Edify

Yesterday, my wife received a “loving message” from a friend.  This message was kind in that it clearly said, “it is absolutely up to you to live the life you see fit to live”.  In essence, this person “accepted” that Deana has decided to live her life married to a woman, though the implication was that her lifestyle is a choice.  Deana, like me, knows that is not reality, but we don’t argue the point often.  But, the message didn’t end there.  The woman, “in love”, said that she would be praying for Deana as she believed Deana’s choice will ultimately lead to a premature death, which made the writer of the note very sad.

I am obviously and admittedly reacting to this interaction in a way that is not my desired M.O., though I will do my best to do it logically and calmly.  However, I think it is important to break through the barriers and be real about aspects of our lives that exist.  Deana, for her part, reacted in grace to this “friend” and sent out love in return.  I commend her.  But I am going to be super real here for a moment and share some intimate reality with you.  This message made both of us cry.  This message, for a moment, made us wonder why we try so hard to love others, who AT LEAST EVERY COUPLE OF WEEKS reach out and do nothing but condemn us (different people, randomly).  As the tears roll down our faces, we audibly wonder why we fight so hard to remain in the Christian community.  We sit and, as we cry, feel guilty for the rage that begins to stir in our guts, praying to the Lord to please, PLEASE, lead us in His path and help us not to react in the flesh.  But, even with the shame we feel for the rage that is burning slowing across our stomachs, it is way better than the pain and anguish we feel as the slime of judgment sent by others fights its way over us.  Rage is always my preference to the pain, and yet I know we are called to love.

I ask you seriously……..think hard about this………if I walked up to a smoker and said, “I love you so much and I know it’s totally up to you to smoke.  I honestly don’t have a problem with you smoking because you’re my friend.  But I am praying for you because I know it will probably mean you will die way younger than you should.”……I would probably be somewhat accurate.  At best, their quality of life could be significantly compromised as they aged.  But in doing so, was the relationship that I so obviously have (“I love you so much”) EDIFIED by the interchange?  Do you really, REALLY think that “showing love” is telling someone “you’re killing yourself” really going to make them think about what they’re doing?  Maybe.  I think the interchange builds barriers, throws shame from one friend to another, and doesn’t really change the fact that the one friend will still smoke.  Condemnation will not cause them to stop smoking.

What if it is something that is NOT really a choice?  What if I told you I haven’t had over 1200 calories a day for weeks, that I have been way more active, and I haven’t lost weight?  What if I am just glad that I haven’t GAINED weight, but you tell me I am going to die younger because of my “poor eating habits”?  What if genetics or other health issues are causing this weight issue for me?  What am I supposed to do with your “claims of love” when you take hope and throw it down the toilet with your words?  What if I am at a breaking point, frustrated from my lack of weight loss, and then you come in and put the nail in the coffin of my efforts with your words of condemnation?

I don’t want to be that kind of person.  I don’t want to DIScourage, but ENcourage.  And telling someone they’re going to hell or going to die young is not encouragement.  It is BS.

The Bible is clear that the tongue is dangerous – it can cause fires to burn, hearts to break, and unrighteousness to befall man.  Yet, the same tongue can EDIFY others.  And I contend that the “tongue” of this friend did not edify Deana.  Instead, condemnation was the only byproduct.  And, truth be known, so many follow this supposed “love” formula and I am rather sick of it.  Stop being that way.  It doesn’t do ANYTHING except maybe make yourself feel righteous or caring and that is BS too.  You don’t give a CRAP about Deana and you don’t give a CRAP about the smoker or the fat person, but you may only feel better because now “the blood is not on your hands”.  Well, it never WAS on your hands.  I’d rather you pray for us if you truly feel compelled to do so, because we have faith in Jesus Christ and we actually TRUST in Him.  But I digress.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV says:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Deana was not built up by that message, but was torn down.  She said to me, “The only reason I will not leave the Christian Community** is because of you and (very close friend).  The two of you speak Christ to me, and I am so glad for it.  But today, it is harder to walk in that decision.”

I am writing this blog today for no other reason, from my heart, than to encourage you to think about how you interact with EVERYONE.  Are you building them up?  Do you REALLY believe telling someone they’re going to hell or will die young because of their life gives grace to them?  Think on these things, because I have met hundreds of people who have told me they do not go to church because of Christians telling them they are going to hell, are an abomination, or other hope-stealing comments.  That is not a cop out by some angry lesbian, that is the truth.  And my wife, who loves the Lord with all she is, doesn’t need to end her evening by crying about being told she is going to die young for being married.  FEAR doesn’t work, and if I may suggest, it does nothing for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are better than that.

Thank you for reading.

