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Love is Lov(ing Your Neighbor as Yourself)

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”[1]

What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? How we answer this question drastically alters the foundation of Christianity. There is a recent movement in progressive Christianity that explores inclusion of homosexuality into Orthodox Christianity. This moment defends this view stating this commandment proves that it is sinful to say homosexuality is sinful. It is my view that Jesus wasn’t trying to make a precedent for homosexuality, and that when trying to understand what christians should believe about homosexuality - or anything - we must consult the whole council of scripture.

The belief that homosexuality is not sinful is not based on a correct view of scripture, but rather a westernized worldview.

When looking at a controversial topic, or any doctrine for that matter, it is good practice to see what the whole scope of scripture says.[2] Asking good questions are the key to understanding the Bible.[3] A good question to ask here would be, is the Bible clear about its stance on homosexuality in the Old Testament? The answer to this has - at least - two sides.

Moses Did Know "Good Homosexuality"

Many people in the "liberal Christian movement” would contend that the Old Testament’s prohibition on homosexuality was actually a prohibition on homosexual rape.[4] Another claim they would make would be - when looking at the law in Leviticus - that the Old Testament law was:

A set of rules and regulations spanning chapters 17-26 that are intended to set Israel apart from the Egyptians they fled and the Canaanites they were now living among. (There is also overwhelming agreement, thankfully, that however one feels about homosexuality, the death penalty is an extreme and unwarranted response!)[5]

This radical - and irrational - line of thinking intends to undermine any section of scripture. By cleverly saying ‘We don’t have the same views on some of these things, so we can throw out anything in that section of scripture,’ is no where near a careful understanding of scripture. Most orthodox theologians - throughout history - have maintained the understanding that the Old Testament passages of scripture that are clearly apposed to homosexual sexual relations, and that they are sinful to God. No where in the Old Testament does it mention a homosexual couple or consensual homosexual relationships in a positive manner.

David Spiegelhalter, a British statistician and a Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, says that roughly 10% of the population is homosexual.[6] If this statistic is true - which I believe it is - then undoubtably, in the over half a million people during the Israelite wandering in the desert[7], there would have been an undeniable homosexual population.

This would have been unavoidable. Moses would have had to write something about this group of people. But why wasn’t this recorded? Because homosexuality was a sin and it was punished. Those with homosexual desires would have been killed or forced to live a non-homosexual lifestyle, and therefore that population was not mentioned in the Torah, because that population didn’t exist.

Paul's View of Homosexuality

Paul’s view of homosexuality.[8] Many who believe in the affirmation of homosexuality will champion the narrative that the 1st century culture was too different from ours today for the Bible to be relevant to us on this issue. We see - in the great commandment - Jesus says this profound statement,

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”[9]

Unfortunately these verses are commonly understood - both on individuals interpretations, and unfaithful exegesis from the pulpits - to mean that loving God and loving others makes the rest of the Bible irrelevant. This is not the case that Jesus was trying to make, nor would this have been what the first century audience would have understood. If Jesus were tying to make that point He wouldn’t have said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”[10] What Jesus meant in Matthew 22:37-40, is that you actually cannot keep the law.

No person for one moment has loved God with all his heart, soul, or mind for even a fraction of a second. And try to keep the second part. Try it! After one hour of an attempt at it, you will realize that you cannot love others as you love yourself. Jesus is calling us to become poor in spirit. He desires that we would realize our dependance on Him, not our independence from the rest of His word.

Jesus didn’t say this to nullify scripture, but rather to give more weight to its existence. God’s law is not a set of rules He expects us to obey with perfection.

God’s laws are a refection of who He is. And because we are sinful we cannot become like Him in His perfection. God’s law are for us to see how sinful we are and how pure and holy He is.

Western Mindset - No Guilt

It is out of an unbiblical western view that we believe we should be faultless. This is why we have bent scripture to accommodate ourselves, rather than submitting, confessing, and repenting when we see our own sin by it.

We inherently don’t want to see ourselves as being wrong. Tasha Eurich in her book Insight argues, “when we don’t have a clear understanding of who we are, we tend to make choices that aren’t in our best interest.”[11] When we don’t see ourselves as people who day after day sin - do wrong things against other people, and more importantly God - we will continue to make bad choices that help us cover up the feeling that we haven’t done something wrong.

