical, blind leaders. You spoon a fly from your soup and swallow a camel.” – MATTHEW 23:23-24 (VOICE)
Don’t Jesus’ words here seem pertinent towards much of the church in America (self included) today?