When the living God sends new mercies, when God is ready to do a new thing, it is important that we do not stand as an obstruction because to do so separates us not only from our sisters and brothers, but it separates us from God.
In the current discussion about LGBTQIA rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular, the questions for believers are: what is God doing? What does God require of me? I am a Bible-believing Baptist. I say: God said it. I believe it. That settles it. It is my reading of the Bible that leads me to support equal rights and respect of LGBTQIA people and their loving committed relationships. I have addressed the primary biblical texts that most people quote to support their opposition to Gay rights in an essay published on-line at the African-American Lectionary: Why I Believe Homosexuality is NOT a Sin
However, the reason I support LGBTQIA rights has to do with my understanding that to love, serve and worship God through a commitment to follow Jesus means that I love with an imperative to love with a radical love. Such love requires me to be wary of traps that would have me love the tradition and its laws rather than to love God with all my heart, mind and soul and my neighbor as myself.
Since God is love, what does Divine Love require? First, it is important to understand that what I think I know about the will of God on ANY subject is limited. It is partial. The famous hymn on love in I Corinthians 13 reminds us of this limitation: “For we know in part, and we prophesy only in part; (I Cor. 13:9) Our understanding of human sexuality is partial, but our command to love is not partial. We are commanded to love maturely, completely, perfectly. This is the love that loves even enemies.
Further, if our knowledge of human sexuality is partial, surely our knowledge of God is also partial. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to be humble in what we say we can know about the will of God. Second, it is important for us to recognize that we cannot know ALL about God because God sends new mercies morning by morning and does new things that we cannot know.
The prophet Isaiah writes: “You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forward I make you hear new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, so that you could not say, “I already know them.”
LGBTQIA rights are a new thing. Openly Gay families are a new thing. Same-sex couples able to have their own children are new things made possible by scientific advances that I say are inspired by God. So what does God require? “To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Moreover, the discussion around LGBTQIA rights and same-sex marriage too often revolves around a defense of tradition. However traditions can be wrong, immoral, and oppressive. Traditions change. They must change or they will atrophy and die. In order for traditions to maintain they must change. We have to be careful that we do not make an idol of tradition. Jesus was reprimanded by the religious authorities of his day for putting the person over tradition. He reminded them that the traditions were made for humankind, not humankind for the traditions. The imperative to put the love of people above adherence to the law was the heart and soul, the sinew, skeleton, blood and breath of the ministry of Rabbi Jesus, of Jesus the Son of Man and the Son of God, of the Prophet Jesus, of Jesus the philosopher. Those of us who claim to follow him ought to do the same.
Sadly, as I read the opinions of those opposed to rights for LGBTQIA people, I am struck by the emphasis on sex. They speak about whether or not homosexual sex acts are sinful or not. I do not see an emphasis on love. Sex is an important element of erotic love, but the love is what is primary. It is the love that lasts even when sex, for one reason or another, is not possible. And both are gifts of God.
God sends new mercies morning by morning. LGBTQIA rights are such a new mercy. It is justice from a God who commands justice” to roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24) And, God is not pleased when we stand in the way of justice. (Lamentations 3: 35-36) God is not pleased when we stand in the way of a new thing that God is creating now.
*LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual and Allies.