|Giving thanks - Freedom in Christ from the condemnation|
After almost 2000 years of Christendom, many Christians are still effectively trapped spiritually in the land of bondage, in Egypt. The Christian Right in particular has their theology based on a Jewish perspective as if Christ did not die nor was resurrected. Not being Jews, they speak as though they are and that all the Jewish laws applies to them as well even though they are gentiles. The bible is quoted, but not with consistency nor understanding that it forms the basis not only of Christianity but Judaism and that in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) we are a new creation and received freedom apart from the Law under Judaism. The Christian Right has been insisting that homosexual sex is a sin because it is against the Jewish religious laws, in particular, Lev 20:13 yet they themselves do not abide in the law. The pretext of Lev 20:13 is in the context of Lev 20:7 which talks about sanctification and living a life of holiness where the negative influences of worshipping the god Molech was prevalent. Moloch the God Ba'al, the Sacred Bull, was widely worshipped in the ancient Near East and wherever Punic culture extended. Baal Moloch was conceived under the form of a calf or an ox or depicted as a man with the head of a bull. It was a fertility god and fertility rituals of sexual nature and sacrifices of children were done so that the god will prosper the land and the harvest. Gays are an innocent party to this whole affair yet appears to be condemned if one follows strictly or literally by the law, just as Gentiles are born condemned because they are non Jew.
Open sex was considered unnatural and linked to idol worship of Molech and therefore unsanctified for a straight man to have sex with a woman not his in adultery (Lev 20:10), to have sex with his mum or step mums if the father had many wives (Lev 20;11), his daughter in law (Lev 20:12), and to have sex with another man just as if he is having sex with a woman (Lev 20:13). It was not just having sex but seeing another woman naked or dressed provocatively or letting a woman see you naked was considered a sin as well (Lev 20:17). Therefore, all beachwear and most magazines should be forbidden. Why would it be unclean to have sex or exposed yourself to temptation? not because that the sexual act itself was sinful but because you will be violating someone else property as the woman in question was someone’ else. Its application to a straight male orientated and dominant culture was clearly seen as most of the references referred to man’s relationships with woman. It would therefore be unnatural for straight men, the dominant party, to have sex with men as if he had sex with women. However, gay men do not have sex with women and therefore the same sex relationship model appear to fall outside the scope and condemnation of the Law. There are also no references to lesbian relationships further emphasizing the straight male dominated context. But Jesus re-interpreted the Law not only as outward actions but the intentions of the heart and therefore irrespective of the fact that the law was not referring to gay men, we may be guilty of transgressing the law by having the same sex desires.
The Christian Right has been insisting that homosexual sex is a sin whilst conveniently ignoring and not applying other aspects of the Mosaic Law including such common activities as working on Sundays (Exo 20:10) which was meant to remember God, eating of unclean animals with 4 legs and walk on paws (Lev 11:27) because they were considered unclean, and not remarrying as one would be committing adultery (Lev 20:10). We also do not send boys to be circumcised (Lev 12:3), nor burnt offerings on the altar of a male goat or sheep without defect (Lev 1:10) every year for the atonement of our sins. It does not take any great intelligence to realize that applying God’s commandments prescribed to the Hebrew tribe when applied wholesale to our faith community as a commandment from God to us does not make sense and perhaps only show our hypocrisy when we apply selectively to others i.e. gays only but not demand it of ourselves the same standards. We can take from the commandments given to the Hebrews and apply it to our circumstances if we understand the motivation and the principles involved. To do otherwise would be to misinterpret the bible and blasphemed the Word of God. Do we fall under the same dispensation of the law as the Jews were under, hence we need to follow the laws of the Torah or the five books of the bible and would be considered as willfully sinning otherwise? If by the actions itself is a sin without consideration of the motives or mitigating factors or culture, then the Law is without grace nor mercy and we are all truly condemned and not only the Gay population since most of the Law and its demands are transgressed by straight religious people.
