“What would Jesus do if he found himself in twenty-first-century America, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are experiencing greater and greater acceptance – both by the culture and by people and institutions of faith – and working for their equal protections and rights? What would Jesus think about two men or two women getting married?”1
Robinson sums up the theme of Chapter 5 in these questions. These are the questions that this section will attempt to address. We will attempt to answer the question “what would Jesus do?” later, but first let’s look at Robinson’s work.
Robinson writes “anyone who claims to know what God thinks about anything is walking on thin ice. The surer someone is about what God does or does not think, the more skeptical I become.”2 The question I pose is this – if Robinson is correct in his statement, then how can we know what God thinks about anything? How can we know that God hates sin? How can we know that God loves the sinner? The fact is that all of the Scripture, God’s Word, is a single written deposit to mankind that tells us what God thinks about everything! To say that it is “walking on thin ice” to know something is indicative of doubting God’s Word. To be fair the issue is not with the Scripture but rather the interpretation of the Scripture, hence why biblical hermeneutics are critically important!
Some people will limit Jesus’ words to the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the books that encompass Jesus’ earthly ministry, so therefore Jesus’ direct quotes are found here. But are Jesus’ words limited to the Gospels? Look at John 1:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1, 14 KJV
It is important to understand that Jesus Christ is the Word and the Word is Jesus Christ. The entirety of the Scriptures is a snapshot of Jesus Christ Himself. So to say that Jesus was only portrayed in the Gospels is simply not true. In other words, all of the Scriptures together are like a picture of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus was consistently on the side of those who were outcast by society and bore the unfair burden of disdain, discrimination, and prejudice. It is likely that he would look at modern-day lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and hold real sympathy for them and their plight. He would have understood the implications of a system set up to benefit the heterosexual majority over the homosexual minority. It is hard to imagine Jesus joining in the wholesale discrimination against LGBT people.”3
It is true that Jesus was constantly reaching out to those who were considered outcasts by the Jewish society: the lame, the blind, the demon-possessed, etc. In fact, Jesus’ ministry was an outreach to all sinners. In Matthew 9, we read:
“And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Matthew 9:10-13 KJV
Jesus was mingling with the publicans (tax collectors) and the sinners, but was criticized by the Pharisees. Why was Jesus reaching out to them? Because they were sinners – and needed Him!
Robinson brings up the issue of discrimination. He writes “it is hard to imagine Jesus joining in the wholesale discrimination against LGBT people.” Robinson does not clarify or define his term “discrimination,” but it definitely needs clarity. By discrimination, is Robinson referencing biblical Christianity denouncing homosexual conduct? Or is he referencing the hatred and anger towards the LGBT community?
When it comes to hatred and anger toward the LGBT community, Jesus Christ would never have condoned this. Consider His words in Matthew 5:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48 KJV
Never once did Jesus ever advocate hatred or anger toward anyone. The hatred and anger toward the LGBT community is anti-biblical and goes against everything Jesus preached.
If Robinson is using “discrimination” to mean biblical Christianity not condoning homosexual conduct, or denouncing it, then that is another story. How often does the topic of judging others come up when it comes to those who rebuke homosexuality? More times than I can count, this verse comes up: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). But the vast majority of people do not know the difference between correction and judgment. In today’s society, correction automatically means judgment. But is there a biblical difference?
Is it permissible for anyone to judge the salvation of another? Absolutely not, for only God knows the hearts of men. But does correction in righteousness always mean passing judgment? Is it never okay to address with someone their unrepentant sin? Consider the following:
“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” – Ezekiel 33:8-9 KJV
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” – Ephesians 5:1-11 KJV
“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” – 1 Timothy 5:20
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-4 KJV
“This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” – Titus 1:13 KJV
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” – Titus 2:15 KJV
“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” – James 5:20 KJV
The point is that a Christian “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) does not equate to discrimination. The line is crossed when correction and reproof with love becomes anger and hatred. Jesus never compromised his teaching of truth to bring unity, rather He came to bring division.
