Gentiles and Homosexuals (pt. 2)

On Thursday I began a series in which I want to develop an interpretive framework for wrestling with issues of homosexuals in civil society for those Christians who do not believe that homosexual practice falls within the realm of acceptable Christian action.

In short, the hermeneutical move is this: Christians reading the NT are now more in the place of the first century Jews than the first century Gentiles. We are the “insiders” who know what God has done to redeem and reconcile a people and what it means, at least in general, to faithfully follow this God.

In short, what we find at several key moments is that the blessings of God are not confined to the people of God–and that these blessings overflow and come to outsiders even without their agreeing to become insiders. We began with Luke 4, and the reminder Jesus gave of how the power of God to feed the hungry and heal the sick went beyond Israel in the days of Elijah and Elisha–and this enraged his audience.

It presses the question of whether we, too, are not enraged at the idea that our community might not lay exclusive claim to the blessings of God?

The decentering ministry of Jesus is visible elsewhere as well. In Matthew 8, after Jesus comes down from the mount of his famous sermon, a centurion approaches him, asking for a servant to be healed.

Gentiles are outsiders. Uncircumcised, unkosher, Sabbath-breaking outsiders.

But things here are even worse.

The Roman occupation of Galilee and Judea is a potent reminder of the failure of God’s promises in the prophets to come to fruition. The promise of being free in their own land to worship their own God under their own king is daily thwarted by military and political subjugation to Rome.

This Gentile who stands before Jesus is not only a reminder of, but an active agent in the failure of Israel to enter into the civil, religious, and political life that God has promised God’s people.

And he comes to Jesus to ask for healing. And Jesus heals his servant.

This means at least two things. One: the man saw in Jesus, the very definition of the “insider” for the new people of God, something powerful. Two: he saw in Jesus someone who would be wiling to share that power for the good of even a Gentile centurion.

He had faith in that power, in Jesus’ authority, and that it could and would be used for him.

Here, we might say, is an example of an outsider coming “in” in order to receive the blessing. But did he? Yes, he had faith in the work of Jesus. But Jesus commends him as an insider without demanding that he actually become an insider first. He blesses him, heals his servant, without the man joining himself to the Jewish people–and without the man leaving his post as one who stands against the freedom of the people of God or leaving his life behind to follow Jesus in his mission.

Questions that present themselves to us: do outsiders see anything in the church that they would want part of for themselves?

When they do see something that looks like a good–a blessing bestowed by the power and authority of God–do we willingly give to them out of the abundance of what God has given us? Or do we demand that they become like us first, enter into the community of faith in order to know the blessings of God?

Will we give outsiders our money for their food? Our medicine for their healing? Our marriage for their comfort and security? Or are these things only for those who first drop all that they have and then enter into the kingdom of abundance?

Note: I am on vacation and will be mostly away from the internet. Please feel free to have constructive conversation amongst yourselves, but I am not likely to participate!

5 thoughts on “Gentiles and Homosexuals (pt. 2)”

  1. Kirk – “But Jesus commends him as an insider without demanding that he actually become an insider first.”

    Ah. Thank you. Jesus elsewhere finds yet another fact — another measurable fact – measurable only by Jesus and not measurable because hidden from the blind-measured theological eyes of the chosen nation – “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith” (Luke 7:9).

    I pretend in fantasy that out of mercy Jesus did not – and would not – require this Gentile to join the nation! Overtly.

    Why pull a Gentile into a nation where not one stone would stand upon another?

    God whistles. Gentiles come at God’s whistling. Following Cyrus to tear down beloved nations many times over.

    Why would Commander Jesus do a military draft, drafting Gentle centurions into a national Israel, that is, why draft true and noble – faithful – Gentile warriors to fight on the wrong side? Commander Jesus needs Gentile centurions right where they are.

    Why would we Christians allow gentile homosexual soldiers to die fighting for a wanna-be Christian nation which does not fully recognize them?

    Happy 4th of July!

    “Sometimes love don’t feel like it should.”

    As for me – I, the nationalist 4th of July self-aggrandizing heterosexual Pharisee – I find Jesus offensive enough to crucify. For not indulging my narcism of chosen-ness. Saved I am by grace. Fancy that.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    nb – enjoy vacation. Tahoe is hell-crawled with human ants, drunken, on narrow twisted mountain roads … thanks too for not yet pulling a Kantian move. Staying closer by. If Kant is coming, this national grounding may be (I really don’t know) as good a place from which to launch as any. So, thanks again.

    1. Thumbs up on this post!

      I’m glad that you’re on vacation and that you’re unplugging from the net as well. Wishing you and your family much fun and rest!

  2. It seems to me like you are combining two different motions here:

    1) We are blessed to bless others. Through our witness of unconditional love, outsiders are drawn in.

    2) The centurion is an example of the outsider finding his way inside (before and in spite of the supposed “insiders”).

    In Christ, they are both defined and connected but not quite the same movement.

  3. Although, what he offered was healing, not community. Perhaps we offer all the help, practical physical help, we can first? We should approach “outsiders” with nothing but love and compassion. We should offer them community, but help them realize it’s a change of mind and life, but that our harshest criticism isn’t for “new folks” but for “holier than thou” Christians who look down on others while not helping them up. It’s complicated, and we’ll get it wrong 9 times out of 10.

  4. I agree completely with the assessment of the centurion entering the family of God without having to take on the marks of the family of God. It’s the same issue that faced the church in Acts 10, when Peter visits Cornelius and the Spirit descends on them. Who’s going to stop the Spirit spilling on these Gentiles?

    The natural connection, within the greater context of this conversation, is what the church ought to do with members of the homosexual community that may wish to enter the family of God. Ought we require a gay couple to change before entering our communion? I would think not. We give freely as we’ve received.

    At the same time, ministers of the gospel (many of them, at least) will feel compelled to warn, from time to time, of the dangers of certain patterns of behavior. This is not to condemn, but to warn and perhaps correct (a loving act, I would suggest). And by no means is homosexuality the only behavior that would merit such warnings.

    I’ve long been frustrated with the conservative church, of which I am a part, over the language we use in “warning” against homosexuality (today’s buzz-sin). We have not found, it seems, a way of holding what we believe to be a God-given standard while simultaneously preaching a love and down-and-dirty commitment that comes from this family of God.

    Any help?

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