As I mentioned in my last post, I want to take a stab at answering the question, would God honor a same-sex relationship? And I want to do so with the hypothesis – yes, God would (and even often does) honor same-sex relationships.
So, let’s get started. And, as the king of Wonderland advises, let’s “begin at the beginning.” But what is the beginning? Well, when it comes to piecing together an idea, this is what philosophers call the first principle. A first principle is the belief that you begin with, out of which all of your other beliefs flow. So, for instance, if I were investigating whether God is monistic or triune, I would have to begin with the first principle that God exists.
A few years back, one of my friends was about to preach a sermon that touched on a pretty controversial topic. (It had to do with Calvinism and Arminianism, and all that jazz). Shortly before the service started, I asked him if he felt ready to tackle the subject. He responded, “I figure, as long as I start with God’s sovereignty and stick with that, I should be good.” This brought an interesting question to my mind. Why? Why start with God’s sovereignty? Why not start with God’s creativity? Or His intelligence? Of all of God’s attributes, why start with sovereignty?
I think this is a very important question, because where we start on a journey will often have a big impact on where we end up. I think that when it comes to the topic of homosexuality and the Christian faith, people (in my humble opinion) often begin at the wrong place. They start with the moral superiority of Christian ethics. Or they start with what the Bible says about homosexuality, or sexuality in general. Or, most often, they will begin with God’s righteousness.
But, I think that is the wrong place to begin. Instead, I think (as I thought with my friend and how he approached his sermon) that we ought to begin with God’s love, specifically with the statement “God is love.”1
Now, I can almost hear some of you rolling your eyes. Here we go again. One more person trying to make God nicer by only focusing on His love. I once heard someone say that God is equally everything, that He is just as much wrathful as He is merciful, that He is just as much a God of war and violence as He is a God of love and peace. From what I gather, most people feel strangely compelled to believe that God has within Himself a perfect balance of all attributes and that no attribute is greater than the others.
Oddly enough, this isn’t an idea that we find in the Bible. Nowhere in Scripture are we ever told that God’s attributes are in perfect equilibrium. Rather, I would argue that the God we see revealed in Jesus2 is pretty one-sided on the whole love/hate and peace/violence thing. Moreover, my suspicion is that the notion of God’s attributes being equally distributed has been handed down to us not by Scripture or early church tradition, but by the influence of Greek philosophy.3
Which leads me back to the statement, “God is love.” I think that this statement speaks to God’s essential (or ontological) nature in a way that surpasses any other attributes we or Scripture might use to describe God. Many times throughout Scripture we are told that “God is…” gracious, merciful, great and mighty, righteous, and holy. But those are all adjectives, descriptors. You see, the statement, “God is love,” is not the same as saying, “God is loving.” Loving is an adjective. Love is a noun. It’s the difference between “I am manly” and “I am man.”4
The Bible says that God is merciful, but it never says He is mercy itself. It calls Him holy, but never holiness itself. It says God is righteous, but I have yet to find a time when it says God is righteousness. And I don’t think that this is mere semantics or splitting hairs. I think the apostle John was being intentionally pointed when he wrote that God is love. It is one thing to talk about what God is like. It is something else to talk about what God is.
So, I don’t want to belabor this point any further. But, for now, let’s begin with that as our first principle, that God is love. Now, don’t get ahead of me, people. Don’t assume you know where I’m going with this. Just sit with this for the time being.
Thanks for thinking with me!
1: 1 John 4:8, 16
2: which is the exact representation of God's nature (Heb 1:3)
3: Probably from Plato's ideas about balance among the different parts of the soul (see his Timaeus)... but that's just my guess.
4: The only other times that the Bible says "God is" a noun is when it uses symbolic language (e.g., a rock, a consuming fire, a fortress, et al.)