Rev. Cynthia Meyer, a United Methodist pastor who recently came out as lesbian — and is under church discipline for it — explained part of her pro-LGBT reasoning thus:
My understanding of Christian teaching centers on the Gospels, and what we know about the teachings and actions of Jesus. I don’t think Jesus was really looking to label people as incompatible, no matter who they were. The Gospel is then the lens through which I look at all of scripture, which I think we should base all of our actions, choices, theology and doctrine. Jesus tended to reach out to those who were different, who were marginalized, excluded and judged. In our time, that would certainly include the LGBT community.
So right and yet so wrong.
Yes, Jesus reached out to the different, the marginalized, the excluded and the judged. Yes, that would certainly include the LGBT community. But let’s look at what happened when he reached out in that way.
Jesus Reaches Out To All
Jesus reached out to the tax collectors, hated and shunned by Jews in his day. Zacchaeus was one whom Jesus loved — and Zacchaeus recognized and repented of his dishonesty and fraud (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus gave his approval to another tax collector (publican) — one who was already acknowledging and begging God’s mercy for his sins.
In a passage that may or may not have been part of John’s original gospel, yet still (according to many scholars) probably recounts an actual event in the life of Christ, Jesus reached out to an adulterous woman and refused to condemn her. Yet he also said, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
Jesus reached out to his own disciple, Peter, after Peter had repeatedly denied him (John 21:15-19). Peter repented and became Jesus’ boldest, most outspoken follower.
Which Tells Us…
Jesus opened his arms to everyone, good or bad, right or wrong. What then can we conclude from that?
We might conclude that it doesn’t matter to him whether we’re good or bad, right or wrong. We can come to Jesus and he’ll both accept and approve us as we are. The problem with that theory is that Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t approve of dishonest tax collecting and he doesn’t approve of adultery. So the answer must be instead that Jesus accepts us as we are but has a better plan for what we will become. Like Zacchaeus and the other tax collector, and as Jesus instructed the adulterous woman, we’ll leave our sins behind. We’ll become better people.
Look at that from a different angle and you see another valid conclusion you can draw: Jesus’ reaching out to the different, the marginalized, the excluded and the judged doesn’t mean that the things they were doing were right.
Would Jesus then reach out to LGBT people? Sure! Of course he would. Does that mean what they are doing is right? No more than his reaching out to a tax collector meant that fraud was okay.
Meyer’s understanding of Christian teaching centers on a misunderstanding of Jesus in the Gospels.
… A Lot About Jesus, and Very Little About Our Behaviors
Jesus reached out to everyone. He loved everyone no matter what! Some of those he went to were in sin, others weren’t, as far as we can tell from the accounts. This tells us a lot about Jesus: he loves people no matter what. It doesn’t tell us much about the “no matter what” part, though. If you want to know whether a certain action is good or bad, you won’t find the answer by discerning whether Jesus reached out to people who were doing it. You’ll have to find that answer somewhere else.
Still, His View On Our Behaviors Isn’t That Hard To Discern
As far as LGBT is concerned, we can derive an argument from Jesus’ thoughts on marriage in Matthew 19:3-9: “From the beginning,” he said, it has been for a man and a woman. We can add to that argument by noticing Jesus’ silence on sexual morality. He was teaching in the context of a Jewish culture that had always regarded non-marital sex, and homosexual practice in particular, as being wrong in God’s eyes. If he had wanted to correct that belief he had plenty of opportunity, but instead of that, he said the law was still the law (Matthew 5:17-20).
Something parallel to all that could also be said of financial fraud and of course adultery. Jesus accepted the persons. He never approved the activity.
The Gospel Is More Good Than Cynthia Meyer Supposes
Indeed, the Gospel of God’s Kingdom says that all may enter in, but only on the King’s terms. The really good news (“gospel” means “good news) is that we can enter in even though we’ve been in rebellion against the King, but again: only on his terms. He forgives us and reconciles us to himself through Christ, provided we recognize we have sins to be forgiven, and a contrary, rebellious attitude to be reconciled. Finally the good news is that when we enter his Kingdom we begin to be re-made as citizens fit for that land, which is the way we were designed to be in the first place.
For God is a good King. Meyer seems to think God is so good he doesn’t care about our moral lives. That’s not goodness, that’s indifference. It’s a distorted, small, and ultimately idolatrous view of God; a God (or god) made in our own image. The real God is far more truly good than Meyer conceives of him being. He loves us enough to accept us just the way we are (it has often been said), and too much to let us stay that way.
Related, at The Stream: “If These Pro-LGBT Ministers’ View of ‘Harm’ Is Right, Jesus Was a Very Bad Man.”
For more of this kind of clear thinking on marriage and for morality — not just for parents, not just for teens — read Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality With Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016).
Image Credit(s): Public Domain Photos.