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According to the pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC, people ought to affirm and assimilate homosexuals into the church because (1) Jesus focused on the marginalized, (2) Jesus placed kindness and acceptance over custom and social norms, and (3) Jesus emphasized hospitality.  (See Wilke presentation).  Bishop Wilke cited two exemplary texts:

Again and again Jesus placed kindness and acceptance over custom and social norms. “Love one another,” he commanded, “as I have loved you.” He also emphasized hospitality: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed.”

It is true that Jesus emphasized kindness and reached out to the poor and outcasts of society, but that is not a legitimate basis to affirm those who practice homosexual sex.  It is important to appreciate that at the writing of this article, it is difficult to characterize practicing homosexuals as being outside of “custom and social norms” or somehow being marginalized.   One basic reason is the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges by the Supreme Court of the United States legalizing same-sex marriage.  

Another reason is the momentum of the LGBTQ movement.  In this regard, the proposed Equality Act legislation would elevate those in the LGBTQ community to an elevated status.  One article (May 17, 2019) by Kayla Koslosky entitled “4 Things Christians Should Know about the Equality Act” (ChristianHeadlines.com) discusses the potential ramifications of The Equality Act:

According to Greg Baylor of Alliance Defending Freedom, the Equality Act is also set to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a bill that was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. This means that people will no longer be able to use religious free exercise as a defense for their actions. For example, if a church declines to allow a gay couple from holding their wedding in their church because it goes against your religious beliefs, the church could be subjected to legal action. According to Focus on the Family, if the Equality Act passes, the same will be true for other organizations as well, including, adoption agencies, wedding venues, florists, bakers and photographers.

Today, it is a stretch to argue that homosexuals are down-trodden or marginalized in the sense of the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind of Jesus’ day.  The LGBTQ community has an array of rights and privileges.   Current circumstances alone make the “Jesus focused on the marginalized in society” argument weak at best, and in all likelihood, non-existent.  Even so, let’s look at the passages apparently referenced in the above statement by the pro-LGBTQ faction.

The first statement appears to reference two passages.  The first passage is verses 34-35 contained in John 13:31–35 (ESV), which reads:

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This block of text begins with Judas (the betrayer) leaving to start the wheels turning on his betrayal of Christ.  Jesus looked past His upcoming crucifixion and to the glory that awaited Him when He was reunited with His Father.  While the command to love was not new (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:5), the love that Jesus commanded was new for two reasons: (1) it was a sacrificial kind of love modeled after Jesus self-sacrificial love, and (2) it was produced through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  See page 1612 of The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles (1997).

The second passage is verse 12 contained in John 15:9–18 (ESV), which reads:

9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

 Jesus began this segment by teaching that obedience to Him is abiding in Jesus’ love.  Obedience to Christ brings full joy.  Verse 12 again calls out to the disciples to exercise love modeled after Jesus’ love that included giving His life which is the ultimate demonstration of self-sacrificial love.  Jesus continued on to give them encouragement because they were chosen by Him to bear good fruit.  In verse 17, Jesus restates His command to love one another.

In the above texts, the ESV translates the Greek verb agapaō and the Greek noun agapē as “love.”  This love is modeled after Jesus’ (i.e., God’s) love.  It is not the kind of love that tolerates or unconditionally accepts a lifestyle disobedient to God’s Word.  As noted in John 15:10, Jesus Himself “kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” 

It is the kind of love that has the recipient’s best interests at heart.  As William Mounce says, “[A] biblical definition of love starts with God, never with us (1 John 4:9-10).”  See p. 428 of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Zondervan).   A Christian’s love toward Christ is shown by obedience to His teachings (see John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:5; 5:3; 2 John 6). 

It is important to appreciate that love can manifest itself in correction guided by love.  In this regard, Hebrews 12:5–6 (ESV) reads:

5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

In  The Complete Word Study New Testament (AMG Publishers), Zodhiates writes at page 876 about love:

… [love] is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved …

Jesus’ commandment to His disciples, i.e., inner circle, to love one another as He loved them must be read in the context of all that Jesus taught.  As discussed below, Jesus raised the bar when it comes to sexual offenses.   The love Jesus advocated does not affirm a lifestyle that runs 180º counter to biblical teachings on sexual morality.  In fact, per the plain teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:9, those engaged in a homosexual lifestyle are on the road to an eternity in hell.  To encourage somehow to go to hell is not love, but is hate.

The fact that Jesus was concerned about the poor and downtrodden, does not equate to His abolishing the moral requirements of the law.  For example, as recorded in Matthew 5:17 (ESV), Jesus said:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

This statement is clear on its face.   Notice that immediately after the above statement, Jesus presented examples of where He actually increased the requirements of the moral law including the sexual offense of adultery.  Two fundamental commands of the Ten Commandments are spelled out Exodus 20:13–14 (ESV):

13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

In reference to murder, as recorded in Matthew 5:21–22 (ESV), Jesus taught:

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Jesus upped the standard from the actual taking of a life to anger and insults. 

In reference to the act of adultery, Matthew 5:27–30 (ESV) records how Jesus raised the bar for sexual morals:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus’ teachings very clearly show that His coming did not remove the moral law of the Old Testament for the 21st Century.

The banquet-focused passage to which he refers appears to be Luke 14:12–14 (ESV), which reads:

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

As mentioned above, it is difficult to argue that in the 21st Century, members of the LGBTQ community are part of the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.  While one ought to be hospitable to those in the LGBTQ community, that does not include accepting or affirming their lifestyles.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to draw a direct correlation between homosexuals in the 21st Century pro-LGBTQ faction and those people in the above text.  

Overall, the fact that Jesus had compassion for the marginalized of society does not support the argument of the pro-LGBTQ faction. 

Please send me any comments to steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the comments feature of the blog.

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