I saw this question posted on a forum the other day. There were a lot of answers that we orthodox Lutherans would say were way off the mark. But the fact that this question is even being asked reminds me of a banner that one of my favorite bible scholars had in his study. It read, “The error of the masses is to confuse religion with adherence to the prevailing moral code.”
The ideas a society has of what is right or wrong are constantly in flux. Slavery is okay, slavery is not okay. Women should keep silent in the presence of men, women should serve as judges and legislators. Abortion is okay, abortion is murder, abortion might or might not be murder, but it is a woman’s right alone to make that decision.
Everytime the rules of society shift, we try and reinterpret scripture to fit. Lutherans used to know with certainty that the Bible clearly teaches us that it is wrong to have women teachers over male students. When there became a shortage of men in WWI, it was decided that scripture would allow women to teach the primary grades and the lower grades of Sunday School. Then, when we had a shortage of men in WWII, a close examination of scripture revealed that it was okay for women to teach all Sunday School classes, but not Adult Bible Study.
Today we have seen more than two decades of organized and concerted effort to gain social acceptability of homosexuality. It has been hugely successful. Very soon, the U S Supreme Court will likely rule that states may not deny marriage to couples simply because they are of the same sex. At the same time, we see a great many Christian denominations making declarations accepting homosexuality as an alternate but nevertheless God pleasing lifestyle. The Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay bishop.
So what would Jesus say to a person who asked him if he approved of same sex marriage? I think it is a long stretch for anyone to claim that Jesus would answer anything but no. But at the same time, he could just as easily have asked a question in return. “Why does this concern you?” That is to ask, ‘what is in your heart and why do you ask?’
Jesus loved sinners. He surrounded himself with them. Rather than cut himself off from them, he sought them out. Jesus could easily have made the statement, “Some of my best friends are sinners.” Remember how ticked off the Pharisees were when Jesus went in to eat with the “tax collectors and sinners”? It even seems like he had a good time with them judging from how his critics reacted. (Luke 7:34)
So does that mean that we be accepting of unrepentant sinners and welcome them open arms? No more than we do other unrepentant sinners like the habitual gossip, the tax evader, those who cannot control their anger, or those couples who live together without marriage. All of us are sinners. All of us are repeat offenders. All of us have a personal struggle when it comes to walking in the path of Christ.
Remember what Jesus said when asked which is the most important commandment? “He said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is exactly like it: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
This is the policy that God has given us. These two rules are to be the measure of everything we do. All the rest is secondary.
David Brugge is a longtime member of Trinity where he serves as Elder. He is an author, teacher, and frequent contributor to Trinitymemphis.org. The opinions expressed here are solely his own and as such are not the official opinions of Trinity Lutheran Church, its staff, or the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.