This is the seventh installment in a series of reflections on LGBTQ+ matters.
One facet of the conversation about welcoming persons described as LGBTQ into congregations is the matter of sin. Concisely stated, some think that a sexually active same-sex lifestyle is sin; and others do not. For those who think it is sin, even within long-term, committed relationships, a failure to be repentant is a further moral shortcoming that disqualifies one from complete acceptance and participation in the total life of the church.
Much has been said by sincere, thoughtful people in defense of both ways of viewing same-sex behavior. Strong arguments for both positions are not likely at this point in the conversation to be persuasive. A middle way needs to be found that allows people of integrity to live with the position of the other.
Perhaps a way can be found by thinking deeply about sin. Here are some key thoughts that may help us live with what we perceive to be the sinfulness of the other, and to live with ourselves despite our own sinfulness.
First, sin corrupts our best human capacities—kindness, generosity, patience—and instead the perceived flaws of others become targets of attack, and those persons become the objects of our defection or neglect. As Neal Plantinga points out in his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to be - A Breviary of Sin, “When we put others on a tight moral budget while making plenty of allowances for ourselves…we exhibit a corruption of emotion, intention, speech and disposition. By such abuse of our highest powers, we who are fearfully and wonderfully made, we creatures of special dignity and responsibility, evoke not only grief and consternation but also blame.” (p.3)
Sin can be thought of as that which corrupts and disrupts what is good. Long-term, monogamous same-sex relationships can display the beauty of commitment and mutual support that Christians have long seen as the intent for heterosexual marriage. Rather than corrupting the good, same-sex unions can be as much a force for good in our fractured world as successful traditional marriages.
To speak of sin without grace is to ignore the magnanimity of God; but it is also a distortion to speak of grace without sin. The truth of God’s grace is cheapened by trivializing sin just as making sin central reduces grace to a place of lesser importance than the offense that necessitates it. Since none of us are without sin, it may be better—a third way—to concentrate on one’s own penitence and need for grace, and to be less insistent and impatient about another’s.
From time to time a member of All One Body will post to this blog. We will also have guest commentary. Stay tuned!