Jesus: refugee and gay


According to some second-century sources Jesus was married with Mary of Magdala. We read this, for instance, in the gnostic gospel of Philip. There is hardly any reason to regard this document as containing reliable historic information. If Dan Brown had not referred to it in his Da Vinci Code, this ‘marriage’ of Jesus would not have received much attention. It is very likely that some of Jesus’ disciples were married. We know for sure that this was the case for Peter, since the Bible tells us about his mother-in-law. However, there is no reason to suppose that Jesus and Mary of Magdala were an ‘item’.

I would like to suggest, however, that Jesus was gay. This may seem a daring–and for some probably a somewhat blasphemous—idea. Yet, I believe there is good reason to say this.

My conclusion is based in Matthew 25. There we read how Jesus in the final judgment does not interrogate us about our doctrinal purity, but rather confronts us with the question how we have treated people who were in difficulties, and men and women in the margin. Jesus commends certain people because they have visited him in prison, or because they gave him a meal and provided him with a roof over his head. They respond: “Lord, you are mistaken, we did not find you in such circumstances’. But Jesus replies: ‘Yes, but in fact, you did. For you cared about those who were in trouble and I count this as if you did this for me!’ In other words: He tells us that we are to see his face in every fellow-human being in the margin of society.

This is full of actuality in a time when many thousands of refugees enter our country. We cannot deny that this causes many problems. The politicians debate various possible reactions. The responsible agencies struggle with the logistics. However, for followers of Christ the issue in, in fact, quite simple. We must see Jesus in the face of every Syrian man, woman or child who crosses our path. One day Jesus will tell us: ‘I was that Syrian refugee you helped. Thank you!’

This week, once again, I was confronted with another category of people—outside but also inside our Adventist faith community: with those who continue to face enormous challenges. I was invited as a speaker by one of the German regional organizations of the Adventist Church. I was to give two lectures about aspects of homosexuality. I realize I can hardly call myself an expert in this field, but I am prepared to share my views on this issue. Besides the thirty or so pastors, an Adventist gay man and an Adventist lesbian woman had been invited to share their life story. Several pastors also told of their pastoral experiences in working with homosexual people. All together it was a fascinating and emotional experience to participate in this Hamburg meeting. I probably learned more myself from being there than others may have learned from my presentations. I travelled home with the sense: This was not about some abstract ‘problem’, or about theology and Bible passages. This was about people—men and women who often have to go through a deep and dark valley. How can we, as a faith community, ensure that these people can find a ‘safe place’ in our faith community?

When one day (see again Matthew 25) Christ says to me: ‘I was gay, and you ignored me,’ I may respond: ‘Lord, I never met you as a gay person.’  But then Jesus will reply: ‘O yes. I was gay—and you met me in those men and women with a different sexual orientation and you ignored me.’

Over the last decade or so I have come to the conclusion that there is sufficient biblical, theological and ethical ground to  warmly welcome homosexual fellow-believers in my church, and to accord tham all the rights and privileges that I myself enjoy. This does  not mean that I have a definitive and satisfying explanation for all relevant Bible texts. My own opinion is still ‘work in progress’. But I hope that one day Jesus will say to me: ‘Thank you, that you saw me and accepted me, when I met you in that man or woman who was different. Yes, I was not only the asylum seeking whom you assisted, but I was also that gay person—and you accepted me. Thank you! Come in. You have a place in my kingdom!’


4 thoughts on “Jesus: refugee and gay

  1. A_T_T

    I understand what you’re trying to say, but I’m not convinced that God cares about gay people. I know this sounds blasphemous, but I don’t know how else to express it.

    When I look at the depth of ignorance that exists in my culture and particularly in the church, I cannot see it being overcome. There simply isn’t any way I can see that happening.
    Furthermore, on this issue, God and religion are the primary drivers of the hate and vitriol bar none…
    That is to say that God is the primary justification people in my culture would use to justify their hated, bigotry and ignorance.
    These people are so devout (some of them), that I see no way that God would upset their faithfulness to him by introducing them to new information.

    In other words I don’t think God cares about gays enough to risk losing most of his followers by insisting that they love and care for gay people. I just cannot see it.

    I feel this way also because I cannot see in the Bible any definitive statement that God understands the magnitude of suffering gay people must go through largely in his name (unfairly or not). It appears they’ve been set up. Plunged into a barely understood reality, teetering on the edge of the church’s margins and suffering alone. No place to rest their heads.
    If you were to conclude that God cares about gay people you might wonder why the Bible was so “carelessly” written when it comes to them. Hardly a mention of the phenomenon and lots of negatives for people to latch on to.

    It’s all just a mess. You can see I’m not optimistic.

  2. A_T_T

    To my mind, if God cared about gay people I would expect something like the following:

    1. A mention of it in the Bible in a positive light.
    That is to say–some story about someone who was LGBT in some way. As it stands, the Bible doesn’t even mention them in a neutral way; and maybe not at all some argue–as nothing in the Bible even acknowledges the anthropology/psychology of LGBT people. People, who through no fault of their own are not sexually attracted to the opposite sex and never were since they knew themselves (puberty and earlier).

    2. Some sort of comfort for their weary souls in the SOP writings even.
    This doesn’t exist either.

    Honestly it’s a real mess on the ground/real life.
    I try to spread knowledge in my little corner–very timidly–and it’s washed away like castles in the sand by people who command far greater respect and authority than myself. Good psychology (Because what else do I have?) is no match for misused Bible.
    Bigotry and hatred reign supreme in the garb of intense spirituality. There exists no easier way to whip people into a religious frenzy than to spread misinformation about LGBT people. This type of revival is so cheap that nobody leaves it on the shelf.

    Mind you I actually think that God is loving and caring, but the cognitive dissonance is really tough.

  3. Reinder Bruinsma

    Dear I.T.T.,
    I believe there is plenty in the Bible to give hope and peace to both gays and hetero people. The problem is not with God. The problem is with ‘us’, who are ‘normal’. Best wishes and courage. I gradually begin to understand more of what ‘different’ people have to go through.

  4. David Thiele

    Brilliant, Reinder! I’m sure you will draw some heart for this. We are quite comfortable talking about the scandal of the cross–until it becomes scandalous!

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