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” – Luke 12:51 KJV
“Jesus had an alternative vision of family. The religious Right has ‘family values’ as a centerpiece of its understanding of what God intends for humankind. There is very little in Scripture to back up the notion of a nuclear family, headed by a biological father and mother. Indeed, in addition to calling some of his disciples away from their families to follow him, Jesus had some startling things to say about family and for himself chose a radically different lifestyle . . . He [Jesus] spent the years of his public ministry in the close company of a ‘family of choice,’ both men and women. His closest friends were a group of twelve men with whom he spent virtually every waking minute. Jesus redefines the meaning of family for himself and for his followers. Once, when he was preaching and teaching, his biological mother and brothers attempted to talk to him:
Someone told him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And pointed to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matthew 12:47-50)
These seemingly harsh words point to a redefinition of family, based not on biology but on shared interests and values.”4
Is Robinson expecting us to believe that Jesus Christ “redefining the family” in Matthew 12 is supposed to mean, modern-day, that the family isn’t biological, but rather by choice? Isn’t this a bit of a stretch? With everything, context is key! What happened in Matthew 12? Is Jesus truly redefining the family? In a sense, yes. Jesus is not speaking of the family in this world, but the family of God’s kingdom. How did Jesus’ family get fellowship with Him? Was it through a biological relationship on this earth? Or was it through a spiritual relationship? In The New Testament: It’s Background and Message, authors Lea and Black write:
“Jesus’ family could not approach him because of the crowds surrounding him. When he received the report that his mother and brothers wanted to see him, he responded that his genuine relatives were those who did God’s will. Fellowship with God is not based on physical relationship buy on spiritual obedience.”5
To use Matthew 12 as justification for redefining the family based on, as Robinson suggests, “shared interests and values” is absurd. Matthew 12 is about the family of God’s kingdom, not the redefinition of the modern-day family. Robinson completely missed the point.
Robinson addresses Jesus’ relationship with the disciple John. He writes:
“The Gospel of John mentions one other special relationship Jesus had. To me, it is remarkable that this mention of such a relationship was left in the text. Four times, the disciple John is referred to as ‘the one whom Jesus loved.’ It is John who is depicted as reclining next to Jesus (New Revised Standard Version) and sitting on Jesus’s right in the place of honor (New English Translation) at the Last Supper. The New English Translation even says, ‘Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus’ chest’ and asked him a question (John 13:25). And then, dramatically, John is depicted at the foot of the cross with Jesus’s mother, watching Jesus suffer and die of crucifixion. From the cross, in moments before his death, Jesus speaks to John and his mother:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27)
Now, let me be clear. I am not saying that Jesus was gay or that he had a physically intimate relationship with ‘John, the Beloved Disciple,’ as he is known in Christian history. But one has to admit that this scene at the cross in which Jesus, in a last dying wish, asks his mother and this one disciple to treat each other as family, as mother and son, is a striking action. While it would be wrong to infer from this account more than is stated here, it would also be wrong to understate the power of what is going on here and to treat it as anything less. It would be wrong to extrapolate that Jesus and John had a physically intimate relationship, but it would also be wrong to deny that Jesus found a soul mate in this ‘one whom Jesus loved.’ What can we surmise from this? It is clear to me that Jesus would not be shocked by or opposed to alternative notions of family. He would not be shocked at same-gender relationships for mutual support and productive work. He would not be surprised to see two people unrelated by blood who choose to relate to each other as if they were blood kin. He would understand the concern by one man on his deathbed for the welfare of another man, since he himself exhibited that concern.”6
For someone who believes it is walking on thin ice to know what God thinks, Robinson sure seems to know what Jesus would do here. Robinson is suggesting that the disciple John was the “soul mate” of Jesus Christ. Robinson’s conclusion results in several takeaways:
- “Jesus would not be shocked by or opposed to alternative notions of family.
- [Jesus] would not be shocked at same-gender relationships for mutual support and productive work.
- [Jesus] would not be surprised to see two people unrelated by blood who choose to relate to each other as if they were blood kin.
- [Jesus] would understand the concern by one man on his deathbed for the welfare of another man, since he himself exhibited that concern.”
First of all from the text of John 19 alone, I don’t see how Robinson can pull these conclusions out of the text. Did Jesus love John? Yes, he did. John wrote much about love, such as in 1 John 4:
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us . . . And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:7-12, 16-21 KJV
But to say that Jesus Christ had a “soul mate” is extremely misleading. First, we need to define a “soul mate.” Soul mates are generally believed to be two people who were “made for each other,” most commonly in the context of an intimate sexual relationship. I understand that Robinson does not believe that Jesus and John were sexually intimate, but to even use the term “soul mate” to reference Jesus Christ with another person is borderline blasphemous.
