Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a divine appointment

Last year at ETS I experienced a rapid succession of divine appointments for 3 days straight.  This year felt different because I did a lot of leg work ahead of time to set up appointments with 10 different scholars.  That pretty much filled my schedule, but I prayed that God would orchestrate any other run-ins that I ought to have while I was there.  One of my most treasured divine appointments was with Edsar.

My roommates and I had headed to the mall next door to grab a quick lunch between conference papers.  The food court was packed, and there was simply no way to find 3 seats together that were not directly beside other people eating.  So the 3 of us sat side-by-side across the table from a young man who was eating Chick-fil-A for lunch.  He smiled and noticed our name tags.

"Are you all here for the theology thing going on at the Hilton?"

"Yes, we are."

"Can you tell me what it is?  I mean, like who comes to it?  Is it something for Christians?"

This started a lengthy conversation about theology.  Edsar had a few questions about the Bible that he had been saving up for just such an occasion.  He wanted to know how we got the books in the Bible that we have, and if anything might have been left out.  He was curious how the decisions were made.  Brittany, my conference roommate from Wheaton, did a great job explaining the process of canonization.  Then, under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, she asked Edsar a question:

"May I ask what prompted you to start thinking about these issues?"

It was the perfect question.  We had both assumed that his questions stemmed from bestselling books like The DaVinci Code or some prime time fixation with the "Lost Gospels."  They had not.  Edsar opened up to us, sharing that he had grown up in the church but had recently come to terms with the fact that he is gay.  He knows what the Bible says about homosexual behavior, and he still believes it should be our authority, but he is wrestling deeply with the questions about God.

"How could a loving God create me like this, and then condemn me for it?"

It was a moment drenched in grace.  We all felt it.  Brittany and I affirmed him as a man created in God's image, and that his question is both deeply personal and very important.  We expressed that all of us are affected by our "fallenness" in different ways.  Some are tempted in areas of anger, some by heterosexual lust, some by gluttony. Homosexual behavior is no worse than other areas of sin.  People feel strong desires to do many things that are contrary to God's will.  Desire is not an indication of the rightness of a behavior. 

I told him that we had wrestled in similar ways as women who loved the Bible and felt a strong pull to teach it.  The Bible clearly states that women should not teach, and I have often asked, "God, why would you give me such a strong desire to teach the Bible if I'm not allowed to do it?"  It's a question that cuts to the core of our gender, our identity, and our search to find our place in the grand scheme of things.

Because he was an intelligent guy who would not be put off by an academic book, I recommended one that has been helpful to me: Slaves, Women and Homosexuals by William Webb.  Webb looks at all three issues (slavery, women's roles, and homosexuality) as they are presented in Scripture and concludes that we must follow the trajectory of Scripture beyond what the Bible actually says.  Because the Bible was written to particular people in a particular cultural setting, we cannot assume that the specific prohibitions are timeless or that behavior found in the Bible should always be emulated. This could be a problematic approach in other areas, but with these three issues Webb's conclusions are sound. 
  • The Bible does not condemn slavery outright, but it was right for us to outlaw it. 
  • The Bible says explicitly that women shouldn't teach, but we are right to affirm women as teachers, even of men.  (If you want to know why you'll have to read the book.  This is a post about homosexuality, not slavery or women!)
  • Homosexuality, though, is unilaterally condemned in Scripture.  There is no 'movement' or 'trajectory' that would allow for a change in position on this issue.  About the time that Paul wrote the books of Romans, homosexuality was being exalted as the epitome of love,  yet he is clear that it is contrary to God's will (see Romans 1).
I hope that we communicated this in as loving and gentle way as possible.  We encouraged him that this is his own journey, and that he would have to wrestle with the issues for himself.  Each of us is on a journey to become more like Jesus, and the process of becoming more like him can be painful.  Brittany urged him to bring his questions right to God and seek out his answers.  We told him we'd be praying for him.  And we did, on our way back to the hotel.  We just couldn't go another step without praying for that dear brother who was willing to give us a glimpse into his soul.  It was a great reminder that the study of theology has a huge bearing on everyday life.  May each of us have many more divine appointments such as this one.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing! What an amazing opportunity! Praise the LORD! I will say a prayer for this dear man, Edsar, and will grab a copy of that book!

    Brief update on me...I did have a miscarriage - 2 weeks ago I had emergency surgery to remove my ectopic pregnancy. Very sad but God has been MORE than faithful!! I also wanted to make sure you know who I am :-) Last March God changed my name to Emma from Emily (long story...will happily share if you are interested!) So, you knew me as Emily Childers. I just wasn't sure if you knew this was me! LOVE your blog. Thank you!!