“Traditional Family Values” has become a powerful political slogan and an anti gay weapon that cannot be ignored. Did Jesus talk about family values? How can Jesus lead us into a Christian gay and lesbian understanding of family values? Jesus expressed great respect for family values. Luke 2:39-52 tells how Jesus as a child respected his parents and remained subject to them. Even then, however, Jesus recognized that God was a higher authority in his life.
Jesus revealed to his parents that he was different and that he had a special mission in life that they did not understand. When his parents found Jesus in the Temple, they were surprised and said exactly what a lot of parents say to gay children when they come out to them: “How could you do this to us! We have been looking for you sorrowing (lit. “in great pain”).” Jesus did not apologize to his parents for “coming out” and acting on who he really was. He simply said that he had to be his true self and left it at that. His mother was loving and accepting even when she did not understand. We need more mothers like Mary!
Jesus rebuked his mother for telling him what to do and then did it anyway in John 2:3-11. Later, Jesus provided for his mother by telling his beloved disciple to take care of her. Yet Jesus also taught that following him was more important than usual family obligations in Matthew 8:21-22: “Another of the disciples said to Jesus, Sovereign, let me first go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow me; and let the dead bury the dead.”
JESUS CHALLENGED ALL TRADITIONS. Parents selected children’s mates. Women were property and had no freedom in choosing their partners. Jesus elevated women from property to persons to partners in ministry and respected and honored little children, all of which was new. Jesus set into motion many freedoms we assume today.
YOUR UNION WITH CHRIST
The word “forsake” used by Jesus to tell his followers that they should forsake everything else in order to be his disciples is the same word used for forsaking father and mother in order for the human partners to “become one” in marriage. In Matthew 19:29, Jesus set loyalty to him in contrast to traditional family values:
“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for my name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.”
Same sex committed couples who are bound to each other by their love can joyfully look to Jesus for guidance and strength for living. Their love for each other, their service to Christ in their personal lives and their ministry of acceptance and encouragement to others can help everyone redefine family values more in keeping with the example and teachings of Jesus. Gay couples can challenge the rest of the world to put Jesus at the center of marriage instead of focusing on law, custom, procreation and social pressure.
GOING BEYOND TRADITION
Everything that Jesus did was new. His new understanding of family was revolutionary. The traditional family ties of the time of Jesus were challenged and replaced by ties to Jesus and to doing the will of God.
When the mother and brothers of Jesus came to get Jesus, the crowd told Jesus that his mother and brothers were looking for him. Jesus answered by asking, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about on those who were sitting around him Jesus said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
You do not choose your biological family. Jesus sets you free to chose who will be closest to you and who will most influence your life. What kind of choices have you made in selecting people to be in your life? Your freedom in Christ includes your freedom to decide who your circle of closest friends will be. Freedom to chose your “family” implies your obligation to chose wisely. You can destroy a lot of your freedom by making bad choices. Have you ever done that?
Jesus carefully selected his closest friends. God will help you do the same.
JESUS MAKES ALL THINGS NEW
Jesus gave a “new” commandment that his followers should love one another just as Jesus loved them. The only way that you can follow that commandment is to have Jesus in your heart and mind. Whenever the Spirit of Jesus comes into your life, the first evidence is your love for people. “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” (Gal. 5:22).
Loving one another includes loving your biological family also. Jesus did not reject traditional family values of his time. He went beyond them to define all values in relation to himself. Jesus calls you to a radical letting go of everything in order to follow only Jesus. The bottom line in everything for Jesus was, “FOLLOW ME.”
Have you experienced Jesus in your life?
Showing how ignorant and prejudiced the radical homophobic fundamentalists are about family values is not enough. We agree that “hate is not a family value!” We are called by Jesus, however, to go on to define everything in the light of God’s inclusive and accepting love demonstrated for all people in the life and work of Jesus. The first step in your successful challenge to the Traditional Family Values Coalition is to connect with Jesus in whatever way best fits you and follow him!
The author of Invitation To Freedom and Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, Rev. Rembert S. Truluck served in Metropolitan Community Churches in Atlanta, San Francisco and Nashville from 1988 to 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Furman University, serving from 1953 to 1973 as a Southern Baptist preacher. He resigned as a professor at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) and became an MCC pastor after being outed to the college’s board of trustees.