For example, did Jesus love John? Yes. Does Jesus love me? Yes. Well if John is Jesus’ soul mate, then Jesus must love John more than me. Do you see the mess you can get into with this? Furthermore, how would John as the soul mate of Jesus fit into the concept of the Bride of Christ?
Paul wrote that he has espoused the Church, all true believers, to one husband, Jesus Christ. The Church is also portrayed as a chaste virgin:
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2 KJV
In the Book of Revelation, the marriage of the Lamb takes place where Jesus Christ is married to His bride, the Church:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” – Revelation 19:7-9 KJV
So if anyone could be considered the “soul mate” of Jesus Christ, it certainly wouldn’t be John the disciple but rather the Church. However, did Jesus have close fellowship with John? Absolutely. Do all Christians have the same close fellowship with Jesus as John had? Of course not. The issue here is not about love, but fellowship.
In reference to Robinson’s takeaways, I don’t believe Jesus would have a problem with any of these. There is nothing written in stone that says the family must be blood-related. If you’ve ever seen the TV sitcom Full House, you would know exactly what I mean. A widowed father, his brother-in-law, and best friend all helping to raise his children. Is this wrong? Of course not.
However, this is not what Robinson is referencing. What Robinson is truly claiming is that Jesus would not be opposed to two same-gender people in an intimate sexual relationship, and he takes this from how Jesus treated John. Do you see the stretch here? I vehemently disagree with Robinson’s conclusion, however there is nothing wrong with two same-gender individuals being best friends. The line is crossed when it turns intimate. Would Jesus support this? I’ll let the reader weigh the biblical evidence and decide.
Referring to Jesus’ positive treatment of women and children, Robinson writes:
“What can we surmise from this? Jesus’s attitude toward women and children is indicative of his commitment to the dispossessed and the marginalized. The second-class status of women and children was one of the inequities that Jesus railed against, not only with his words, but in his actions. It is impossible for me to believe that Jesus would not have a similar attitude toward homosexual people who have been treated as second-class citizens through no fault of their own. It seems entirely logical that Jesus would oppose systemic inequities and injustices for anyone.”7
Would Jesus support the anger and hatred commonly projected at the LGBT community? Of course not. Jesus never advocated hatred of anyone. However, Robinson touched on something that I need to address. Robinson wrote “it is impossible for me to believe that Jesus would not have a similar attitude toward homosexual people who have been treated as second-class citizens through no fault of their own.” This brings up a critical question – do homosexuals have a choice?
Let me be clear – I am not asking if homosexuals have a choice in their disposition, but rather do they have a choice in their actions? The answer is absolutely yes. Human beings make choices every day. Do homosexuals have a choice whether or not to engage in homosexual conduct? Yes they do. Just like heterosexuals have a choice whether or not to engage in fornication. It all comes down to a choice one makes. Robinson’s use of the phrase “through no fault of their own” tends to suggest that Robinson believes homosexuals have no control over their actions. Is this true? Hardly.
Robinson writes about Jesus and the law:
“Jesus was a rule breaker. It is clear that he was steeped in the laws of Judaism. It is at least arguable whether he ever meant to start a “church” or whether his real goal was the reformation of Judaism. It is impossible to be sure. But Jesus knew the teachings and commandments of his faith and generally believed in them. But he was not a slave to them either. On countless occasions, the scholars of Jewish law tried to catch him in not following every jot and tittle of what was prescribed. Jesus was pretty clever in getting out of these tight spots. But sometimes he openly defied the traditional teaching. When he was criticized for allowing his disciples to gather wheat on the Sabbath so they could eat (work was prohibited on that day), he proclaimed, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27-28). Jesus defied the same commandment by healing the sick on the Sabbath, on a number of occasions. It seems that for him, human need trumped rules and centuries of tradition. People came first. It seems clear that Jesus was not deterred by tradition and long-acknowledged religious thinking and custom. If people were in need and changing that thinking and tradition was required in order to respond to the needs of people, then so be it. This leads me to believe that Jesus would not shy away from equitable and humane treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, just because we have thought differently about them for centuries.”8
There are several points of this that I need to address:
First, Robinson is suggesting that Jesus was a “rule breaker” and that he “generally believed in” the teachings and commandments of Judaism. This is borderline blasphemous, as Jesus followed the law perfectly without error. But I will give Robinson the benefit of the doubt and suspect Robinson’s meaning here is that Jesus did not completely follow the Jewish traditional teachings as set forth by the Pharisees. I get the impression here that Robinson is suggesting that Jesus “bent the rules” of Judaism for the sake of people, such as Robinson quoting Mark 2 regarding working on the Sabbath. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The problem with Robinson’s suggestion is the issue was not with the Scripture itself (i.e. the teachings and commandments of Judaism), but rather the Pharisees own error in interpreting it. In The New Testament: It’s Background and Message, authors Lea and Black write:
“The Old Testament (see Deut. 23:25) permitted hungry people to take grain from fields belonging to others in order to satisfy their needs. The Pharisees did not accuse the disciples of stealing but of violating the Sabbath by working . . . Jesus responded to the objections of the Pharisees by giving three illustrations, each of which developed more fully than the previous one the theological implications of Sabbath activity.
