what the Bible “says”

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to an interview with Jen Hatmaker, a woman I love and respect, who has been a praying, giving friend to me for many years now.

She said lots of very powerful, insightful things in the interview, but what the Christian world has homed in on is this:

When asked if she supports gay marriage: “From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends.”

Would she attend a gay wedding? “I would attend that wedding with gladness, and I would drink champagne. I want the very best for my gay friends. I want love and happiness and faithfulness and commitment and community. Yes. That’s an easy answer.”

And the big one. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy? “I do.”

Here’s the part people are skipping over/ignoring. “And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.”

Christians, let’s just be honest with ourselves. WE ARE NOT REALLY INTO DOING HARD WORK.

I’m getting lots of Facebook comments and private messages from people who want me to “clearly state” my opinion on homosexuality and gay marriage like Jen did.

They want something cut-and-dried, black-and-white, because anything less is a scary “slippery slope” that could take us all right to hell.

Some people like statements like “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

And I think those words are great big fat cop-out. I think those words are lazy. I think a person who says those words doesn’t want to 1.) think or 2.) DO anything HARD.

As Jen said, this whole conversation, this whole issue, is nuanced, it is tender, it is too much for one interview, and it involves a commitment to a lot of hard, messy work. And none of us want to do that kind of work.

People are telling me, “The Bible says practicing homosexuality is a sin. PERIOD.”

And I am sooooooo tired of people using that line with an ALL-CAPS PERIOD at the end but ONLY FOR ISSUES LIKE HOMOSEXUALITY.

The Bible says a LOT LOT LOT LOT of things PERIOD, but guess what we’ve done? We’ve conveniently removed the periods, inserted commas and a “but” and said things like, “that was then, this is now.”

AT OUR OWN PERSONAL CONVENIENCE.

I’ve used so so so many of these examples before, and if I wasn’t typing furiously so I could take a shower and go celebrate Gabe’s 5-year anniversary of being alive after a heart attack, I would find those posts and link to them.

Off the top of my head (and this is all New Testament stuff, not Leviticus):

The Bible says “Slaves, obey your masters.” Yet, we freed our African-American slaves awhile back, and some of us are working to free other slaves around the world.

The Bible says, “long hair on a man is a disgrace and short hair on a woman is a disgrace.” Um, how many godly people are disobeying that one? As the President of my very-conservative alma mater once said (and I paraphrase), “Women should have long hair, guys shouldn’t, unless it’s Duck Dynasty long, then that’s cool.”

The Bible says, “Women shouldn’t speak in church. It’s shameful.”

(More on that one in a minute.)

So, this morning, I came across 1 Corinthians 14 and got stuck there for a bit.

(I know you’re really busy, but you should read it.)

Paul is speaking to the church in Corinth about two things that were very common in the church–and two things he wholeheartedly approved of–speaking/praying in tongues and prophesying.

(In easy-to-get terms, “tongues” is when you start speaking/praying in a language that no one understands. “Prophesying” is praying for someone, believing that God gave you a specific word of insight for them and their situation.)

Raise your hand if you go to a church where these two things are regularly a part of the Sunday morning service.

This is me sitting at the dining room table raising my hand.

Now. If you didn’t raise your hand, and you call yourself a “cessationist” (you believe that the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying began and ended with Jesus’ 12 Apostles), why is that? Where is your biblical basis for your belief that these things no longer exist?

How, when there are thousands of churches around the globe where people are speaking in tongues and prophesying, can you say these gifts are done, obsolete, no longer exist, have served their time and purpose?

Paul says very clearly that we should desire the spiritual gifts. How can we justify ignoring him? (I know how. We can say it no longer applies.)

But when someone says that maybe the verses about homosexuality no longer apply, all heck breaks loose.

Now, maybe you belong to a church that ignores verses 1-33 of the chapter but you pick your Bible back up for verses 34-35.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Women are not allowed to speak in church. If they’ve got a question, they need to wait until they get home and they can ask their husbands. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (Never mind that Paul said seven chapters earlier that it’s actually better, simpler for people to stay unmarried. SORRY, UNMARRIED WOMEN. YOU CAN NEVER SPEAK OR ASK QUESTIONS EVER.)

It’s shameful.

I haven’t studied the Greek, but so far we know that it’s shameful for men to have long hair (how long, I wonder?), it’s shameful for women to have short hair, it’s shameful for women to talk in church.

When Paul talks about homosexuality in Romans, he uses words like “dishonorable” and committing “shameless acts.”

I could go on FOREVER (and ever) picking apart the Bible and figuring out who obeys what and ignores what and what still applies and what doesn’t and which denomination gets it all right and which ones are just heathens in Christian clothing and on and on and on and on.

