In this article, Rebecca McLaughlin addresses two of the most controversial issues in our culture today: racism and homosexuality. In doing so, she brings biblical wisdom to bear on how we approach our conversations with others, emphasizing the importance of putting biblical commands and prohibitions related to both racism and homosexual behavior within the larger context of redemptive history.
A Multicultural Church
If we read the Bible carefully, we find that all of our modern cultural debates are addressed there. We can derive very meaningful and important responses to all the things that are going on around us today if we are willing to do that work. I’ll pull out just a couple of examples.
First is the questions that we grapple with today around racial equality. Christians over the last 2000 years have failed many, many times to deliver on the biblical ethic of universal human equality—particularly of racial equality and even more particularly of love across racial difference—that was fundamental to the Christian faith from the first. So, love across difference is as germane to Christianity as giving to the poor. You cannot amputate that piece out of the Christian fabric—try hard as you might.
What we often do is look at individual texts in isolation rather than looking at the big picture of the Scriptures—the big story that God is telling us.
The Bible teaches us to long for a day when people of every tribe, tongue, and nation are gathered around Jesus worshiping him together. So we have a multiracial, multicultural, multiethnic church from history past, we have it today in the global church, and we look forward to it perfectly incarnated when Jesus brings heaven and earth together.
We need to practice for that now. So Christians should be the absolute first to advocate for those of other races, to advocate for justice, and to build personal relationships of love across all sorts of difference whether its racial, cultural, socioeconomic, disability, singleness, or married-ness. No matter the difference, Christianity is a movement of love across difference.
The Big Picture of the Gospel
Secondly, as we look at questions around sex and gender and same-sex sexuality, the Bible brings us many resources. But what we often do is look at individual texts in isolation rather than looking at the big picture of the Scriptures—the big story that God is telling us.
In the Bible, we are taught that God created male and female. We have to recognize that he was starting from scratch. He could have created one kind of human that would asexually reproduce, but instead he chose to create and invest in two kinds of humans—male and female—with a theological weight for a number of reasons. He was creating this incredible metaphor to help us understand how much Jesus loves his church.
Throughout the Old Testament, we had this metaphor of God and his people as a loving faithful husband and an unfaithful wife. It’s kind of like this marriage that just keeps failing again and again. The husband keeps wanting to bring the wife back again and she keeps running away again.
Then in the New Testament, Jesus shows up and he says he is the bridegroom. And we start to see him pictured as the bridegroom and his people as his bride. Before any Christian can have any kind of conversation about marriage, gender, or sexuality, we need to see that big gospel picture.
Now I’m a woman with a history of same-sex attraction, so these questions are personal for me. If we amputate what the Bible says about the big picture of the gospel and about boundaries, the definition of marriage, and about the right context for sex, will wither and die.
But if we keep them connected to that big picture, then we circulate the lifeblood of the gospel through them and they start to become a beautiful picture of Jesus’s love for us that will one day be fully realized in the new creation. That makes any human relationship we have right now look like a doll compared to a real baby.
Saying that the Bible undermines the idea of human equality is a bit like saying that England undermines the English language.
Married or single, our hearts should never settle. But no man or woman is the person of our dreams.
It’s vital that everyday Christians are speaking into nuanced cultural issues from a biblical perspective.