But the Greatest of These…

In the last few months we have read in these Web pages about faith and hope. Now at ‘long last’ we come to love. Not a bad qualification, that – ‘long lasting’ love. In fact if we are to succeed in our endeavors to become fully accepted as whole human beings it may have to last ‘for ever and a day’.

Many of the contributions in these pages are directed to our Christian brethren on the far right, and rightly so. As such we have a lot in common with them; in general, our faith. But, specifically, our hopes and our faiths are somewhat different. Our hopes are, often as not, a desire for a world free of oppression of homosexual people. Theirs are more often concerned with the next world rather than this.

Our faiths are also quite diverse. In essence they are based on different interpretations of the Bible. The Christian Church has always had problems with biblical interpretations. Almost invariably, re-interpretation has been the result of changes in society. As such, this is a pity, as it should be the other way round. The Church should be forming society, not society the Church.

A case in point is the debate on whether women should be allowed to participate in the administrations of the Church. In my country, Norway, it has taken about thirty years to turn it around and this has only happened as a result of pressure from society. We used to have a large majority who meant that they could interpret the Bible to mean that women should be kept out of the Church’s ministries whilst a vociferous minority interpreted the Bible to the contrary. The opposite is now the case. The debate on women’s rights and equality finally reached the Church and it’s now only a small minority who would dream argue the toss about the ability of women to preach in our churches.

The subject of gay rights is at about the same stage as it was for women’s rights thirty years ago. The question is ‘will it take thirty years to turn it around for us’? And what is more to the point ‘do we have the patience to wait that long’? We ‘hope’ so! We may even have the ‘faith’ that God will cause it to happen. Thirty years was too long for Mathew Sheperd -what about us ?

We will manage to wait the time it takes only if God’s love for us is matched by our love for him and, just as important, if we love our Christian neighbors. But we have to take it a step farther. A lot of the oppression of homosexual people may be inspired by the Christian Right but it is more often than not perpetrated by non-Christians; people who have long since given up the pretence of practicing any form of Christian faith. Their opposition to homosexuals is purely based on a perception that our gayness is abnormal and, deep down, they still believe that it is something that could be changed at will. Like the handicapped we are a minority who are ‘fair game’ for persecution. Not only that, we gay men appear to be a threat to the heterosexuality of our persecutors. Like the Jews and unwanted pets we deserve to be put down.

Hitler had a solution for us and the Jews. In fact the recent attacks on homosexuals seem to coincide with a resurgence of anti-Semitism. We must fight this tendency until we are able to convince people that we just as normal as they are. And of our weapons, “the greatest of these is love”. We must be patient for :

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

Why do we believe that we will succeed in the end ? When people refuse to listen to our pleas and it appears that God is ignoring our prayers, what guarantee do we have that love is the ultimate weapon in our battle for recognition ? The answer is that love :

“…always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues they will be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. … Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

If we are ever in doubt of the justness of our cause; if we are ever in doubt as to whether our interpretation of the Bible is correct; if we are ever in doubt as to whether the Old Testament condemns homosexual behavior or not, then we must test our beliefs and our doubts against Jesus’ great commandment from the New Testament :-

“Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Gay people are not about to disappear from the face of the earth. We have always been here and will always be here. God loves us as he loves everyone who believes in him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life . For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.”

But why is love so important ? We can cite our faith and formulate our hopes but :

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Love is the greatest gift of all, greater than both hope and faith!