** This is NOT about losing faith in Christ or rejecting Him.  This is about associating with the very RELIGION and those who walk in condemnation in the name of Christ.

 

 

 

 

Fury

Today, a dear loved one reached out to me because their parents rejected them.  This LGBT young person has been out for about a year and has struggled with their relationship with their parents the entire time.  Recently, they wrote a long and very detailed email explaining how they reconciled their sexuality with their Christian faith and how they believed the Bible does not condemn them.  This was a very personal email, very open with tons of emotions, vulnerability, and hope.  Hope that, maybe with all the details and the proof that this person has been heavily in the Word and prayer, they would come to understand how much Jesus meant to their child even though they are also gay.  Days had passed and even with the history of a year of anger, rejection, and even torment from this person’s parents, the writer held out hope and trusted; in the Lord and in their parents.

But, instead the parents responded with rejection.  Hatred, and I am not just using a buzzword because “they are standing up for their religion”.  They have condemned their child to hell and used words that I would not use on my worst enemy.  And that, in a word, made FURY rise in my heart.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love does not insist on its own way.  And yet, the response from the parents, in the name of Christ, made impatient demands.  Were unkind.  Insisted that the only way their child could be saved was to adopt and walk in the exact same manner established in their own heterosexual lives.  They said there was no hope for their child, that things would never work out for them.  It was filled with doom and distain.  Disgust.  Love does not do that.

FURY.  I am consumed with it.

They do not trust in their God, for the Bible they so heavily throw about says in Romans 8 that all things work out for those who love God.  I don’t think these parents lack love for God, but if they TRUSTED Him, they’d know that they need not fear for their child who is in Christ.  Yet, I am sure they think their child is NOT in Christ, which is so frustrating as well.  This human is so evidently a Child of God in word and deed, one that sacrifices for their neighbor and loves unconditionally.  In fact, 1 John says if people don’t love, God is not in them.  So, to learn of the condition of their parents’ love brings up FURY within me.  But maybe, based on their own “strong beliefs”, their child could be saved based on the Word and promises of God.  But again, it appears they don’t trust the Word.

And yet, I must take a step back and remember……I trust in the same God.  I know this will work out for this dear one, even though right now the pain is all consuming.  Even though the rejection and the harsh words and the outright condemnation being sent to this loving person is real and painful.  And my FURY, whether based on biblical verses or not, makes me no different than the parents, who used the Bible as a sword against their own child.  I am not like them.  I don’t want to be like them.  I need to LOVE, even when it is hard.

So, I am reminding myself (and everyone else)……

1 Cor 13:4-13 ESV

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Please pray for this dear one.  Please pray that their heart is surrounded by the Love of Christ, that He removes the bleeding and pain.  Pray that the Lord fills the loss of their parents with many, many more who can assist in this role.  Pray for my FURY.  Pray for the parents, who must believe they’re doing the right thing, and have suddenly lost their child by choice.  And, also, if you think about it……..love people.  Where they are.  No conditions.

Retribution

Full disclosure, I like the whole idea of retribution…..at least when it is directed at others.  If someone wrongs me or wrongs someone I love, I totally love the idea actually.  At least, in the flesh that is my humanness.  I think many of you, if you’re honest with yourself, would admit the same thing.  We inherently want and NEED people to get what they deserve.  Stab me in the back?  You’re gonna pay!  Drive like a jerk, I hope you get a ticket!  It aligns with the whole “eye for an eye” idea right out of our beloved Bible!  And yet, when the table is turned and retribution is pointed at me, I suddenly and completely value and live dead center in the land of grace and forgiveness.  Whether or not I have a contrite heart about the offense I caused, I will more often than not beg to not receive what I absolutely deserve.  “I had a bad day!”  “I didn’t sleep well last night!”  Even, “Wow, I was a jerk to do that, it was horrible of me.  Please forgive me.”  In every scenario, everything in me accepts that retribution is not God’s plan and forgiveness is superior in every way.

What is right?  Where should we live?

In society, this gets a little tricky for me.  I mean, seriously, if you drink and drive there will be consequences.  If you murder someone, there are and should be consequences.  To do otherwise would be a detriment to us all.  I am not advocating the removal of laws and punishments in the realm of society, rules at jobs, and that sort of thing.  I think we can all agree that, though some laws may be applied in an unequal fashion, they are important to our safety and wellbeing as a community.

