I recently wrote a post about the Christian concept of “the Weaker Brother” as it is described in Romans 14 (also known as the “Principle of Conscience”), and how it applies to our modern understanding of homosexuality. My argument is that same gender sexual relations today are a lot like eating food that is unclean back in the first century. “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” (Romans 14:14) Did you catch that? Nothing is unclean in itself. Nothing. It becomes unclean when we perceive it as unclean. Same-sex relations, therefore, are certainly unclean to those who consider them such. When I first graduated from Moody, a same-sex relationship would have been unclean (and thus wrong) because I did not have the faith to accept it. But I have come to understand that for those of us who are born this way, and who can appreciate a loving relationship with a spouse of the same sex, it does not have to be… is not… unclean. Part of my current expression of faith is to know that I am not unclean in loving my husband.
If we consider “eating” in the following quote to be like “knowing” a same-gender partner in the Biblical sense (both the satisfaction of a God-given hunger): “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:3-4) We can see that God’s point is not to worry about the details of individual actions or activities. God’s desire is that we all work together. We should not “judge” each other, because God is able to use all our perspectives.
Sounds good so far: but there are two ramifications of these verses that should not be forgotten. One is that the brother with less faith with regard to this matter (the bulk of evangelical Christians today) should not judge those of us who with more (who are gay). (I know, we all hate being on the “weaker faith” side of things: but just deal with it.) Simple enough: but the modern church has done a particularly bad job of it. However, that is not my point in this post. My point is the other half of the couplet: that we, as the stronger brothers (the ones who have faith in this regard) should not be taunting the weaker brothers. “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way… For if because of food [or sexuality] your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food [or sexuality] him for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:13,15: notes added mine). I’m not sure why it’s an obstacle for so many leaders in the church, but it is. (Okay, I have an idea, but I’m not going there.)
So we are called not to flaunt our sexuality out of love for our brethren. I can do that: and I have. But I’m torn between two provisions of love. One is described above. The other regards my gay brethren, who are simply trying to express their affection the same way that everyone else does, to be part of a family and to provide for each other when sick or ageing. Straight couples take for granted more rights and privileges than gay couples could have hoped to achieve until the last decade or so. And much though I try to understand my Christian brethren’s perspective, it is still several steps less loving. They are literally persecuting gay folk in America: although they might disagree with those who killed Matthew Shepard and the protests of Fred Phelps, they have helped create a culture in which these things do happen… much more often than we like.
The choice for me is therefore simple as to which is more loving: and was one of the reasons I returned to Chicago for Founder’s Week 2012. It is important for me to let my cohorts in Bible College know that I am married to my husband, that I’m no longer “in the closet” and yet I’m not “unclean”. My queer friends know I’ve been to Bible College (and they accept me anyway); I can only hope that my Bible College friends will similarly accept me as queer.