Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

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Truly Unconditional Love

August 19, 2014

Hello friends,

It’s been a while. As in more than 3 years a while. If anyone bothers to visit when I publish this post I’ll be amazed. But I have something to say. I might have several somethings to say, we’ll have to see. Today it comes from the story of Vicky Beeching’s coming out. Yup, I’m going there.

There has been a lot of discussion around this. I think it shakes people in ways other Christians who have come out didn’t because she has been a part of so many different people’s regular worship. And this means that her coming out is personal for a lot of people because worship is so personal for so many people.

The backlash is incredible. So much hate masquerading as concern for her soul, her relationship with God. It hurts me. It hurts me more than if it were directed at me, I think. My cousin, who I will say is a liberal conservative Christian responded to a rather disheartening post with an incredibly profound comment. She said:

         “I have been wrong about so many things i was convinced i was right on in my life. Then i felt like God spoke to me pretty clearly that He really didn’t care too much about all the things i was wrong about, because more than likely, I’m still way off. He told me that He loved that i spent time being with Him and talking to Him; that relationship is the ENTIRE reason he sent Jesus. At this point, I would rather be wrong about what the Bible says on homosexuality, knowing that I have put every ounce of my effort into loving people with no strings attached. So if I felt that God spoke that to me, why would His desire for relationship with Vicky Beeching be any different? I think maybe He is a little less concerned about what she is getting right, and more rejoicing over her continued relationship with Him. I realize many opinions differ from mine, that is just where I am currently at.”

I love this. It’s exactly where I am at, although at the end of the day we may end up with different theologies the premise is identical. I can only speak to the relationship I know I have with God. I value the Bible. I value God’s Word. When I came out to myself, a weird idea to be sure, my relationship with God became stronger, better, more intimate than it had ever been before. I truly believe my realizing I am gay, my accepting my sexuality, was the direct result of God interceding on my behalf. I was blind, I was in such deep denial that he had to push his way through. And when he got through he wrapped me up in such intense love, such insane acceptance, that there wasn’t room for me to doubt myself. There was so much love from God for me that I could not have hated myself, nor could anyone else’s hate pierce that love. 

Over the years I have grown to truly believe that homosexuality does not go against God’s will. But more importantly because of the journey I took I am absolutely, positively, certain that God does not call us to judge for him. Our job, no matter what the “sin” may be, is to love. Love without question. Love without hesitation. Love with everything we have, even if we are utterly convinced that a person is wrong. 

God loves us all. Yes, God desires we grow closer to him. He desires that we do our best to live in such a way that we are living according to his will. But God desires relationship with us above all else. Who am I to judge another person and what relationship they have with God? I cannot know what is going on between you and God. I cannot know how the supposed “sin” in your life is affecting that relationship. It isn’t my place. It’s God’s. This doesn’t mean that we are changing what we view as sin. It doesn’t mean I am compromising on any of the things I believe. It means that I am loving. It means that I am letting God do his job, and I will do mine. It means that I refuse to be the person who tries to get in the way of the relationship another person has with God.

If there is one thing I can ask of a Christian it is this. I don’t ask, nor do I want, you to change your theology. I ask that you trust your relationship with God. I ask that you trust my relationship with God. He’s a good guy. He knows what he’s doing. If someday he convicts me that I am wrong, I hope that I will listen. But until that day I know that he loves and accepts me for who I am. You cannot change this, and I am certain he does not want you to. Love. It isn’t compromising your beliefs, it is trusting your almighty God to do his part and you do yours. 

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Burning the Quran

September 9, 2010

Perhaps you, like many Americans, have heard about the tiny church planning to burn Qurans on Saturday. Perhaps you have not. For the past day I have been debating whether to write about this or not, mainly because I agree with the general consensus that the church is seeking attention and so I don’t want to go giving them that attention in any way. But this has been outweighed by something I feel is more important- talking about what it means to live as a Christian in relation to people who hold different religious beliefs.

I am very firmly a Christian- I believe that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and rose again so that through him we can overcome sin. I also believe that anyone who does not believe this is not going to heaven. But in all of this, I do not think I have the ultimate hold on what is true. I do not doubt what I believe, but neither do many other people who hold different beliefs, how can we both be right? Ultimately that is the beauty and challenge of faith, truly believing something that you cannot fully prove in this lifetime.