Trump Card of Biblical (Im)proportion

So, it is natural for us to view Matthew 22:37–40, the trump card of - or above - scripture. It seems like if Jesus said this is the greatest commandment, then it would supersede everything else in the Bible. But it doesn’t. If that were the case, when culture changes, these verses would allow us - in the name of loving our neighbor - to forgo scripture and go with what culture says is loving. This places Scripture under culture - whether consciously or unconsciously - in terms of its authority, and flies directly against reformed theology of sola scriptura. John Calvin, a 15th century Protestant Reformer, wrote, “The authority of scripture derived not form men, bur from the Spirit of God.”[12] What John Calvin - correctly - states is that scripture cannot be changed or diminished by men because they don’t have the power to change God’s own words.

Matthew 22:37-40 cannot mean love of another is more important than being obedient to scripture. Our love for each other, truly, means that we treat each other like we are humans.

This is where the church as a whole has failed miserably, especially when regarding the treatment of people who identify in the LGBTQ+ community. The church hasn’t treated this group of people like they are humans. And by humans I mean, sinners who struggle with sin. Who desperately need the saving words of the Gospel[13] to change their hearts from people who hate God, to people who love Him and desire to do His will.[14] And when this happens - people’s hearts being changed - as fellow Christians, loving our neighbor as our self, looks like lovingly confronting sin where it is present.[15]

Born This Way

One of the major narratives in the affirmation of homosexuality is that they were born this way, and if that were true then how could God have made a mistake? This - admittedly - has been hard for the Evangelical Christian community. Many have tried to fight this narrative by rejecting the idea that God could allow someone to be born desiring homosexuality. This is where the church has gone wrong. Let’s drop our guard and say it. It seems like people are born with a desire for homosexual relationships.

But this is where the beauty of the gospel comes in. John quotes Jesus in John 3 by writing, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[16]

The beauty of the Christian religion is that it says, all of humanity has an inherent sin nature. Which - I would argue - we are born with.

Each of those desires are directed at a different thing that replaces God as the ultimate thing that will satisfy us. Paul says this in a different way in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”[17] This means that when we believe in Jesus, we get a new nature. One that loves God and hates the sin we once loved.

So, to say “I was born this way,” as a defense that God has created us the way we ought to be is an indefensible position. Not one person in humanity was created with pure desires. We all seek to want something else rather than God. Whether that be; lying, hatred, lusting, consumerism, or homosexual thoughts and desires. In order to become right with God, every person must become born again. The way we were born isn’t the way God desires us to be.

It is true. The Bible gets uncomfortable. There are places in scripture that challenge us to move out of the comfort of what our senses can understand and forces us to rely on what God says. The Bible says things that condemn all of humanity. So, we are forced with the question, “what will we do when it comes to the awkward and even uncomfortable parts of scripture?”

Brandon Ambrosino, is a writer and professional dancer based in Baltimore. He is a writer who attend Liberty University as a homosexual Christian. In his article ,“The Best Christian Argument for Marriage Equality Is That the Bible Got It Wrong,” he states, “It takes discipline, scholarship, prayer, and sometimes creativity to interpret the Bible in a way that makes sense to us today.”[18] What Ambrosino implies in this quote, is that the correct way to understand scripture - and more specifically the uncomfortable sections in it - is to find new creative ways to understand it, so it makes sense in our current climate. This is where liberal christian moments have gone terribly wrong. If we follow this view of scripture to its furthest rational outcome. Scripture - and what God says in it - is fluid. I don’t mean that scripture isn’t alive or that it can have different applications each time you come to it. I mean Ambrosino is implying that when scripture was written, it is ok for us to interpret it, with a different meaning than what the original writer intended.

This would mean that nothing in scripture would be concrete enough for the church to stand on. This would include the atonement of Jesus Christ. Clearly this cannot be how Christians should understand hard parts of scripture.

