“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.” Philippians 3:10-12 AMPC
The most courageous act of the individual is to become one’s self. Kate M. Ott states that, “Many of us have been taught that particular sexual behaviors and identities alone determine morality,” (Ott, 2013, p. 19). Throughout many of our lives, a great amount of emphasis has been put on sexual engagement to the neglect of matters that are more prevalent. The guilt and shame attached to this subject are a testament to the fact that many of our loved ones and along with our religious leaders do not know how to address it any better than they are. Nadia Bolz-Weber says it perfectly when she writes, “we must stop confusing his baggage and our baggage and our pastors’ baggage and our parents’ baggage with God’s will” (Bolz-Weber, 2019, p. 43). Amen?? She goes on to refer to Augustinian theology which wreaks of his own personal issues around the topic of sexuality. This is quite common – what people struggle with the most, they often talk about, preach about, and condemn. I think that much of the church has been dominated by Augustinian sexual theology, a life-limiting theology, which creates a stifling cognitive dissonance that objectifies people into subjectified categories of who is acceptable and who is not. Beloved, you are not thrown away, no, what you are is embraced and held by the One whom you have sought after.
The Force. What is this Force and how might I hear the deepest voice resonating in my soul which drowns out the vociferous centuries-old judgments that speak to my perceived insufficiency, irreverence, and at times – eternal condemnation? How can I access the reality that “Sexuality is the constellation of sensuality, intimacy, identity, health/reproduction, and sexualization that permeates all human relationships?” (Tino, Millspaugh & Stuart, 2008). Today, we will take a deeper look than merely taking our sexuality out of the proverbial box of what people do and consider with deep reflection who we all are because we are more than the collective reactions against microaggressions which have characterized most of our lives (Kort, 2018, p. 20). We are the beloved of God.
Paul, like Jesus understood the importance of being a voice of healing and restoration, while imploring those in the margins to develop their own narrative rather than taking on the narrative of the oppressor. I believe that Jesus was keenly aware of systemic consequences for those who, for one reason or another, were not socially privileged. For people had no substantial medium of exchange based on the social culture norms, their means of qualitative survival was limited. We see this reflected in the narratives of the lepers, the man by the pool at Bethsaida, and the woman who was supposedly caught in the act of adultery.
Where there is not enough loving-kindness, tender mercies, courage and the like, enter Jesus to bring The Force in such a way that those with whom he tarried learned God was not who they said God was – in fact, the God of their understanding longed to be known by their hearts and minds in a radically different way. Jesus challenged systems of thought ~ political, religious, and social institutions. As a strong, attuned Jew, he challenged ways these were not meeting the needs of people they were in power to support.
So, what does Jesus do? He pulls on the heartstrings of a man named Paul, causes him to fall in love with the person, presence and power of God in a new way, and causes him to write about how we can transcend the trappings of culture to embrace a new way of life based on the relationship with someone who modeled into me see with God.
Philippians is written by Paul, a follower and messenger of Jesus, for the purpose of affirming their capacity to live a joyful life even when confronted by opposition, suffering, and possible death. Paul admonishes these beloved believers to be watchful for those who are partial to Moses’ law, who might seek to regain these believers’ loyalty to their way of life (Levine & Brettler, 2011, p. 359). Paul seeks to address the feelings of vulnerability they will more than likely experience as a result of these outsiders comparing their religious precepts for engaging with God against this new body of Jesus followers who were not taught they needed to be bound to the same rituals and observances.
What does this have to do with queer folk? Everything ~ Paul is reminding the Philippians that regardless of what they may be told, they are worthy. Their personal relationship with Jesus is more than enough. The Philippian believers, detached from the history of the Jewish people, would not even know many of the cultural and religious customs of the Jews. Knowing Jesus is about constantly redirecting our attention to how we are told Jesus interacted with God. Jesus would often go away from everyone, including his disciples to spend intimate time with God. Jesus was attuned with who he was and made such a radical difference in the world because he valued his inner life and used the energy he derived from his intimacy with God to do what was his to do…
Knowing him means our focus becomes Jesus and not our neighbor or my enemy. Knowing him opens the door to pivotal moments that change the trajectory of your entire life. This is the resurrection power Paul speaks of ~ the ability to make dead places in us come to life again with suffering NOT having the final word. In Jesus we have the quintessential lover, comforter and friend. Experiencing his presence is the reminder that not only are we not alone, but that in the pressing into him, the very life Source he was and is imbued with is always available to us! This is not something our bodies can manufacture. This is the result of pursuing the one who has already pursued me with his loving-kindness and tender mercies.
Bolz-Weber, N. (2019). Shameless: A sexual reformation (pp. 31 – 47). New York, NY: Convergent.
Kort, J. (2018). LGBTQ clients in therapy: Clinical issues and treatment strategies. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company
Levine, A-J. and Brettler, M. Z. (2011). The Jewish annotated New Testament. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press
Ott, K. (2013). Sex + faith: Talking with your child from birth to adolescence (pp. 1 -24). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox
Star Wars Australia and New Zealand. (2018, February 22). Star Wars | Luke Explains The Force (video link above)
Tino, M.J., Millspaugh, S. G., Stuart, L.A. (2008). Our whole lives: Sexuality education for young adults, Ages 18-35 (p. 8). Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.