“Listen! I, Paul tell you this! If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again! If you are trying to find favour with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourself right with God by keeping the Law, you have been cut-off from Christ. You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness that God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in Love.” Gal 5:1-6 (NLT)
Have you noticed that there is a bit of a debate raging? At last I am hearing church leaders rise up and make their voices heard above the din of mediocrity; leaders that I respect. I, by the way, am sat in the cheap seats of this debate. I sit amongst the hubbub of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of judgement. That is right isn’t it? As a Christian I am free to speak out, express my faith..and then I look into my hand and ask myself what I see. In expressing my faith, am I holding the sword of the Spirit or the blunt scalpel of circumcision, dripping with the blood of judgement?
Are we debating about freedom of conscience; the right for each church or clergy to decide whether or not they would conduct same sex marriage, free from any statutory obligation to do so? That is a right that I am truly passionate about and am happy to defend. Or are we, either inadvertently or deliberately, tiptoeing under the umbrella of respectability that senior clergy may provide in order to pronounce our own judgements and condemnation upon the sexuality of our neighbours?
I read an article today that suggested, when dealing with this issue, that we need to put a face to it..to humanise it such that instead of speaking in general terms, we recognise that as we speak we are discussing real lives, real struggles and real emotions. I was bowled over by the refreshing honesty of one Baptist minister the other week as he publicly described his own struggle as a young man whilst exploring his own sexuality, and my favourite spiritual literary companion Henri Nouwen (a gay, Catholic priest) provided arguably one of ‘the’ core texts on the Father’s heart (The Return of the Prodigal Son) that topped the 10 most read books by clergy of all denominations in the year of it’s publication, 2003. Real faces, real struggles and yet both clearly anointed.
For me, however, the only face that I want to put to the issue is that of Christ’s. I long for the day that this becomes less of a national issue and more of one for the local church. A day when each one of us expresses our faith with such love that people of all sexual orientation feel welcome on the journey of discipleship and into the open arms of Christ, knowing that nothing separates them from His love; after all there is no bar to salvation, except that of unbelief.
It is absolutely right that we engage in this debate and equally right that we feel free to come to our own place of conscience. What is far more important, however, is that as we open our mouths to speak, or pick up our pens to write we are not doing so from a place that opens us up to the swift work of the blunt scalpel of judgement….but rather releases the real face of Christ, expressed in love.