Marianne Meed Ward in her essay "What Would Jesus Do?" ("In Your Faith" column, Toronto Sun - October 10, 2004), tackles, among other things, gay marriage.
She says, in part:
"But I’ve never understood the brouhaha over gay marriage. And it’s not just because I’m in favor of making it legal (what do you expect from someone who attends a United Church .....I’m thinking this is an issue where minds are made up...
Alright then. Conservative Christians are free to believe gay relationships are not God’s ideal, according to their reading of the Bible. I won’t try to persuade them otherwise. Instead, let me appeal to a favorite method of these groups and ask: What Would Jesus Do? Better, let’s look at what he did do when he was kicking around on earth. Let’s see: He ate at the home of a tax collector....
When he was asked whether to pay tax to Caesar, he said if Caesar’s name is on the coin, let him have it....
On another occasion, he let a prostitute wash his feet with expensive perfume....
In short, Jesus came not to plead for legal rights for Jews or overturn their oppressors. He came not to consort with the righteous. He came to change the hearts of sinners. If he were here today, he’d visit the gay bars. About the most preachy he’d probably get is to warn against the perils of promiscuity. And one way to cut down is to let gays and lesbians marry."
I agree with most of what Ms Meed Ward says, until that highlighted statement (my emphasis). At that point I ask, lady, where do you get the grounds for saying that?
Let’s look at the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality generally.
It’s condemned outright in the Old Testament (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22).
Jesus never comments about it specifically but upholds the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17), and in fact when it comes to lust demands a thought-life purity that lines up with the spirit of that law (Matthew 5:27-30).
Paul condemns it (Romans 1:18-32).
So, what WOULD Jesus do? What DID he do when he met people who were living in sin?
1. When he talked with the Samaritan woman - he quickly turned small talk to the subject of her inner thirst - a thirst she’d been trying to fill with relationships. He didn’t preach at her, but neither did he condone her brokenness. Instead he offered her "living water," - a relationship with God to satisfy the thirst she’d been trying to slake in other ways. (John 4:4-38)
2. When he had dinner with the taxman Zacchaeus, Jesus’ very presence convicted Z. of his dishonesty and brought him to the point of making restitution for his thievery. (Luke 19:2-10)
3. When the religious leaders brought a woman caught in an adulterous act, Jesus refused to condemn her but also refused to affirm her lifestyle, saying instead: "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11 - NIV) (bold mine).
Ms. Meed Ward is right. We do need to spend time with people - of all kinds. We do need to relate to them with the humility that is aware there is in each one of us the same DNA predisposition to sin. And we as a Christian community need to face up to the fact that for some of us that sin has expressed itself in forbidden (read ‘sinful’) heterosexual relationships (fornication and adultery), which God condemns just as strongly as homosexuality But it would be unloving and a denial of God’s power, to say it has to end there. That because the proclivity to sin is so natural and powerful, and socially accepted, it’s obviously the way things were meant to be. (That, in the realm of sexual preferences, if you’re attracted to the same sex, it’s your fate and the best you can do is avoid promiscuity. Where will that line of thinking take us? To sex with children, animals, the dead? It leads directly to those destinations- "...and who are YOU to tell me these things are wrong when I was born this way!")
Ms. Ward is right. Jesus did come to change the hearts of sinners. However, the fact that he spent time with them was not a way of saying their sin didn’t matter. Rather it was a way of showing them God’s heart - a heart that has compassion on all us sinners. A heart that knows if we are left to our devices, we’ll self-destruct. A heart that says, come to me, give your life to me, live it my way and you’ll find a satisfaction that will quench all sins’ thirsts.