The bible certainly records human fears and prejudices, as well as human hopes and resilience, but the bible, as a whole, isn’t about condemnation.
The bible is a collection of stories, songs, sermons, sayings, poems, and prayers covering centuries and continents and even a few languages. It is a rich and wonderful anthology that invites readers to think and feel, explore and imagine, heal and grow. In light of this understanding of our sacred texts, it would be difficult to think of them as being condemnatory.
Lifted from the larger narrative or divorced from cultural, linguistic, literary, or historical contexts, any sentence or phrase from scripture can be used to endorse or vilify almost anything imaginable. That is not, however, the most faithful way to engage the bible.
Relationship, hope, courage, generosity, second chances, compassion, and love are the values that are repeatedly featured in our scriptures.
One can easily enough deconstruct and challenge the few bible verses that have often been used to demonize same-gender loving people. Moreover, one can without too much effort find several hints of same-gender love and attraction occurring in scripture, and even seemingly being affirmed; however, I am at a point in my life and ministry where I don’t need a bible verse to defend my sacred value nor a bible story to justify my experience of life. I simply trust that God is good, that love is holy, and that life is diverse. Same-gender loving people are, first and foremost, loving people, and love is not condemned in the bible; indeed, love is the biblical litmus test for what is holy.
In the bible we find exhortations to welcome strangers, be good neighbours, forgive one another, care for the vulnerable, pray for others (including those who are unkind to us), treat others as we would wish to be treated, not judge others unfairly, live humbly and show mercy and work for justice…all of these are demonstrations of love. We find in the bible that “the fruit of the Spirit is love…” In fact, Jesus is recorded as having said that his followers could be identified by their loving actions. He also said love was the greatest of all commandments.
For me, love is the biblical message and mandate, and love does not condemn love. Love does not diminish people. Love does not seek to deny justice or dignity or safety to anyone. Love does not suggest that anyone is unworthy of or beyond the reach of love.
Does the bible, an anthology of writings whose running theme is love, condemn same-gender loving people? As someone who has spent my life studying, teaching, wrestling with, and even playing with the bible, I must say unequivocally, it does not.
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