Today I saw an article titled "5 Myths People Spread About Jesus, Sex and Gay Marriage" by pastor Kenny Burchard at ChurchLeaders.com.
He specifically asked for interaction and dialogue, so I thought I'd write a response to his "myths". (One note on the word "myth"—while it's commonly used to describe "made-up false stories", I prefer to think of a myth as a story that teaches a truth deeper than the surface details. Minor quibble.)
I've broken out each of his five "myths" and grabbed a bit of his argument for each, though you'll need to visit the full article for all of his statements.
1. Jesus never defined marriage as one man, one woman.
When Jesus talked about married people, he spoke of “a man … [and] … his wife” inMatthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7.
Jesus went on to use the language “ … the two shall become one.”
Jesus quoted the text of Genesis 2:24 as the foundation of His teaching on marriage. This is the biblical doctrine of “origins.” Jesus even used the clause “from the beginning it was not so” when talking about divorce.
Read full argument here.
It seems to me that this argument attempts to use Jesus's teaching on one very specific issue and apply his words to a different one. In context, Jesus is directly speaking against the dissolution of marriage. He quotes Genesis to emphasize the sacred nature of the marriage bond. I would counter that, rhetorically, it is a speculative stretch to apply his words to defining the gender make-up of a marriage. He may well have applied the same verse to do so if asked, but that is not recorded in Scripture.
So my conclusion is that the conservative position on this passage is a reasonable extrapolation of a possible teaching, but it is not in fact a strict reading of the text.
2. Jesus never specifically mentioned homosexuality in His teaching on marriage, so we should not make a big deal about it either.
So the idea that because Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality somehow means that it isn’t a point of human brokenness is a fallacy.
Another key observation is that any time Jesus mentions a husband, He mentions a wife. And any time He mentions a wife, He mentions a husband.
This should provide the eager seeker of ”what Jesus taught” valuable insight. He seemed to believe that a husband belongs with a wife, and a wife belongs with a husband. A husband is a “he”—and a wife is a “she.”
Read full argument here.
True, it is a logical fallacy to make the lack of a statement into a positive argument in favor of acceptance of LGBT people in the church. Of course, I would want to point out that this same pushback could be made on your previous point.
As you say, just because Jesus only encountered and was familiar with traditional marriage in his Jewish cultural context does not have anything to say pro OR con about gay marriage.
However, the fact is that people of his time would have been very aware of Greek and Roman homosexual relationships. They would have been aware of the teachings in the schools that were established in Israel, and would have seen the common relationships between philosophy mentors and Roman legionaries with their male servants (possibly, though speculatively, behind the Roman centurion's relationship with his servant in Luke 7—the man Jesus called out as having more faith than all of Israel). The argument that this didn't seem to concern Jesus at all seems to have some weight against the current conservative insistance that homosexuality is a particularly bad sin (shown in the fervency of activity around this issue, even if claimed its a sin like any other).
3. Jesus's, and Paul's, attitude toward marriage
According to Paul’s teaching, marriage for Jesus (and even himself) would have been a distraction because …
… a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife. —I Cor. 7:33
It is true that during His human, earthy ministry, Jesus did not get married. But interestingly, there is New Testament imagery of Jesus being a “bridegroom” (male person in a marriage relationship) who is preparing to come for His bride (female person in a marriage relationship).
Read full argument here.
This argument is far more complex, and I don't have time to do it justice here. However, it seems difficult to use the teachings of Jesus and Paul to affirm the centrality of the nuclear family and exaltation of one-man/one-woman marriage today.
For example, nowhere in Scripture is there a prohibition against polygamy. Both Jesus and Paul allow the assumption to continue that this is a healthy form of marriage. Only in one verse much later on in the epistles is there a recommendation that the overseers of pastors ("bishops") have only one wife.
For most of Paul's writings, he "allows" marriage if you have to have it, but would really prefer the followers of Christ to remain unmarried. Jesus also does not appear to value marriage as an ambition for his followers, even though he does confront the cultural assumption that the man is in control of the relationship and supports the rights of the woman by speaking against no-fault divorce on the man's part.
