Is denying gay love inhuman?

A Roman Catholic priest justified his relationship with a gay partner with this statement: “It’s time the Church opened its eyes and realized that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman.”

Aside from the fact that Catholic priests aren’t supposed to have a sexual relationship with anyone, is there some truth to the Church denying people love by condemning homosexual acts as a sin?

Paul’s answer in Romans 1 and is surprising: It’s not the Church’s job to condemn anybody for any act, including homosexuals and homosexuality – for three reasons:

Firstly, that condemning anyone for any sin “shows contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance asnd patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you (or them) to repentance,” Romans 2:4.

Secondly, that any time we “pass judgment on someone else,” verse 1, we are condemning ourselves, because we are “mere men” (verse 3) who commit sin too.

And thirdly, that God himself does not condemn people for willfully resisting what he made plain (1:19). Instead he “gives them over” to the automatic penalties he built in for those who “not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them,” verse 27.

So, if men (and women) “don’t think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (1:28) – as to why God created male and female in the first place – they will “receive in themselves the due penalty for their perversion,” Romans 1:27. For those who know better, therefore, but still claim homosexuality is a life of love, not lust (as Paul defines it in verse 26), God does not condemn them to an eternal hell, but he does have hell of a different kind for them in this life, like giving them over to “futile thinking” (1:21), to “becoming fools” (22), and to “a depraved mind” (28) – all of which automatically kick in.

Does that not make God inhuman, though? No, because he doesn’t marginalize homosexuals or bully them into repentance. Instead, he lets people learn through time and consequences. He still hates what they do, but he does not condemn them for it, because what he’s after is people coming to their senses and repenting (1 Timothy 2:4), and this is the most effective way he’s chosen for that to happen.

Paul’s concern, therefore, is not the Church being inhuman for denying gay love, it’s the Church portraying God as inhuman when it condemns homosexuals. The Church doesn’t need to condemn homosexuals anyway, because God’s already dealing with them through built-in penalties and patience. If a Catholic priest, therefore, wants to make the Church out to be inhuman, the Church can prove it’s not inhuman by not condemning him.

Advertisements

Heaven sounds awfully boring

Ending up in a retirement home doing crafts, playing cards, watching TV, and going for outings is not my cup of tea. The boredom of it all will likely kill me off quicker than illness. I’d rather be like my Dad, who was actively involved in his church to the last week of his life. And isn’t that what we humans are built for, to be active and alive, and delighting in the fruits of our labours?

The idea of going to heaven, then, when all that comes to a halt and we sit around gazing on God’s face and singing in choirs and playing harps sounds way too much like those boring twilight years in a retirement home. And yet that’s the hope offered in much of Christianity, that we hold on grimly through this life’s pain, suffering and temptation, because beyond it all awaits escape from our troublesome bodies and escape from this sin-filled world to the peace and quiet of heaven forever.

For a while after we die I can see heaven being a blessed relief, especially after a long, hard life with its usual share of sickness and tragedy, but once we’re rested, then what? Is that it forever? We just rest? But aren’t we resurrected at some point in time after that and given new bodies full of God’s energy? Surely, we’ll burst if we can’t do something, like a child stuck in a car all day travelling.

I think of Paul who knew God was a God of energy, and with God’s energy flowing through him all sorts of exciting things could happen, which Paul lived for and loved (Colossians 1:29). So how on earth (or in heaven) is Paul going to adjust to floating around in a spiritual body and playing sweet music for eternity? And what will be the point of giving Paul life and energy back again at the resurrection if all he can do with that energy is stroll the golden streets plucking his harp?

But in the life he lived as a human Paul got a taste of what having the Holy Spirit was like. He came alive (Romans 8:11) and he was filled with love (Romans 5:5), and love cannot sit still and do nothing. It was love that stirred God to create the universe, love that stirred him to create us, love that stirred him to rescue and restore us, and love that got his plan of filling everything with his love, creativity, wisdom and energy back on track. That’s the lifeblood of heaven and it’s anything but boring, and that’s what Paul looked forward to, when one day heaven fills the earth.

Why did Jesus heal people?

When Jesus healed people it was to show them their sins were forgiven. And to a Jew in the first century that was probably the greatest news he could hear, because the entire nation had been waiting for God’s forgiveness for a long time. Forgiveness would be the sign that their time of exile was over and God would restore their nation to its former glory.