But how does it look in relation to our religion?  Since I am a Christian, I will focus on what I know best – MY religion.  In MY religion, there are tons of scriptures that tell me to forgive people.  Colossians 3 says to forgive others as Jesus already forgave you.  Ephesians 4 goes further saying “hey get along, stop being jerks, and show compassion and forgiveness”.  It even says in John 20 if we withhold forgiveness, it will be withheld from us (among other Gospels)!  However, several Old Testament verses clearly created the means in which people could and should face retribution for their actions.  Exodus 32, Leviticus 26, and in Deuteronomy 7:9-10 ESV it says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.”  Pretty serious retribution right there.

So, I know Jesus calls me to forgive, but God clearly established that maybe I CAN and SHOULD hold people – especially those who don’t agree with me – to a level where I am totally justified in hating and condemning them.  I mean, God set the standard and I want to follow Him, so doesn’t that just seem like a natural progression?  Well, that just doesn’t feel quite right to me.

So, I offer up the following to consider in relation to the whole retribution thing.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matt 18:21-35 ESV

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

ALL of us do not deserve the amazing gift of Grace that Jesus Christ provided to us.  We can never go to church enough, tithe enough, or do anything enough to earn the gift we received.  And really, Jesus never INTENDED us to earn it!  So we have no room to judge others nor real room to expect retribution as we have avoided it ourselves.  At least, that’s where I am in this thing called life.

What are your thought?

 

 

 

Church. The Struggle.

Tonight I read an article that I came across in my newsfeed on Facebook.  I have to admit, it seemed more angry than I personally feel towards the church, at least right now.  Yet, to be completely candid, the article DID bring up some pretty good points, and focused on many of the things I have personally gone through in my own walk as a LGBT Christian.

This article did get me thinking, so I wanted to share something with you regarding “church”.  It’s a struggle for me, and perhaps you may be surprised as to why.

To knock out the obvious, going to most churches is awkward for my family.  More often than not, we can’t just go to a church to check it out.  No, instead we have to vet it out; check out their web page, see if there are any notations about homosexuality on their “what we believe” sections, and I usually email the Pastor and straight out ask if it would be a problem if we attended.  Only about 40% of the respondents indicate “no, please don’t come” (or variations of the context, some not in a mean way though some of which are pretty aggressive about sin, though those happen only about 5% of the time).  45% struggle with what to say, hoping not to offend but still unable to respond in a positive way.  These sound more like, “wow, of course we hope you come over, though we have never had any such people in our church and we are not sure how the congregation would respond.”  Some ask if “we look gay”, wonder if they could meet with us before we attend, and that sort of thing.  10% have been affirming, and 5% have been predominantly LGBT churches.

I have to say, however, that it isn’t “easy” to go to a gay church, really.  I mean, our kids aren’t gay, you know?  And, in relation to OUR experience, more often than not when we attend the 15% gay or affirming churches, they are less conservative.  And, really, we like a more conservative, non-denominational church.  But the more conservative churches that are around are apt to not want us there.  So, can you imagine the struggle?  To sum it up, we really don’t fit into either church.

But even beyond that, what I REALLY, REALLY wish for is to just be able to go to church with my family.  Period.  I would LOVE to not even have to talk about the fact that Deana and I are LGBT.  In BOTH scenarios, we just want to worship our Lord and Savior, get into the Word, be fed and recharged with brothers and sisters in Christ, and not have this layer of “us” that truly just gets in the way.  It’s like having an extra layer of clothing on each time we go to church that makes it difficult to enter into the holy of holies.  It’s like walking with a scarlet letter on our lapels and everyone focuses on that letter instead of what we really are attending church for……and that just seems so wrong.  So, personally speaking, I avoid that.  Because it just seems like a circus to me, in both types of churches. And yet, when I do that, my very spirit suffers for it as I remove myself from fellowship.  From worship.  From what I believe I was created to do.  So I attend and work though it, but the cycle continues.

So, my heart of prayer often says, “Lord, let me be authentic, yes.  But can’t it just be about You?  Can’t we just assemble and BE?  Can’t we just kneel and sing and pray and listen and encourage and interact and follow?  Can’t it just be about learning to be more like You?”

So, in most ways I’ve tried to forgive, yes.  I don’t sit here hating evangelicals or wave my fist at those who condemn me to hell.  It hurts, I won’t lie, but I don’t despise the ones who say that so much today.  But what I miss, what my soul yearns for, is to just be able to worship.  Without asking.  Without wondering if my presence is offensive or bothering someone.  Without thinking the LGBT brothers and sisters with me are more interested in getting more churches to accept us.  Without even thinking about sexuality.  I yearn to just see the face of Jesus, to hold the hand of someone hurting as I pray with them, to laugh at a Pastor’s anecdote during a sermon, to cry with joy as I consider the vast love that God provides you and me for each moment of our lives, to be more like Him, and to do it not as an LGBT anything, but as a sister in Christ.

And, well, I am still praying.