A few weeks before summer started, one of my old friends (who is still in high school) organized the annual “Human Rights Week” for our Amnesty International club. She kindly invited me to attend one of their events: a screening of Mormon filmmaker Douglas Hunter’s short film “The Constant Process,” about lesbian Episcopal priest Susan Russell. The only thing that disturbed me more than a very biased presentation’s being condoned by my old high school was the imprecise nature of her exegesis. Now the question of whether homosexuality is a sin is obviously important to many people, and I do not intend to present an argument on the matter. However, I do think I can judge how relevant a certain claim is to the subject.
In the film, to defend her position on homosexuality, Susan Russell referred to Mark 12:28-31, in which Jesus declares the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Yet I am unsure as to how loving another person somehow translates into condoning any particular behavior. After all, we are called to love murderers, adulterers, liars, and thieves; that does not mean that murder, adultery, lying, and thievery are not sins. In fact, it would seem that practicing love includes condemning these sins.
1 John 5:3 tells us that love for God is “to obey his commandments.” When we consider this in the context of loving others, it appears that we should assist each other in obeying God’s commandments. In other words, when Christians sin, other Christians should point it out and try to help correct the behavior of their brothers. Hebrews 10:24 tells us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Jesus even provides a guideline for how to go about doing so in Matthew 18:15-18.
If loving each other means helping each other obey God’s commandments, then our arguments over gay marriage and homosexuality ought to focus on God’s commandments concerning homosexuality. It is a moot point to use the commandment to love each other as justification for any position on homosexuality. In fact, many of the people who signed the Ichthus’s statement “Choose Love” believe that engaging in homosexual behavior is immoral. The argument should focus on whether or not God considers it sinful by comparing the Bible’s treatment of homosexual behavior to its treatment of universally-acknowledged sins like lying, theft, and pride.
It seems that many Christians are using the command to love God and love others as an excuse to ignore God’s commandments about all sorts of things, including homosexuality. Instead, shouldn’t we use God’s commandments to understand what it truly means to love one another? Jeremiah 17:9 warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” When we rely on our heart to tell us what love means, we may be deceived to stop accepting God’s conception of love. As C.S. Lewis warns, “Love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.”