Here’s the thing, friends. 3 things actually.

1.) We all pick and choose what “TRUTH” we’re going to believe in the Bible. We really truly do.

2.) We all IGNORE lots and lots and lots of things Jesus tells us to do. (I don’t know about you, but I haven’t given away all my possessions or visited any prisoners lately.)

3.) God is BIG ENOUGH to handle our doubts, our questions, our searching.

Okay, 4 things.

4.) We need to do the HARD WORK of really truly examining the cultural context of the Bible AND the REALLY HARD WORK of figuring out how to LOVE people instead of condemning them.

Five things.

5.) LOVE is enough to keep all of us busy. Based on what I’ve read in the Bible, it’s the most important thing and it’s what’s going to matter at the end when we want God to let us into heaven.

I’ll save the other 49,000 words for another day.

6 thoughts on “what the Bible “says”

  1. Kimberly

    “Love is enough to keep all of us busy”. A thousand times AMEN! I don’t have all the answers and I never will but this one I know is truth.

  2. Mike Clabough

    Marla,

    You are absolutely right about needing to study the culture and context of the day when dealing with homosexuality. And you are right that the church blows this issue up considerably in comparison to other issues and in comparison to the need to love hurting people. It is VERY easy to sit back and talk instead of go be the hands and feet of Jesus. Amen and amen.

    Let’s say for instance that the Bible wasn’t talking about monogamous relationships. The “shameless acts” spoken of in Romans, what might those be? Even if they are being done with multiple people (outside of a monogamous, committed relationship), they are said to be “unnatural” and also destructive to the person, physically and likely spiritually as well. Can those same acts be taken and put into the context of a monogamous, committed relationship and then that relationship be considered holy? Set apart for the glory of God? Marriage certainly involves sex, becoming one flesh (Gen 2:24, Mark 10:7-9). If this isn’t part of a monogamous homosexual marriage, then it isn’t marriage (taking the man and woman components out of it) its just roommates/good friends/something else.

    And yes, there may not be many verses on homosexuality, but there are quite a few on marriage, and all of them speak of a man and woman, with distinct roles of headship and submission. This relationship is intimately connected to the glory of God, with the roles of husband and wife being fulfilled properly being tied to respect for the word of God (Titus 2). Can the word of God be respected within a gay marriage? Who is the head and who submits? Where does the gay couple turn in the Bible to learn how they are to act in their marriage?

    As far as women speaking in church, I don’t have definitive answers about that. Paul speaks of women praying and prophesying in 1 Cor 11, so surely he doesn’t mean they should be completely silent at all times. The best answer I can see is that their silence during times of prophecy being shared in the church is to maintain orderly worship and to maintain the headship/submission dynamic of marriage. Obviously this begs the question of then when do women get to prophesy? I don’t know. But I am satisfied with the knowing the point of the chapter is to maintain orderly worship and healthy marriages, and I wouldn’t say this means all women in church must be silent at all times.

    What do you think about that?

    Mike

  3. Mike Clabough

    Marla,

    First let me say I know you don’t know me, and all I know of you is in these blogs. We are loosely connected through Rebekah Stubakewicz, for whatever that is worth. I have great respect for you and your family, and have been marveling at the work God has done and is doing in your lives. Trust me that I don’t mean this to be a blind attack on you or picking a blog fight, but I felt I must say something, and hopefully it is more helpful than useless.

    I appreciate your passion and zeal to love people, indeed that is the core and essence of our Lord, and to rail against the religious/self-righteous morality that is so prevalent today. But I want to caution you from becoming unanchored from Scripture here. Your blog post seems to assume a couple of things:

    1. The Bible’s authority is based on the interpretation and actions of those claiming to believe in it.

    Thank God that’s not true. The Bible is divinely inspired and holds its authority from God, and its words remain true through the ages, regardless of the hypocrisy from its adherents.

    2. You are not susceptible to the same desire to avoid hard work as those people you are railing against in this post.

    You cherry picked a few verses and plugged through them without discussing context or building them out at all. Using the slavery one as an example – the context and the history of what was being addressed was nothing like the slavery we know today, and the admonition to obey your masters wasn’t an endorsement of slavery either. I think you blew through some examples like that trying to show people they don’t know what they are talking about, when actually I think you avoided the hard work of understanding as well and discredited the authority of scripture in doing so.

    I think the Bible is clear on many things, and that marriage in particular is something that is sacred and meant to reflect Gods nature and character in many ways, and specifically marriage is meant to mirror Christ’s relationship with the church, his people. Several places in scripture this is spoken of as a man and a woman, with each of their roles described. Though you are right, many things in the Bible are nuanced and take hard work to understand, but I think doing the hard work in this case will not bring you to a conclusion that gay marriage can be holy before God.

