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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Finding Grace

I'm struggling for words for this tonight.  Yesterday, I learned that World Vision had taken a step towards Church unity and affirmation towards gay Christians who live in states where they can be legally wed and where their churches affirm their marriages. And tonight I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. It appears as if Christians turned out en-mass to protest World Vision's policy change. And World Vision caved, reversing their policy and issuing an apology.

And now I'm tired and sad and mad and frustrated. And feeling a little lonely, to be honest. And... apparently a little whiny.

I call myself a Christian because I love Jesus and I want to follow Him. I want God to break me, to show me where I fall short, to use me to love others.  I believe with all my heart that my purpose on this Earth is to be a peacemaker, a voice for the oppressed, to serve those that the rest of the world has forgotten or used or turned their backs on.  To love them with the love of Jesus.  That is the path to true joy, I know it.

But today so many of my fellow Christians threatened to pull funding, to denounce this organization, that they've changed their mind. I can't stop thinking about all of the gay people who felt some hope, a tiny twinge of affirmation, only to have it crushed. That apology that World Vision offered? It wasn't to our gay friends. It was to the people who rose up against them.

The fact is that Christians are going to argue over all the details in the Bible forever and ever. We don't agree on so many things: when was the Earth created, what roles may women serve in the Church, can you remarry if you've been divorced, baptism as an adult or sprinkled as a baby, the list goes on and on.  Intelligent, educated, God-fearing, Jesus-loving, full-of-faith believers have struggled with all these issues and have come up with different answers. I am certain that when my life is over and I get to learn what is really Truth that I will discover I was wrong about some things.

And the issue about being gay? That's another one.  The Church as a whole doesn't stand united on this.  Scholars have agonized over this as well and have come up with differing answers.  Two hundred years ago more than half the Church was faithfully studying the Bible and believing it said that God blessed slavery. We are forever trying to better understand God.

I've said this many times before... it breaks my heart that the LGBT community repeatedly hears the message that the Church hates them, that God hates them. That they aren't included, aren't acceptable.  I have tears in my eyes writing the words, y'all. I am heartbroken over the big HUGE message that Christians sent to the gay community today.  In the interest of protecting "traditional marriage," Christians just told our gay community that they aren't acceptable enough to join us in fighting poverty. That's what just happened.

I do not want to vilify those who believe in "traditional marriage."  But when did protecting that one part of the Bible become more important than not hurting the people Jesus loves and came to save? And when protecting that part of the Bible pushes people away from Jesus...  uh oh.

Sin is real. It is anything that pushes us away from God. And usually, our churches are full of people who sin regularly. Guess what? I lie sometimes, I gossip, I'm selfish. Confession: I haven't sponsored a child yet even though I really feel strongly that is something I need to do. Why? I haven't figured out how to fit it in my budget because I've been lazy. Sin on top of sin. I also eat big handfuls of chocolate chips and drink wine. Not sure if that's sin, but some may say so. Just thought maybe I should confess.

Our beautiful mega-churches here in the South are full of greedy people. We gladly invite in gluttony. If we are worried about lifestyle choices, how about all of us who continue to live in luxury and comfort while our brothers and sisters in other lands suffer and die of starvation and malnutrition? We encourage donations so we can have flat-screen tvs in our churches while our city's homeless sleep in parking garages.

I'm not trying to be harsh. I just mean that we have found ways to have grace for each other for lots of things.  And we do that because God has shown us grace and mercy first.  If you believe that same-sex marriage is a sin, why not find the same grace for it that we have found for other things? And extend that same grace to fellow Christians who have wrestled with the Bible and have come away believing that God does bless gay marriage.

Jesus said to make disciples. That means relationships. It's not my job to save anyone else, nor is it my job to dictate what moral code they follow. Now my best friends? If I see them making choices that I know is going to hurt them, you know we'll be having an intervention. We can say hard things to each other when we are in relationships with them. My best friends can tell me tough stuff because they've already proven to me that they love me. For any and all other relationships, particularly people I don't know - my job is to love you, to show you God's love.

To the friends and families of our gay community who have been hurt by this mess: I am sorry. I wish I could give you all hugs. Big ones. I'm hurt and angry and disgusted too.  There are those of us out there who do stand with you.

10 comments:

  1. Just being a little bit of an instigator....What do you mean when you say "There are those of us out there who do stand with you"? Your post is beautiful and it is written just as elegantly as all of your previous posts, but I dont think you come out and say World Vision can hire homosexuals and acknowledge their marriages (maybe I am wrong, in which case I am sorry...). Your post is a triumphant call for Christians to bring gay people into the flock, but you never say being gay is ok, only that we should love sinners and non-sinners alike. That sounds like being gay is a sin and how can you stand with someone when you are saying their very being is wrong?

    I am really instigating it up here : )... Do you accept gay people into your church and give them the same benefits as straight people? I think accepting gay people as equals would be a great way to stand with them.

