What is sin? Some would say sin is a violation of God’s law. They would point to the Bible, citing various lists of Do Thises and Don’t Do Thats. Some preach that it’s “missing the mark” or “falling short” of God’s desires for us. Some would say it’s mere imperfection.
It’s an interesting debate because, for Christians at least, we have the answer:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” ~ Matthew 22:37-40
Humans are a complicated bunch. In the face of a simple answer, we contrive hundreds of rules covering everything from whether we can watch television on Sunday (or Saturday) to how long our skirts must be to whether it’s okay to kiss on a first date (or second, or third, or…).
But really, it all boils down to:
Take a look at the phrase there that connects the first and second commandments: “And the second is like it.” Isn’t that interesting? When I read that, I hear that loving others is tantamount to loving God. This makes sense, since each human is made in God’s image! If we love God, we love God’s image-bearers. And don’t forget that loving yourself bit. You’re an image-bearer, too.
The story of Sodom is such a horrific one that it’s a favorite target of the anti-LGBTQ+ crowd. But what made Sodom so evil?
“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” ~ Ezekiel 16:49-50
Sodom, the people of Sodom, failed to love their neighbors, and sought to do very unloving things to the visitors we read about in the story of its destruction. The sin in that story was not the sexual desires of men for other men, it was the intent to gang rape them, and the failure to be hospitable.
If you aren’t familiar with the Side A/Side B debate within the world of queer Christians, it can be summed up thusly: Side A folks believe that same-sex romantic relationships are just as fine as different-sex romantic relationships. Side B folks believe that if a Christian is gay, they need to be celibate, that a romantic or sexual relationship would be sin. (Neither side believes a person’s sexual orientation can be changed…anyone who still believes that is lost in the wilderness of seriously bad science and theology!)
So, if we are to call same-sex relationships sin, we must be able to point to the unlovingness inherent in them. I have never met a person who could do this. Each one who has tried has resorted to circular logic: It’s failing to love God because God said no, or it’s failing to love the other person because you’re causing them to sin. No, no, if Jesus himself says the law hinges on loving God and one another, we don’t get to add requirements to that. Especially not while pointing fingers at the Pharisees.
But here’s where I do find unlovingness: Side B theology. Because there is simply no loving way to tell someone that they will never be deserving of romantic love. There is no loving way to sentence someone to a life without the kind of intimate companionship we’re made to desire*. And trust me, there is no way to do so without stabbing at the very heart of the queer person.
I know, I know, we’re supposed to debate this peaceably. The thing is, a Side A person is not going to force a Side B person into a same-sex relationship against their conscience. But Side B churches (and people) insist on forcing Side A Christians to conform or leave.
And that is not love.
*I don’t mean to exclude Ace folks, many of whom desire a close relationship on their own terms, and who ought to have it!