This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Unity is the higher priority

What does Jesus’ priority in his “high priestly prayer” (John 17:20-23) the night he was betrayed have to do with how we relate to each other over how to deal with those who say they are gay or lesbian?

In my study of the Biblical passages and their contexts dealing with homosexuality, I conclude that the historical view is the correct one. If my church decides differently, should I leave—declaring they are wrong and joining another group that believes as I do—to keep the church pure and myself uncontaminated?

Jesus’ priority concern the night he was betrayed should be instructive. Of all the issues Jesus taught his disciples during his three years with them, why did he choose the one he did? Jesus chose to pray about the crux of his mission. How could these selfish, self-centered, self-made persons, called by Jesus, be changed? How could they join others to give and receive counsel and reflect an unheard of unity?

The only explanation is an inbreak of power pointing toward God sending Jesus into the world. He prayed the same prayer for those who later would believe—for us!

Painful truth: our divisions are the major hindrance to our evangelistic work.

So, if my congregation and/or conference or denomination decides differently than I about how to respond to homosexual persons, I will not split because Jesus has called me to follow a higher priority: not to break unity.

And from church history I learn that some beliefs/practices might turn out to be called deviations are corrected or affirmed a generation or many more later, I believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and active throughout history.

Harold Bauman has served in pastoral ministry at Orrville (Ohio) Mennonite Church, as a campus pastor at Goshen (Ind.) College and as secretary for leadership Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries.

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