    I work in places where it is literally illegal to be a homosexual. Illegal as in it is acceptable for the police to raid your house and toss you in jail for partnering with someone of the same sex. Usually laws that allow behavior like this have strong backing from local and international church groups, which makes it very, very hard for anyone who believes in equality for all to be cool with the church.

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    1. You ask some great questions. What happened with World Vision was that they changed their policy to allow employment of Christians in same-sex marriages and then a few days later changed it back. Honestly, I am more upset at (and embarrassed by) the outrage directed at World Vision for their actions by Christians. And, of course, deeply disappointed at World Vision for caving.

      And I try to write carefully. I think most people who read my blog know me personally so they know a little better where I stand. And I'm still learning and trying to figure out what the Bible says. But here you go: I do not believe it is a sin to be gay. Being gay is who you are... just like I can't choose to be straight - it's who I am. Thank you for the heads up that I need to be more clear about that. I agree with you wholeheartedly - the best way to stand with people is to stand with them as equals. That is what I mean when I say I am a Christian who stands by them. I love this blog post about that: http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/79064007802/you-love-gay-people-thats-great-prove-it

      However, I know that a lot of Christians study the Bible sincerely and come away feeling that same-sex relationships are sinful. I think that's a lot of the folks who read this blog and is the vast majority of the people who call themselves Christians. I want them to understand an important distinction: BEING gay is not a sin. Perhaps acting on it is. For example, like premarital sex. The Bible says not to have sex before married. Wanting to do it isn't the sin. I can respect that there are people who feel this way. So anything I say that references same-sex marriage as sin is directed at those folks. If you feel that same-sex relationships are the sin, fine. But let's not make it a bigger sin than the gossiping, lying, fill-in-the-blank that you do.

      In the end, I don't think the whole same-sex issue needs to be all that important to the Church (other than reaching out to those folks). I can never claim to know the heart of God but from what I know of him, I think he'd rather us love each other and work together to fight some real evil: abuse, poverty, addiction. I would love to see the Church rise up in outrage over oppression, injustice, poverty. And I do see inklings that that day is coming. That's my prayer. Jesus says they will know us by our love. I pray that LOVE is what Christians are recognized for.

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  2. Good for you, Kirstin...I am so very proud of you....and on behalf of all my wonderful friends in the gay community I also thank you. Many of them have been in long term loving partnerships that far surpass any I have been lucky enough to have....I love you, hon!!!

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  3. Thank you for that wonderful response. It means a lot to see you write this. I wish more people who are leery of the church could read this because your message is spot-on.

    Your blog kicks butt :)

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    1. It breaks my heart what a terrible job we Christians do at representing Jesus. I really don't blame people for being leery of the Church. I think it was Ghandi who said "I like your Jesus but I don't like your Christians." or something like that. Thanks for pushing me for clarity! :) Your comments are always welcome, cousin!
      I can't imagine working in some of the places you've been... how scary it must be! We have such a long way to go!

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  4. I suppose my first thing I should make clear is that I support any group/organization who refuses to support or align themselves with another group/organization that is not following God and His Word. And His Word makes it perfectly clear, in the Old and New Testament, that homosexuality is sin, even though some refuse to accept what it says.
    And, if some say taking a stand for God and His Word sends a message of hate, I’m sorry, but I still stand with what God’s Word says. We are always accused of hating when we do this. But, it has nothing to do with love or hate. It has everything to do with being obedient to God. Loving the homosexual does not mean supporting or accepting his lifestyle of sin. Rather, really loving someone would mean making them aware of their sin; praying for them; and telling them they can have a new and different life through Jesus Christ. We are certainly not helping them by not making them aware of this and giving the impression that what they are doing is okay when God declares it to be sin.
    Seeking to justify one person’s sin by saying all of us sin is a lame excuse. Each of us will be held responsible for our own deeds, good or bad, and they cannot be justified by saying someone else sinned also. Yes, all of us sin. We aren’t perfect. If we could be so, Jesus would not have come and shed His blood that we might be cleansed and forgiven. But, there is a difference in the person who honestly seeks to please God, and those who continue to willfully sin against Him.
    And you say you sin by lying, gossip, etc. When we’re aware of specific sin or sins in our life, God would have us to turn from it. We are told to put away all these things (Ephesians 4) and not give place to the devil. We should be making every effort to live as godly a life as possible – turning from those ‘sins that so easily beset us’, and asking God to help us overcome them.
    The church is made up of Christians –we are the body of Christ. In our physical body, when one member or organ is hurt or sick, it affects the entire body. The same is true of the church. When sin is allowed to creep in, the church becomes sick and it affects the whole body and we cannot function properly. 1 Corinthians 5 addresses this: “Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Purge out , therefore, the old leaven…” It is addressing discipline in the church of one who is living in sin , saying we are to put away from among ourselves that wicked person. It also addresses the company we keep or are not to keep. Just as we are told in 2nd Thessalonians3:6,14,15. We are also told in 2 Corinthians 6 to come out from among them and be separate. It doesn’t mean we’re ugly or mean to them, but we are to be separate, as the Bible says keeping the wrong kind of company corrupts good morals. Yes, I hear some saying Jesus sat or ate with sinners. Yes, these or we are the ones He came to seek and to save. Even though He did this, His purpose was to witness/teach them. They were not the ones He chose for His close friends.
    Thank God there is grace extended to us through Jesus Christ; Who died and bled that we might have forgiveness of our sin if we repent and turn to Him. The Bible says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He can change our hearts and our life and begin making us a new and different person. It’s our choice.
    Barbara (Bobbie

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    1. Bobbie, thank you for your comment. I appreciate the time you took to share how you feel. And I agree with you in lots of ways.

