In a recent blog post on the debate about homosexuality and Christianity, blogger Rachel Held Evans said:
Time and time again, I talk to Christians whose experiences, like mine, go something like this: “I used to think that homosexuality was a sinful, promiscuous lifestyle that people chose in rebellion to God, and that Christians need to rally against the ‘gay agenda’ through legislative action. Then, my best friend (or brother or sister or son or daughter or high school buddy or neighbor or mentor) came out, and everything changed. Their story didn’t fit the stereotype. It didn’t fit into my previous categories. Their story made me see that things aren’t that simple, and that the ‘war’ between Christianity and homosexuality represents a false dichotomy that is incredibly painful and destructive to Christians with same-sex attractions. After that, I could no longer support the sort of rhetoric and actions that only serve to make this world a more hostile and hopeless place to the ones I loved. I kept thinking about all the depression, all the suicides, all the secrets. I just can’t support a culture that, perhaps inadvertently, fosters that.”
Everything changes when you are confronted with someone else’s story.
She’s right. When discussing the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity, we do need to hear people’s stories. We need to know what it’s like to experience same-sex attraction. We need to understand the feelings of pain and isolation that so many of them feel, and we need to express our love, affection, and compassion toward them. If we’re going to minister to those in the LGBT community, we need to understand them and love them and bless them.
However, we can’t let people’s stories determine our convictions. Only the Bible has the authority to do that. As a pastor I am confronted by this brutal dilemma all the time. A couple comes into the church out of a messy background. They love each other deeply. Their past marriages have been a disaster. They finally feel like they have found their soul mate, and they want to be married. But due to past circumstances, one of them may not be free to remarried.
With all my heart I want to tell them that it’s okay to be married. I want to tell them that God wants them to be happy above anything else. I want to be an encouragement and a joy to them. Their story is a wonderful story of true love, and I want them to be married. I don’t want them to be lonely for the rest of their lives. But I can’t marry them. The Bible supercedes our stories. I don’t understand all the reasons why God established marriage the way he did, but he’s God and he is the standard of truth.
The same is true when it comes to homosexuality. I have friends who are gay, and I wish I could tell them that it is totally fine in God’s site to be gay. You have no idea how much I wish I could say that. I don’t want them to be lonely. I want them to find meaningful sexual expression. I want them to have deep, meaningful relationships. But I’m confronted by the Bible, and the Bible makes it clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin.
My concern for my generation is that we tend to place more value on experience than anything else. Our experiences shape our theology and our ideology rather than God’s word shaping our theology and ideology.
It is true that everything changes when you are confronted with someone else’s story. But the Bible confronts us with an even bigger story. It tells the story of God taking a world that is a complete disaster and recreating that world. All of our stories are footnotes in the larger story. We fit into God’s story, not the other way around. We need to make sure that we let him tell his story. That really does change everything.