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I'm probably not the only one whose Facebook timeline and friends list went all rainbow-coloured over the last weekend. Many of my friends (and guess what, more Christians than non-Christians) changed their profile pictures to rainbows - while others posted statements like "Only God can define marriage" or those famous verses from Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Romans 1:26-27. This whole business made me feel rather uncomfortable - mostly because I see myself smack-bang in the middle of both positions. On the one hand I felt unable to "like" any of those new profile pictures - on the other hand I felt a bit sickened by some of the negative reactions from my conservative friends.

Yesterday my Bible reading was Romans 1:18-32.
I've been studying theology for the past 6 years. Through my studies and through personal Bible reading, I have learnt some important things about how to understand and interpret a Bible text. Here's some important lessons:
  • Read in context: Don't pick out a verse or a few verses, but make sure you understand what it means in its context. And that means its full context - not just the next few verses surrounding it, not just the chapter, but the whole book it appears in. To understand what Romans 1:18-32 (and the much-quoted v. 26-27) means, we need to first place it in the context of the letter to the Romans. That means: read the whole book and understand the general message of the whole book, figure out its position and role in Paul's argumentation, etc.

  • There is a difference between God's word and our interpretation of it: I know people like to say "The Bible is very clear about [XX topic]." But let's admit it: there are loads and loads of interpretations out there. I see a shocking tendency among some evangelical Christians nowadays (though I guess it's a problem that goes way back) to equate their interpretation with "God's Word". But we must remember that we are fallible human beings - led by the Spirit, yes, but still fallible. We need to approach the Bible with humility. And also: we need to approach the Bible at all!! Because I see a worrying tendency of simply quoting a certain text, in a certain interpretation, as "God's word", without any understanding of what the Bible actually says. I often see people quoting a certain idea without first having grappled with the text itself (i.e. studied the text in its context, without preconclusions, not just looking up to see if the verse says what people say it does). The texts that are often quoted in fights over homosexuality are examples of this.

  • We need to come empty, ready for God to speak to us, instead of with finished conclusions: It's really easy to approach a text and already "know" what we want it to say. Of course then we'll find in it what we want to find there! But that is really dangerous. That way we don't let God speak - we just look for the Bible to confirm what we already believe, instead of letting the Bible challenge us. Sometimes the Bible does end up confirming our views - but we need to put those views aside first to let God really speak to us. 


Now to Romans 1:18-32... [Important: I recommend you open up your Bible for this part and look up the verses I mention]
What is it about? It is not about "homosexuality". It does talk about it in v.26-27 - but homosexuality is not the main topic. Paul did not write Romans 1:18-32 to talk about the sinfulness of homosexuality, but to talk about sin in general. At this point, we need to pay attention to the context. Rom 1:18-32 does not stand on its own, but is part of an argumentative bloc:

  • Rom 1:18-32 speaks about the sinfulness of those who have rejected God (v.21). It seems Paul is here speaking about the non-Jewish people who were not part of the covenant. Seems to me also that this is about the Fall, which starts with the disruption of the relationship to God.
  • Rom 2 speaks about the sinfulness of the Jews, the people of the covenant (and I believe from the p.o.v. as Christians reading this in modern-day, we need to read this part as speaking to us, since we are part of the new covenant now).
  • Rom 3 sums this up in speaking of the sinfulness of all people ("There is no one who is righteous, not even one." Rom 3:10) and of the need for grace. Paul ends up saying that we are saved not by our works (i.e. not by doing the right things / not being sinful) but by faith (i.e. trust in Jesus, restoration of the relationship with God) and through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Rom 3:23-30)

We need to view Rom 1:18-32 as part of this argumentative bloc that starts by building up a negative picture of both non-believers and believers, and ends with salvation through grace.

Another interesting thing I noticed was how Rom 1 relates to Rom 2. Paul first speaks of the evils of the non-believers who rejected God. He speaks about "them". Such "us-and-them" talk can be very flattering. Some of the first readers may have felt quite content to shake their heads over how terrible "those others" are, as Paul listed one sin after the other. But then in Rom 2:1 Paul pulls out the rug under their feet: he goes from "them" to "you". Suddenly those who were looking down on the sins of others are the ones under attack! And I believe we need to take this to heart. We need to realise that we are being spoken to. It's easy to cluck over what others do wrong, and to point out their sins. It's a lot harder to listen to criticism ourselves.
From 2:1 I looked back over the "sin list" of Rom 1.

  • v.24-25 seems to me to speak of a selfish life (in the sense of self-worship).
  • v.26-27 is often interpreted as speaking of homosexuality. This is the most-quoted sin from the list, but I don't see why.
  • v.28-32 lists a whole lot of other sins - which I think we all are easily guilty of. Things like gossip, slander, heartlessness (in my German Bible this is translated as "lovelessness" which I think has a slightly different nuance), rebelliousness towards elders, boastfulness...

