In our last blog we discussed whether or not a gay person was putting their salvation at risk for being in a same-sex relationship. We concluded that despite the way this korero is normally framed, it is not in fact a salvation issue. For to say that someone is saved by what they do or do not do, is to leave us with a works based theology, and one which sets the bar so high that it ends up being impossible to attain.
Yet, the question remains, how does the Gospel fit into all this? And what about repentance? If – for the moment – we continue to hold to the Traditional view regarding same-sex relationships, than what do we do with Jesus’ call to repent, for the kingdom of God is near?
To answer this question we must first define what the Gospel actually is.
Often the Gospel is described as the good news that Jesus died, so that we could- through believing in him -be saved from our sins, and gain eternal life with God in heaven after we die.
Yet, when we look at the Scriptures, paying attention to how the gospel’s themselves speak about the Gospel, we realize that the Good News which Jesus came to proclaim is actually so much more than your individual salvation.
The Gospel is the Good News that the World has a new King. That now, this very moment, the Kingdom of God is being established on earth, as it is in Heaven, and that Jesus the Christ has been established as Lord and Savior of the World (Luke 2:10-12, 4:18-19, 43).
It is a message that goes further than just getting you to heaven after you die. It is about a restructuring of this world order, where the principalities and powers of this Age, the god’s of violence, consumerism, hatred and division are overcome, and God once again returns to reign among his people, establishing His Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
N.T Wright describes the Gospel as the “powerful announcement that the world has a new lord and the summons to give him believing allegiance…. ” It isn’t a message of escape, from one world to the next, it is the message that Jesus is Lord of this world, it is a call to “live under his lordship and announce his kingdom” today in this life, rather than the life to come (Wright, Day the Revolution Began, 391-92).
Luke’s Gospel paints a vision of what this new Kingdom will look like, it is a place were the captive and oppressed are set free, where the blind see, where the sick are healed, where those who have been cast aside, rejected and discarded are welcomed and embraced. The Kingdom is any place where God’s will is done, where the Way of Love, is the Way of Life.
So, what about repentance?
When speaking about repentance in terms of LGBTQ people, it is often characterized as a Gay or Lesbian person choosing to be celibate, or at least striving to remain so. A Gay or Lesbian person who is in a relationship, or who does not view same-sex covenantal relationships as sinful, is deemed to be unrepentant and thus having rejected the Gospel.
We examined some of the problems with this view in the last blog, yet for many people, the question left unanswered is how repentance fits into all of this?
When Jesus calls his followers to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matt 4:17), what does that mean for Gay and Lesbian people (especially if one holds to the Traditionalist perspective)?
Now the word repent in the Greek scriptures is metanoia. The word means more than just changing your mind, to repent is to turn from the direction you were traveling in, and to begin to travel in the opposite direction. This is often characterized as meaning that one must stop doing this or that immoral thing, or to start believing this or that Christian doctrine. Yet I believe that the repentance Jesus is inviting us into is more than simply behavior modification, or the acceptance of any set of propositional beliefs.
It is about a change of allegiance. It is an invitation to cease living as citizens of this world, and to recognize Jesus as Lord, not only of our lives, but of the entire World.
Repentance then, is seen more in one’s posture, than in a persons individual actions. A person who has accepted the Gospel, is a person who has accepted the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and has given their allegiance to King Jesus.
Accepting Jesus as Lord doesn’t mean – as we discussed in our last blog – that every aspect of your life will be “without sin”. Nor, does it mean you will be striving against every, single thing in your life that could be deemed sinful. Following Jesus is a journey, and their will always be things – beliefs, behaviors, attitudes- which we either do not recognize as sinful, or else we are not yet ready to give up (for whatever reason).
Repentance, when viewed in this way, makes it very difficult for you or I to judge the state of another’s heart. The question of whether a person is walking towards Jesus or away, is not one we can presume to judge. And so, regardless of what you may think about the sinfulness of same-sex covenantal relationships, the fact that a Gay or Lesbian person is in a relationship or not, is not enough to discern the state of their heart, nor to discount their commitment to our Lord.
At the end of the day, I believe the question will be, have you accepted the Lord of Love as your King, or have you rejected Him? Are you walking towards Jesus, or are you walking away?
So, coming back to our question, what does this mean for how we should respond to LGBTQ Christians in our midst?
Even if you hold to a Traditional perspective regarding same-sex, covenantal relationships, there is room for you to respect and Love LGBTQ people, without questioning or demeaning their faith. You may be utterly convinced that the Traditional perspective is the most faithful to Scripture, yet even if that is the case, LGBTQ people who love Jesus, and who have made him Lord of their lives, and are thus walking towards him, are no more deserving of having their faith questioned than you or I.
As we explored further in our last blog, their is room within the Traditional perspective to fully embrace LGBTQ people, without the fear that they are in danger of the fires of Hell. This knowledge should give us licence to fully love and embrace LGBTQ people, to form deep relationships, and to journey alongside our LGBTQ whanau as brothers and sisters in Christ. These relationships may be messy, and challenging, especially as we navigate diversity in belief, yet bearing with one another in Love, is not an optional extra for the church, but an essential part of who we are.
In our next blog we will explore a couple of key narratives which often get in the way of this really happening. But, in the mean time, if you have been following along this series so far, why not let me know what you think by leaving your whakaaro in the comments section.