This chapter of Matthew, the conclusion of Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount, has weighed on my heart these past two weeks as Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA) hosted Jackie Hill Perry at their large group gathering. Matthew Vines, a former Harvard student and author of “God and the Gay Christian,” utilizes Matthew 7:15-20 in his broader Biblical defense of same-sex relationships,[i] and I’ve been praying and reflecting deeply on the determination of “fruitful” theology and other subjects of Matthew 7: judgment of others, a search for answers from God, the golden rule, condemnation, and the foundation of my faith. I randomly chose to write on this passage three weeks ago, without actually reading it, and it is only with the greatest of ironies that it is the same passage that is already at the forefront of my mind today, in a moment when I feel unable to express my thoughts or approach disagreement in love. Thank you for the challenge, almighty God, and thank you for the ironic laugh.
The Sermon on the Mount combines the seemingly impossible standards of God with His infinite grace. Verses such as Matthew 7:14 and 7:21-23 have made me question my salvation, but the Beatitudes provide me with hope. As I read Matthew 5-7, I must recognize that I am an incredibly sinful person who frequently falls short of God’s expectations. While I certainly aim to live in accordance with His will, I will still disappoint Him. I must rely on His merciful grace for my salvation, because I can never earn a place in His eternal kingdom. The Beatitudes offer hope for those, like me, who are similarly poor in spirit. I pray to be merciful, pure in heart, hungry for righteousness. I pray to be one of the blessed.
The topics in Matthew 7 emphasize our relationships to each other and to God. From verses 1-5 and 12, we can learn that we must address our own sins, refrain from judgement of others for their sins, and treat others as we would wish to be treated. As I’ve sought to support my LGBTQ+ Christian friends and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community at Harvard these past two weeks, as I’ve tried to pursue God despite the hurt I’ve been feeling, I’ve focused on the sins of others, judged them, and potentially hurt my other Christian friends and members of the HCFA community. I sincerely apologize. We must all learn how to treat each other with more love and respect and how to disagree without judgment or pain. While we will of course still sin against each other and make mistakes, we must continue to forgive.
The Sermon on the Mount, for me, underscores my reliance on God and the importance of following His will. I cannot speak to the nature of salvation, whether we are saved by faith alone or through our execution of God’s will. I cannot even adequately speak to what either of those mean, how they differ (if at all), or what they would look like here in our broken world. All I can say is that I’ve attempted to build and remodel my “house,” my life, on the Word of God and my faith in Him, which ultimately stems not from desire of salvation but the countless ways I’ve felt His presence. Through the help of our communities, prayer, and scripture, we must become as Christ-like as we can for our God.
Over the past few years, I have prayed, read the Bible, and listened to the experiences of LGBTQ+ Christians. While I clearly cannot provide the justification of my views here in such a short space, I’m more than happy to discuss privately why I affirm same-sex relationships in the Christian church. Jackie Hill Perry called affirming Christians blind, egotistical heretics, and I’ve heard the same message from many friends in the following days. Side A Christians, Christians who support same-sex relationships, do exist and should be taken seriously. I did not “conform” to our culture, as the narrative I’ve heard so frequently in Christian circles highlights Side B arguments against “homosexual sin.”
More importantly, I am not less of a Christian because of my affirming beliefs.
I acknowledge that both sides, both the Christians who supported HCFA’s event and the Christians who protested the event, have felt mistreated. That pain has only grown as we’ve engaged in conversations about our beliefs and as the College has taken action against HCFA for their relationship with Christian Union and discrimination against a student in a same-sex relationship. Both could cite Matthew 7 as part of their defense of their beliefs and actions, but we can all additionally use Matthew 7 on our path of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We must honestly confess and apologize for what has occurred in the past year, we must forgive ourselves and each other, and we must move forward with a commitment and plan to not repeat the sins of the past.
Still, as we move forward, we cannot forget what has happened. At Harvard and beyond, LGBTQ+ Christians have been excluded from Christians spaces and exposed to ideology exuding hatred. Many of us, myself included, have failed to adequately love them, and our “Christian love” now sounds empty and meaningless. We must do better. We must welcome them into our worship and our lives without judgment, without undermining their identities, and without malice, malice as determined by them, not us.
Exaltations of the “traditional” Christian view on homosexuality can be dangerous. LGBT youth are significantly more likely to contemplate suicide, attempt suicide, and require medical attention after attempting suicide than their heterosexual peers, and family acceptance has a demonstrated, negative association with suicide risk.[ii] We should engage in theological debates, we should listen to the experiences of Side A and Side B LGBTQ+ Christians, and we should pray for guidance. However, we cannot pretend the affirmation of LGBTQ+ sexual identities is just a “challenge” to our faith, a “political issue,” or something to be decided by heterosexuals. The faiths and lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ are on the line.
In Matthew 7:12, Jesus commands us to “do to others what you would have them do to you.” Jesus calls us to provide sincere, not nominal, love and support for all members of our Christian and Harvard community. Love is not judgement or condemnation. Love is considerate, love is safety, and love is kindness.
[i] Vines, Matthew. “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality transcript.” Matthew Vines, www.matthewvines.com/transcript/.
[ii] “Facts About Suicide.” The Trevor Project, www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.0001np2ug09i5ctdqaq1u02n9c2ud.
Elizabeth Hubbard ’18 is a Senior in Lowell House studying Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology.