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.
- 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).