Very few biblical scholars will deny the possibility – even if only the slightest possibility in the minds of the most conservative scholars – that the biblical texts used to condemn LGBTQ persons have been overplayed.
Most Christian students of the Bible will concede that the Levitical texts cannot be imposed upon a Christian who is theologically free from Old Testament law.
Most of those same students will concede Paul’s terminology – translated only since the mid-1940s as “homosexuality” – actually refers to forced, sexual relations between a powerful entity and a lesser.
Paul is explicitly condemning rape, pedophilic acts and the first-century concept of gods imposing themselves sexually upon mortals.
It has nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with the consensual relationship between two adults of any gender.
And yet, many churches are still hesitant to become inclusive communities with regard to LGBTQ persons.
My hunch is (and I’m pretty sure I’m right) many fear being wrong. What if we are wrong? What would God do to us if we were wrong?
What if the authors of our ancient texts were truly anti-LGBTQ? What if the Israelite deity at the center of our faith actually hated, condemned and damned LGBTQ persons in the days of Moses and Jesus and Paul?
If we are God’s people and we are Christ’s church, we just don’t want to get this wrong!
Well, allow me to suggest that you, we, the church actually get to change the rules if we wish.
In fact, it is not only within our power to change the law, in some measure, it is our responsibility and obligation. If you need permission to make progress, here’s your permission.
In the Old Testament book of Ruth, Boaz falls in love with Ruth – a Moabite. According to a “verse in the Bible” (Deuteronomy 23:3), Moabites are not allowed into the family of faith.
So, Boaz gathers the community at the city gate – not to witness the exchange of land and money, for this would have only required two witnesses. Boaz gathered the community to reinterpret Torah.
He informed them he wished to take Ruth as his wife. This is against Torah law. And the community decided to set the law aside in favor of love.
In fact, they prayed that Ruth would be to their community who Leah and Rachel had been to Israel. This act went far beyond inclusion; it was celebration.
Not enough for you?
In Acts 8 of the New Testament, Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch who desires to enter the faith.
Philip, fresh out of Pentecost, has the wind of the Spirit still rushing in his ears and the fire of the Spirit still warm in his heart.
Philip knows there is a “verse in the Bible” that excludes eunuchs from entering the family of faith (Deuteronomy 23:1).
That law had kept the eunuch out of Jerusalem’s temple, but it did not keep Philip from baptizing him.
And think about it, he was an Ethiopian (born that way) and a eunuch (probably a choice).
Whether he was born that way or chose to be whom he was – neither were exclusionary criteria for Philip.
Philip embraced the progressive slant of Isaiah who affirmed that foreigners and eunuchs have a place in the family of faith because God’s house is a house of prayer for all people (see Isaiah 56:1-7).
Still not enough for you?
In Acts 15, Peter, Paul, James, John and every other mover-and-shaker of first-century faith were in attendance at the Jerusalem Council.
They were struggling with the critical question, “Has God’s Spirit really descended on uncircumcised Gentiles?”
After all, there’s a “verse in the Bible” (Genesis 17:13) stating circumcision is the sign of covenant relationship and must be taught perpetually for all generations.
Through a process of prayerful discernment, they chose in favor of love and relationship. They did not require Gentiles to be circumcised according to the law.
Here’s the deal: In each case, people of faith are embracing the challenge and responsibility Jesus gave his disciples.
Knowing we would face hard cultural decisions that countered ancient texts, Jesus told his disciples (us), “I am giving you the keys to the kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
We are free to decide what the church looks like and what the kingdom of God looks like.
Our faith ancestors – when faced with choosing dogma over love, policy over people, a verse in their holy scriptures or a practice in their time-cherished ecclesiology over the value of another human being – well, they always chose love.
There is no valid, Christian, biblical argument against same-sex relationships between consenting adults.
But if you are still fearful, if you need some holy permission, remember that God gave you the keys.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a weeklong series. Previous articles in the series are:
The Experience of Christian Parents of a Christian Gay Child by Greg and Kelly Otis
Crossing Chasm That Seemingly Divides Bible, LGBTQ Loved Ones by Preston Clegg
Court Cases Foreshadow Dangerous Times for LGBTQ Equal Rights by Don Holladay
Jim Dant serves as pastor of the 100% inclusive First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina. He is also the author of “This I Know: A Simple Biblical Defense for LGBTQ Christians” published by Nurturing Faith.