Yesterday’s epistle reading in the Breviary caught my attention, given all the hoopla over same-sex marriage here in the U.S.A. The specific part of the reading I have in mind is 2:1-6. This is the Breviary translation:
And you were dead, through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.
The American norm of romance and marriage is that two people fall in love, learn that they’re compatible (or, if they use eHarmony, learn that they’re compatible and then fall in love), and then get married. If it fits into their life goals they have kids. If they fall out of love, they get divorced. If they fall in love again, they get married again. Often there’s a great deal of overlap at this point.
In short, marriage is mostly an extension of our sexuality. And by “sexuality,” I have in mind a rather vague term that has something to do with defining who we are as a person, the fulfillment of our humanity, giving us meaning in life, and is without any question a fundamental and universal human right. Since all this variety of sexuality (and here I have in mind the idea of falling into and out of and into love and then acting on those impulses) is, according to our societal rhetoric, an expression of our human identity, we all (including Christians individually and the Church in general) go along with it without too much objection.
Specific congregations and Christian denominations may not be happy with this state of affairs, but in almost all cases, as long as there is some hand-wringing and confession of sin in private counseling sessions and on occasion, follow-up counseling) we are quite content to forgive all these heterosexual folks their sins and privately smile at their foibles and continue on in their church life pretty much as it was before.
In short, we are quick to forgive heterosexuals for their sexual sins without significance consequence and little consideration that it’s actually a grave sin.
But all of the above is an expression of what Eph. 2:1-6 is talking about. We live “sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas.”
I believe we Christians ought to be far more hard nosed about this stuff. There is a manner of life that is far superior to the above that God calls us to in which we bring all of our disordered desires or passions under control. We ought to confess that we are ruled by our disordered desires and that it is sin. And as the Church, we should be quick to identify such sin for what it is, quick to encourage our members to a higher life, and quick to forgive.
If Bob and Carol have disordered desires that compel them to marry merely for romantic reasons, cheat on each other, merely for romantic reasons and physical needs, that is no different than if Adam and Steve do the same thing. In turn, we should be just as quick to forgive Adam and Steve as we are Bob and Carol.
It is the height of hypocrisy to let an essentially unrepentant Bob be a deacon and Carol be an elder while at the same time disallowing Adam and Steve from participation in the church. All four of them are expressing their disordered desires and “following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious.”
It’s time to call sin what it is and to quit excusing boy on girl sin while at the same time being utterly horrified by boy on boy or girl on girl sin. Bob, Carol, Adam, Steve, me, you … we’re all in the same boat. We all live disordered lives and desperately need the church to help us sort out what is beyond our individual abilities to cope with. And when that happens we can all begin to experience God’s generous mercy.