Since I believe that any one who is not a Christian will not be going to heaven it is my responsibility as a Christ follower to do everything I can to show them the truth as I believe it. So how can I live in harmony and peace with Muslims or Jews or Hindus or any of the other theistic religions? There are a fair number of Christians who will say that we cannot live in peace and harmony with people of other faiths because we are ultimately condemning them to hell if we do. But I don’t agree with this.

When I talk to a dedicated Muslim or Jew I realize that as much as I believe what I believe they believe what they believe just as strongly. Am I going to become a Muslim though? I don’t foresee any reason that would ever happen. So why should I expect someone who is living a different faith with the same integrity and passion and intelligence as I live mine to change what they believe? I don’t think I should. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t talk about what I believe within the proper context, but it does mean that I should show these people the same respect I would hope to receive from them, and even more importantly the same respect I have for another Christian.

When I heard about the burning of the Quran I wasn’t concerned about the safety of the troops over seas, or the other people abroad who could be put in danger. I also wasn’t worried about the extremist groups using this as a rallying cry. Although these are all very valid concerns. When I heard about the burning of the Quran I immediately thought about how sad it would make me to have someone burn the Bible. Yes, it would make me angry too, but mostly it would make me sad. I would be saddened that they were unable to see the value of the book, saddened that we had done something so horrible that they felt the only way to show how they feel about us, and thus about God, is to burn our sacred text.

Don’t burn the Quran, not because it will insight violence or be used to stir up the masses. Don’t burn the Quran because someone might get hurt. That’s not a reason to not do something if that something really needs to be done. The reason this church, and all Christians, should not burn or disrespect the Quran is because it is the sacred text of a group of people who have beliefs and faith that to them is just as valid and real and true as our Christian beliefs and faith is to us. And for that reason if none other we should desire to hold the Quran in high regard as a way to show that we respect the differences. As a way to say that we recognize that your beliefs should be given the same regard as ours.

Burning the Quran doesn’t prove that Christians are better or more correct. The only thing burning the Islamic Sacred Text would achieve is to show how stupid and ignorant and hateful Christians and Americans can be.

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Judge and Jury

April 21, 2010

If your church is anything like mine you probably have a couple members of the church who stand at the doors and greet people as they walk in. Usually it’s just a simple “Good Morning” and a hand shake. If it’s a new person they probably say “Welcome”. Sometimes it’s a bit more. I think it’s a good gesture, a way of tangibly welcoming people new and old to the church. But I think it’s also a lie.

I think a more honest “greeting” would be, “Welcome to my church, assuming you agree to believe what I believe, follow the rules- written and unwritten- that I follow, act in a way that doesn’t make me uncomfortable, and never commit any ‘big sin'”. This may seem cynical, but I don’t believe it is untrue at all.

Jennifer Knapp came out last week and the responses from Christians who have responded have been largely judgmental and condemning. We seem to believe that it is our duty to determine who is and who is not going to heaven (news flash: God is the only one qualified and authorized to make this decision). I use Jennifer Knapp as an example because it is recent and many of you have probably already heard about it. But what about the guy who goes to your church and one day makes the decision to admit that he is gay? Or the woman who bravely steps forward and shares that tomorrow she is getting an abortion and would appreciate your prayers? How do we respond to these people? How should we respond to them?

I think that churches are starting to recognize that we are not responding appropriately to these situations. I think there is a shift that people in the church now think we need to accept women who are going to have an abortion or gay people or alcoholics or prostitutes. But the mentality is completely wrong. When I talk to people in my church about this they are all gung-ho about welcoming these people but they always say “we’ll love them so we can change them and make them Christians”. This is also not our job. That is another thing that only God is qualified to do, and if he chooses to use us that’s great, but it isn’t my job or yours to make someone a Christian. Also, loving someone so that they will change is not truly loving them.

Often I have heard the argument that Jesus didn’t allow people to stay the way they were. And while I agree with that I don’t think Jesus every required that someone change before joining him. It was through their relationship with him that they changed, not because he expected it of them but because they made the decision because of the relationship. We seem to lose sight of the fact that he unconditionally accepted an anointing- a religious practice- from a prostitute. Or that Jesus chose to forgive the woman caught in adultery and THEN told her to go and leave her life of sin, not the other way around. What about the guys Jesus called to follow him? There were no pre-requisites but that they follow. And clearly their transformations all occurred at different times and in different ways. They grew and were transformed because of the genuine relationship. Jesus did not associate with them in order to make them change, he knew that the message he had to share, the person he was and the God he was introducing them to would take care of that. And he’s God, he could have demanded these things but he didn’t.

