In this Easter season (which continues until Pentecost), I’ve been reading and reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles. This book continues Luke’s Gospel beyond the resurrection of Jesus. Acts of the Apostles powerfully depicts the way in which the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples of Jesus to take bold action in spreading the good news of Jesus’ victory over the powers of sin and death.
As part of that bold action the early church, led by such persons as Peter and Paul, violated God’s law as they had received it in their previous faith community. They had been taught that God’s law forbids the eating of certain foods. And this condemnation had led to the conviction that Jews and Gentiles ought not to mix at all.
But Peter and Paul (among others) saw the Holy Spirit working among the Gentiles and they began to baptize Gentiles, to welcome them into the Jesus movement. This of course raised quite a controversy. Who had given them the authority to violate God’s law? And if this aspect of God’s law was violated, what was to prevent the collapse of the entirety of God’s law?
Those are good questions. And both Peter and Paul (especially Paul) went to work developing a Biblically grounded theology for the full inclusion of Gentiles into the Jesus movement.
Today’s question for Christians is just as radical as the question faced by Peter and Paul and the early church (though the biblical grounds for saying there is a law against all homosexuality and homosexual sexual intercourse is MUCH weaker than saying there is a law against eating pork or other “unclean” foods).
Christians today are asking, is the Holy Spirit working among homosexual persons and therefore are they also to be fully welcomed into the Church? Some Christians have answered “yes” to that question and have gone to work to develop a Biblically grounded theology for full inclusion of homosexuals within the church; which includes ordination and marriage for homosexuals.
President Obama in his recent statement on “gay marriage” recognized his continuing “evolution” on the question of full inclusion, not in the church, but in our society as structured by laws regulating marriage. His evolution follows in some ways the evolution of the early church on the welcoming of the Gentiles: a growing sense that God is doing something new, and the evidence is in the lives of the people previously excluded and regarded as sinners.
I am not sure what President Obama’s motivation was to change his mind. It may be pure political calculation. But whatever the motivation, he has taken a position that certainly challenges a number of Christians; in particular those Christians who regard the moral teaching condemning homosexual intercourse as divine law.
At the same time, President Obama has come to stand with those Christians who reflect the boldness depicted in Acts of the Apostles. These Christians have come to recognize the Holy Spirit working among homosexuals and thus say it is time for full inclusion in the church and in society.