“Am I gay?” An American friend of mine wrote these words after walking down the street holding the hand of a young Afghan man. His was an ironic question.
I’ve watched Afghan men collect flowers, hold one another’s hands, and kiss one another’s cheeks. I’ve seen them sit thigh to thigh, arms draped around one another, and laugh. I always loved the laughter. I’ve also watched Afghan men weep.
None of these behaviors strike me as particularly masculine, at least not in my American understanding. Still, I wouldn’t question the maleness of the Afghan men I knew.
When we study different cultures, we learn about things like power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and yes, masculinity and femininity. We learn that cultural aspects are defined differently for different groups in different times.
I’ve always thought Afghanistan was much closer to 1st century Judea than America is now. The words of Scripture just seem to make so much more sense in a context where men and women are segregated, men still mind sheep and plant fields, and religious leaders hold extreme power.
The beauty of reading Scripture in such a context is that it comes alive in very different ways.
Recently, I was reading about the Last Supper. I tried to picture the scene; a group of men sitting around a low table, sharing a meal. At one point, a young man lays his head on the Master’s chest.
I pause, because this scene is not American. When was the last time any of us walked into church and saw the young associate pastor leaning his head against the chest of the senior pastor? As much as we want to be like Jesus, this behavior just doesn’t happen.
Why has this caught my attention today?
I suppose because my American culture is immersed in a conversation about sexual orientation and I’m not sure that’s what Jesus wants us, or at least me, to focus on.
Because I’m sitting in the upper room and no one’s talking about John’s sexuality.
On Sunday, I’ll return to church and the entire congregation will gather around the Lord’s table. We’ll remember that Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross of Calvary. We’ll receive the bread and the wine, knowing that we’re saved only by His grace. And really, that’s what matters, isn’t it?