Let’s move to the New Testament.
We’ll start in Acts 10. Here Peter has a vision that he is supposed to eat food he thought was unclean. Then God tells him to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. Gentiles were considered unclean, sinful people to be avoided by Jews. The vision and the visit awaken Peter to his mission to reach out to the unclean people: the Gentiles. He realizes Gentiles can be Christian without following all the Jewish purity laws.
Who are considered by some to be the unclean, sinful people in our day? Homosexuals, people in the LGBTQ community. What does Peter’s vision and visit have to do with us? We are called to reach out to those who are considered unclean. They can be Christians without following heterosexual practices. God’s grace and acceptance are for all, not for the chosen few (the clean, the Jew, the heterosexual).
Later, Paul writes a letter to the church in Colossae. The Christians in that town have gotten caught up in rules that go beyond God’s intentions. It is similar to the problem some of the Pharisees had during the days of Jesus. The Colossians had rules about what they could and couldn’t eat, rules about what they could and couldn’t touch and detailed rituals and festival practices. They taught that one had to keep all of these rules to be a part of the church.
Paul told them this was wrong. He said that Christ died to set them free from rules like those. He said in 2:20-22, “You died with Christ. Now the forces of the universe don’t have any power over you. Why do you live as if you had to obey such rules as: “Don’t handle this. Don’t taste that. Don’t touch this?”… So why be bothered with the rules that humans have made up?”
Later people referred to the problem in Colossae as the Colossian heresy. It’s been a problem we’ve seen throughout the centuries. We find it in rules that some churches hold on to today such as priests who cannot marry and women who cannot be church leaders. As a youth, I was a part of a church that taught that movie theaters, billiards, alcohol, playing cards and swimming with persons of the same sex were all sinful and forbidden. I’ve read about how intermarriage between the races fits the same category. It’s the Colossian heresy still with us.
One rule that is a part of the Colossian heresy today is the rule against homosexual practice. Paul’s words to us are still helpful: “Why be bothered with the rules that humans have made up?” In the next chapter Paul goes on to tell what it should be about instead of those rules. “Love is more important than anything else.” (Col. 3:14)
The difficult question is this: How do we know what is part of the Colossian heresy and what is God’s will? How do we decide and discern God’s will for us today?
The answer is found at the heart of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ. We ask the question: What would Jesus do?
How do we know what Jesus would do? We'll look at that in the next post...