As for the image of Jesus as bridegroom, that's an interesting analogy to use in support of traditional marriage. After all, the imagery seems to transcend our notions of gender, and affirm that both men and woman are united to Jesus in this "marriage", the same Son of God who is revealed as a male on earth.
In Galatians Paul insists that in Christ there is "no longer male or female". Our cultural divisions are no longer valid in the kingdom of God. His teaching in Ephesians does not focus on the differences between genders, but in fact on the need for equal treatment and that self-giving love is the true picture of Christ's love. There is no contextual indication that this depiction of love is only valid based on gender, simply because the example comes from the common form of marriage Paul would have been familiar with.
4. Jesus reached out to and accepted people into His circle who did not fit the “traditional marriage” model.
Two case-studies of this position are often brought up when talking about Jesus and marriage. The first is the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4). The second is the woman caught in adultery (see Jn. 8:1-11).
What can we make of these two stories? Is it something like …
Jesus speaking: “Hey, there’s a serial-divorcee, and an adulteress. I’m going to invite them to become members of my circle of people just so I can show people that I accept people like this.”
Yes! The truth is that Jesus was reaching out to them, but not without a call to leave their sexual/relational dysfunction behind them.
Read full argument here.
You use two stories here to illustration your point. May I break them apart and tackle them one at a time?
a) Samaritan woman at the well
As I've studied this passage, I've found that the common understanding of John chapter 4 isn't actually in the text. While Jesus uses his knowledge of the Samaritan woman's marital situation to declare his authority, he doesn't actually call it out as sin or ask for repentance. The woman's reaction, both at that moment and when she returns to her village, shows no evidence of shame or contrition.
Of course, that could be because it's likely she is barren, and the victim of the contemporary patriarchal system which would justify her being divorced from each man in turn (which Jesus confronted the Pharisees about) and ultimately forced to live with a man who would not marry her just to survive since it was rare for a woman to be able to make a living on her own in that culture without turning to prostitution. So maybe he didn't confront her sin because she wasn't sinning? (I first heard this interpretation from a conservative Reformed professor at a conservative evangelical university last year, for what it's worth).
b) The woman caught in adultery
I would like to point out two things with this story.
First, adultery is the opposite of a committed relationship, whether inside or outside of marriage. I have not heard a pro-LGBT argument trying to claim that God is fine with LGBT relationships because Jesus is "okay" with the breaking of heterosexual relationships. We're talking about opposites here. We all agree the breaking of relationship is wrong.
Second, this particular story was hugely controversial in the early church and was contested as a legitimate passage for a long time BECAUSE it was seen as too forgiving of the woman! The church did not want to accept that Jesus would withhold punishment of this woman. The story was eventually accepted as an authentic story of Jesus, though both liberal and conservative scholars agree it was likely added to the manuscript of John sometime after the original writing (maybe migrating from one of the synoptic gospels).
(In general, this is only one of two stories in the entire collection of Gospels wherein Jesus says "go and sin no more". The other is a crippled man in the same Gospel, with no description of his sin. Calls to individual repentance of individual sins simply weren't a focus of his teaching. Now, calls to community repentance and repentance of judging and condemning others were certainly something that came up more.)
5. These are the kind of people Jesus would reach out to if He were here today.
Yes, Jesus would reach out to every kind of person. He would tell them of God’s love, and He would call them to repent of their sins. He would call murderers, thieves, liars, adulterers, homosexuals, gossips and racists.
And He would lead them out of their sin and into a new life with Him.
Read full argument here.
I'll try to keep this one brief. Your assumption is that being created gay while having the same need we all have for human relationship is sinful, and your list of sins seems to reflect a conservative and incorrect translation of certain terms. For more on that, you might be interested in the full in-depth study I did on these verses, which you can find freely online.
Also, this argument fails to take into account the Spirit-filled lives and testimonies of LGBT Christians and the widely acknowledged failure of the "ex-gay" movement.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about the other side's position. I appreciate your post helping me think through these things more for myself.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in return Kenny. Thanks for the invitation to dialogue. Grace and peace!