      You are absolutely right - we should never look at our own sin and be satisfied with it. Never. My pointing out that I lie and gossip was not meant to be taken lightly. I'm ashamed to write those things and of course I am letting Jesus work on my heart to change it. To get very personal, right now I'm very very convicted over the fact that I interrupt others while they are talking. My heart hurts over that because I know it sends a message that I think what I have to say is more important that the other person. What a horrible example of Jesus’ love! But my heart doesn't hurt over that because I'm a great person... it hurts because Jesus is showing me a way in which my life doesn't glorify Him. God puts that brokenness over our sin in our hearts and then gives the strength, the courage, the wisdom to change. If someone hasn't fallen in love with Jesus yet, I'm not worried about their behavior. Jesus didn't tell me that I had to get rid of all my sin first in order to follow him. We start to want to change the sin in our lives the more in love we fall with Jesus.

      And that’s where my frustration comes in when I watch how Christians treat people who are gay. I agree with you again that when we let sin pervade the Church, we can’t effectively serve others the way we are meant to. Jesus was the perfect example of how to deal with sin – become friends with each other. Build up relationships, be close. And sacrifice for one another, lay down our lives for each other. When someone is my close friend, they can absolutely “speak the truth in love” to me and help me see my sin. I am so thankful for the people in my life who do that. People who don’t know me well can’t “speak the truth in love” to me because there’s no relationship to stand on when their words hurt.
      Sometimes it sounds like we only have two options: love gay people OR stand on what the Bible says. Jesus showed us that he didn’t distance himself from the people he disagreed with. He valued them, loved them. We are ALL created in the image of God and are so so precious. I think there is a way to stand on Biblical principles and value people at the same time.

      I’m so glad that you want to love gay people. There is an amazing blog post written by a Christian that gives us some amazing ways to do that. I think you’ll like this: http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/79064007802/you-love-gay-people-thats-great-prove-it

      Love to you! I’ve missed seeing you!

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    2. Love to you, too. And, I do realize how difficult it sometimes seems to show love (agape) when you're taking a stand for God and His Word. But, should I err, I definitely don't want it to be against Him and what the Bible teaches. And,I do value all as I realize Jesus died for them just as He died for me. But, it's up to each person to decide for themselves if they will obey or disobey. We can't continue to walk in disobedience and expect the blessing of the church or even from God. He says He will chastise us for our disobedience. That is also shown so many times in the Old Testament in how He dealt with Israel and their disobedience.

      Here are some of His Words:

      1. James 3:4 “….do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
      2. 1st Corinthians 6 asks the question ‘what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion has light with darkness’. Then in V. 17 states “Wherefore, come out from among them and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing…”
      3. The principle is also set down in 2 Chronicles 35-37 when Jehoshaphat joined himself to an evil king and, as a result was prophesied against by Eliezer saying that God had broken his works because of this.

      In Leviticus: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination...
      And, you shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.

      Romans 1:24: Wherefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.....26: For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did exchange the natural use for that which is against nature; and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, turned in their lust toward one another, men with men working that which is unseemly......

      As for same sex marriage, that is not a marriage. The Bible defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Nowhere in it will you find if defined as between two men or two women. And, regardless of how or what the world says, calling such a marriage does not make it so. God's Word is truth and is the final word.

      I really don't understand why anyone cannot understand all of this as it is stated in very plain English.

      My prayer is that God will convict hearts and they to Him and His Word.

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  5. I would hope you also weep for the CEO of Mozilla after the scalping he received by the bigotry of the gay rights movement

    http://youngcons.com/you-are-what-you-say-we-are-bigots-matt-walsh-destroys-gay-rights-fascists/

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    1. Mike, I don't rejoice over any instance when someone shows hatred towards another. Hatred in any form brings tears to my eyes. I take no sides. Jesus took care of the "us versus them" issue by stepping out of heaven and becoming one of "us." It particularly hurts my heart when those of us who say we represent Jesus outwardly show hate towards others. As followers of Jesus, we are to be the peacemakers, the ones who return attacks with love, the ones who are broken and poured out for the sake of others. The article you posted starts with a bunch of name-calling. That just makes me sad. God calls us to treat one another better - we all ALL image-bearers, made in God's likeness. Every person I encounter is a possible brother or sister-in-Christ. When I start to view him/her as the enemy, I destroy any possibility of loving them like Jesus did. :(
      I don't mean to just point you to yet another blog post, but I think this one is truly amazing about how we are to respond to this whole issue:
      http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2014/04/02/where-i-stand

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