My thanks to Tim Roth for his thoughtful letter in the April 30 edition regarding the conversation about the Christian faith stimulated by HST board policies. I commend him for taking the issue seriously and submitting his thoughts on the Bible and homosexuality/homosexual practice. I agree with him that discussion can be healthy for our community. I believe he has raised some important points, and I am grateful for this opportunity to further the discussion, albeit in this abbreviated "Letters To The Editor" context.

Beginning with his question concerning food laws in Leviticus 11, he is right to conclude that the ban in that passage would include local shellfish and shrimp, which indeed would have significant impact on local lifestyles! His question was whether HST board members strictly follow Lev. 11, or not. I cannot answer for HST, but my understanding is that the Hebrews of the early Church altered their understanding of Old Testament food laws after Peter had a vision concerning clean and unclean foods (Acts 10:9-11:18). Perhaps comparing the Leviticus text with the passage in Acts will provide at least one explanation of why interpretations and applications of some biblical texts have changed. This is good news for some Peninsula fisheries and eateries!

At issue as well in Mr. Roth's letter were the many offenses listed in 1 Corinthians 6:7 and following. The current hot button in that list has to do with homosexual practice, though other times and cultures have put extraordinary focus on other practices therein. The question Mr. Roth posed is a good one; in light of such a list of sinful offenses, which includes offenses many of us have committed, "who will inherit" God's kingdom? I am surprised that he is not satisfied with the point Paul makes just two verses later, that those who have been "sanctified" and "justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" are those who will inherit. Certainly more could be said, but put simply, I believe it is fair to say that the Bible teaches that those who believe and then strive to live "in Christ" are the ones who will inherit God's kingdom.

Another observation Mr. Roth makes is that Jesus made no direct or explicit comments on same-sex intercourse, nor did he comment on many other issues that might be important to us. Yet within the context of the four Gospels, there are many ways we might yet be guided by Jesus in our perspectives on homosexual practice. In general, the positions Jesus took on matters of sexual ethics were more demanding than those of his own culture, and this would include his approach to Old Testament law in general. For example, given Jesus' teaching on marriage in Mark 10, and the way he relates foundational Hebrew understandings from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, I think it is reasonable to conclude that he advocates a form of life-long monogamy that is exclusively heterosexual.

I will not here address the distinct differences between "koine," or "street," Greek and classical Greek. I have training in the translation, interpretation and application of Biblical languages but considering the length of this letter already, I would rather conclude on different notes.

The question of the "choices" we make concerning our behaviors is another important one. I don't remember choosing to be a juvenile delinquent, or, worst of all, encouraging and even enabling other peoples' reckless, self destructive lifestyles; it came naturally. (I do not intend comparisons to what Mr. Roth found "natural" to him.) Rather I find his observation about some things coming "naturally" as true for much of our human experience. Though what is "natural" is sometimes beneficial and right, other times it is not, and certainly not everything that comes "naturally" is in step with the alternative lifestyle proposed by Jesus. One of the extraordinary things about Jesus is that those who had been marginalized by prejudice, fear, injustice, sickness, etc., appear to have experienced genuine welcome into his fellowship while simultaneously finding the motivation, desire and ability to experience transformation in their lives. Another has put it better than me, "Jesus came not to affirm the sin of the sinner but rather to restore sinners to wholeness by leading them out of sin." My own tradition holds close the idea that "all have sinned," and so "all need restoration" and I believe we consistently underestimate both human brokenness and sin, and the restorative potential of forgiveness in Jesus.

Engaging, discussing and striving for the lifestyle Jesus advocates seems to be foundational to the Christian faith. In Jesus "mercy triumphs over judgment," yet judgment remains, which make mercy and grace all the more deeply important.

Jarrett Johnson


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