Sermon in a nutshell: Love is treasured (Leviticus 18:24-30)
Love should produce community.
Love is treasured in the Bible because love produces community. However, some forms of love do not produce a community but destroy it. Leviticus chapter 18 has a list of the forms of love that destroy a community. For example, it forbids a sexual relationship between parents and children. Some people say that “consensual adult sex” is fine in all cases. But still in many cultures, sex between an adult child and adult parent is not allowed legally or culturally. Many people think that it is against “nature” and destroys the basic unit of the community.
It is not about reproduction. It is about building a community of love.
Some say that sexual unions that cannot produce children are an abomination in the Bible. However, an adult child and adult parent can produce children. It is not about reproduction. The list of forbidden relationships from v. 6-18 has nothing to do with reproduction. They can biologically produce children in any of the relationships. Father-in-law, daughter-in-law, neighbor’s wife, and other relationships are cultural/sociological/religious boundaries and are not biologically impossible. They are forbidden because they can be stumbling blocks to building a community of love based on the kinship networks.
Community building is possible by love not by power or control.
Some people wanted to build their community by power or control. Some had sex with animals that represented gods or goddesses. Ritualistic sex was one form of their prayer to control the outcome of their annual harvest. The Bible forbids sex with animals in general but also in this specific context (Leviticus 18:23). We need faith that our material abundance depends on God, not on ritualistic control.
Some people wanted to build their kingdom by power. Some conquered other countries and put the leaders of the other country in a female position and had sex with them to insult them. That was one form of permanent mark on the generals of the enemy army not to rebel against them again. Homosexual practice is forbidden in general but this was one of the reasons why the Bible forbade it. In this context, same-sex among women was not mentioned here. Do not use oppressive power to control other nations (Leviticus 18:22). It would not be a community of love.
Some people even sacrificed their own child to the god, Molech (Leviticus 18:21), an Ammonite god. The Bible explicitly opposed the child sacrifice practice in the narrative of Abraham (Genesis 22:12).
When we worship God, we will prosper. When we depend on our own wisdom, we will perish.
The Bible tells us that when we try to control the outcome of our harvest using ritualistic control or military power we will be “vomited” out of the land. The peoples in the land of Canaan were expelled and conquered because they tried to overpower others with military force and cultural influence.
The community of love that God saw with the Israelites is the society where everybody is loved and respected. There, everybody is free to choose his or her own partner. People do not destroy the basic connection structure, kinship community in that society.
Sometimes I do not agree with my father but I do not change what my father says.
When I grew up, I had big arguments with my father on many issues. I was more liberal and my father was more conservative (Now that is what my son says to me!). We disagreed about many issues including abortion, divorce, the death penalty, homosexuality, the Israel-Palestine relationship, and other political issues. However, I never changed what my father said. We may disagree with our heavenly Father but we should not change the words in the Bible. We need to acknowledge what the Bible says: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (UMC Social Principle Sec. 163 article F).
When I had big arguments with my father, we were still living together in the same house. (My father knew that I was still growing and changing my opinions in the course of my life and I knew that my father was getting older and did not want to change anything.) That is what we do also: “We will seek to live together in a Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons“(UMC Social Principle, ibid).
Building a community of love takes humility.
We acknowledge that homosexual practice is an “abomination” to God. What else is an “abomination” (to’ebah) to God in the Bible? I can name a few:
Murder (Jeremiah 7:9), Swearing falsity (Ezekiel 22:9), Habitual lying (Proverbs 6:16), Oppressing or not aiding the poor, aliens, widows, and orphans (Ezekiel 16:47-52; 18:7, 12, 16; 22:7, 29), a “false balance” used to cheat the poor (Proverbs 11:1)…
The list is long. If you use a Concordance you can have the exhaustive list of “abominations.” It is not just homosexual practice. If we do not help the poor, it is the same “abomination” as homosexual practice to God! Knowing that we all fall short of God’s standard, we need to accept all people as sinners who need God’s Grace. I may not practice one particular abomination but I have practiced many other abominations. Just as I am saved by God’s Grace, others will live by God’s Grace.
Father, you are right! Have mercy on me!
Now we know what God wants and says. We also know what we have done and not done. We sincerely try to live up to God’s standard and when we fail we ask forgiveness. But we do not want to say that God is wrong. We simply appreciate and accept God’s Grace and Forgiveness. Lord, have mercy on me!
- What are the things that you have done that God hates?
- How and when did you feel that you were forgiven?