Why were the Laws of God given if it is such bondage and apparently do no good and attracts severe repercussions! and whose blessings are nearly impossible to obtain? It is often said that when any community gathers together, it need laws as a boundary so that the community can live peacefully together. They therefore conclude that God gave Laws to men just as a parent give guidelines to little children, the do's and don'ts. This apparently logical view is not biblical. Firstly, the nation of Israel existed long before the Law was given as a nation under Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:1-Ex 1.5). Jacob was the father of the twelve ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob dwelt in the land of Goshen, Egypt until his death. God has planned that through his son, Joseph, Jacob and his tribe survived a severe famine that gripped Canaan (or modern day Israel). The laws from God were not given to Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob or Joseph whilst the nation of Israel grew in size and strength. Yes, communal laws are required for a community to work and operate, but these should be distinguished from The LAW or the 10 commandments written by the very hand of God.
The Mosaic Law goes far beyond any communal law such as that you would have in our legal system in Singapore. It's prime focus is on religion or more specifically how one should stay focused on the true God. Why was it given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai? It was for them not to forget the God of Abraham, who brought the Jewish nation out of Egpyt because of His unconditional promise to Abraham in Gen 17:16 that through Abraham's seed the nations will be blessed. The law was specifically given because the Jews had a great tendency to quickly forget the God of their salvation and worship other gods that they brought out of Egypt. In hindsight, the Jews should have rejected the consequences law instead of accepting its conditions in Exo 24:3,4. and asked for grace instead. It was clearly pride and self righteousness to agree to enter into such a binding covenant with God which contains conditions which could never be kept. Before the law, even when the Jews grumbled against Moses for the harsh conditions through the desert, they found grace through the waters of Elim through Christ symbolized by the branches or cross that was thrown in to make the bitter waters sweet. Before the law, they were under grace but they realized not and need the whip of the law to bring them into realization of God's mercy and grace and how undeserving they were. Therefore, the law was a good school teacher to show the Jews how far they had fallen and deserving of death without God's grace and the need for a Messiah. Without law, there is no realization of Grace. With Grace, there is no need for the law for it fulfilled the demands of the law.
Not surprisingly, almost immediately after the commandments were written down in Exo 24, and the Jews proudly proclaiming to God that they can follow the laws and abide by its consequences, they broke it all in Exo 32:4. by worshipping a golden calf as god (aka Molech). They worshipped their wealth and made it their god. They could not even abide in the law for more than 6 days whilst Moses and Joshua went up to the mountain of God. When Moses saw the commotion and great sin against God, he had to plead with God in Exo 34:9 not to respond by destroying the nation as was the consequences of failing to abide by the covenant which the Jews had entered into with God. God responded in Exo 34:10 with grace and even promising to do an awesome works within their midst. Why wasn't the Law given to other nations? Simply because they were not worshipping the true God. If the principles of the same law were given to them, God would have to destroy the entire earth. The awesome work that God was going to do with the nation of Israel was that for the next two thousand years would arise a Savior from their midst that through the seed of the Jews, other nations would be able to come to know God not by their works in following the laws which they would have failed to abide even if God had given them but through Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
More than 1358 years, after the law was given at Mt Sinai, Jesus was born to Mary, to a Jewish family under the dispensation of law. Its purpose was to redeem those under the demands of the law in order to get blessing, that they may obtain freedom under grace without the need to abide by the conditions of the law. No longer do they need to stand and worship afar from the mountain of God as in Exo 24:1,2. for the fear of God. The can come close to God and become sons, and adopted into the family of God through Jesus Christ death, we become a child of God in Christ. In summary, the Law was given as a measure by which Israel will be judged by and as they could not kept it requires redemption through Christ for a better covenant. The Law exemplified the need for Jesus Christ, the Messiah who came to fulfilled its requirements on our behalf (Mat 5:17). In Christ, we actually receive the blessings of the Mosaic covenant because we fulfilled the law perfectly in Christ Jesus. We do not get the blame but get all the benefits. What a good news!.
The first Christians were Jewish Christians and they had great difficulties to understand the gospel. The Law is man centered of man coming to know God and received blessings through self effort and keeping our lives holy and right. Our righteousness comes from self, from what we do. That is the carnal way of man. On the contrary the Gospel is the good news, that it is through grace, undeserving because of Jesus death and resurrection. In the book of Galatians, no more than 30 years after Jesus’ death, the meaning and significance of His death and the message of good news appears diluted and the Jews were now reverting back to the law hence effectively negating the good news of the Gospel through Jesus Christ.
Two thousand years later, the gentile Christians, in particular, the Christian Right has again reverted to another Gospel by insisting that we follow the moral laws and the 10 commandments. Christianity it seems is now becoming an advocate of morality and abiding by a series of laws and regulations instead of a champion of the Good news of God’s mercy and Grace through Jesus Christ. We have focused on the “Sin” instead of focusing on redemption. Even the “sins” that was referenced by Christians was only accounted in the bible to the Hebrews if they broke the law. We took these laws wholesale as though we were Hebrews and under the dispensation of law. We have become champions of the Law and making Christianity institutionalized by insisting our morality be legalized into communal laws of the nations. Our morality is not even based on Christ, but based loosely on the 10 commandments which we have extrapolated arbitrarily to apply to modern times not considering the context of the religious laws given at Mt. Sinai and selectively to discriminate Gays. In essence our form of Christianity is another Gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ is no longer alive when we exalt Law over Grace, self-exaltation over dependence on God.
The Christian Right in America has been pushing strongly at Congress to implement moral laws. However, they have been impartial and careful to avoid the powerful no different than that condemned by James in James 2:1-4. The 1 st and 2 nd commandments are the most of the important 10 Commandments, yet have been conveniently ignored and we concentrate on very obscure commandments impacting only the minority groups so that we can gain political mileage. If we were at all serious about morality and making America a “Christian” nation we should do well to ban all religions other than the Christ based religion, and also banned any carved images of Christ and Angels. Effectively, all the major religions would be banned including many Orthodox denominations.
What was the pivotal sin of the Hebrews that the Law was instituted? They strayed away from worshipping the true God to other man made gods. They were not grateful to God for redeeming them from Egypt from cruel bondage at the hands of Pharaoh. Their complaining started when they were in the wilderness (Exo 13:11). They murmured against Moses and did not have the faith to believe in God’s salvation when pursued by the Egyptian army. After crossing the red sea and seeing the mighty work of God, yet it did not change their stubborn red neck heart. And finally they attributed all the miracles of crossing the Dead Sea and deliverances against the might of Pharaoh to a golden calf, i.e. to themselves for it was their gold. Apostle Paul states in Rom 1:25 that under Law, the Hebrews exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. So God gave them up to this unnatural passion of worshipping the idols for which they even “gave up” what was natural to them and had same sex relationships in their idol worship program. (Rom 1:26,27). The law condemns the Jews on account of their idol worship hence uncleanness and was never intended to speak against homosexuality. It was referring the straight people forced to have same sex relationships. Therefore, Gays are innocent but wrongly condemned by the law (if the law was taken literally).
The pivotal question is not whether one is straight or gay but has always been about Christ, His death and resurrection in redemption for our sins. For under law, all of us have no place in the Kingdom of God as Gentiles. i.e by our birth as a gentile or foreigner (Isa 56:3) or by being born a Gay, we are condemned and disqualified. Is that fair? Yes it is, if one follows strictly to the law! Because it does not allow for mitigating circumstances nor depend on whose fault is it. One can be totally innocent yet legally condemned. The existence of the cities of refuge was a pre-cursor to the redemptive grace under Christ for those who are guilty under law but actually innocent. Therefore when Isaiah declared the good news in Isaiah 56:5 of having an everlasting name in heaven, as a child of God, we are no longer cut of from God but remembered because of Christ. This right comes free (Isa 55:1) because Christ paid for it (Isa 53:5) and this is the Good News that we received freely the gift of salvation hence we need not follow strictly to the law to receive blessings nor under its condemnation and curses for not abiding in it. When we insist on following the law, we are negating Christ redemptive work. We may be attracting curses because it is not only the gays who have sinned, but we too and perhaps much more (Isa 53:6) because of our self righteousness by condemning Gays.
