Why the LGBTIQ Community should care what the Bible says

The morning that the Supreme Court announced its decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 marked a significant moment for marriage equality.  It did not grant sweeping equality for same-sex relationships, but it at least opened the door and set a marginal line of precedent that, hopefully, will be the foundation upon which a final, national position will be made.  This was something worth celebrating, but it was certainly not the final battle.

The next steps are not entirely clear.  Looking around, I see a lot of people who fully support marriage equality, but I also see a lot of people who oppose gay marriage.  Note the difference; it is not accidental.  Those who support this cause, allies, see it as an issue of equality, that everyone should be allowed to marry whomever they wish.  Two consenting adults should be equally respected and afforded the same legal rights and protections, including the right to be married.  For allies, this issue is “marriage equality”.

The unfortunate fact of the situation is that most of those who oppose marriage equality in this country are Christian.  The only way to have a significant impact on the number of people supporting or opposing marriage equality will be to address that largest population of opposition.  But how do you accomplish that?  The first step is to understand why some Christians are opposed to marriage equality.

I’m going to take some license here and (1) generalize people opposed to marriage equality and (2) speak for them, even though I do not agree with their beliefs.  (You can read some of my thoughts on the subject, if you would like.)  For many of those who oppose this issue, it is not about equality in their mind.  They know the Bible clearly says in several verses that homosexuality is an abomination to God.  Offering legal recognition to a union that is abhorrent to God is not something that should be supported, endorsed, or even an issue on which you should sit on the sidelines.  To these people, homosexuality, as an “act” or “lifestyle”, is a perversion and should not be condoned.  This issue is “gay marriage”.

Most Christians who oppose marriage equality do so based on what they’ve been taught from, or read in, the Bible.  For some this is just an excuse, but for others, it is really about trying to make decisions based on their understanding of God.  This is important, because our understanding of God and His Law shapes our morals, how we live our lives and how we interact with other people.  Even if it makes us uneasy, or it doesn’t agree with what “everyone else” thinks is right, God’s Word is higher than our own opinions or desires.  Even if you believe in a different god, multiple gods, no god, or something other than a god, it is important to understand what the Bible says, to effectively engage a Christian on this topic.

If a Christian believes that the Bible calls any homosexual relationship an abomination, then that needs to be addressed head-on.  If you see someone about to step off the curb in front of a moving bus, it would be reasonable for you to try to physically restrain them, in an attempt to save their life, even if they don’t want your help.  Likewise, if someone truly believes that homosexuality will lead to eternal punishment, they can reasonably feel compelled to try to inhibit someone’s ability to harm himself or herself.  Only by changing the Christian’s understanding of what the Bible says will you open them up to seeing marriage equality as marriage equality, as opposed to “gay marriage”.

When someone quotes the Bible as their basis for opposing marriage rights (or anything related to homosexuality), a frequent response is to attack the Christian back with other verses from Leviticus that the Christian does not follow (“nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together” ~Leviticus 19:19 being the one I see the most).  The flaw in this strategy is that it is antagonistic and frames the discussion as a debate.  This is not going to be effective in changing anyone’s mind.  You are not going to convince a Christian that the Bible is a fairy tale or that it is wrong.  A better approach would be to address the specific verses being quoted and try to help the person see them in a different way.  To do this, you need to understand what the Bible says and why it is being misunderstood.

You will have more successful discussions if you show someone how to read the Bible differently or if you show someone how their understanding is flawed, instead of trying to convince them that their entire belief structure is false.  This can’t be an argument or a debate; no one is going to change someone else’s mind by throwing catch phrases at them.  The key is to help the person understand the truth in the words that they aren’t seeing.

They believe that the words are truth, and above that, they believe that God’s Law stands above all else, even if they don’t always understand it.  God has authority, and just as a child may not know why a parent is telling them to do something, they are expected to recognize the parent’s authority and obey.  This imposes a large burden on one to make sure that you understand your instructions accurately, and that is the key to this approach: show Christians that they have been misunderstanding the instructions, and help them see what’s been written in a different way.  That is how to get Christians to support marriage equality; help them understand that “gay marriage” is not against the Bible, it is not against God, it is not against Jesus.  In fact, loving and encouraging and supporting your neighbor are at the heart of all of Jesus’s teachings.

