I recently made a friend via the internet that I’ve been chatting with for a few weeks and this guy, who lives in Egypt, had recently been going through a tough time of trying to believe if or how God loves him as he is, being gay and all.
He seemed very focused on the Bible and those six infamous “clobber” passages, and I confessed I’m not the best at explaining the theology of all I’ve learned ever since discovering GCN. But it got me thinking back to the time I was in his place, thankfully being much farther from that now. I had to ask myself, how did I get to the place I am now? I know it was a process, but what part of scripture was the first to help me? And I remembered a certain passage, but couldn’t remember the book or verse (still working on learning the books and all that), and after a quick google search I found it.
One of the key passages that helped me was in Mark, chapter 12, verses 29-31, where a “teacher of the law” asks Jesus a pretty understandable question (though I don’t think his motivations were pure curiosity). “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus’ reply to this question was:
“The most important one … is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.”
Before I found GCN, when I was doing my own mediocre biblical theological research, I always thought this story was interesting for a couple reasons. The first was a comforting reassurance that it was okay if I was still figuring out the whole gay thing. I had a clear goal regardless of anything else. It gave me a sense of purpose and direction, knowing that my mission is to love, and that other things are “secondary.” Of course, there is more to it than that, but again I haven’t done all the research myself.
But the other thing I found interesting was that Jesus responded to the question at all, that he accepted the idea that some laws are more important than others. He didn’t just say that all the commandments are equal and that’s that — which is how some people interpret what was said in 2nd Timothy where Paul says that all of scripture is God-breathed and good for training, teaching, etc (and that’s interesting for its own reasons). But here Jesus basically said there is not so much a hierarchy of laws, but a priority list for our mission here. It opened up a new way of reading scripture because it seemed to imply that scripture could be … not scrutinized … but looked at almost objectively. Jesus, knowing all the scripture that was there at the time, was able to make this observation that “there’s lots of stuff in the Bible, it’s all important but there is a gist, there is a main focus, and that is to show love for God and our neighbors, who are his children.”
After that, I could look at scripture and ask myself the question, “is this loving?” And knowing that love is patient, kind, does no harm, etc., has helped me move forward and come to the place I am now. Knowing I feel loved and feel like I can (and hopefully am) spreading love the way I am is where the rest of my journey began.
All my (shall I say “our”?) motivations and the way we look at scripture has to be from a place where our intent is to do the most important thing we’ve been commanded, which is to love God and our neighbors.
photo credit: Walter Vargas, cc.