A year or so ago, I came across the following quote: “other people’s real lives were more important than my mere beliefs.”
I copied this to my twitter feed and someone responded with a comparison to adultery and a story Philip Yancy told in a book he wrote about a person who excused his adultery with God’s grace saying, in essence, “God will forgive me.”
The story about Yancy’s friend raises a good point. Sin can hurt other people. The person who sent me the story said “sexual sins hurt so many people”.
Yes, it is obvious that some sins have the power to really hurt other people. But I’m not sure that adultery is the same as homosexuality in this sense at all.
Adultery is not a sexual sin so much as a breaking of vows, and as a result, destroying trust and confidence — causing real and lasting harm. I’m not sure how adultery can really compare to a mutually exclusive homosexual relationship.
Adultery as a sin is not even about sex. Someone could have a non-sexual relationship with a co-worker and cause jealousy in and harm to his life-long partner (for example, his wife) if it began to compete with his relationship with his partner.
Sex is definitely a powerful urge and we can easily fool ourselves into doing things that are painful to a lot of people if we are not careful with our sexual desire, but I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that God picks “sexual sin” out as a special category deserving of careful consideration.
Jesus summed up the Law and prophets with two commands: “Love the Lord … Love your neighbor”. I can see making an argument from the perspective of purity that homosexuality violates the first commandment, but I don’t think homosexuality itself violates the second. Adultery, on the other hand, definitely violates the “Love your neighbor” bit.
Still, the first commandment (and the purity argument) is ignored every day. A couple of examples are in order:
First, America has an obesity epidemic. (I’m a “victim” of this epidemic if you use BMI to measure it.) Obesity can be evidence of gluttony — a misplaced desire for food, and one of the deadliest sins — definitely a violation of the purity argument.
And, while times are changing, we still treat people who take God’s name in vain — one of the ten commandments, arguably more important than anything the Bible says about homosexuality, and another argument from purity — with more humanity than homosexuals.
This brings me to this bit from St Issac:
If zeal had been appropriate for putting humanity right, why did God the Word clothe himself in the body, using gentleness and humility in order to bring the world back to his Father?
Too often we confuse zeal for purity. Even if we are pure as the driven snow, pride — another one of the deadliest sins — can creep up on us and we’ll become zealous in our pursuit of purity and start ignoring the admonition to “Judge not”.
Don’t mistake what I’m saying as an “excuse” for sin. I’m no more excusing my friend’s sins than I am my own lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride. But just as I pray for God’s mercy and hope in it, I hope for God’s mercy for others.
It is true that there are prophets in the Bible who pointed out other people’s sin. And maybe you are like John the Baptist who zealously pointed out Herod’s sin, but I prefer to follow St. Issac here and emulate Christ’s gentler example.
Christ sat down with the woman at the well even though he knew she wasn’t pure and said “I do not condemn you” to the woman caught in the act of adultery. He said “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”
I suppose it is just a sign of my lukewarm ways that I’m more comfortable trying to be like Jesus here than John.