You Must Change to Walk With God:
Rev. Dr. Jean Orost Responds
Dear Mr. Strange:
The editor of Whosoever has asked me to respond to your letter. I would like to respond to some of your specific concerns before ending with one of Jesus' parables, inspired by your letter's introduction.
We agree that God loves us all and accepts us as we are. God loves us so much, that he accepts us, even embraces us, every moment of our lives, wherever life takes us and whatever becomes of us. When we learn to embrace that tremendous kind of unconditional love, we draw closer to God, learn to love Jesus as our savior, and slowly grow more and more like Him in our walk. God is the one who transforms us. I do not make the claim to be acceptable on my own merits. God has declared it to be so.
Yes, indeed, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:21), but Romans has also laid out the conditions of salvation and has told EVERYONE, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, or any other category, that therefore, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Since God does not condemn me, I feel free to tell you that your condemnation does not affect me. I do hope, however, that you may be open to looking at some of the specific charges that you raise.
You begin your condemnations with a quotation from Leviticus, a book which includes many laws and prescriptions, called the Holiness code. There was a great concern in that day for purity and cleanliness as characteristics of godliness, as well as a concern with the idolatrous practices of many of the religions of the surrounding cultures. If you read some of the books in our bibliography or other sites on our website, I'm sure you'll find much informative material to aid your studies of the subject. Now, let's look at that word "abomination." In the Hebrew, this word means filthy or detestable, and is generally defined as idolatry, meaning practices associated with worshipping other gods. That said, then, the same-sex behavior you are concerned about had something to do with idol worship. A little more study on your part might reveal more about this. I might also add that this particular passage in Leviticus lists many other abominations, such as eating shellfish, wearing clothing of mixed fabric, allowing disabled or illegitimate people into the temple, having sex with a menstrous woman or with relatives, and sowing two different seeds in the same field. In order for your attention to detail in the Bible to be consistent, you would need to condemn all these poor folk now worshipping in our churches to an early death. I'm sure if you read this chapter and those immediately following it in Leviticus, you will find yourself and some of your own loved ones included in the guilty category. That is why we need to rejoice at so great a salvation, that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And now, as we are living within the new covenant, our focus is on the mercy and lovingkindness of our God, not on the details of the purity code.
You quote Timothy, inferring that our conscience has been seared with a hot iron. But I wonder if your own conscience has been so seared that you can condemn people (mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters) who you do not even know. Do you enjoy others' suffering? Now, that sounds more like a seared conscience to me, than the soul searching and humility of the G/L/B/T Christians I know.
In response to your concern about our editor, Candace Chellew, I affirm that she truly knows, loves, and serves Jesus faithfully, in spite of the abuse and condemnation she receives. The scriptures predict that there will come a time when believers are thrown out of the synagogues (churches) by those who think that they are serving God (John 16:2, see also Matt. 10:16-23, a passage which has brought me comfort). Speaking for myself, the bondage of rebellion in which I hid for may years was the resistance to God's call to give up all the privileges and good reputation of pretending to be heterosexual. That's real bondage (as the rich young ruler experienced)!
I'm sure that, in your imagination, you have imagined that gay or lesbian people do all sorts of "deeds" that you would not enjoy or will not allow yourself to believe are acceptable, things you consider disgusting (remember the definition of abominations). Please do not do these things, or violate your own conscience in your sexual activity, which is a gift for the expression of love, not disgust. Gay and Lesbian Christians also have standards of loving and not hurtful behavior toward each other. The bottom line is the standard set by Jesus when he summed up all the laws into just two: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. I would like you to consider me your neighbor.
And now the parable, from Luke 18: 9-14:
And Jesus spoke this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes into heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
May God write the truth upon your heart, and pour out mercy and lovingkindness upon you.
In Christ's love,
Rev. Dr. Jean Orost