Biblical Truth and Real Life

Originally posted on Reconciling Ministries Network blog on February 4, 2013.

For most of my life, I have taken scripture for granted. Not only the pages and words themselves, but the cultural implications embodied in the reading and understanding of it. It’s obvious that Jesus and his group of misfit sidekicks live in a very different culture from my own, I mean, obviously, but I viewed that as an experience limited to two cultures: mine and theirs. That is, until I lived in Papua, the far eastern reaches of Indonesia, for a year, where as an outsider I could take nothing for granted.

The Christians I lived, worked, and worshipped with there brought their own cultural understanding to the gospel and helped me realize that I do the same. I can’t help it, we all do.

We’re reading the same book, translated by different people with different cultural biases and worldviews, and living it out in ways that make sense to us, which is sometimes different from one another and sometimes not. And yet none of us are “more Christian” than another (whatever that means, but it seems to be a twisted value many of us hold).

This mural is on the wall behind the pulpit at the church I attended in Abepura, Papua:

Last Supper, Abepura, Papua

Abepura, Papua

The Last Supper, depicted with disciples of different ethnicities and genders. The astute viewer may have noticed there are only eleven disciples. Where is the twelfth? It’s me. (Or in your case, you.)

I am a follower of Christ who believes in the full inclusion of LGBTQ people into the life of the church–marriage and ordination and everything. Some of the people I love the most identify as gay, and in all the time we’ve spent together I just can’t get over the idea that they are as people just like myself. Individuals who Christ gave his life for so that we could all live in freedom–together.

I am also a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination struggling to come to terms with its own identity, and the topic of ordination of LGBTQ pastors is one that is especially troubling to many people. It’s hard for me to have conversations with some of these people when our viewpoints are so adamantly opposed to one another. I’ve stopped arguing about scripture with anyone. It just doesn’t get us anywhere.

But what is the Truth, if there is one? If, as I witnessed in Papua, we can all read the same scripture differently and still be Christians, how can the ally community ever hope to make a reasonable, scripture-based argument in favor of inclusion?

This depiction of the Last Supper is, for me, a reminder to look at the gospel with new eyes; to live the hope that I find within it. It’s also a reminder that I’m invited to the table. Jesus saved a seat for me. He also saved a seat for you; for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters; for those with whom I don’t see eye-to-eye. And he really wants us to sit down at the table with him, together.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. I Corinthians 13:12-13 (The Message)

That’s a truth I feel comfortable resting on for today.

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