It was all there in Isaiah 40:2 – “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” And when would this happen? When they’d hear “A voice of one calling in the desert,” verse 3, “prepare me the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God,” and that’s when, verse 5, “the glory of the Lord will be revealed.”

Imagine being a Jew, then, and hearing John the Baptist in John 1:23 repeat Isaiah 40:3 as a description of himself, and “the next day,” verse 29, when “John saw Jesus coming toward him,” he announces, “‘Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'” In other words, the forgiveness Isaiah had predicted had arrived.

Jesus then confirmed John’s announcement when he healed a paralyzed man in Mark 2:10, so that “you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Healing was Jesus’ way of showing them he truly was the Lamb of God who’d come to forgive their sins. And with forgiveness came the realization – for those with their ears to the rails – that their long-awaited time of healing had come, and a new future beckoned.

And when James wrote to “the twelves tribes scattered among the nations” in James 1:1, he gave them the same message, that if any of them had sinned they would be forgiven, James 5:15, so feel free, therefore, to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Again, healing and forgiveness went hand-in-hand, as evidence that God had forgiven Israel’s sins, and a prayer offered by an Israelite elder in belief of that, verse 16, would “make the sick person well,” and “the Lord will raise him up.” A believing prayer in what God had now made possible through Jesus was that “powerful and effective” (verse 16).

Imagine the effect healing would have had, then, on Jews and the rest of the scattered tribes, wanting to know if their time of exile was truly over and God had truly forgiven them, and he really was raising them up and making them well again…

How can we trust God when we don’t understand him?

God was quick off the mark in making himself hard to understand. He creates a tasty looking fruit and tells Adam and Eve they’ll die if they eat it, but he lets an evil, crafty creature into the garden to entice them into eating it. Then Cain kills his brother but God issues a warning in Genesis 4:15, that if “anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” So an evil man is allowed to live, which in time leads to the entire population becoming so evil that “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain,” Genesis 6:6.

God then makes an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants to solve the problem of evil, but tells Abraham to kill the only descendant he’s got. And around that same time a “blameless and upright” man who “feared God and shunned evil” called Job had his family and business destroyed by a deal Satan made with God, to which God so strangely agrees. And when God frees Israel from an evil Pharoah it’s only to scare the liver out of them a few days later when they’re jammed up against the Red Sea and the Egyptian war chariots are thundering towards them.

And then we find out in Romans 9:17 that God deliberately stirred up this evil Pharaoh and killed him off to spread the word, verse 18, that “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” It sounds like God does whatever he wants, including allowing evil free rein, and humans don’t have a choice in the matter. Nor did Esau (verse 13), when God loved Jacob the rascal but hated Esau the victim. Clearly, God doesn’t play by our rules, or rules that make sense to us, which surely makes it difficult for us to trust him.

Oh really? says Paul. But aren’t we rather glad that this entire existence of ours “does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy,” verse 16? In other words, if it wasn’t for God’s mercy we’d be extinct. And God has set up all kinds of scenarios in history to illustrate that fact, that first of all evil is so powerful it would have destroyed us, and secondly, that God has every right to destroy us as well (verse 22). So, hopefully we get the point that everything God does in his dealings with us humans is to “make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy,” verse 23, because without his mercy where would we be? And understanding that we can trust him.

We don’t play by the devil’s rules

The devil plays a simple game with two simple rules: Get people to hate God and hate each other. Whereas Jesus said the whole point of human life and law is to love God and love each other, the devil tries to turn people off God and turn humans against each other.

It’s a game the devil’s played with great success from the moment humans first appeared. How many days of peace did he allow Adam and Eve to enjoy with God and each other, for instance? Pitifully few, it sounds like, because Eve already thinks God can’t be trusted by Genesis 3:6, she and her husband hide their nakedness from each other in verse 7, Adam hides from God in verse 10, and he’s accusing his wife in verse 12 of forcing him to eat the forbidden fruit. By verse 24 they’ve upset God enough he banishes them from the paradise he’d made for them.

It’s a frightening tale of how easy it is for the devil to get humans playing by his rules. And look how many people are turned off God today too, thinking he’s an ogre out to get us every time we mess up, and he’ll throw us in an ever-burning hell if we don’t repent. The world hates God, wants nothing to do with him, and creates its own gods instead. And as far as turning people against each other, it’s been a skip in the park for the devil to get us killing and maiming each other in hate and revenge.

