What Would Jesus Blog?

On stoning ‘the gays’

by on Jan.16, 2013, under Uncategorized

One of the strangest beliefs that I find circulating around the church is that it’s ok to cite laws found in various places in the Old Testament (mostly Exodus and Leviticus, when the ancient Israelites were in exile or wandering around the desert) with the same authority as commandments found elsewhere in the same, and other, books. These laws pertain to lots of areas of everyday life – from what foods to eat, to how to stay hygenic, to how to conduct relationships. Recently, I’ve found myself with the need to put my beliefs on the matter into words in a Facebook post – and it seems to have turned into a blog post. So, how can Christians reconcile the death penalty for homosexuality in Leviticus 20:31 with a loving God, without compromising on ‘Thou shalt not kill’? How can Christians look at a book that tells women on their periods to avoid social contact, and say that it’s a book that puts relationships first? How can anyone who calls themselves Christian believe that homosexuality is wrong?

A few thousand years ago, in a country a few thousand miles away, God’s people were on the move. God hadn’t yet blessed humanity with modern medicine, his people were rather fond of fighting wars, and they had the unfortunate privilege of calling the Ancient Middle Eastern equivalent of Spaghetti Junction ‘home’. Except, instead of mild-mannered road rage, people rather liked slaughtering each other for their space on the road. Metaphor laboured, let’s move on.

God loved his people, and he cared for them. He provided fantastic health advice (before veterinary medicine, a do-not-eat list of animals was a good idea), he provided for their well-being, and he provided a working and appropriate legal system. Some things that we have the privilege of today weren’t options; homosexuals weren’t able to raise children (see above comment on wars as to why children were more important than relationship choices), women who were raped couldn’t have abortions without even more damage (see also: why lots of children are useful when you’re fighting wars), heck, even outlawing masturbation helped keep the birth rate up. It really sucked that having lots of babies took precedence over being able to love who you loved, but times were hard. 

This isn’t ancient Israel. Christians aren’t bound by Jewish law (Mark 7 is the basis of that, but there’s plenty more to it than that; I’m not sinning by proof-texting here). So we’re left with our God-given creativity and God-given powers of interpretation and God-given Holy Spirit to work out what to make of a large chunk of our God-given Scripture. God took a day-to-day interest in the lives of the ancient nation of Israel – they were a young nation who kept on getting it wrong, so they needed guidance. God gave it. Times have changed; we’re ok without a constant stream of babies to go off and fight wars, but God still cares about what we do. So, let’s go and ask the question of ‘What are the things that get in the way of our perfect relationship with God today?’. I’d wager that stoning the gays doesn’t feature in that.

So why are these laws even in the modern Bible? If they’re outdated, does that mean they’re meaningless? If they’re meaningful, why am I saying that we shouldn’t stone gay people to death? Jesus touched on the subject when he was alive. [A Pharisee lawyer] asked him a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:34-40)

Jesus, who we are told is God’s Word made flesh, tells us that all of Jewish law hangs on these two great commandments. They’re the basis; the principle upon which the law in the Old Testament was founded. OT law was one example of those principles in practice – as Christians now, we need to see how God applied those principles to ancient Israel, to work out how to apply them now. He’s given us brains, examples, generations of wise believers, and his Holy Spirit to guide us – to ignore all that and prefer rules that weren’t for us, is to pass on the joy that life with Him brings.

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