Homosexuality: A Disputable Matter
In the chapter “A Disputable Matter?” Wendy Gritter of New Direction Canada fleshes out her suggested approach to issues around same-sex attraction. She begins with a discussion of the idea of disputable matters in the church, using texts like Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. She also discusses Jesus’ words that people should be judged by the fruit of the spirit in their lives, not by whether they have their theology of gender and sexuality correct.
She then moves to the conclusion, applying it to this discussion:
To recap, Paul says that when we encounter a genuine believer who disagrees with us we need to accept them, without quarreling, without viewing them with contempt, and without a judgmental attitude. He says not to put a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way and to work toward peace and mutual edification. He challenges us to keep our convictions about disputable matters to ourselves and to live consistently with our consciences. Imagine if that actually became our posture toward one another in this contentious conversation at the intersection of faith and sexuality. Imagine if we didn’t back one another into a corner demanding to know where we stand on this question of covenanted same-sex relationships as the ultimate orthodoxy test. Imagine if we did not judge the heart’s motivation of those who conclude differently than we do. Imagine if we ceased showing contempt to those who disagree with us. Imagine if we stopped our quarreling. Imagine if we no longer put stumbling blocks in the way of those who were deeply wrestling with these questions and desperately needing some safe space to search out God’s heart and will for them. If all those things were true, we would be experiencing the richness of generous spaciousness.
I suggest that we reframe this question of whether gay relationships are a disputable matter just a bit. I believe the answer ought to be determined by those who mustmake a decision about entering one. If you consider Romans 14, Paul is not speaking to those who have only theoretical ideas about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Every single person reading Paul’s letter needed to eat food and therefore needed to make decisions about what they would eat and what they would refrain from eating. Paul’s admonishments weren’t for those who stood on the sidelines offering opinions and directives. It is very easy for a straight pastor to write a blog stating that the scriptural validity of covenanted same-sex relationships is not a disputable matter because of his belief that the Scripture is unequivocally clear. But ultimately, he is, from his theoretical perch, discounting the lives of gay Christians who are in the trenches wrestling out these questions with God, in the context of commitment to Christ, concern and care for the Scriptures, and a desire to live faithfully. And for those who are wrestling, is being taught what to think (from someone who has never had to wrestle personally with this) really the most effective way to disciple and impart wisdom for this stewardship of desires and drives?
We are called to a living, embodied faith. We are called to wrestle with the spirit of the law (which is much more challenging than wrestling with the letter of the law) as we walk in intimate relationship with a personal God revealed to us through Jesus Christ. (pp. 183-184)
As a straight man myself, this is particularly important for me. I do have opinions based on study of Scripture and its context and church history and listening to stories and prayer. Maybe there is some scenario where somebody who experiences same-sex attraction comes to me for pastoral care, genuinely wanting to know my opinion. But ultimately, my opinion is theoretical and I need to remember that before I’m tempted to enforce my opinion on those who actually have to live with the question.