    All that being said, I appreciate your conclusion about love. Indeed we are all guilty before God for breaking his holy, good and righteous law, and every one of us is liable to judgement for it. But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, coming to earth, taking the penalty and the suffering due to us for our sin so that we might know God. Because of LOVE. This is the God we follow. At the cross, justice and mercy meet, law and love collide. And as his people we need to do the same. Without acknowledgement of sin, no one feels need for God. Without love and grace, no one sees God. Call sin what it is, but courageously love people who are in it.

    I love you guys, and I am grateful that you are boldly following God wherever he takes you. Only someone sold out for him would leave all comfort, family and stuff and go into the midst of brokenness and sin to love people to Jesus. Keep it up.

    “29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,
    30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Mark 10:29-30

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      Hi, Mike. I appreciate the way you respectfully shared your thoughts.

      1. God’s Word is inspired, yes, but he handed it down to US, and we are human, fallible beings. No two people interpret the Bible exactly the same. So, you can say God’s authority goes above and beyond our interpretation, but we still have to interpret it before we can follow it, no? And what happens when people interpret it differently? What earthly authority gets to make the final decision? (this is why we have a bajillion Christian denominations)

      2. I’m not going to claim to be above my own admonition not to shrink from hard work. But, as I mentioned in the post, I had very limited time to get this post written this morning. I HAVE done some hard work examining Scriptures and I have the journals and blog posts and written-in Bibles to prove it. And, no, my work is not done (and never will be).

      The hard work I was referring to is the comparison between sitting on the couch and condemning people we don’t even know and the hard work of being the hands and feet of Jesus and loving hurting people.

      I actually think the slavery example was a good one for several reasons. 1.) Regardless of the cultural context, white American Christians used those verses for MANY MANY years to justify having slaves. Just as Christians today use verses to justify things they want/don’t want to do.

      And 2.) You helped me make a point about cultural context by saying that those slaves and masters were different than modern day slavery. How so? How do you know that? Where are you finding this information? By studying the culture of the day? That’s wonderful. And exactly what we need to do when we’re talking about homosexuality. There are many scholars who have studied the handful of verses where it’s mentioned in the Bible and have concluded that something different than a monogamous homosexual relationship is being referred to. I have read a LOT on the topic and don’t have definitive answers yet. Even if I did, that doesn’t mean I’M right and everyone else is wrong.

      Same goes for the women not speaking in church and only being allowed to ask their husbands about spiritual matters at home. Jesus himself talked to women. If they were allowed to go right to the source himself (without going through a husband), then I feel safe saying Jesus is cool with women opening their mouths at church today. (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that topic.)

      Again, thanks for your respectful response.

      1. Mike Clabough

        Marla,

        You are absolutely right about needing to study the culture and context of the day when dealing with homosexuality. And you are right that the church blows this issue up considerably in comparison to other issues and in comparison to the need to love hurting people. It is VERY easy to sit back and talk instead of go be the hands and feet of Jesus. Amen and amen.

        Let’s say for instance that the Bible wasn’t talking about monogamous relationships. The “shameless acts” spoken of in Romans, what might those be? Even if they are being done with multiple people (outside of a monogamous, committed relationship), they are said to be “unnatural” and also destructive to the person, physically and likely spiritually as well. Can those same acts be taken and put into the context of a monogamous, committed relationship and then that relationship be considered holy? Set apart for the glory of God? Marriage certainly involves sex, becoming one flesh (Gen 2:24, Mark 10:7-9). If this isn’t part of a monogamous homosexual marriage, then it isn’t marriage (taking the man and woman components out of it) its just roommates/good friends/something else.

        And yes, there may not be many verses on homosexuality, but there are quite a few on marriage, and all of them speak of a man and woman, with distinct roles of headship and submission. This relationship is intimately connected to the glory of God, with the roles of husband and wife being fulfilled properly being tied to respect for the word of God (Titus 2). Can the word of God be respected within a gay marriage? Who is the head and who submits? Where does the gay couple turn in the Bible to learn how they are to act in their marriage?

        As far as women speaking in church, I don’t have definitive answers about that. Paul speaks of women praying and prophesying in 1 Cor 11, so surely he doesn’t mean they should be completely silent at all times. The best answer I can see is that their silence during times of prophecy being shared in the church is to maintain orderly worship and to maintain the headship/submission dynamic of marriage. Obviously this begs the question of then when do women get to prophesy? I don’t know. But I am satisfied with the knowing the point of the chapter is to maintain orderly worship and healthy marriages, and I wouldn’t say this means all women in church must be silent at all times.

        What do you think about that?

        Mike

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