Recently, some friends, have expressed some concerns about my posts on Facebook in response to the issue of same-sex marriage and transgenderism. They feel that my comments come across as harsh or judgmental. I want to state VERY clearly how I feel about these issues and welcome any kind of dialogue about them. From the outset, I must declare that I believe that there is objective truth, and that, that Truth is primarily revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ, who claims to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life;” and secondarily the holy Scriptures, that reveal Him and His teachings to us.
First of all, I am not the “judge” of anyone. Many quote the Scripture (Matthew 7:1), “Judge not, lest you be judged.” They infer from this passage, that no one is to make any comment about the deeds or lifestyle of another. The only problem is that this is NOT the meaning OR context of the passage. It means that no one can pass final judgment upon another, as to their eternal place, which will take place at the Judgement seat of Christ. So, I clearly affirm that I have no right, nor am I competent to consign anyone to hell, OR heaven, for that matter. Only God, who knows the hearts of all, can do that. Second, I am called to Love everyone, regardless of sex, gender, race, political affiliation, or ethnic origin, etc. The greatest definition of Love is 1st Corinthians 13. But, contrary to the opinion of some, Love does not mean that I agree with everyone’s actions or lifestyle. I am to LOVE THEM, because they have been created in the Image & Likeness of God. As a father, I love all three of my children, unconditionally. Yet, as a father, I am also concerned for their spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health. Therefore, as a loving father, if I see them engaged in actions or attitudes that are detrimental to those things, I must, out of the constraint of Love, share my concerns with them.
Concerning the Orthodox Church, in which I serve as a priest: the Church welcomes EVERYONE, without exception. The Church cannot judge the eternal fate of any soul, regardless of how they may live. However, the Church has also been tasked with proclaiming the teachings of the holy Scriptures, which are crystal clear on many issues regarding human sexuality. The Church proclaims these things, because out of the LOVE for people, it realizes that to live in a state of contrary to the teachings of the holy Scriptures is HARMFUL to them spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and even physically. The Church Loves EVERYONE, and that Love constrains it to speak the truth about sin (missing the mark) and its dire and eternal consequences. Therefore, the Church, in obedience to the holy Scriptures, calls us to a life of sexual purity, which is that actions of sexual intimacy are holy and healthy only within the framework of Christian marriage between One man and One woman. Therefore, sex outside the commitment of marriage and sex between those of the same gender, sex with another’s husband or wife, is not within the plan of God for those who want to follow Him as His disciples. Some will argue, “This is the way God created me, so what I am doing is natural to who I am.” The teachings of the holy Scriptures & holy Fathers are that these things are contrary to nature; that is, nature, as God has intended, as He originally created. All of the created order has been affected negatively by the Fall of our first parents, Adam & Eve in the Garden. Therefore, what we call “nature” is NOT nature as it was originally created, but rather a dim reflection of what our Creator originally spoke into being.
So, it will be asked, “I am in love with this person; why cannot I not be intimate with them and still be a practicing Christian?” The answer to this is that it is spiritual, psychologically, and in some cases, physically unhealthy, to engage in sexual intimacy with someone of the same sex OR outside the bonds of Christian marriage. If I choose to continue in total disregard of the commandments of God, I risk reaping the consequences of my actions. So, the holy Scriptures and the Church calls us to lives of chastity and celibacy. I know that this is considered medieval or Victorian and out of touch with modern sensibilities, but that is exactly what the Lord calls us to. I know a Christian woman whose husband up and left her after decades of marriage. For whatever reason, the husband has not chosen to divorce his wife, and the wife continues to love him and hopes that one day he may return to her. The husband is not involved with another woman but lives alone. I’ve heard people advise this woman to divorce her husband and marry someone else, but because of her committed love for him, she refuses. I’ve also heard people tell her to find a “lover,” since it was not her fault that her husband left her. But because of her commitment to Christ and desire to be obedient to His teachings, she remains celibate. Some people may think she is a fool, or misguided. Quite the opposite! Her love for her Lord and the Faith, and for her husband, is commendable. It is not an easy life. It is a life of carrying the Cross, which our Lord has called us to, but the Lord has promised to bless those who make such sacrifices. So, celibacy is not only to be practiced by people who are heterosexual, but also by those who are homosexual, or bi-sexual. Of course, in this day of “sexual freedom,” where everything around is sexualized, this is thought to be insanity. However, as Christians, this is what we are called to practice.
The Church condemns any action of violence, disrespect or shaming of those who are “gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered.” Rather, we are called to Love them as people who are dearly beloved by God, as we all are. This is the highest call to all Christians: To love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and, our neighbor; regardless of race, gender, ethnic origin or sexual preference, as ourselves. For we ALL are sinners, wounded by the sting of sin, and in need of God’s forgiveness, grace, salvation and sanctification. God loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to allow us to continue in our sinful ways, because to do so would be harmful to us.
Therefore, I am called to Love everyone, no matter what they do and who they are. At the same time, that Love also constrains me to call them to the life that Christ can give and a life of healing of all the hurts, emotional wounds and unfulfilled desires that can ONLY be healed, comforted and fulfilled in the life of grace, which available to us through Jesus Christ and His holy Orthodox Church. As I said above, I welcome respectful dialogue with anyone concerning this post.
Fr. Timothy Brant Cremeens