I’m not a bigot! I don’t hate people, I love people. I don’t oppress individualism but instead I celebrate how God has created all of us to be unique, made in His image. I realize that you are different from me, and I from you, but that is all part of the kaleidoscope that God is forming in human history. It’s a beautiful thing! As far as being children of God, coming together in His name and for His purposes, I revel in the diversity that He has instilled in each of us. We are a most unique and beautiful garden of creativity and life.
Yes, I am unique, an individual and I have my natural God instilled characteristics. But the church today is telling me that my God instilled desires can be sinful if I follow through on them. Even though I am God-created in His image, I am not allowed to follow though on my natural tendencies and desires! The church is saying that we were all created in His image but all are also infected with a cancer of the heart called sin. This “sin-cancer” comes in the form of free-will. This is a trait of God that He has gifted us with. We can choose our own way, make our own path, decide what is right and wrong as well as accept or reject God and His ways.
Free-will, or this doorway to blessing and sin, originally got Adam and Eve into big trouble, that is if you believe in them. You see, created in the image of God, Adam and Eve were still imperfect. They had faults. Big ones! One day the temptation to disobey God’s instructions to leave a certain tree in the garden alone finally overwhelmed the couple. They gave in. Even though they knew that God said not to touch it, they buried that knowledge, gave into the temptation and acted, and it was in that act that sin separated humankind from a holy God.
But hey, they were wired that way from the beginning! They saw that the tree looked good! It didn’t hurt anyone else, come ‘on God! It was ingrained in them to be inquisitive and to try new things, they weren’t hurting anyone! But still God saw the act as disobedience and removed them from the Garden of Eden. Why? To punish them? No, to save them! It was an act of love. More on that later.
So again, I wrestle with the fact that no one else was hurt, only Adam and Eve were affected, at least at that time. So, what, all of a sudden, they knew what the difference between good and evil was. OK, cool, but is that a reason to get all huffy about it? The issue here is one of “obedience.” Its not so much that all of a sudden, they knew the difference between good and evil, but that they disobeyed God willfully. In the garden they had only one thing to stay away from, but what if there had been ten things? What if they had moved a forbidden stone, or said a forbidden word? It still would have been the sin that separated them and us, from God. Again, the issue is obedience, not just the act of plucking an apple and being enlightened regarding God’s edict of right and wrong. The issue of sin is totally centered around willful disobedience to God. That includes things you understand, and things that you don’t!
I used to think that the forbidden fruit in the garden was never to be eaten and experienced by Adam and Eve. But Scripture reminds me that all of God’s creation is “good” and that all things are in obedience to Him. When we fall short in that area, we sin and separate ourselves. I wonder if one day God had planned, when they were ready, to let Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? I believe He did. Why? Because He has held nothing back from humankind, but God is a God of order and purpose. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything under heaven.
So, was it fair of God to create humankind imperfectly, knowing we would fall into disobedience and suffer for it? Why would He allow me to have certain yearnings, desires and inclinations ingrained in me from birth, not of my own doing, and then tell me its sinful if I disobey His edict not to proceed with my desired physical activities? Seems like a sick joke, or maybe a trap! Really, the issue is also one of taking God at face value. Believing in Him and His Word. God wants a relationship with children that “choose” Him and desire to trust in Him regardless. Look at Abraham, was it fair of God to demand that he sacrifice his son by killing and burning him? Its all about trust and obedience, not about understanding and agreement.
In the human realm sin is born out of the choice of one’s heart to turn away from God and follow our own will. I know, it sounds selfish of God, but His reason for putting limitations on us is not to be mean, but to protect us out of His love for us. God knows what we are ready to experience and what we are not. Surely, we can clearly see from the garden experience of Adam and Eve that God’s desires for us is to live joyful fulfilled lives, not lives of inadequate experiences. But just because we feel like we are “ready” it doesn’t mean that we are. That’s where God’s will, direction and Word come in, they are there to guide us into a perfectly heavenly life with Him, one that does not encompass disobedience. But as demonstrated by Adam and Eve, it takes obedience even when you don’t agree or feel like it. Period.
