Out with the Old Testament and in with the New?

Part of this whole conversation on Gay Marriage and the position of the Religious Right is how do Christians view and interpret the Old Testament. Some point to passages in Leviticus and scream that this shows how clearly God is against homosexual acts, while others demand to know why those same protesters are not for the deaths of those who curse their parents, refusing to eat pork and shellfish, or still wear clothes made of more than one fiber. These are all laws also found in Leviticus and other OT books.

So why does the vocal Evangelical section hold onto some verses but not others? I think the better question is, why is this the only time we quote the book of Leviticus? Jesus quotes Leviticus as much as he does any other book in the Torah, so why is this the only time Christians quote a book that was obviously so important to Jesus?

This is another one of those difficult issues that I cannot do justice in a short blog post, but I will try my best to boil it down to the most basic of points.

I think it stems from two basic, simple points: 1. The majority of Christians today are not Jewish. Christians believe that with the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ the covenant with God found in the Law of Moses has, to put it simply, been retired, and we now live under the covenant of the Cross. The early Church, as recorded in Scripture, decided that those believers who were Jewish should still follow the OT law, but the Gentiles, including myself, were exempt from a vast majority of the OT laws concerning holiness and cleanliness, of which Leviticus belongs. This account is recorded in Acts 15. Paul will also continue this theology in many of his writings, the most direct that I can think of is Galatians 3-5.

Again, a great more can be written about this subject, but my intent is to keep this blog short considering the subject. This decision by the Early Church leads me to my second point. 2. As non-Jews, most Christians don’t understand the importance and context of Leviticus, or a great majority of the Old Testament for that matter.

The Law of Moses was designed for God’s people to stand out from all people surrounding them at the time. Many of the laws about food and clothing are placed so that the Israelites would live lives in contrast to those of the people around them. This includes the laws concerning sexual purity. Much of this gets lost and forgotten when an angry protester is shouting out Bible verses at people and then threatening them with Hell for them not following passages from a book that they don’t believe in.

Sadly, we only use a couple of verses out of one book when we want to tell a broken world about how broken it is. Something here, in the larger context of the story of God, seems terribly out of place. Jesus certainly held Leviticus in higher regard, and clearly studied all of the Law, yet the Church at large only uses it when we need to condemn others. Bad form, indeed.

I will not tackle my opinion of homosexuality in this blog post, but I will instead leave a short critique for boths sides of the debate. Neither side is having a conversation about the subject. They are instead like two whining children, shouting at each other and calling each other names. Neither side will find peace and acceptance until we learn to love one another and speak to people respectfully and with dignity…you know, like Jesus did.


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