I am not interested in getting into a proof-texting discussion over Dick
Fischer's or other's Biblical interpretation of homosexuality. I want to
shift the focus from homosexuals themselves to how the church of Christ might
approach and relate to them. This shift will move away from the epistles and
to the gospels.
The context for this new focus was suggested to me by the splendid keynote
address of Dr. Robert Linthicum in the Monday, July 29, plenary session of
the ASA Annual Meeting in Toronto. In his presentation Dr. Linthicum
contrasted the Great Commission given in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark with
how the Gospel of Luke depicts the thrust of Jesus ministry, and therefore
our commission. Much of what I have to say about Luke comes from Linthicum's
Luke, relates to powerless and wretched people of the earth. It might be
called the People's Gospel. Mary, for instance, was a peasant maiden. Jesus
was born a homeless child. Shepherds, only one step above lepers in the
social order, according to Linthicum, came to worship the baby Jesus, as
contrasted with the wise men (kings) described in Matthew.
Jesus proclaimed his mission to the weak and unimportant people of the earth
in the familiar passage in Luke 4.
The Spirit of the lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (NRSV)
This is an extension of the tradition of Isaiah and Deuteronomy. It sounds
like a mission of mercy and healing to me.
The earthiness and concern for immediate basic needs of people is shown in
small but telling differences in two beatitudes in Luke and Matthew.
Luke says, "Blessed are you who are poor for yours in the kingdom of God."
Matthew states, "Blessed are the poor _in spirit_ for theirs is the kingdom
Luke says, "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled."
Matthew states, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst _after
righteousness_ for they shall be filled."
Matthew is spiritualized; Luke is direct and down to earth, emphasizing the
biological and economic needs of people.
Luke also gives us the story of the Good Samaritan, who responded to the
needs of the wounded man without setting prior conditions. Luke tells the
story of the prodigal son who was accepted by the father, "filled with
compassion", even before the son could confess his sins. This same gospel
gives us the story of the thief on the cross, who found entry into paradise
even after a life of thievery. All tell stories of compassion, acceptance,
The commission that comes through loud and clear in the gospel of Luke is to
preach the good news, heal, respond to the basic human needs of people. This
is the gospel of mercy, of healing.
The Great Commission, given in Matthew and Mark, is well known and rather
different. It is to preach the gospel and to make disciples. The emphasis
is on belief, baptism, obedience. Discipling seems to be the key to this
These two contrasting commissions have something to say about the Church's
approach to and relations with homosexuals, I believe. Should our approach
be that of healing, mercy, acceptance, as in the Lucan tradition? Or should
it be that of confession, believing, disciplining, as per Matthew and Mark?
The immediate objection, of course, is to point out that the two commissions
are not mutually exclusive. That's true in principle; but very difficult to
carry out in practice. As I read on the subject of homosexuality I think
that much of it falls under one commission or the other. I am drawn to the
Lucan commission myself, perhaps in part through my training in counseling
and experience in teaching, raising a family, and my experience in the church
where I am now a member. I did not perceive much healing, mercy, or concern
for the human condition in Dick Fischer's post of Aug. 11. Perhaps, however,
we have something to learn from each other, rather than staking out a hard
position and pounding the other side.
There is a wonderful book on the market that some of you may have read and
which is distantly related to this discussion. The book is _How the Irish
Saved Civilization_ by Thomas Cahill, published by Doubleday. The book gives
a quick summary of the history of the Western church, emphasizing how it
adopted many of the administrative structures and attitudes of the Roman
Empire. Rather harsh, that is. The Irish, however, were not much affected
by the Romanizing of Christianity, being so far away from the center of
power, thus their Christianity was much more indigenous-generous, humane, and
open. Although, according to Cahill, the Irish saved Western Civilization by
sending monks (along with British ones) to Europe to revitalize Christianity
with their open view of Christianity, in the end, the rigid Romanized
approach seems to have dominated. The book is a good read.
I thank all you who have posted programs of outreach to homosexuals. The
number of missions to homosexuals is daunting, especially the ones on web
site. No evangelical churches that I could tell were reported to have opened
their doors to homosexuals, with one possible exception. I have printed out
these messages and have to think about what to do with them. Anyone want to
do a survey?
One of the most perceptive but sobering comments came from a woman pastoral
counselor, whose husband reported, "One of the things she keeps telling me
is an axiom of counseling is that a person must be self-motivated to get
help, or nothing is going to change. And, like many other things there is a
lot of recidivism, even after counseling. In some cases even the leaders of
the groups have returned to their old ways."
I have gone as far as I wish to go in this discussion. So I'm bowing out.
Thanks, all, for the good and helpful conversation.
Grace and peace,