Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Side A/Side B debate

As many of you know, there is a debate among gay Christians about what the Bible teaches regarding same-sex sexual relationships. "Side A" believes that God approves of same-sex sexual relationships and that living a chaste life means abstaining from sex prior to entering into same-sex marriage. "Side B" believes that God does not approve of same-sex sexual relationships and that living a chaste life means living celibate (or, in some cases, being married to an opposite-sex partner, where both partners know it is a "mixed orientation" marriage). In my writings I have sometimes referred to Side A as the "affirming" position and Side B as the "traditional" position. I just like the idea of using terms that aren't judgmental or inflammatory when engaging in this debate.

Yet even though I take the Side B position, more than half of my gay Christian friends are Side A and we get along just fine. Why is that? I first began to realize that there were Side A evangelical Christians out there when I began meeting them at gay churches and gay Christian Bible studies. I'd worship with them, discuss the Scriptures, share testmonies and prayer requests. A group of Side A Christians prayed for me and supported me during the entire controversy I went through with my old denomination. When you experience that kind of close fellowship with one another, you can't deny the presence of the Holy Spirit is among you.

I also came to understand that many Side A evangelicals have scripturally-based reasons for believing as they do. Some arguments are very sound while others I can't agree with. But I agree with them on all the important things: the central doctrines of the gospel and the saving work of Jesus Christ. I just don't agree with their understanding of what the Bible teaches about the specific issue of whether homosexual sexual relations is sinful.

So this is how I've come to think of our differences. Suppose I were asked to write out a list of sins for which I think Jesus died on the cross. This list would represent my interpretation of what Scripture teaches to be sin. I might put down a thousand things on that list, one of which would be homosexual sexual relations. Then I'd leave a large section at the bottom of the paper blank for all the sins I might have left out, perhaps out of ignorance or self-deception or whatever. A Side A Christian might do the exact same thing, except he or she excludes homosexual sexual relations from their list and instead includes the sin of thinking homosexual sexual relations is a sin. So we have both included something on our list that the other person has excluded, and excluded something that the other has included. And we both acknowledge that our own lists are probably very flawed.

Now when we both come before Jesus to ask for forgiveness of our sins, we know that he pays for everything regardless of whether we have included them on our "list" or not. We both come with humility of mind, trusting that his blood will cover not just the sins we've acknowledged but also the ones we've failed to acknowledge because of ignorance, prejudice, hardness of heart, or whatever. So in the end does it really matter if a Side A Christian and a Side B Christian don't agree with each other's "lists"?

The main thing is that we both come before Christ knowing that he can remove all our transgressions, whether we fully understand what those transgressions are or not. In Christ there are no more lists. Our lists have been wiped clean, both what was on it and what we failed to put on them. And since we both come away from the throne of grace so thoroughly cleansed and perfected in Christ's righteousness, can't we forgive each other those disagreements that the blood of Christ has ultimately made irrelevant?