Just so I’m not misunderstood, I am not saying that it is the responsibility of the LGBTIQ community to drive these changes.  That responsibility lies solely on Christians who do understand the truth of this issue.  We cannot stay silent when our friends or family or church members or pastors/preachers/priests speak falsely.  We have to confront this issue and share our understanding.  We have to stand up and be heard, to engage this topic, and stop hoping that everyone will come around if we give them time.  The reason this post is targeted to the LGBTIQ community and allies is to try to offer some guidance on how to have these conversations, if you’re going to have them.  You are not obligated to change the dominant Christian view of homosexuality, but if you choose to engage someone, if you choose to challenge someone, if you have a friend that just doesn’t get it, this is how you can reach them.  The arguments and debates are not being effective; this is something that may be effective.

God does not hate people for their sexual orientation, or for the person they love, or for the identity they feel in their heart.  God loves everyone.  Every broken, screwed up mess that we all are.  He loves us.  Every single person reading this, He loves you.  He knows everything in your heart, and He loves you more deeply than you will ever know or comprehend.  Anyone who has told you any differently was not representing God, and that is a tragedy.  God does not exclude anyone, even if some of the institutions in His name have.

I know that a lot of people have been hurt by Christians and the “Church”, and that has pushed a lot of people away from trying to know God.  I cannot undo whatever has been done or said, but that is not how God feels, and that is not how all Christians feel, and I am heartbroken that people have been so poorly treated.  I just want to make it very clear that God does not exclude you, and God does not hate you.  God will always welcome you.  If you have ever wanted to know more, or wanted to explore God, I encourage you to do so.

I’m not trying to convert anyone; that is not my purpose in this.  But I also don’t want anyone to walk away from God because they have been given the wrong image of who God really is.  We, as Christians, are supposed to be representing God, to be showing everyone else who He is and how He calls us to live our lives.  We do not always do this well, but don’t let our flaws be the reason that you decide not to search for Him.

 

There are several sources available that can provide some analysis of Scripture.  This specific blog post is rich in information, and the author has a wonderful way of responding to questions with grace and humility.  The rest of his blog is also worth reading, as he tackles several topics of interest.  I highly recommend checking it out if you would like to be prepared to engage someone on this topic.

The Brilliant Deception: Living in Freedom

Recently I noticed two lies those in the American church frequently believe.  These clever lies from the deceiver have created a fear of being untrue to our God, but the result is that many are actually going against His heart.  I discussed the first lie here.

The second lie is one I’m seeing predominantly among young believers.  Current and recent college students and others in that age bracket, believers and non-believers alike, are very focused on doing good.  The previous lie is not working on them, as they truly believe they can change the world and are fighting to make it happen.  They are frequently abandoning the things their predecessors viewed as important – a stable job, possibly with the same company for decades, a 401(k), a white picket fence and 2.5 children – and are pursuing passions that are bigger than the individual or family.  Passions that aren’t focused on their comfort and financial security.

The believers in this population are excited to do the things to which God calls them and are ready to sacrifice their time, their well-paying career possibilities, their vacations, their future, to make the world a better place for others.  To build a better life for people they’ve possibly never met, maybe half a world away.

The idea that doing good is a bad thing is completely foreign to this population.  So satan needed a different approach.

This group of believers has fully embraced the freedom that comes with following Jesus.  And satan is capitalizing on it.  This group, who is so wholeheartedly walking in Jesus’s shoes, down dusty roads, serving the poor and marginalized, fears becoming a Pharisee.  So the lie satan whispers is:  “You’re being legalistic.”

I should read my Bible daily.  “You’re being legalistic.”  I should submit to the rulers placed over me, and therefore drive the speed limit.  “You’re being legalistic.”  I should return to God a portion that He has given me by tithing.  “You’re being legalistic.”

