LGBTQ+ Welcome and the Bible
Welcoming LGBTQ+ People BECAUSE of Jesus,
not IN SPITE of Jesus
On Sunday, February 12, we began a four-week Bible Study series on LGBTQ+ Welcome and the Bible. The fourth and final session – held on Sunday, March 5 – explored why explicit welcome of LGBTQ+ people is faithful to the Gospel. Each week we will publish Pastor Chris’ notes from these Bible Studies. These notes are edited and updated following the class. Still, these notes are not fully fleshed out essays, and they are certainly not everything that can be said about these important topics.
Jesus never says, “Welcome LGBTQ+ people into your lives.”
Jesus always says, “Welcome LGBTQ+ people into your lives.”
You will not find those words in the Bible.
Yet, you will find this imperative in everything Jesus says and does.
Over the centuries the church has done great harm to members of the LGBTQ+ community, pushing these beloved children away from the church, its ministry, and the Gospel it strives to proclaim. In its error-riddled hubris, the church has failed to bear witness to the Gospel of love, mercy, and grace to LGBTQ+ people. The church has forced LGBTQ+ people to the margins.
It is with boundaries, margins, and borders in mind that we approach today’s study. Each of the following stories and vignettes, in some way, give us insight into how Christians are called to engage the boundaries of our faith communities. Boundaries of faith communities are liminal spaces, bearing qualities of both the “inside” and the “outside,” populated by believers, seekers, pilgrims, curious onlookers, and adherents to other faiths. How are we to manage, live, engage, and be the people of God in these places?
Let’s take a look.
Disciples have an impulse to control the movement Jesus is leading
In Mark 9, there’s someone who is casting out demons in the name of Jesus, but he “is not following us.” Because he is not one of them, the disciples want to stop him from his holy, healing work. The disciples believe that their fellowship, their movement is the only act in town.
In Mark 10, there are parents who bring children to be blessed by Jesus. The disciples want to stop them, since Jesus shouldn’t be bothered with children. Jesus responds, “Let the little children come to me.” The disciples are not to impede anyone who comes to Jesus.
The disciples’ impulse to gate-keep is not in keeping with the way of Jesus
Furthermore, Jesus lifts up the faith and affect of a child as exemplary. Children do not know hate, division, discrimination, or bigotry. Neither should we.
Let’s return to this passage, often called “The Judgment of the Nations” (we spent some time here during Session 2, on Welcome)
In one of his final teachings before his execution, Jesus describes what Judgment Day will look like. Yikes. Many Christians find Judgment Day to be a difficult topic – which makes sense! Jesus himself warns us of the danger of judging others (Matthew 7:1). We should approach this topic with great care and humility.
Jesus describes Judgment Day as that time when the King will separate people into two groups – one group he welcomes into his kingdom, and one group who is rejected. Those who are welcomed into the kingdom all share one trait – they treated others with mercy, love, and care. Those who are rejected from the kingdom also share one trait – they treated others with neglect, scorn, and disregard.
Love is the primary ethic of Christian living. Nothing else comes close.
Note what key Christian trait is not named in this passage – faith. The importance of faith in God is lifted up throughout the Bible, of course. Faith in Christ and in his promises is the lifeblood of Christian living and the wellspring of Christian hope. Yet, many stories – including this story of the Judgment Day – also speak of God’s blessings and promise coming to those who act righteously without any reference to faith.
Note also that the acts of love described by the King are done for people who dwell at the margins of society: the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned. We are called to act in love toward our neighbor, particularly toward our neighbors who are suffering in some way.
Jesus identifies with the marginalized and the suffering of this world. Jesus welcomes into his kingdom those who act in love toward those who suffer.
The margins of the Christian community are governed not by creed, but by love.
A religious leader asks Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the law of Moses says. He responds with this summary: Love God, Love Neighbor. Jesus accepts this summary of the law, and encourages him to keep it.
But the religious leader pushes Jesus on the definition of neighbor. “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus tells a story of one person’s righteous, loving act toward another who is suffering and left for dead on the side of the road. The person who responds with love and care is an outsider to Jewish society, a Samaritan – a group which was looked down upon by the Jewish majority of his day. Jesus makes the reviled outsider the example of righteousness, the paradigmatic neighbor.
We are to “show mercy” to our neighbors. Love is not dependent upon creed or ethnicity or status. Love is an action, not an emotion.
Again, Jesus heralds an outsider, someone at/beyond the margins of the established faith community, as a true example of righteousness.
Jesus talks with a woman, a Samaritan woman – all against the norms
What is her marital status? Jesus says she has had five husbands. Is “husband” a euphemism for lover here? Has she had really bad luck with husbands who keep dying on her (assuming the word “husband” is used literally here)? The church has traditionally understood women such as her as being of ill-repute – a prostitute, for example. We do not need to speculate. We do not need to condemn. We do not need to perpetuate the trope of the scandalously promiscuous woman. What we know is that she is alone, at the hottest part of the day, drawing water (not when most people would choose to draw water). She is a vulnerable woman in a marginalized community.
Against all the norms of the day, Jesus welcomes her theological questions, her faithful inquiry, and her testimony. She demonstrates her faith, and comes to believe Jesus is the Messiah. In fact, she leaves Jesus to go tell others and bring them to Jesus. She is among the first evangelists in the Gospels – an outsider, marginalized, Samaritan woman.
Jesus chooses to stay in Samaria for two days, blessing the people and proclaiming the Good News.
Jesus chooses to break the norms, honor an outsider, and expand the boundaries of his community.
Large Crowds Gather without Distinction
We did not get to these passages in our lesson, but they were in my notes. I’m struck by the large crowds that gather around the preaching, teaching, and wonder-working of John the Baptist and Jesus. These are crowds that gather without distinction. Jews and Greeks. Pharisees and common Jews. Men, women, and children. Neither John nor Jesus engage in gate-keeping, limiting who can come to hear them teach and preach. The words and works of God are for all people.
Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-20 – John the Baptist gathers “All of Judea” to repentance
Matthew 14:13-21 – Feeding the Five Thousand
Matthew 4:23-5:2 – Crowds gather around Jesus’ words and deeds
Jesus is not creating a movement based on purity or some sort of uniformity, but based on invitation, grace, and hope.
The church is called to have an incredibly porous, permeable boundary. It is not in keeping with the Gospel to reject members of the LGBTQ+ community, or anyone one else, based on who they are as people made in the image of God. The church is called to bless and honor and welcome all of God’s people.
Does this mean that “All are Welcome”? No. Not everyone is welcome. A Nazi, for example, is not welcome in our church – unless they seek to repent of their sins. Then, yes, by all means, let us walk to the cross together in prayer and repentance. People who are committed to ideologies that demean, dehumanize, or revile people based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion are not welcome. Such behavior, such ideologies, are an affront to the Gospel and have no place in the church of Jesus Christ.
Love God. Love neighbor. That’s the rule.
SESSION 4 LGBTQ+ Welcome and the Bible. The fourth and...