As Gay Christians, our greatest challenge is to keep our lives holy and sanctified before God under the prevailing Gay culture where we worship the god of the male body with open multiple sexual relationships. We faced the same issue that the Jews faced! Do we want to have multiple sex partners not that having same sex relationship was wrong! God gave the Hebrews, the Law, to clearly show them that based on their own strength they could never overcome their carnal fallen nature and live a clean life. Yet, many Gay Christians like most in the community consider being Gay a sin under the Law that was given to the Hebrews. In fact, we made the law even more difficult to follow that what God gave to the Hebrews. We say homosexual sex is sin, i.e., this is equivalent to banning sex altogether for the straight community which even God did not asked the Jews to do despite their illicit sexual practices in idol worship. The Christian Right has demanded that Gays be celibate, and this goes far beyond God’s laws. By grossly adding to the law and misinterpreting it, the Law looses its standing and importance, the bible discredited and looses its literal meaning, and the need for a Messiah is effectively negated. Satan likes to use the Church to attack and comes against Gays, because it destroys the moral and Christ centered foundation of the church and makes it less effective to declare the good news. Essentially, Christian leaders thinking that they are doing God’s will by condemning gays but are actually doing Satan’s bidding.
There are very few Christian Gays for many have back slide because of the incorrect understanding that gay sex is sin and therefore they are living in a lifestyle of sin. There is much self condemnation that they are unclean and dirty as try as the might since it is not possible to live a celibate life, they abandoned Christianity altogether. They reject Christ because the Church as Christ representatives or ambassadors has rejected them. We have misrepresented Christ and therefore blasphemed His very name. We should be grateful that we are not under law but under grace because we as a whole, we are the deserving of the death penalty when we come against Gays and stop them at the gate of the temple just as the Eunuch was barred by the Jews from entering the temple in Jerusalem. They are the innocent children in Mat 19:13 when Jesus reverted to the law condemning adultery and divorce whilst mentioning that only gays who are naturally not attracted to women (Mat 19:12) are immune to fall into such adultery relationships. The church have caused the little ones to sin by forcing them to reject Christ (Mat 18:6) and are deserving of death.
The greatest challenge or hindrance facing Gays as they seek God is not the 6 clobber passages used against Gays by mainstream Christians which one day would be examples of how not to interpret the bible. In Gay inclusive churches which are increasing in number, we often proclaimed that God’s love is inclusive of Gays and that He is a Good God. We thereafter expect Gays to be integrated into the church and we would run the church once we settle the gay question and go on to more church growth issues such as the ministry to be involved and call of God in our lives, and Christ as the centrality of our faith. We may even concentrate on Christian Living Bible Studies such as the Alpha Courses and Rick Warren’s bible study series. Yet, we find that Church growth is a challenge with Gays being easily burned out! Just keeping the faith is a challenge let alone spiritual growth.
Gay Christians need to reconcile their faith and sexuality and this is very difficult in view of the strong homophobia and anti-gay stance by the church and the community. At an intellectual level, Gays have tried to reconcile their faith and sexuality by understanding that the 6 clobber verses in the bible do not condemned them. But just as Christianity is a matter of faith, a matter of the heart to believe, we need to be reconciled not only in our minds, but also our soul and spirit. It is not sufficient for it to be a tacit acceptance at an intellectual level. It needs to go deeper than skin deep into the marrows and the bone, in to the deepest part of our being where we can say “Thank you Lord for creating me a Gay person”. That takes faith, the gift of faith for we have lost and suffered so much as a Gay person and you are now asking me to give thanks to God for it!. It is easy to give thanks when we are married and have a good family and 3 wonderful kids. But it becomes a different proposition when we do not have much in life, are lonely and hurting because of the rejection we have suffered. We give thanks to God by faith that God has created us wonderfully as Gays as a blessing, a gift, and not a curse. We give thanks because when we give our pain and sorrows to God in thanksgiving, He gives us back the mercy and grace we so desperately need to live our lives as how God created us, a Gay man or women. It is no longer our strength but Christ in us, the hope of Glory. We give thanks because of Jesus Christ, for in giving thanks are accepting God’s creation in our lives as a Gay person, and His redemption for our sins under the law.
In giving thanks, Christ being our motivation, we are forgiving those in the main stream churches, our friends, our family and society in general who have hurt us badly. When we forgive much, much more of God’s Grace and mercy truly abounds to us. Our thanksgiving reflects our gratefulness to Christ, for receiving freedom to be who He has created us to be. Through His Grace and Mercy, we have freedom to live a sanctified life because of Christ who sanctifies us and made us “sinless” when judged under the law even though we are the innocent party but wrongly condemned. We remember Jesus, who was sinless and innocent yet condemned under law. His death gave us freedom in Christ and in the Spirit to give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks with a grateful heart,
And now let the weak say "I am strong",