So, in the United Methodist Church (UMC) the hot topic of the decade is sexuality. Is same sex attraction normal, God given and acceptable? What does the Bible say? Is it still relevant, or is it outdated? Who gets to make that determination and why? How can it be wrong if I was born this way? Part of the answer to these questions resonate from what our definition of God’s Word is. Is it the Bible? Is the Bible God inspired and perfectly filled with God’s directions and wisdom? Or is the Bible simply a God inspired book that was once more relevant than it is today? About God you have to choose, just like Adam and Eve had to chose as well as Abraham. These choices do not come lightly and without challenge though. Is it really God speaking truth to me? Do I need to sacrifice what I don’t want to in order to be obedient to Him or can I find some flexibility somewhere? Am I going to be intolerant of others and homophobic if I don’t accept the cultures definition of natural sexuality? What about the UMC? Am I going to be seen as an outcast if I hold onto the inerrancy of Scripture? There doesn’t seem to be an equitable way out!
Even more importantly, what about my relationship with God? Is it going to be deemed null and void just because of this one issue if I reject it being sinful? How do I handle it when my family members disagree? What if my loved ones are LGBTQI? Am I being put into the same position as Adam, Eve and Abraham? Certainly, if God is a loving God He would not condemn people for simply being who they are, right? Ask Adam, Eve and Abraham, maybe.
If two people love each other surely their acts of love cannot be seen as vile to God! Again, we as His children are not to judge others, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. But Jesus also said that if we love Him, we would obey Him. Its that simple. Man, I don’t like hearing that! I don’t have to like it, believe in it, understand it, condone it or anything else, it is simply an issue of obedience and trust in Scripture. Everyone, at some point, has to decide of what they hold as truth regarding God and His Word. Is He real? Is the Bible really His Word, and if so what am I going to do with it? Do I trust that even though I am asked to sacrifice what I see as acceptable, normal and fulfilling today, that God will abundantly reward me for my obedience and that one day I will understand that He was right?
As the UMC sets the stage for a vote in February 2019 on the issue of sexuality, ordination of LGBTQI persons and same sex marriage, I sense that I am at the same crossroads as Adam, Eve and Abraham. Oh my, what to do? What to believe? How to weigh the consequences of the choices? Its clear that the post-modern culture in the United States is supportive of the LGBTQI community. We live in a free society of personal freedoms and free thinking. More and more things are becoming acceptable in the world today and many believe that Scripture will only hold us back from experiencing the abundant life God has willed for us. I’m not so sure.
Is it fair, or even reasonable, that God should want me to make a choice that would potentially alienate me from many in the culture, my community and even my own household? How can I live with myself when the choice will ultimately lead me to alienating either God or a loved one? There is no way out! I’m trapped because I will be choosing between those that I love with all of my heart. At least, that’s the way I feel! Is that fair? If God is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes, then I’m supposed to accept that this choice, as harsh as it is? Whoa, God I don’t want to make this type of choice! Isn’t there another way? Isn’t there a way forward, where we can all have what we want?
That’s the problem. Unless we challenge the inerrancy of Scripture there is no way forward for all to be satisfied. While we all want to say that God is never wrong, God is holy and never makes mistakes, we can say that Scripture is relative and must be processed to see what still applies to us in the post-modern world. If that’s not enough to get the job done, we can no longer believe that God writes His timeless Word in a way that would be relative in all cultures, all times and all sets of contexts.
So, in February of 2019 a vote will take place at a special session of the UMC General Conference that could bring unity or division to an already fractured church. But before that time, each one of us must make the choice of what side of God’s holiness and the inerrancy of His Word we will stand on. These are life changing choices!
I kinda feel like I’m standing in the garden with Adam and Eve. Which way do I go? What should I choose? If I understand God’s Word, is it right for me to question it? But what if today’s culture and understanding are completely different than what existed 2,000 years ago? Certainly, the overall context is different, and people are much more educated etc. God has given me an ability to comprehend, understand, experience and figure things out, so deciding if the Biblical view of sexuality is correct is good, right?
Ultimately, I believe we all come back to the same overall issue, is God’s Word found in the Bible, and does it still apply today?
Don’t cry … choose …