This isn’t to say that no one in this generation does any of these things.  Many do.  But when the impetus is “I should” rather than a compelling personal desire, then it is dismissed as legalism.

We have a new generation of Christians who are “sold out to Jesus”, “living radical, impactful lives” who are so scared of walking out of the freedom of Jesus into Pharisaicism, that they reject self-discipline and submission.  Anything towards which they are not compelled with passion, any “should”, is dismissed.  They choose to live in disobedience rather than giving up their freedom, avoiding anything that could be labeled “legalism”.

Satan has stunted the growth and weakened the foundation of the young church in America.  His brilliant lie that doing something for any reason other than excitement and passion is “legalism” has caused us to live in disobedience and forsake the very things God wants to use to grow and strengthen us.

A Woman’s Calling

We believe that each man is uniquely made.  Uniquely gifted, with unique experiences and a unique skillset.  And we believe that this makes each man uniquely qualified for a specific purpose.

I think we generally believe the same about each woman.  She, too, is uniquely made.  Uniquely gifted, with unique experiences and a unique skillset.  Yet too often, we believe that in spite of this uniqueness, there is a single universal calling on women.  To support her man.

It’s widely accepted that God can put a specific calling on each man.  But the same is often not assumed for women.

And that makes me sad, especially when I hear it from a woman.  I wonder in how many ways God wants to use her, but she misses it.  Because she’s not looking for it.  She’s busy “supporting her man” as he pursues God’s calling.  Which is a great thing to do.  Until it causes her to miss the thing to which God is calling her.

Sometimes the role of a woman is to support her man.  (Or her woman.)  But that’s not because she’s a woman.  It is because sometimes God calls us to support another as that person pursues God’s call.

I think more frequently, though, God calls us to partner together, regardless of any relationship status, to pursue something bigger than we can accomplish alone.  Not because we’re operating on human strength.  Because God is best displayed to the world when His Body is functioning as a body.

So let’s look around.  Let’s listen hard.  Let’s explore ways God wants us to work together.

And let’s expand our understanding of the role of a woman.  It’s not primarily to support her man.  It’s to pursue her God.

Building a Reputation

Today I reread a letter I received from the leader of a church in Turkey.  In it, he told the story of how someone had filed a complaint against the church.  The officer assigned to the complaint was the same officer who had arrested a man who had threatened the pastor a year earlier.  When the man was arrested, rather than pressing charges, the pastor publicly forgave the attacker.

When this officer received the complaint, he called the pastor and said, “We know you; you are good, peaceful, and forgiving people.  They complained against you, but we told them that they were wrong in their thinking.”

In a land where Christianity is largely misunderstood, where those who convert to Christianity are viewed with suspicion, even among those in authority, this church is known as a “good, peaceful, and forgiving people”.  By their actions, they are overcoming the widely-believed, strongly-held stereotypes about Christianity and are building a reputation worthy of Jesus.

In America, the Church once enjoyed a reputation similar to that of this small church in Turkey.  We were seen as good, peaceful, and forgiving.  Selfless and ready to help those in need.

However, today, that reputation has largely been replaced by a reputation full of attributes contrary to the character of Jesus.

We have a difficult road ahead of us.  Regaining a reputation worthy of Jesus will not be easy.  But the task is not as challenging as the one faced by the Church in Turkey and elsewhere around the world.

It gives me hope that this small church in Turkey can build a new reputation, one that reflects Jesus.  It means that we, too, can change our reputation.

Let’s live in such a way that people say of us:  “We know you; you are good, peaceful, and forgiving people.”

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Please be praying for the current unrest in Turkey and the ongoing unrest in Syria and elsewhere in the region.

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The Gospel of Offense

I often run into people who are unconcerned with the wording they choose, unphased if particular words or phrases mean something different to the hearer than was intended by the speaker.  I hear people presenting “hard truths” that drive people further from the gospel, rather than helping them to find the loving arms of the Savior.  I see people who believe that affronting people in the name of the Lord is appropriate.

