The Bible and Human Reality

This is the second blog in a series on LGBT+ and the Bible. The biblical ideal articulated in the previous blog post is, in a nutshell, as follows: Human beings were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-28). The image of God is introduced in the context of male and female, God’s original ideal regarding gender. God’s ideal on sexuality is then expressed in Genesis 2:24 as occurring in the context of a lifelong marital relationship between a man and a woman. From the creation perspective, sexual relationships outside of such lifelong male/female partnerships fall short of God’s ideal. And all this was re-affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6.

There is another side, however, to the biblical witness regarding sexuality. While Jesus does not directly address issues related to LGBT+, in Matthew 19:7-8 (ESV) He addresses the contrast between the ideal and the real in the human response to Scripture: “They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away (reflecting Deut 24:1-4)?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.’” With the entrance of sin into the world (Gen 3:1-13), the ideal remains in place (cf. Matt 19:9), but things often go seriously awry. The same Moses who articulated the ideal in Genesis 1 and 2, reports how quickly and deeply the human race fell from that ideal (Gen 4:1-24; 6:5; 9:20-23; 11:1-9, cf. many deviations from God’s ideals by the patriarchs). Under inspiration, he upheld the ideal while not ignoring the real. Even after the first advent of Christ, the church struggled to implement the ideal (note, for example, the series of “but ifs” in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, cf. texts like Matt 19:12c; Rom 8:22-23; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6). So, a biblical approach to LGBT+ issues must address the depths of the human condition at the same time as it seeks to encourage the ideal.

While the Bible does not directly address issues of sexual orientation, as we understand them today, it does indicate that all human beings have an orientation to sin (Rom 3:23; 13:14; Gal 5:24; Eph 2:1-3). In Romans 13:14, Paul does not say that sinful desires are eradicated at conversion, but that those who put Christ at the center of their lives will not “act out” (Greek root: poieō) those desires (Rom 13:14; Eph 2:3). Wrestling with our sin orientation is a lifelong process. We are, therefore, called to embrace God’s ideal for human sexuality “more and more” (1 Thess 4:1-7). This indicates that those seeking to follow Jesus will be at various stages of the “more and more” at any given time. Attempting to enforce the ideal is, therefore, often an exercise in hypocrisy. The brokenness of human beings, as a result of sin, is a brokenness common to us all. It may take different forms, but a biblical approach will avoid an attitude of moral superiority toward anyone failing to attain the ideal.

One thought on “The Bible and Human Reality

  1. Carol Peterson

    Hi Jon, thank you for bringing this subject up for discussion. It seems so complex it’s hard to know what path to take. However, the path that the General Conference has taken and that our church in general takes, seems to be very harsh. I think we’d be very hard pressed to find a gay person, male or female, who has come out, and still comes to church as a member ” in good and regular standing” as we used to say.
    I have a relative, a male who was an awkward, shy teenager who finally came out and is a beaufiful loving son and brother, and is now has a different personality from the one he had when he was struggling with his sexuality. And another boy, child of friends and similar age to my one grandson, who was “different” from age 2 or 3. Used to come to my son’s house to play with .my grandson ., but ended up playing Barbies with small grandaughter, and who, when our pastor’s wife babysat him, she used to say ” that child is different- he plays differently from the other boys”. At age 11 or 12, when he was involved with the music team at church, was obviously gay, the way he used his hands etc, long before he had reached puberty. Neither of these boys are in the church anymore. Because, as I see it, you can’t be gay and be a church member.
    My worry is this, neither of these boys chose to be gay- they were very obviously born that way. We who have known them all their lives have seen this.And yet, as a church, we treat them, either openly, or subconsciencely, as if they are lesser beings and actually had a choice in the issue.
    I guess my idea is that Satan has destroyed human sexuality to the extent that these people are born the way they are and yet are expected to suppress their desire for love because we are so harsh in our condemnation of them.
    I do not know the answer to the problem, I only know that having talked with with grandmother of the boy
    from our church ( she’s my very good friend) we have concluded we can only leave the matter in God’s hand.
    I don’t know any other way.
    I’ll be interested to read your future thoughts and insights into the subject.
    Thanyou you again, Carol.

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