- He indicated that there was a biblical precedent for the law of human need to assume greater importance than the law of ceremony. He reminded them of the time David ate the sacred shewbread (see 1 Sam. 21:1-6).
- He pointed out (Mark 2:27) that the Pharisees erred in their understanding of the Sabbath. They forgot that the Sabbath was not a means of testing human obedience to meticulous Sabbath observance but a merciful provision by God for human rest and worship.
- Jesus claimed that he was Lord of the Sabbath and that he could interpret its regulations as he saw fit. He made it clear that his Sabbath activities were not mere accidents but were the result of who he was.”9
Jesus did not “bend the rules” for the sake of the people, but rather rebuked the Pharisees who were misinterpreting the rules. Robinson writes “it seems clear that Jesus was not deterred by tradition and long-acknowledged religious thinking and custom. If people were in need and changing that thinking and tradition was required in order to respond to the needs of people, then so be it.” Again, Jesus did not change the rules but corrected the standing interpretation of those rules. It seems that Robinson is implying that because Jesus reinterpreted the long-standing Jewish tradition, then it is our place to do so today to “meet the needs of the people.” I would argue that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, certainly had the authority to correct the interpretation of Scripture, but we hardly have that authority today. All we have is the Scripture, and we do not have Jesus here with us to interpret it. We must rely on sound hermeneutics and what the text says, nothing more.
The text of Chapter 5 is a very complex web of multiple different issues, and the question “what would Jesus do?” is just a too simple of a question for a very complex situation. The best way to answer “what would Jesus do?” is to break it down into different questions:
- What would Jesus say about homosexual conduct?
- What would Jesus say about those engaging in homosexual conduct?
- What would Jesus say about those who project anger and hatred toward the LGBT community?
What would Jesus say about homosexual conduct?
Robinson’s question “what would Jesus do?” is premised by the idea that the Bible, not once, condemns intimate same-gender sexual relationships by faithful, monogamous same-gender people. In the analysis on Chapter 4, the argument was laid out against this idea. The suggestion is made that the Bible, when taken as a whole, clearly identifies homosexual conduct against God’s creation, design, and will. What would Jesus say about homosexual conduct? We have to remember that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Considering that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, and the Scripture is inspired by God, then logically speaking Jesus would be upholding His written Word. Jesus defined marriage between male and female (Matthew 19:4-6), and Jesus spoke out against fornication, sex outside of marriage (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21).
What would Jesus say about those engaging in homosexual conduct?
Jesus said “for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Jesus also said “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13b).
Jesus would want all sinners, not just those that engage in homosexual conduct, to repent. What does it mean to repent? There are various ways the word is used in Scripture, but basically it means to turn from sin and turn towards God. It means to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, to believe that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). It means to trust in the blood atonement of Christ for your sins (Ephesians 1:13). Does it mean sinners have to be perfect? Of course not. But rather than continuing in sin willingly, a sinner brings himself under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and resists the temptations of sin.
What would Jesus say about those who project anger and hatred toward the LGBT community?
Speaking the truth in love is one thing – anger and hatred is another. The tragic truth is that modern-day so-called Christians who project anger and hatred toward those that share different views are acting against the very nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never approached sinners with condemnation, but with love.
1. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 96
2. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 96
3. Robinson, God Believes in Love, pp. 99-100
4. Robinson, God Believes in Love, pp. 100-101
5. Lea, T. D., & Black, D. A., The New Testament: It’s Background and Message, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, ©2003) p.205
6. Robinson, God Believes in Love, pp. 102-103
7. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 106
8. Robinson, God Believes in Love, pp. 106-107
9. Lea & Black, The New Testament: It’s Background and Message, p.196