Christians don’t play by the devil’s rules, though, do they? Disciples of Christ are known instead for their love for each other (John 13:35). They wouldn’t condemn other Christians, therefore, would they? Or use and expose the foibles and weaknesses of their fellow Christians to elevate their own spiritual superiority, right? They wouldn’t dare say their own denomination and its doctrines, rituals and traditions are the only way to be Christian. They would much rather just call themselves “Christian” rather than by some human name like Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian, etc. Perish the thought that any Christian would think his own castle of Christianity was the one and only bastion of strength and accuracy against the devil’s deception.

Christians play by different rules, because the reason why we “purified ourselves by obeying the truth,” as Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:22, is to “love one another deeply, from the heart.” We loved God by obeying his truth, which then led to loving our fellow Christians, regardless of what they believe or do. And that’s what identifies us as Christians; we love God and we love each other, the only rules we play by.

Let it go

When someone kills innocent children, or religion justifies beheadings, or fraudsters scam the life savings out of people, or the insanity of government policy makes things worse not better, or banks rake in huge profits, or bullies drive people to suicide, I can’t just let it go. I get angry, exasperated and condemning. I shout at the TV, I want to fire off a froth-filled letter to the editor, or get together with friends and moan for hours about the utter stupidity of people, because this world infuriates me.

I wonder why I watch or listen to the News at all, when all it does it put my blood pressure up. But I also feel guilty turning the TV off, or changing channels, or turning to a less depressing page in the newspaper when another tragedy happens somewhere in the world, or another all-too-young gang member has been shot, or another cyclist and parent of four has been killed by a careless driver. I worry that I’m getting compassion fatigue and a cold heart, and I’m turning inward rather than outward. I can’t, therefore, just let the world go its merry way, can I? And as a Christian shouldn’t I be concerned about what’s happening? Didn’t God so love the world, etc?

But why allow myself to get angry and depressed when there’s nothing I can do about the same old problems that persist and repeat year after year, and no one yet has been able to solve – like wars, mass shootings, terrorism, invasions by aggressors, cash grabs by business and government, incompetent leadership, and the seven deadly sins? And God doesn’t seem to be dealing with them either. Somehow he’s able to let people be people and repeat their stupidity. He’s able to let it go.

And according to Paul in Romans 8:20, “the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” So this infuriating, frustrating mess we live in today was actually intended by God. It has to happen this way. And Paul explains why in Romans 1:21; it’s because people can easily know God but intentionally reject him, and so “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened,” and God “gave them over to a depraved mind.” He let them go their merry way, and he still does.

He doesn’t condemn, he just lets them carry on. So if he can do that, can I do it too? Can I do as he does and let things in this world unfold as they must, and trust in God’s wisdom? In other words, for now, just let it go.

I pray not for the world

In John 17:9 Jesus makes the rather startling statement, “I pray not for the world.” It seems to fly in the face of John 3:16, that “God so loved the world,” and verse 17, that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Why, then, would Jesus not pray for the world he was sent to save?

Because – as Jesus himself explains in verse 19 – “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil.” Why bother praying for people who loved being evil, had no interest in being saved from evil, didn’t want anything to do with Jesus or what he’d been sent for, whose minds were tightly shut against any glimmer of light entering in case “his (evil) deeds will be exposed” (verse 20), and all of whom, therefore, stood “condemned already” (verse 18)? It was like talking to, or praying for, a brick wall.

But – as Jesus also explains in John 17:6 – in amongst all those brick walls the Father had selected a few people “out of the world” and “you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” It was in the Father’s plan to have some people recognize “that everything you (my Father) have given me comes from you,” so that when Jesus gave them the words the Father had given him they would accept them, verse 8, and  know “with certainty that I came from you,” and “that you sent me.” And these are the people Jesus was praying for in verse 9: “I pray for them, I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”

This is where Jesus’ attention was concentrated; it was totally on revealing his Father and his Father’s words to those whom his Father had chosen. Jesus acknowledged that it was just to these select few that the Father had granted him the authority to “give eternal life to” (verse 2), and just in the minds of these few that the brick wall of rejecting him had been broken down, and just these few that the Father had sent him to teach. And this alone was “the work” the Father had given him to do (verse 4), to teach and pray for those the Father had given him at that time.

Jesus also acknowledged in verse 20 that his work of teaching and praying for those his Father selected would continue through the centuries, because this was the way the whole world would come to “believe that you have sent me” – not by Jesus praying for the world, but by praying for his disciples.