So why do we think it’s our job to decide who is and who isn’t a Christian? Just because our understanding of the Bible says it’s a sin doesn’t mean we are right. And even if we are, isn’t it our job to love people and let God take care of the rest? Honestly, if we don’t stop acting as judge and jury to the world’s “sinners” we are going to run out of people to judge because there won’t be anyone left that will ever qualify to be a part of our “elite community” that certainly cannot be called church anymore. In fact, it may be far more accurate to call ourselves Sodom.

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He Is Risen Community

April 13, 2009

For Easter I attended the church I grew up in. My senior year of college the minister who had been there most of my life retired. They called a new minister. He had just graduated from seminary and was full of ideas and new ways of thinking. It was great. I think it still is. The Easter sermon was a compilation of Passover, standard Easter fare (He is risen!), and all of this went back to being a new kind of community as Christians. The pastor’s wife and I have been friends for years. I met her in high school through a mutual friend. I respect her. I think she has some amazing insite into the Bible. She loves the Old Testament with a passion. She loves personal relationships and building connections. And she loves God in a way that is so real and honest it makes you want to love him more too. She had us imagine being there with the disciples during the 48 or so hours after he died. It was moving and heart breaking and joyous all at once. The community drew together.

I make it back to MI frequently, but rarely do I make it to church there. I have too many commitments here on Sundays. Except for the first time I went back to MI after moving here I have never been reluctant to leave. I wasn’t reluctant to leave yesterday either. I was anxious to get home- back to my bed, my apartment, my space. But as I drove home, I started thinking about the weekend. Friday I got to see an old friend- a friend from church. She has two little girls, and I spent the afternoon coloring eggs with them. It was fun. Sunday morning I saw old youth leaders- a couple who I have always looked at as my second parents. I email with them regularly, but I got to talk to them, to hug them, to spend time with them. It was wonderful. Everyone came up to me asking me how my job was going, wanting to know how I was doing, listening to my answers, and truly caring what I said. My defenses were down. I spent almost an hour talking with the pastor’s wife. I felt elated and joyful. At the time, I thought it was because of Easter- it probably was part of it. But last night, I felt a lot less joyful on my drive home. 

I love this church. I see potential here. But I realized there is a huge difference between this church and my growing up church. This church isn’t family. I want it to be, I feel like I try to make it, but it isn’t. People are friendly, people are welcoming and encouraging. But it isn’t my family. Perhaps it is for people who have grown up here, I don’t really know. Perhaps my “family” is family because of what we have been through together, but I think it’s more than that. They want to be family. I don’t know if this church wants to be family. I feel like we are content to be friends, but we are called to be something more. Jesus died and rose again so we could be something more.

Is your Christian community family? How did you get there? I know that I have become complacent in this. I will step it up, I will try to be better at being family. I can’t do it alone, but I can push the first domino over.

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I voted.

November 4, 2008

Today we choose a new president. The new leader of our country. Whoever he is, he will face many challenges as soon as he is sworn in. Perhaps even before that. But I wonder, do we put too much importance on the president? Sometimes I think we believe that if we vote for the right person he can save the country from economic crisis and more painful deaths in Iraq. We think that this one person can address all the moral shortcomings and all the things we view as wrong. So when we go to vote we choose based on what this person promises to do. He promises to outlaw abortion and define marriage as only between a man and a woman. He promises to fix the economy in a way I believe will work. He promises to end the war the best way possible for all inolved, etc. But truthfully, these are fairly empty promises. These are things that as we go to vote we may be basing our decision on, but in reality few are going to be completed and lived out. So perhaps we need to re-evaluate how we decide who to vote for, or at least I do. Instead of voting for an individual, we should vote for a team leader. A person who is going to hold to proper standards and do his best to motivate a group of people under him to also hold to those standards. This is a much taller order, especially in America where our country is divided by two parties who don’t want to work together. But the only way to effectively govern is to do just that- lead a team, work together toward a common goal. This is the challenge of the President of the United States. To define the goal for which all parties work together. Indeed, this is the challenge for all of us- to work together toward the goal. The question is- who will we give the power to define that goal. As Christians, the leader is Christ. As American’s our president is the leader for millions. Which leader is going to provide the most biblical goal for the country to strive toward?