Last Friday the WSJ.com 10 Point Question of the Day is: What does it mean that Tim Cook – the CEO of Apple – is Gay? When I was 35 I knew the answer to every question ever asked. Now that I’m 69 I know there is a lot I don’t know. I like the WSJ .com question of the day because it gives me pause to read the article a second time and decide if I have anything worthwhile to contribute. Here’s the response I sent to my Internet Friend Gabby who works on the 10 Point at the WSJ. This will never be printed or excerpted because it is far too long and this is the WSJ not the Christian Science Monitor we are talking about.
I grew up in “the south” in the forties and fifties and all my relatives and neighbors were a combination of Southern Baptist and Racist. Over the decades my 93 year old Father has matured from racist to just being prejudiced. I dare say the only thing less respected than a “Black person” during that time was a “Homosexual ” – though I had never met one. When AIDS became a news topic my culture seriously saw that as a penalty from God for their choice to disobey Biblical teaching.
I moved to Chicago in the early sixties as a racist and homophobic – quite a combination. Because I lived downtown I was forced to interact with folks of different color and sexual preference. I ate out a lot and if you can’t get comfortable with Blacks and Gays in an urban environment it makes for strange living conditions. In 1968 I was drafted for Vietnam and because many “Whites” got deferments there was a large percentage of Blacks that I trained and served with as a Combat Infantryman. Years later in the nineties, when Tony went to College Marty and I moved to Lake Point Tower in Chicago and we had many friends in the restaurant industry, some of whom were a different sexual orientation than us. We found as a group they were friendly, considerate and were not interested in changing me – so we enjoyed their friendship.
Living now in Palm Beach County – the land of the grey hairs – we don’t’ meet as many Gays but do have a few good friends – who are church going Christians – who are Gay. They too are friendly, considerate and people we enjoy being with. For the most part they keep their sexual preference quiet – not hidden but not advertised.
With one exception I consider my personal growth in the areas of showing respect and developing friendships with Gays to be comfortable and successful. It certainly is an attitude that is a long way from my days as a kid in Georgia in the forties and fifties. Therefore I can say with a certainty that as a person who owns an iMac, iPhone, iPad and three iPods it does not matter to me in the least that Mr. Cook, the CEO of Apple is Gay. In fact, it is probably an advantage for Apple because its also been my experience they my Gay friends are more creative than straights.
So what is the exception? As a Bible believing Christian it’s where the rubber meets the road of how I publicly and privately articulate my personal position as a believer on the topic of homosexuality. Thus I am taking the risk of putting my private views out in a public venue.
The good news and the easy thing to say is that my years in Chicago helps me to treat Gays socially the way I think Christ would treat them if He were walking the earth today. He would love them. He would treat them with respect. He would welcome them to come to His Church and to his home if He had one.
However, the hardest and far less popular thing to articulate is what does the Bible say about Homosexuality and what would Christ would have said to them if he met them personally.
My perception, therefore my reality, is that the Bible – both Old and New Testament – clearly and without ambiguity defines Homosexuality as falling short of God’s glorious standard – a standard that in the Bible is called Sin. That is a hard thing to put in print and it must be an awful thing for my Gay friends to read and or hear. However, it’s not the end of the story – it’s only one of the many human conditions and practices that God lists in the Bible as sin – some of which I possess and sadly practice – as do all of the people in my Church. In fact the Bible says over and over that all – 100% – of all people sin and fall short of God’s standard. What again is sin? It’s simply anything that falls short of the standard that God sets for Himself – absolute perfection. Both the Old and New Testament tell us that “in God there is no sin.”
Another perception I have is that it only takes one sin to be a sinner. When I read Romans and Corinthians I see several aspects of my life are sins – thus I am a sinner and I am thankful that Christ died for me. To state what I hope is the obvious there is no fundamental difference between sinners. Some of my sins are a result of my childhood experience – some are in my DNA – some are the result of the life experiences I have had – not all of which have been good and kind and loving. When I think of my Gay friends I don’t think of myself as being better or worse than them. I think of them as being just like me for the most part – with the one obvious difference being that somewhere along life’s way they went a different direction on sexual orientation.
One day on the Mount of Olives Jesus was teaching and the Religious Leaders brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They said to Christ the Law of Moses says we should stone her, what do you say? Jesus bent down and wrote something on the ground. Then He stood up and said – if any of you is without sin then be the first to throw a stone at her – and again He wrote something on the ground. One by one, starting with the oldest they all walked away. Christ stood and looked at the woman and said has no one condemned you? She replied no sir and Jesus said then neither do I. Go now and leave your life of sin. Wouldn’t you like to know what Christ wrote on the ground? I sure would!
The Apostle Paul – who wrote more books in the Bible than anyone else – went on to say that there is not one of us who has not sinned – not a single one and that the wages of sin is spiritual death – but the gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ! If I sin am I cast out? Is my lot in life hopeless? Does God stop loving me? Should I be ostracized from the Church?
Again St. Paul wrote that while the law is spiritual he was unspiritual and there were things about human nature that he did not fully comprehend. For example he said I do the things I know I do not want to do and I fail to do the things I know I should. Yet when I fail it is not me who fails but the sin living in me. This statement from St. Paul defines the human condition. None of us meets God’s glorious standard and in His wisdom God had Christ die to pay the penalty for every time I fall short of perfection – if I have confessed Him as my Savior. The Bible tells us that God loves each and every one of us so much that He gave His only Son to die on the cross, to enter the gates of hell and to rise again for one purpose – so that our sin may be forgiven.
As you know and can see this is a complex topic for me and perhaps you as well. The Christ I believe in is loving, merciful and forgiving – yet at the same time he and God the Father are one and He has very high standards.
Let me close with a story and two resolutions I have on this topic:
A good friend of mine told me that one day in Heaven at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb a very strict conservative Christian was seated at the table assigned him by the Lord. To his amazement he looked across the table to see his Gay neighbor sitting there. The man blurted out “how did you get into heaven?” His Gay neighbor looked at him and with love in his heart said “the same way you did – through the Pearly Gates and The Cross.”
1. I am not going to make a spiritual judgement about others for things I perceive to be sin. In Matthew 7 Christ warned his followers about judging others – for by the measure you judge others that same measure will be used to judge you. Jesus went on to say that we should be careful about picking the splinter out of someone else’s eye while ignoring the beam that is in their own eye. I believe that we should welcome all people without judgement to our Churches to hear the Good News!
2. When it comes to choosing friends, deciding whom I respect and admire and who I want to spend time with I will not look at any one single aspect of their lives. Rather I will use my discernment and draw a conclusion about the summation and balance of all the areas of their lives. As I write this my mind continually focuses on one younger lady who has been a wonderful friend and help mate to me personally through several medical procedures and a good friend to Marty. She is a Lesbian and she and her significant other are a wonderful couple and loving people who have among other things adopted a child out of an environment of great poverty and are investing into his life with their time, emotions and finances. They are better parents than many of the straight people I know.
Mercifully that’s it. You may or may not agree and that’s OK because this is a difficult area to write about and view in balance from all angles.