In the book I’m reading at the moment, ‘Disarming Scripture’ by Derek Flood, the author asserts that the correct way to read Scripture is to focus on the loving interpretation. If your interpretation of a passage results in doing harm rather than good, the chances are you’re not interpreting it as God intended. Essentially this is a way of interpreting ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ – (Matthew 7:16 – “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act” (NLT))
In few areas today is this more important than that of how the Church treat homosexual people and other folks with ‘different’ sexualities. I’ve previously posted on this matter here. And in this post I keep it simple by referring to people in the LGBTQ ‘community’ as ‘gay’. I know this is incorrect, but it’s simpler for me. My apologies.
Another bit of background before going over to Flood’s piece: Flood asserts that when modern discoveries find evidence for certain effects, such as the terrible effects of treating homosexual people badly, we should not be concerned that we are challenging the Bible. When the Bible was written, humanity simply did not have the same knowledge we have these days. To claim that the Bible holds all the answers is simply incorrect; it is simply not big enough! We need to interpret the Bible not only through the ‘lens of Love’, but also in the light of modern discoveries, both scientific and sociological. To do otherwise is to remain stuck in an unchanging past, much as many Christians accuse Islam of doing.
Right. Over to Derek Flood:
“I would argue that it would be more important to observe the effects that same-sex relationships have in life today, than it would be to ask what the respective views of past cultures may have been. Do we find evidence that same-sex relationships lead to harm or that they lead to flourishing? The overwhelming majority of social scientists and mental health practitioners today would maintain that there is simply no evidence that same-sex relationships are destructive or harmful in and of themselves.
“Conversely, what we can observe, as far as harm is concerned, is that statistically the LGBT community has a higher rate of drug abuse, mental illness, and suicide than the larger population—alarmingly higher in fact. The reason is quite clear: the rejection they experience.
“Being kicked out of their homes, hiding who they are, being threatened and hated, etc. can easily make a person sick, depressed, broken, and even drive them to suicide. As their voices have begun to be heard, we have seen story after story of how gay and transgender kids have felt hated, at times even hating themselves.
“That really should be a wakeup call for us. While there is no evidence that same-sex relationships are themselves harmful, there is a considerable amount of evidence that the condemnation and rejection the LGBT community faces is profoundly harmful.
“Regardless of whether we believe homosexuality is right or wrong, none of that matters much when people are dying. If we truly care about people, then the practical question straight Christians need to be asking is: Are we helping or hurting with the way we are responding to gays? Are we promoting grace or promoting harm? If it turns out that a moral stance in opposition to homosexuality is having the unintended affect of fueling this kind of rejection, leading to self-hatred and even suicide among gays, then we need to seriously re-think our priorities and focus.
“We can of course argue over what the Bible says about homosexuality, but one thing is utterly clear: Jesus teaches us to love people, not to hate them, not to make them feel hated, and not to stand by while that is happening. From the perspective of the New Testament there simply is no room for doubt on this. We know exactly where Jesus stands in this regard. He stands on the side of the least, the condemned, the vulnerable.
“Looking at Jesus, we can clearly observe in the Gospels that his priority was on caring for the welfare of people, in contrast to the Pharisees who instead prioritized the maintenance of their moral standards. We need to get our priorities straight and prioritize compassion in our witness towards gays—even if that means, like Jesus, having the reputation among the Pharisees of today of being a ‘friend of sinners.’
“Again, as stated above, if we recognize that our particular interpretation and application of Scripture is leading to observable harm, this necessarily means that we need to stop and reassess our course. Scripture, as Jesus read it, needs to lead us to love God, others, and ourselves. If we find that it is leading instead to causing harm then we are getting it wrong.”
And I would also add that surely the requirement to ‘do as you would be done by’ (Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (NIV)) must occur to some. Would you, if you were convinced of the rightness of your cause, appreciate it if someone came along and told you how ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’ you were? Certainly this is no way to open a dialogue that will bear any useful fruit! But it is a dialogue that must be opened; Christians need to discuss this rationally and with a non-confrontational mindset. And do it soon. (Thanks to Rob, one of my Men of Honour, for discussing that with me this evening!)
And for those who would say, ‘Ah, but isn’t it more loving to try to correct gay people in their error?’, firstly I would say that it is by no means certain that the Bible actually condemns homosexuality, or, indeed, any form of ‘non-standard’ sexuality. Therefore we should default to ‘Love’ while we get our interpretations sorted out (see this post). Secondly, unless you are in an already existing, good relationship with that person, you should not attempt to correct them at all. See my post, ‘confrontation’, for more thoughts on this important matter.
How to treat gay people? It’s really simple: you treat them like you would anyone else. They’re normal people. We shouldn’t even have to be talking about this, but I’m writing this piece because for some Christians this is a really huge issue. Take a step back and look at yourself, study the contexts, read opinions and scholarly articles….there is reasonable doubt that Christians have been wrong all this time! God has given you a mind – use it!
In the meantime, Love. That’s Jesus’s number one commandment.