This makes my ask:

  1. Why do we put so much weight on v.26-27 when Paul is not doing so?
  2. Why do we make such a big story about homosexuality while being the heartless gossips (or whatever sin on the list applies to you) that we are? If we are going to exclude homosexuals from our fellowships, or exclude them from ministry positions, then please kick out the haughty boastful guys too!


Another thing I think is important to note from the text is that all these sins come from somewhere. If you check the "introduction" to each of the three "sections" in the sin-list, you'll find the recurring phrase "God gave them up". Go further back and we have Rom 1:18-23 speaking about God showing Himself in His creation, being knowable - but being rejected by mankind. Out of that rejection of God come all those sins. As I said above: I believe that is because forsaking God is what the "Fall" is about. Forsaking God is the beginning of all other sins, because it is the first and greatest. And God "giving them up", I believe, means God letting go and letting the consequences come. As in: if we turn our backs on God, He won't force us to stay. He'll let us go through with our ideas, do what we like, and reap the consequences. I believe what this shows us is that if we want to "fix" this sin problem, we need to go back to its root... which is the break in relationship to God. Before we can change people's sinful lives, we need to lead them back to God.


I'll be honest, I can't say that I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. But I can't say that homosexuals deserve the treatment they are getting at the hands of the church. In fact I believe the behaviour of some Christians is more un-Christian than the life my gay/lesbian Christian friends are leading. Look at this text you love to quote. I believe it is a challenge to us all - not a challenge to queers to change their way of living. If you go on reading Romans, you'll see Paul nowhere says the solution to homosexuality (or all those other sins) is to pressure these people to change. The solution is GRACE. It's JESUS.

I believe we need to turn to Jesus first and then He will change our lives. But as I'm sure all of us will admit: we're still liable to failure (just check Romans 7). I believe we are called into discipleship - which means: living with Jesus day by day and listening to His teaching and learning from His example, entering a process that I believe is a life-long one. Peter failed big-time when he denied Jesus. All the disciples, actually, failed big-time at the crucifixion (they ran away and abandoned Jesus when He most needed love and support). But Jesus never rejected them for it. He let them get up and try again (John 21: "feed my lambs").

I have a handful of gay and lesbian friends; all of them I met in my theological studies. It's people studying to be pastors. I don't want to make judgements over whether they're suited to be pastors at all. I'm glad it's not my decision. I just know them as people: nice, fun people who appreciate my opinion in theological discussions, and who have been hurt by other Christians and still bear the scars. I don't tell them I'm "all cool" with their orientation (because to be honest I'm not). But I don't attack them either. I know that the best I can do is be who I am in Jesus, live my faith authentically, love them as they are, and pray for them. If I pass all my exams, I'll be ordained next year. That means people may start asking me to do their weddings. I don't know whether I'll ever be asked by a homosexual couple. Last night I considered what I might do, and my conclusion was: no matter what my opinion is, even if I wouldn't "officiate" a wedding (I'd pass them on to my gay/lesbian pastor friends, I guess, haha), I'd still be prepared to pray for them and their relationship. Because I believe we can always pray, and people always appreciate prayer. And I would pray that Jesus would lead them His way. Might not be their way. Might not be my way. But really: God is sovereign. People are saying only God defines marriage. So yes: let's let Him define it then. Not by touting a favourite interpretation of ours, but through prayer and serious study of His word.


[Note: I'm not from or in the U.S., so this is not meant as a comment on the legalisation of same-sex marriage. This is written mainly as my response to the kind of reactions from the Christian right that, as a theologian, have been driving me up the walls - i.e. mistreatment of Bible texts.]

[To preclude any misunderstandings: I have never so far been able to full-out support LGBT. I still don't. But I have good friends who do, and I have good friends who are LGBT. And an ex who is gay, so yes, I have been hurt by this issue before. I don't view homosexuality as a good thing that is to be affirmed, but as a Christian I simply cannot stand for the oppression or exclusion of others (and I'm speaking about people being excluded from fellowship, or bullied, or pressured to change), and I believe many of the responses of the more conservative crowd are completely off the mark. I'm not saying legalise gay marriage (we might have to vote about it in Switz next year). I'm saying rethink the way we treat LGBT people. Starting from really seeking God in this, and not first pushing our agenda and then finding proof-texts for it.]