Paul the Victim Blamer

A popular view in the progressive or liberal christian movement is the view that when Paul was writing about homosexuality in Romans 1:24–27, or 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 he was writing about homosexual rape.[19]

Another view that this movement would contend is that Paul never saw a loving homosexual relationship, like we see today. Therefore, he wasn’t talking about homosexuality as a whole, but simply - as mentioned earlier - homosexual brutality.[20] And that the culture was so different in that epoch of the church that we cannot take our view and impress it on what Paul meant in that culture.[21] Therefore, the progressive christian movement (PCM) would argue that Paul was not condemning homosexuality. And since there are no prohibitions of homosexuality in the Bible, then homosexuality is not sinful, as long as it is within marriage. And if the mention of homosexuality was absent in scripture, I would agree with the PCM that it wouldn’t be sinful.

But this is where we have to do the good job - as biblical interpreters - to ask the right questions that lead us to what Paul actually meant. So, what did Paul mean when he said homosexuality? It would be important to look at the word he uses in 1 Corinthians 6. The two words in the Bible that we translate into homosexuality are the words malakoi and arsenokoitai. Malakoi means “soft” and often - in other greek writing - describes a male who was the penetrated party in the sexual encounter.[22] And arsenokoitai would describe someone who lies with other men. This person being either the penetrator or the penetrated.[23]

This is where the inconsistencies start to show for the PCM. People in the PCM like James Brownson, professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary, argue that Paul isn’t condemning homosexuality outright. Paul is condemning only those who are abusive in the relationship. This is where Brownson runs into trouble. Scripture condemns both the penetrator and the penetrated.

So, in Brownson’s view of how the Apostle Paul describes homosexuality, Paul is victim blaming on an egregious level. Indirectly, Brownson argues that the effeminate malakoi - or the one who is penetrated in a way that is abusive[24] - is in the wrong, or has sinned.[25] This argument seems less in tune with the character and nature of God, than it would be for God to condemn homosexuality.

If we are going to be consistent, Brownson’s view leads us to a Christianity where rape victims - or at least those of homosexual rape - are as sinful as the rapist who committed the act.

The few who take the time to create a view where God supports homosexuality, from a biblical stand point, find themselves creating a less loving narrative than a view of the the Bible where homosexuality is sinful. Again the overwhelming majority who would affirm homosexuality - whether in Christianity or as a secularist - as good and right, do so primarily on their basis of what feels right. Indirectly they would champion 21st century philosophy over biblical theology.

Homosexuality, cannot be supported biblically. To do so, we must diminish our view of God, to a force in the sky who either doesn’t care what we do, or changes his mind, is unclear, and is thus not perfect.

To be blunt, the words “biblical,” and, “homosexuality,” do not belong in the same sentence, unless they are used to articulate that homosexuality is sinful, biblically.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 22:37–39. [2] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 11th ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1985) 257. [3] Grudem, Wayne A., and K. Erik. Thoennes. Systematic Theology. (1st ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008) 107-109. [4] Lose, David. “What Does The Bible Really Say About Homosexuality?” (HuffPost. HuffPost, December 10, 2011. [5] Lose, David. [6] Spiegelhalter, David. “Is 10% of the Population Really Gay?” (The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, April 5, 2015. [7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Num 1:46. [8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Romans 1:24–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. [9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Mt 22:37–40. [10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Mt 5:18. [11] Eurich, Tasha. Insight: Why Were Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life. New York: Crown Business, 2017. [12] Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Vol. 1. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983) 68. [13] Romans 10:17 [14] Ezekiel 36:26 [15] Matthew 18: 15-17 [16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Jn 3:3. [17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, 2 Cor. 5:17. [18] Ambrosino, Brandon. “The Best Christian Argument for Marriage Equality Is That the Bible Got It Wrong.” (Pacific Standard. Pacific Standard, July 22, 2015. [19] Edmonds, Janet. “The Bible Doesn’t Say That Homosexuality Is a Sin.” The Bible Doesn’t Say That Homosexuality is a Sin. (Accessed April 5, 2020. 4. [20] Parler, Branson. “‘Worlds Apart? James Brownson & the Sexual Diversity of ...” (Accessed 2019. 183. [21] Edmonds, Janet. 7 [22] Parler, Branson. 186 [23] Parler, Branson. 187 [24] Again this is Brownson’s view of the word malakoi. [25] Parler, Branson. 194

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