In a recent FaceBook discussion a friend pointed out that declaring homosexuality to be sinful, for those involved is like being shown that your own marriage is sinful and you must get a divorce. How would you feel? I think this is a great point to dwell on. These people have entered into relationship according to “If it feels good and it’s hurting no one, it’s good – go for it”. They have developed a loving relationship and now those fringe voices keep popping up preaching that their love is a forbidden one, for which they shall be dammed.
This reminds me of an incident in the book of Ezra. Israel had been in Exile for 70 years because they had abandoned God. They had returned and rebuilt their temple, yet the initial steps leading them towards a second prophesied exile were already happening – some of their people had married foreign wives – contrary to their treaty with God. God had forbidden this because foreign wives worship foreign Gods and teach their children to do the same. This dilutes God’s chosen people, distracting them from being the light to the world around them. The verdict was that these men must send away their foreign wives and their children. There were bitter tears in the land when they became aware of how they had again violated their treaty with God. This could have led to a second exile. Some had knowingly given in to their desires. For the others: “ignorance is no excuse from the law”. https://www.bible.com/en-GB/bible/70/ezra.10.gw
This is one of the most difficult situations to understand in the Bible – and is rightfully claimed by those wishing to debunk a loving God, saying “Why would an all-loving God demand this of his people?”
That’s where we get it wrong. God is not all-loving. He absolutely detests sin. He always has and he always will. God is merciful, yet he demanded that certain enemies be killed without mercy. Death was the punishment for murder, effective after Cain killed Abel. King Saul mercifully spared King Agag and his wife contrary to God’s order to completely wipe out his people and animals. A few hundred years later It was an Agagite who plotted to wipe out the Jews as remembered in the festival of Purim.
God loves us (his children) so much that he hates anything that separates us from him.
Jesus said that the most important command is to love God, then to love those around you. If we love anyone or anything more than God, it is a forbidden love (sin).
In many things, the Bible is hard to understand. Disputes about theology are why we have so many different churches. But I think God loves this diversity. When the Jews claimed their land after their exodus in Egypt, they had no King, and God made it clear that having a single ruler would lead them into trouble. Having separate churches but a common community provides mutual accountability. No single leader is beyond question. This is the church, which Jesus passionately calls his bride (technically fiancée). When a group goes off the rails, they are excluded from this community – typically excluding themselves by rejecting the community.
How is this story from Ezra applicable today? Christians are not subject to Jewish law, yet there are elements that predate Moses and are reiterated in the abbreviated law for non-Jewish believers: “If you abstain from worshiping other Gods, avoid eating blood and avoid sexual immorality, you will do well.” Sexual immorality is defined as sleeping with anyone you’re not married to, your sister, aunt, niece or another man.
Bicultural marriage is ok – Paul praises Timothy’s mother, who was Jewish, yet her husband is Greek. However, Paul teaches that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian or enter a business partnership with them because they do not share the same moral standards and could lead us from doing things God’s way. However this should not be a cause of divorce.
For those in an immoral relationship, we learn from Ezra, that this must be dissolved if one is to be included among God’s people. God has provided the means through Jesus Christ for people to be healed of their desire for the immoral, so those who continue to embrace such live in rejection of Jesus’ offering. To condone immoral behavior makes us an accomplice to sin and therefore equally guilty. This does not mean we exclude any person from our charity to a world of people who have not yet recognized God.
Church leaders who fall into immorality or abuse their authority are removed from their positions, yet offered counselling and community to work through their issues. The bible teaches that we must warn those among us who commit sin and if they continue, they should be excluded from the church community. Churches that have failed to maintain a holy standard have fallen from God’s blessing and destroyed themselves. We must remain vigilant in this regard.When they were rebuilding God’s temple in Ezra 4, the surrounding Samaritan peoples wanted to help as they too worshiped the same God (among others). Their help was refused, after which we saw their true colors. If they had been allowed to help, they would have claimed entitlement to bring their compromised religion and become a cause for that second prophesied exile. It is similar today with the rebuilding of the Christchurch Cathedral. Those who have not supported the church in the past wish to get their hand in to restore the old cathedral. It is important that the Anglican church does their thing, with their money – otherwise the new building will become another convention center, hosting all kinds of defilement instead of being a holy place of worship.
That second exile happened in 70AD, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and only recently have the Jews been able to return to their home land. This was all prophesied by Moses as can be confirmed from the dead sea scrolls, which predate those events. These are a primary source for modern bible translations.