Last night, Grace Church of the Nazarene hosted Christopher Yuan, who spoke on the topic of “A Christian Response to Homosexuality.” Yuan, who lived an active gay life in his younger years, shared several points about which I’ve written in the past few months.
There’s a lot to like in Yuan’s message. As a professor at Moody Bible Institute, he expertly crafted his points around the parable of the Good Samaritan. His first major point was that we should love anyone who’s different from us. The second was that the Samaritan was a picture of Jesus.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NIV)
Jesus had mercy on all of us, Yuan said, therefore we should have mercy on others. This is a profound message, and one worth repeating.
While listening to him talk about the Samaritan, I was reminded of a third point that would have been equally profound. After all, the Samaritans were complete outsiders of the culture of the day. They were rejected, loathed, and even considered less than human.
Jesus didn’t ask the man if the injured man was a neighbor… he was emphasizing the fact that a neighbor is anyone who gives of himself. This Samaritan, a man who was completely hated by the society around him, went out of his way to help someone in need.
Wouldn’t it be profound if we replaced “Samaritan” with “Gay?” Oh, how I wish Yuan would have made that point. Alas, it was a missed opportunity.
There was plenty of good material. He laid out several “dos” and “do nots” that were dead-on accurate. The “do nots” were simple: Don’t refer to our lives as a “lifestyle” or a “choice” (I think I was the only person to “amen” that statement). Don’t look down on gays. Don’t try to manipulate them.
The “dos” were also interesting, if not a little misguided: Pray for them — not to change into “straight,” but to find the ultimate satisfaction in Jesus Himself. After all, Yuan said, Jesus isn’t just “better,” he’s “Best.” Another hearty ‘amen.’
Finding that contentment in Christ is a wonderful thing, indeed. It’s a journey of hope, faith, and love that gives every person the opportunity — and the joy— to walk with the living, risen savior. Unfortunately, though, this is one of the only options that the Church at large gives to LGBT people: to be celibate and “celebrate singleness.”
My greatest concern, still, is the complete, utter rejection of physical intimacy in same-sex relationships. Yuan made clear that the only two “holy” forms of sexuality are being married (heterosexual) and being celibate as a single person.
This is part of what makes much of the church’s response to LGBT people somewhat disingenuous: We welcome gays into the church, but offer them no hope of being in a solid, stable relationship with a same-sex partner. In this new “nice” form of Church, gays are welcomed, as long as they don’t form a gay relationship.
While it’s definitely encouraging to see that churches are realizing that they’re considered to be anti-gay by those 16-29, and are taking action to soften their hardcore rhetoric, it’s very disheartening to be denied that one hope of physical intimacy that every human desires.
Oh, sure, we can be intimate with an opposite-sex spouse. We’ve become so adamant in being “biblical,” yet have absolutely no viable, reasonable path for a gay person to settle into a relationship with a same-sex partner unless we leave the church or find an affirming fellowship.
As it is, this is choice that gays are given: Utter solitude, or living a lie in a sham marriage. While celibacy is a nice “safe” place for gays to be, ultimately it makes us more comfortable to our heterosexual church neighbors.
Unmarried heterosexual couples who are living together are often told they either need to split or get married. Marriage is an option for them. They’ve already demonstrated they desire each other, and they desire that level of intimacy.
But for the gay man, there’s no hope of marriage within most churches. No hope of being celebrated, and no hope of being affirmed.
This is probably the very core of the struggle that we have as Christians — gay or straight — and in finding that place of reconciliation. And it’s still very much a dividing wall that keeps the two separate. In short, we’re welcomed, as long as we don’t ever, ever have sex. So long as that message remains, the divide will remain.