The Biblical case for accepting gays and lesbians.
This is part two of a three part series on the Bible, Gays and Lesbians. I am attempting to show that there is a Biblical basis for fully accepting gays and lesbians into our churches and our meetings. In this post I present the positive case. The third post will address the common scriptural objections.
Rejecting gays and lesbians from full membership in the Christian church is prohibited by scripture. At the Council of Jerusalem reported in Acts 15, the question of whether Christians were to be required to follow Levitical law was decided. At the council, Peter spoke, speaking of the Gentiles, “Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10) Christians were not to be asked to follow the laws in Leviticus, and this includes the prohibitions on homosexual behavior. The only things that were to be asked was that they “abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.” (Acts 15:20 NRSV). The New International Version renders fornication as sexual immorality but there is no reason to conclude that this means homosexuality. So to claim that gays and lesbians cannot participate fully in the church contravenes the clear words of Acts.
Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. (Acts 8:26-40)
The clear reading of this passage is that God is opening up the church to those who had been excluded before. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shell be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” So this eunuch had gone up to Jerusalem to worship but he would have been denied entrance to the temple because he was a eunuch. Now he is returning home and reading Isaiah. Phillip shows up on the scene, having been led there by the Holy Spirit. Starting from the passage in Isaiah that the eunuch is reading, Phillip proclaims to him the good news about Jesus. There is some water nearby and the eunuch says, “Look, here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Phillip did not answer, “The Law of Moses prevents you from being baptized.” Instead he baptized the eunuch.
I have argued from analogy that God here was opening the church to those who were previously excluded and should we not consider whether God is asking us to open the doors of the church, or the meetinghouse, even wider today. I found this argument persuasive but then I found that I was perhaps being too narrow in my view of what constituted a eunuch. I had assumed that eunuchs had been castrated. But Jesus, in Matthew 19:12, identifies three classes of eunuchs, those who have been so from birth, those who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. These are the people who have not been given the teaching that you cannot divorce your wife except for unchastity. Those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven are those who have made vows of celibacy. Those who have been made eunuchs by others are clearly those who have been castrated. This leaves us those who are eunuchs by birth. A eunuch was a man who served and guarded the women in a royal palace or a rich household. They were men who could be trusted to not become sexually involved with the women of the household. Eunuchs had a reputation in the literature of the period of being attracted to men rather than women. So a eunuch by birth would not necessarily be a person born with defective genitals but also included those who we would call today, homosexuals. Acts does not identify which variety of eunuch was baptized by Phillip. It is perfectly consistent with the Biblical story to think that Phillip, acting under the direction of the Holy Spirit, baptized a homosexual.
Jesus and the Roman centurion's servant. (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)
The Greek that the centurion uses to refer to his servant is pais. This word could mean son or boy, it could mean slave, or it could mean a slave who was his masters male lover. This servant is identified in other places as “honored slave.” This precludes it being his son. Since it was an honored slave who was also a pais, it indicates that this was a the centurions beloved male lover. When Jesus says that he will come and heal the servant, the centurion says, that it won't be necessary. As a soldier he is used to giving orders and having things done so all Jesus has to do is to give the word and he knows it will be done. Jesus cites this as a sign of faith greater than he has found in Israel. He then goes on to say, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) Jesus not only heals the centurion's male lover, he implies that the centurion will be eating the Lord's banquet in the kingdom of heaven.
If we were to ask WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) in regards to acceptance of gays and lesbians, we have an answer. He would heal their illnesses and invite them to His banquet in the kingdom of heaven.
Blessings to all,