Some poetic thoughts on the matter:
Zacchaeus: EmbraceSome
would give me dirty looks,
scoff at me,
call me names,
say I deserve hell,
preach at me,
show me hate
at every turn.
Worse
were those ignoring me,
so I felt small,
smaller even than I am;
they'd move away
when I was near,
speak of me
like I wasn't there.
Some
would come and pity me,
which felt degrading,
or tell me what I did was fine,
which could not heal me.
For deep, deep down
I think I knew
that this was wrong.
Others
claimed they cared for me,
but said that I should change,
not seeing just how hard it is,
that my livelihood is on the line,
that they are hypocrites
for not accepting me
just as I am.
Then
you came.
You
looked for me
and saw me,
small and insignificant me,
although I was hiding.
You
came to me,
put yourself into my hands,
ate from my table
- my unclean table.
You
asked no questions.
You
passed no judgement.
You
accepted me
just as I am
And that
has changed me.
Because you love me
I want to love you.
Because I love you
I suddenly see:
I want to please you
and if

  • Mood: Nervous
  • Listening to: Soundtracks
  • Reading: Story of a Soul (Therese of Lisieux)

deviantID

deng-li-xin32
鄧禮欣
I'm a missionary kid (i.e. my parents are missionaries) and cross-cultural kid (i.e. my parents come from different cultures) and grew up in Asia. I am from 3 continents. :)

I'm currently studying theology in my "foreign home country", being trained as a pastor, but I hope to return to Asia as a missionary.

My big project is writing a poem for (almost) every woman in the Bible. deng-li-xin32.deviantart.com/g…

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Ten Seconds Prayer for Taiwan: www.taiwanteam.org/index.html
Globalprayer365: globalprayer365.com/

:icongreat-comission: :iconwomen-of-god:

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But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)

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Stamp - I love Green Tea by r0se-designsFeminist by DametoraI support this verse +12 by RebiValeskaLOVE. NOT force. by OnWingsOfBlueI love Taiwan by tikalYesu:Jesus by MenchieeeIt's an insult by Blue-UnciaSwitzerland Stamp by l8God rules and Jesus is Lord? by ChristianKitsuneFragile by 2Timothy3-16Not What I Used to Be Stamp by Haru-Megumi:thumb153655458:Stamp: Bubble Tea Love by TheSaltyMonsterStamp - Taiwan Flag by nicole92614Mooncake Stamp by mylastelI :heart: Sushi by Alys-StampsI Use Chopsticks by angryannoyanceI Love You Stamp by MissBezzHP Stamp by Sergeant-McFluffersLord of the Rings stamp 3 by LordPendragonOfCariacupcake by DreeamyEyesFlag: Singapore by TheStampKingLOTR - Wander by Jenna-RoseStamp Eowyn by DulbellaDance with Jesus by Rainbow-BeanicornEvolution and Creation by impersonalinfoStamp: Flute by samen-op-de-motor...Pray For Japan... by azianwolfdollStamp: Fruits Basket by MoliskiTea Lovers Stamp by Kelsi-samaCatholic-Chrisitan Stamp by chessgirlChina by TivariThe South African Flag Stamp by MoRbiD-ViXeNSnape stamp by iruhdamWriter Stamp by AkatsukiMemberWoolfyTaipei 101 blank by IS--awhcomWriter stamp by WhiteKimahriJane Austen Stamp by KelianeDownton Abbey stamp by effleurConflict and Terror by StJoanCM - Stamp - Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama by MissBezzStudio Ghibli Fan by SharkfoldImperfect Stamp by Vexic929Rohan 1 by WolfcatStampsBetter to light a candle by Claire-stampsHotpot Love Stamp by wangqrSo Many Books by LaPurrLes Miserables 2012 Stamp by ThreshTheSkyFranciscus (without the I.) -Stamp by CygnicantusAnti-War Quote by InsanityisthefutureDumplings Stamp by Weapons-Expert-Cool:: bubble tea :: by GezusfreekKindness... (Bl Teresa of Calcutta quote) by ShedaraI believe that... by ShedaraTaiwan - Touch Your Heart by tobasePope Francis on Gays Stamp - REQUESTED by el-JimmeisterTotoro by Lumi-BellActually, I would... by PixieRiotGlobal Warming- Save our home by hikileyuStop Global Warming stamp by disenchantedmuse

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:iconlorraineslh:
lorraineslh Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
Hi there!

Welcome to :iconraising-awareness:, a Support & Cause Group on deviantART.

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The-Cute-Storm Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2015
  

Thanks for the llama! 

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baileyalice222 Featured By Owner May 4, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the fav, friend!
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HeidiHassing Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015  Student General Artist
Thanks for the Fav 
Nice to find a fellow Christian on here! 
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dreamsofwords Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the welcome! :) Great to see a fellow believer in the Lord.
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