On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them soon. The news of Jesus’ upcoming departure upset his disciples, and I can imagine their concern. They had had direct access to their teacher for the past few years. How could he leave them now? But Jesus promised that with his departure they would receive a new teacher, the Holy Spirit. “When the Spirit of truth comes,” Jesus reassured them, “he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
I often wish that I were one of the disciples. I think to myself, “If only I could walk up to Jesus and ask him a question.” One of the topics I want to pick his brain on is sexuality. My questions to him are not theoretical; their answers deeply impact my life. As his follower, how should I respond to the fact that I have attractions to men?
For the last few decades the debate has raged on this subject. Judgments have been passed. Battles have been fought and refought. Churches and denominations have split. Families have divided.
Jesus, in all of this, where is your Spirit that will guide us into all truth?
Discussions of sexuality often seem driven by attitudes of certainty. People on both sides are convinced of their own point of view. They speak as if their perspective is obvious: “How could a follower of Jesus believe anything else?” To be honest, it doesn’t often feel as if the Spirit is doing much guiding or leading. It’s as if people are asking, “Why do we need the Spirit when the Bible is so clear or when our instincts are so decisive about what to believe about our sexuality?”
At times I wonder if our posture of certainty in discussions of sexuality is often driven by our fears. We are often unwilling even to listen to a different point of view, as if the very act of listening will threaten our own perspective. Why would we want to understand those we disagree with?
Spirit of truth, do we not trust your guidance? Are you limited in your power to protect us from deception? Do we not believe that you can and will guide us into all truth?
Spirit of truth, do we not trust your guidance?
Are you limited in your power to protect us from deception?
Do we not believe that you can and will guide us into all truth?
Both sides seem eager to demonize the other. Words such as depraved, homophobe, unrepentant, bigot, deceived, and ignorant are tossed around. The faith of those who disagree with us is called into question because we believe that “true Christians” would agree with us. We believe that those who “really take the Bible seriously” must come to the same conclusions as we do. Is the Spirit of truth and his guidance available to all believers or just to those who share our point of view? Did Jesus mean that the Spirit of truth would guide all believers or just a select few?
I believe that God keeps his promises; therefore I believe that the Spirit of truth is here. He is ready and available, and I believe he wants to guide us. May each of us cry out to God and humbly ask him for his direction, his discernment, and his wisdom. May we let go of pride and the desire to win arguments, and may we honestly ask the Spirit to reveal his truth. May we be sensitive to his leading and direction even in places and people where we least expect it.
I don’t believe that submitting to the Spirit’s leading will bring about easy answers or a miraculous consensus. Though we may be surprised by how much we agree with those who are on the other side, the discussion will still involve wrestling with Scripture and its interpretation. We will still have to use our God-given minds and reason. We will challenge each other in our understandings of God’s truth. However, through this process our ideas will be refined and ultimately we will be refined. And, as promised, the Spirit will produce fruit. Imagine a discussion of sexuality that is marked by love, joy, gentleness, and kindness!
As we become convinced of God’s truth, we must seek to communicate that truth with gentleness and respect. May we truly believe the Spirit of God is at work in people and that in his time he will guide them into all truth. May we stop trying to be the Holy Spirit for other people and rather trust the Holy Spirit to do his work in their lives. At times he may speak through us; at times we must be patient and silent. May we realize that none of us has arrived at a perfect understanding and that we all need to continue to grow. May love be our motivator so that our words do not become like a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.
The Spirit is the great comforter, the teacher, the one who comes alongside each one of us on our journey of faith.
Spirit of Truth, come, guide us into all truth.
Shane Bauman teaches mathematics at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He is on the board of New Direction Canada and in leadership at The Living Room, the church he attends in Kitchener, Ontario.