Ask Father Paul 12/01/10
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Dear Father Paul: I am confused about all of the controversy in the church over gay clergy. Did not Jesus teach love, acceptance and inclusiveness?
I know about the passage in Leviticus 18 that says homosexuality is an “abomination” to God. But a verse in the very next chapter prohibits the planting of two crops in one field ... and in Leviticus 11: 9-12 we read that eating shellfish is also an “abomination.” Please clarify how and why the church justifies the “cherry picking” of ancient law which often seems ludicrous when applied to life in the 21st century. — S.D.
Dear S. D.: Thanks for your question. First, let me point out that I am not God and I am not any one’s Holy Spirit. By that I mean that I do not condemn any person, period. I am a simple preacher who believes that the Bible is the word of God. and who tries to love every person, gay or straight.
Knowingly or unknowingly, S.D., you have made one of the gay community’s most often used justifications for its lifestyle as opposed to what God clearly says about homosexuality in the Bible.
The Old Testament Book of Leviticus, which you mention, the third book in the Bible, is primarily about God’s rules for holy living for the Israelites who had fled from bondage in Egypt. The word “holy” simply means “set apart for God.” From Adam and Eve to the time when Moses wrote Leviticus under divine inspiration until the Christian era today, one of God’s main goals has always been to have his own “holy” people on the earth, set apart from “the world’s lifestyle” and instead, living in a separate, God pleasing manner. In regard to your question about the clergy, I believe it behooves the clergy to set an example by, to the best of our ability, living a holy lifestyle.
A study of the Bible reveals that God doesn’t lay down rules and “thou shall nots” simply because he wants to somehow control our every movement, but because, like any loving father, he wants to protect his children from harm and pain. For instance, the eighth commandment given in Exodus 20 says this, “Thou shall not steal.” Is God trying to spoil our fun? Hardly. God knows that a lifestyle of stealing will cause huge pain for the thief and he warns us so that we can avoid that pain. I believe that, from God’s point of view, it’s the same with homosexuality. In short, I believe that most of God’s “rules” were made for our benefit, not necessarily for his.
In the 18th chapter of Leviticus that you reference, God gives around 20 sexual rules or “don’ts,” for his people. In verse 22 God says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman (a homosexual act). It is an abomination (to me).” The word “abomination” is the strongest word for condemnation that God uses in the entire Bible. The verse you reference in your question in Leviticus 11 about eating shellfish, does not say that eating shellfish is an abomination to God, but rather, it “shall be an abomination to you.” A more modern word for abomination is “detestable.” You see God knew, some 3,000 years ago, before we had the ability to analyze the content of food, that shellfish is very high in both cholesterol and salt and that both in excess can be harmful to humans. Basically, a loving God wanted to save his children from the pain of heart attacks and heart failure.
On the question of homosexuality, God’s word, the Bible, says in at least eight different places (both in the Old and in the New Testaments) that committing homosexual acts is a sin and therefore we shouldn’t do it. The Apostle Paul clearly speaks to this issue in Romans 1, in I Timothy 1, and in I Corinthians 6. In the I Corinthians 6:9-11 passage Paul even goes so far as to say that a person (who persists in) homosexual acts “can not inherit the kingdom of God.” Pretty strong stuff wouldn’t you say? Verse 11 in this same passage is extremely interesting, It says (I paraphrase) “....some of you (my hearers) were homosexuals yourselves, before you became followers of Christ.” To me, and, I think to any half way fair minded person, this statement brings into serious question the claim we hear from many homosexuals that, “I was born a homosexual, and it is impossible for me to change.” I simply do not believe that a fair and loving God would ever demand that we not do a thing which is impossible for us not to do.
In spite of what the Bible might clearly say, however, let’s be truthful here. Most of us continue to do the things we want to do, regardless. Simply put, many of us have become our own God. But the Bible even speaks to this modern day view. Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” The Bible says about God that, “ God is the same, yesterday, today and forever,” so that what was a sin in Moses’ day is, I think, still a sin today.
The wonderful “Good News” of the Gospel of Christ, however, is what that same Apostle Paul also says in I Timothy, Chapter 1... after he had just decried sexual sins. Paul says this, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners ... of whom I am the worst.” Wow! As a sinner myself, that’s good news. I hope you agree.
Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia.