The Christian Universalist Association requires all members to pledge that they do not endorse any form of bias, hatred, or discrimination based on race, gender, gender identity, age, class, nationality, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, or any other characteristic of human diversity. Most people who want to become members have no problem with this pledge, but we have had some prospective members raise concerns with it over the years.
When such concerns arise, they are almost always about gender identity and sexual orientation. Many people have come to believe that the Bible, and in turn Christianity, denounces people who do not identify with the sex that was determined at birth; or who love someone of the same sex. We believe that this is based on an incorrect interpretation of Scripture. At least in the USA, this tends to be, more often, a political discussion rather than a theological question. For the CUA, this is entirely a mater of proper historical Scriptural interpretation. We believe that the Bible tells the story of God’s relationship with humankind through the ages, culminating in the life of Jesus Christ, through whom God’s nature was fully revealed to the world.
By reading the gospel accounts, we know that many social issues concerned Jesus. He reached out to the outcast and the downtrodden, fed the hungry, healed the sick, cared for widows and orphans, spoke out against religious legalism, and told his followers to love both God and their neighbor. In all of his teachings, he never spoke about sexual orientation or gender identity. It seems that this was not a topic that was of any particular importance to Jesus during his ministry.
On the other hand, we do see Jesus embrace people he encounters from many different backgrounds, even when those people were considered to be less than human by the culture at large. Jesus taught and healed both Jews and Gentiles, both slaves and free people, both men and women. His followers included not only those who would have been considered respectable by his society but also those who were considered to be outcasts.
Jesus not only tolerated but welcomed and affirmed a diverse group of people from all strata of society, so do we. This includes, but is not limited to, people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. While much of the Church, today, reads Scripture as condemning anything but a traditional “Adam & Eve” style of relationship, we don’t see that in Scripture, here’s why:
The Jews have always separated all The Law into two categories:
The Works of the Law: These are all the laws between mankind and God; called erga, in the Greek–which literally means “work.” Those were part of the laws that the Jews had to follow in the Old Covenant; ritual purity, ceremonial cleansing, avoiding blended fabrics, keeping kosher, etc. Violating these was never considered worthy of Spiritual death; and these Works of the Law, no longer matter. They pertained only to the Jewish believers, under the Old Covenant.
The Justices of the Law: These are all the laws between any person and another person; called dikaiomata in the Greek–which literally means “rights” or “justices.” These are the obligations between one and another, that is, between one person and another. This part of the Law never went away. Violating these laws has always been worthy of Spiritual death. These are the “Love your neighbor as yourself” portion of the Law.
When the Pharisees or the Sadducees were angry with Jesus, it was almost always because they thought Jesus had broken a Work of the Law, or some other Jewish social tradition; healing someone on the Sabbath, befriending prostitutes and tax-collectors, showing concern for women, children, and foreigners, etc. The Jewish leadership loved obeying the Works, because it made them look good in the eyes of the community. But, what Jesus constantly reminded the Pharisees and the Sadducees was that He was Fulfilling the Justice of the Law by caring for these people. That angered the Jewish leadership because they didn’t always like to obey the Justices—there was rarely anything in it for them; it was hard work for little, if any, social reward.
The entire argument that “the Bible teaches against homosexual relationships” is based on the Christian Church’s lack of understanding that there are only two types of Law; Works & Justices. The Justices that speak to sexual sin are talking about the abuse and cheating that does accompany some sexual relationships: owning boys as sex slaves which the Greeks and Romans did, sexual hazing like Sodom & Gomorrah, or bestiality like Nineveh. Cheating on a spouse is in this category too, as that’s unfair to the spouse. These have always been sinful, and remain so under the New Testament. The Works that spoke to sexual sin were talking about sex in relation to idol worship, God’s desire for the Hebrews to multiply–which only happens through heterosexual sex, and the purity teachings of the Law–which were teaching tools that humans were expected to fail.
Correctly understood, there are no other Laws: The Justices about sex teach us to treat others as we want to be treated. The Works, including those about sex, expired 2,000 years ago.