Sharon (not her real name) used to sing a favorite duet with me—a song about the Morning Star who knows my mind, the Mansion Builder who’s not finished with me yet. I watched as she shared the gospel and prayed with Liliana, who placed her faith in Christ when our church team went to Mexico. Shar and her husband, A. J., supported us through the high highs and low lows of the adoption roller coaster before our daughter was finally placed in our arms. Shar and I loved to talk literature, to eat scones and drink tea together, to jam to Keith Green and Rich Mullins music.
Then depression hit. Her occasional suicidal thoughts became daily obsessions. She went on medications that made it worse. I visited her in hospitals where I had to remove my shoelaces before I could see her. In one such center (one that was Christian in name only) her counselors expressed doubt in the absolute truths of the Bible. With the help of a little alcohol, Shar engaged in several sexual relationships with other women from her therapy group. Finally Sharon left her husband of twenty years and their two children for the woman with whom she now lives in a “committed relationship.” Since the divorce, Shar and A. J. share joint custody of their son and daughter.
Sharon knows I love her but detest her decisions and what they’ve done to her family. And she knows I grieve her absence. I saw her after a funeral not long ago.
“I’d like to talk theology with you sometime,” she said.
“Really? What would you like to discuss?”
“My lifestyle—I’ve been reading,” she said. “I used to think what I am doing is wrong, but I don’t think so any more. All those Old Testament laws …” she continued. “There were laws about how to cook meat and wear linen, laws we no longer follow. And the statements about homosexuality are right in there with them.”
I could see where she might think that. “Yes, sometimes the ritual purity laws and moral laws appear in the same sections together, and we can talk about that at some point. But beyond that, what do you do with the apostle Paul’s statements about same-sex relationships in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6?” I wanted to know.
“According to the Greek, Paul wasn’t actually talking about homosexuals—he was talking about temple prostitutes.”
Shar has never been to a Greek class in her life and it showed. I’m guessing my expression gave away my thoughts.
“But it doesn’t matter anyway” she added quickly, “because I don’t do Paul any more.”
“I’ve had problems with Paul for a long time. So I don’t include Paul’s writings any more.”
All those epistles gone, just like that. I wanted to ask if she missed knowing all things work together for good; that there is no condemnation for those in Christ; that by grace we’re saved through faith; that love is patient, love is kind. But I tried to stay focused on the discussion at hand. We didn’t get very far, and I wept as I left.
These days when people at church make witty but insulting remarks about homosexuals, I glance around, hoping Shar’s kids aren’t within earshot. When the pastor preaches against same-sex marriage, I’m glad he’s holding fast to the Bible, but I also wonder how Shar’s kids are processing it. So does their dad.
Some who speak against same-sex marriage warn that it opens the door to polygamy, to marriage of blood relatives, and to legal marriages among three or more people. While all of that could happen, even if it never leads to anything else, same-sex marriage is wrong in and of itself. The writer to the Hebrews (probably not Paul), wrote, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Hebrews 13:4).
Most people approach marriage as a way to meet needs for love and sustenance, and, for some, to reproduce. Period. But it’s way deeper than that. It’s a covenant that’s a physical picture of a mystery, a metaphor for something profound. The mystery is this: marriage pictures Christ and the church. It’s a union of two separate entities, something God joins together. Man and woman become one flesh in a union that is more than physical. Two become one, just like Christ and the church are joined inseparably. The wife and husband are body and head; the church and Christ are body and head. A headless body is dead; a bodyless head is dead. Together body and head form a union, a unity picture, a metaphor for a whole, living body that is one unit, knit together, strengthened, nurtured and built up in love.
We who are people of the Book know this. But we can be right in our doctrine and wrong in our approach. So what can we do beyond what the politicians recommend?
• Pray. Really pray. In his recent book, The Truth about Same-Sex Marriage, Dr. Erwin Lutzer says, “We must seek God. Physical battles are fought with physical weapons. Debate, political action, pro-family events and resources are essential tools, but they cannot win a spiritual battle. As believers, privately and corporately, we must confess our sins, turn away from our own idols, and fervently pray that God will intervene to rescue our families.”
• Love well. In his book, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, William Webb writes, “We have sometimes watched the physical and social plight of [the homosexual] community with callous hearts, applauding their pain as the judgment of God. Our stigmatization of homosexuals has led to an arm’s length interaction with the homosexual community as a whole. This detachment has often left these people without a tangible expression of the love of Christ…To the question, “Is the homosexual my neighbor?” we would answer with a resounding ‘Yes!’ But having given that answer, it hardly affirms the acceptance of homosexuality. The only implication coming from Jesus’ words [in the parable of the Good Samaritan] would be that we must act in a loving manner toward the homosexual person.” We might add that the families with loved ones who call themselves gay, lesbian, or bisexual also need love and prayers.
• Recognize that heterosexual marriage isn’t always the answer, either. Many singles—and there are now millions of them in North America—complain that church is a difficult place to be without a partner. Everything seems geared toward couples and families. This can be especially true when those who have lived openly as homosexuals trust Christ. For those who continue to struggle with feelings of attraction for members of the same sex, maturity means celibacy. And Christian love for others may mean biting one’s tongue when tempted to do a little matchmaking.
• Speak up. Some Christians have been strident, but others have sat at the opposite extreme, saying nothing. Shar rattled off a list of all the people who think what she’s doing is okay. Yet some of the very believers she named strongly disapproved of her choices. Shar misinterpreted their kindness as approval because they’d never said otherwise.
• Repent. A little more than sixty years ago the Oxford-educated Christian writer Dorothy L. Sayers delivered a message in Westminster, England titled “The Other Six Deadly Sins.” In her address she observed that a person “may be greedy and selfish; spiteful, cruel, jealous, and unjust; violent and arrogant; stupid, morose, and dead to every noble instinct—and still we are ready to say of him that he is not an immoral man.” She went on to tell of a young man who told her, “I did not know there were seven deadly sins; please tell me the names of the other six.”
I wish I could say Shar’s story has had a happy ending. It hasn’t. So we pray that Shar will find in Christ the completion she seeks. We cling to the words of the apostle Paul, who, while appearing to write words of condemnation, ultimately penned words of encouragement: “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:9–11).
The Mansion Builder knows Shar’s mind. I take comfort in the fact that He isn’t finished with her yet.