All of this is supported by one faulty premise: the idea that the gospel is intended to offend.

In many circles, I’m told that my words don’t need to be carefully chosen or delivered with love, because it is God the listener is rejecting, not me.  And it appears that this is meant to be a comfort.  As though the idea that in response to my words, someone may reject God (and not merely reject me) means I feel less concern or responsibility.  If I have any love for my neighbor, this is not a consolation; it’s a reminder of just how much responsibility I have in choosing my words and representing my God well.

Jesus didn’t spend much of His time on earth offending people.  He generally extended love, compassion, and understanding to those with whom He interacted.  At times He presented people with challenging instructions or ideas, but that challenge nearly always was accompanied by gentleness.

With one exception.  The only group whom Jesus repeatedly offended was the extremely religious.  Those who were charged with drawing the people into relationship with God, yet were presenting a false picture of God to those around them.  Those who seemed to overlook the love, forgiveness, and restoration that God offers.

If I am following the example set by Jesus, then I will not find comfort in the offense of people separated from God.  If I am following the example set by Jesus, I will reach out in love and mercy, putting the needs of others above my own comforts.  (Even with something as seemingly minute as word choices.)

The gospel is not offensive.  It is good news!  It is good news to those who are living life without God and to those who have been drawn into relationship with Him.  It is good news to those who are broken and to those to whom God has brought restoration.

The idea that the gospel is offensive is an excuse.  It is an excuse to offend, to speak without love, or it is a shield to protect a fragile ego and deflect a feeling of rejection.

Our job is not to offend.  Nor is it to excuse careless speech with a faulty expectation of the gospel.  Our job is to love so well that people will experience God’s love and be drawn to Him.

The Brilliant Deception: Relying on Grace

This weekend I noticed two lies those in the American church frequently believe.  These clever lies from the deceiver have created a fear of being untrue to our God, but the result is that many are actually going against His heart.

The first lie was pointed out by a friend.  It’s that four-letter word, that vilest of insults, that one is a “works-based” Christian.  We know we cannot earn our salvation.  We know that God freely gave His Son, that Jesus freely went to the cross, so that we could be reconciled to God.  And the idea that one can “earn” his way into heaven, into God’s good graces, is seen as a rejection of the great sacrifice of the Creator.

And satan leapt at the opportunity this understanding afforded.  Each time someone began thinking that they “should” do good, or even that they wanted to do good, satan began whispering in their ear.  For many, these whispers began with the suggestion that the person was attempting to earn God’s love.  And in an attempt to prove that wasn’t the case, the person would abandon whatever God had been encouraging them to do, because they didn’t want to trample on the sacrifice of God.

When accusations of rejecting God’s sacrifice are not entertained, then satan switches to a wider lens.  The new suggestion:  “People will think you are ‘works-based’.”  And in our culture of status and appearances, this is a very hard one to overcome.  Even for those who have decided they aren’t concerned about how they are viewed outside the church, the desire to be viewed well, or at least understood, within the church is strong.  And so the longing to be understood as one truly following Jesus, the importance of not leading younger believers astray, the desire to appear holy trumps the still small voice deep in their heart calling them to good works.

We have whole generations of churches who are “secure in their salvation”, “claiming Christ and His sacrifice,” who are so scared of being or appearing “works-based”, that they sit in their churches, debating decorating choices or where the flag pole should be placed.  They point fingers and “works-based” accusations fly when someone ventures out to serve.  Or at the very least, the person serving outside the walls of the church is eyed with suspicion.

These who fear being works-based are not going into the world and truly loving people as Jesus did, because they’ve been told they don’t have to in order to be saved.  And it’s important not to do things you don’t have to.  It’s important to avoid the appearance that the good works bring salvation.

Satan has paralyzed the American church.  His brilliant lie that doing good is the same as earning God’s love has caused us to turn our back on God’s call for us to love and serve as Jesus did.