Sin or theology? A question I’ve been wrestling with.

I was raised in a conservative non-denominational church by parents who were raised Baptist. I have read the Bible (even the slog I probably sacrilegiously consider Job to be) twice and spent two years at a Bible college wherein studies are only on the Bible and various theological subjects. Although my opinions on some things have changed as I’ve gotten older or studied more, I am still a pretty conservative Christian. I am also in my early 30s and have many friends with opinions very different from mine.

I am older and wiser than I was when I first got on the internet – who isn’t? – and my desire to debate long ago completely faded. But several years ago I got in a conversation on a liberal website wherein mine was the only conservative voice about what the Bible says about homosexuality. It was late and I’m wordy, so I don’t know if anyone was won over by my arguments or not, but interestingly, in that debate one of the nicer people who disagreed with me encouraged me to read a discourse then called “Justin’s view” and now usually referred to as “Side A“. This is a relatively popular position out there in the gay marriage debate among Christians. To sum up: it is the view that it is OK for gay Christians to commit gay sex acts (which is completely separate from actually being gayif it is in the confines of a monogamous marriage. Thus it is obviously pro-gay marriage. If you have not read the view I strongly suggest that you do. Go ahead – and you have to read the whole thing. (If you also want to read the more traditional view, labeled “Side B” or “Ron’s view”, which believes that living a celibate life is what God desires of gay Christians, you can read that here.)

Before I actually read the Side A position, coming from my conservative theological background, I thought that such a thing would obviously have to be reaching and grossly misinterpreting Bible passages. To be honest, though I kind of wish I didn’t, I still believe that it is incorrect – but I also believe that it is well-written and not reaching as far as several widely-held conservative and liberal positions about theology or sinful/acceptable behavior, all of which I have friends of varying denominations who hold to. I see very easily how someone could, in good faith and earnestly and honestly seeking God, read that opinion and conform to it with a clear conscience as a believer that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and standard by which we should live.

I have a friend who almost wasn’t my friend because she believes that drinking any alcohol is sin, and shortly after we met I mentioned that my husband and I had shared a margarita at dinner. She almost stopped talking to me then and there but thankfully decided to give me another chance, and now we’ve been friends for almost a decade. Despite our years of friendship and her knowledge that I have never been drunk despite drinking regularly, she still believes that drinking is sinful and would happily point to verses in the Bible to prove her stance. I could use the same texts to prove my stance on the issue, for which I am completely convinced, that drunkenness is not OK but moderate drinking is OK. She thinks I’m sinning by having a beer. Many other good and loving Christians agree with her. Many good and loving Christians agree with me. Same verses. Different interpretations. We love and accept each other and have fellowshipped together. But she is convinced I am sinning and I am convinced she is wrong.

So – given all of the above including the entirety of Side A, the question I’ve been mulling over for quite a while now but have not yet answered for myself definitively, is: is gay marriage merely another theological difference?

While we do have a statement of faith that we hold to, my church is pretty accepting of differing theological positions – but we all agree on the Gospel. Given the abundance of differing opinions, though, I have wondered how a Side A opinion in our church would be handled – especially if it presented in the form of a person like Side A’s Justin, who is without a doubt a godly man who adheres to an otherwise pretty conservative view of the Bible. If he showed up at our church with a lawfully wedded husband, would we view it as just another theological difference and just say, “It’s not a salvation issue,” or would we say they’re living in sin because we believe all gay sex is sin, and – for lack of a better term – kick them out? Obviously there are people doing other-things-we-consider-sins who attend our church and we don’t kick all currently-sinning people to the curb or the church would be completely empty. Every church would be empty. That’s what grace is for; we all sin and fall short of the glory of God – over and over and over – even though we may strive for holiness. Would it be different for Side A gay Christians who truly believe based on their study of the Bible that their marriage is as acceptable to God as mine is? Should it be?

If Side A is not legitimate as a merely theological difference, why not? Why does it not get the same treatment as drinking alcohol or women wearing pants or any other number of theological differences that some people think are sin and some don’t but they still fellowship together despite them?

If Side A is legitimate as merely a theological difference, how should that affect everything outside of church? Do we chalk it up to personal convictions even knowing that as such it might cause a lot of hurt to gay Christians who don’t believe their monogamous relationship is sinful?

A Christian friend of mine is dating a man who holds very different theological positions from herself and from me, but I believe they’re both truly saved. If they get married I’ll go to their wedding. I also have a Christian friend who is a lesbian and engaged to – obviously – a woman. Were my engaged gay friend and I closer and she invited me to her wedding, would I go to hers? Should I?

I’ve been wrestling with and studying and praying about this for a while. My only real consensus has been that our default should be love. No one wants to hear the truth if they aren’t being told it by someone who loves them without strings or qualifications, especially if one of those qualifications is a humongous part of them like their sexual orientation. Even if I never figure out where I stand on this, I can still love people. And maybe that’s what really matters. Even if I don’t know where to draw lines.

I’d love to hear any reasonable and loving thoughts or opinions, but I will turn off comments if either side starts to be a jerk. Even if you think I’m a close-minded bigot or a liberal heretic, remember that I’m a person. Live the love and tolerance you would ask of others.

P.S. I am not in any way encouraging moral or theological relativism. In case my two years of solely studying Bible and theology aren’t indicator enough, I believe that studying and discussing and forming opinions about theology and right and wrong is very important. People at my church do too. But we don’t believe that such things should be cause for painful or noisy division or lead to cruelty or mistreatment. Untruths and heresies should clearly be corrected – that example is all over the Bible – but they can be done so with love. Humans are fallible and our interpretation of the inerrant may be errant despite our best efforts so, again, speak the truth, but let your default be love.

P.P.S. Justin’s blog, Crumbs from the Communion Table, will help you understand the issues of many LGBT Christians from a gay Christian’s perspective and should increase your compassion for LGBT people in general. He has presented his opinions with such love and compassion toward both sides – going so far as to have grace-filled dialogue with people at the Southern Baptist Convention and bristle when a gay friend calls them the enemy or villains, even though the SBC thinks his orientation is sinful – and an earnest desire to share the love of God and uphold the truth of the Bible. I find him to be an extraordinarily grace-filled person in a very difficult position. Even though I don’t always agree with his conclusions, his blog is one of my favorites. I highly suggest you read his About This Blog, FAQs, his interview with Rachel Held Evans, and any number of other posts, many of which are linked to in the blog’s sidebar.

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One thought on “Sin or theology? A question I’ve been wrestling with.

  1. Excellent post. I have read neither Justin nor Ron’s side, so I won’t comment concerning them. I will, however, read both sides and come back and comment.

    Before reading either, though, I think the main thing with sin is this: are you willfully living in sin? If so, whether it’s anger or sleeping with another man’s wife, church discipline is in order. It’s the church’s job to confront those who continue to sin over and over again. Like I said, I haven’t read Justin’s side, so I may be commenting here in ignorance.

    Like

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