Inclusivity Devotional 6 (Romans 13:8-14)

This devotional is a part of my effort to create weekly devotional readings based on the Revised Common Lectionary that look at a Biblical passage through the lens of inclusivity. It is my firm belief that the Bible points me toward an inclusive and fully affirming attitude toward LGBTQ people. Some devotions will be more explicitly about LGBTQ inclusion than others.

This is the first Sunday of Advent. For those in many Christian traditions, the time of Advent is the four weeks before Christmas. Each week of Advent is marked with a different theme. There is no standard for these themes, but the most popular is probably Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Each week Christians focus on one of these themes and light a candle in preparation of the coming of Christ.

When we think of getting ready for Christmas, we often think of decorations, shopping lists, and gatherings. Even if we move to the more spiritual realm, our images of Christmas are usually that of the baby in a manger, shepherds gathering, and wise ones traveling.

There is another element of Advent that we often ignore. Advent is not just about welcoming a baby. It is about welcoming the resurrected Christ into our lives and our world. Advent is as much about preparing for the second coming of Christ as it is about the first. I know that much talk about the second coming is wrapped in scary stories of people disappearing, famine, wars, and destruction. Most of this comes from Biblical apocalyptic literature that has a very specific cultural and historical context that is not meant to be taken literally.

Most applications of apocalypic literature that take the imagery literally, or apply it directly to current events are dangrous and irresponsible. They are nonsense stories of sci-fi fans who want to scare people into buying their books or coming to their churches. Often called “Left Behind” or “Tribulation” theology, it’s mostly nonsense. The Second Coming is about the coming of the Kingdom which will make all things right. It is what we are working toward as people of God, watching and waiting for the promises of peace, justice, and love to be fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven.

The text from Romans 13:8-14 is a reminder that to prepare for Christ, we must first wake up. “You know what time it is,” says Paul. It is time to wake up to what is going on all around. It is time to wake up from old systems of racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is time to wake up from closed-minded religion that does harm in the name of Christ. It is time to wake up to what Jesus actually taught us the first time around – love one another.

This passage tells us that our only obligation is to love each other. “Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law.” I have yet to hear a good response to this from those who want to exclude LGBTQ people from full inclusion in the church. How is loving another person a sin?

Some will point to the end of the passage, “Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not partying and getting drunk, not sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires” (Romans 13:13-14).

It is an old-fashioned tactic to paint LGBTQ people as fitting directly into this category. There are still many who falsely believe that to be gay is to be immoral, that the “gay lifestyle” is one of promiscuity, sex on demand, and debauchery. They believe that anyone who has a physical sexual relationship with one of the same gender is “giving into selfish desires.”

I agree with Paul that to follow Christ means that some behaviors are no longer acceptable. I agree that it is wrong to give into selfish desires, but there is nothing inherently sinful about falling in love with another person. There is nothing inherently sinful about expressing love through sexual contact. Sex is a natural expression of romantic love. To prohibit a person from sex with someone with whom they have an intimate, romantic, loving connection would be the true abomination. Whether or not sex is an expression of love has nothing to do with the biological parts involved. Sex that is destructive, abusive, manipulative, or coercive is wrong – regardless of the sexual orientations of those involved.

It is time to wake up. For those who wish to exclude LGBTQ people from the full participation in the life of the church, wake up to the first verse of this passage. Wake up to Paul’s reminder that all of the commandments can be summed up with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Please stop telling LGBTQ people that you love them while you reject the love they feel for another person.

If someone were to tell me that they love me, but that they think the most important, loving, life-giving relationship in my life was an abomination to God, I would not feel very loved. If you think that LGBTQ people are only interested in debauchery and licentiousness, wake up. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t indulge in your own selfish desires to keep some people from the grace of Christ.

In this season of Advent I have hope that the coming of Christ can break the hard hearts of those who cling to their fears, misconceptions, and ill-conceived interpretation of Scripture. I have hope that the light of Christ can overcome any darkness. I rejoice in Paul’s declaration that “salvation is nearer than when we first had faith.” I believe that people of faith can grow and move closer to the beloved community that includes all people. This is my Advent hope, that we may all may wake up to the darkness and put on the weapons of light.

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