For God did not send his son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. – John 3:17
On February 17, 2008 I discovered what it meant to love someone unconditionally, that was the day my daughter was born. On that day a hole in my heart was filled that I did not even know existed. I remember someone I worked with saying to me, “Oh isn’t it the sweetest love imaginable!?” That type of love, unconditional love, is the sweetest love imaginable. It makes everything else we think is so important pale in comparison. It brings clarity, deeper understanding, and an empathy previously unknown. It gives us a glimpse of God’s love and how he feels about us. Of all the things I want for my daughter, the most is that she knows how to truly and unselfishly love others. Of no issue to me is whether she is gay or straight.
This week the Supreme Court begins to hear arguments on same sex marriage, an issue the leaders of several states have made efforts to ban based on the beliefs of Bible Fundamentalists. Firstly, I believe this is not a ‘religious’ issue, it is a civil issue whether to allow two people to enter into legal companionship. It is none of anyone else’s business to tell two adults who they can and cannot love. But the reality of the situation is that religion has been brought into it. State leaders in Alabama, among other states, have refused to acknowledge same sex marriage because it is against their ‘religion’. My response is, “What religion are you referring to?” My religion is Christianity and the very definition of Christianity is “a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.” Jesus was here on this earth as a spiritual being to enlighten us and show us how to love, not condemn. One of Jesus’ most paramount teachings is of the Greatest Commandment found in Matthew 22:36-40:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
A ‘neighbor’ is described as anyone in need, even those who are different from us, even those who may be strangers to us.
To condemn someone is ‘to express complete disapproval of, typically in public.’ That is exactly what is happening right now and it is not ok to treat people that way. There is no place in the teachings of Jesus Christ to condemn someone for their lifestyle. How arrogant to presume that just because we may live according to traditional biblical beliefs that we are ‘just’ and right while others who do not live traditional lifestyles are wrong. The verse is ‘Love your neighbor’ not ‘Condemn your neighbor’ not ‘Hate your neighbor.’ In his teachings, Jesus presents a picture of a God who wants everyone to be in harmony with Him. God knows and loves each of us personally, as parents know and love their children, and he wants to awaken that type of love in each of us. Jesus shows us how to love with radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is loving one fully for who he or she really is — flaws, sins, weaknesses, and all. It signifies loving someone without judgment. It is love filled with empathy and compassion.
But the Bible tells me so…I’m so glad you mentioned that. Did you know that the ‘literal’ interpretation of the Bible did not gain popularity until the late 19th century in America? Fundamentalism gained momentum in the late 19th century and early 20th century as a reaction to modernism, modernism is defined as a movement in society to change with times and advance intellectually. Basically, fundamentalism was backlash to scientific advances that would prove the earth is billions of years old. Instead of embracing these advances and celebrating how far we have come in our understanding of the earth and cosmos, fundamentalists felt that these advancements could not coexist with the biblical story of creation. Reverend Cornel West notes, “Fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything, except love thy neighbor.”
But in the Old Testament in Leviticus it says for a man to lie with a man is an ‘abomination’…yes it does, Leviticus was also written at a time when the Jewish culture was trying to populate and strengthen therefore the term ‘abomination’ refers to rules being put into place by Jewish elders in an effort to make laws to procreate and live longer. Also in Leviticus it says this:
Prohibition against eating fat – “It shall be a perpetual statute throughout Your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.” (Lev. 3:17)
Forbidding of hair and beard trimming – “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” (Lev. 19:27)
Prohibition against eating shellfish – “Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is an abomination to you.” (Lev. 11:9–12)
If you were to read all 4 gospels thoroughly in search of Jesus’ teachings on homosexuality it would be futile. You would come to the end of the gospels without finding anything attributed to Jesus on the subject. In fact, there are only a handful of references in the Old Testament and in Paul’s writings. To put this in perspective, while there are 7 references that can be related to homosexuality, there are hundreds of references to economic justice and laws governing the distribution of wealth to the poor, for example “Whoever loves money, never has enough money; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
When you judge another you do not define them, you define yourself. – Wayne Dyer
Christianity is not based on exclusion and there is no room for exclusion in Jesus’ teachings. Unconditional love does not have conditions. Love does not perpetuate exclusion, love does not perpetuate that one person should have more privileges than another, love does not perpetuate one person is better than another.
As children we are taught in black and white because that is what is easier to understand. As we grow, as we learn, as we become adults we should realize that life is not black and white. It is okay to think as a 10 year old when you are 10 years old, but past that God gave you a brain, spiritual awareness, and the ability to seek answers for yourself.
To be so wrapped up into condemning someone, so much so that you would fight to make sure that other individual never has the rights you do, is a negative use of energy and a terrible waste of time. It certainly isn’t based on love and it certainly isn’t based on a peaceful heart. The sooner we free our minds from these erosive, ugly, judgmental thoughts the sooner we can have a peaceful heart and the spiritual awareness that Jesus called us to seek.
Note: The 2007 documentary For The Bible Tells Me So is a must see, it traces the lives of 4 Christian families and how their relationships with their children evolve when they find out they are gay. Each family was raised with American Fundamentalist beliefs and each family’s eyes are opened to what the Bible actually says and what Jesus actually says.