Part 3: In the Hard Times, Where is God Located?

When life is hard it is only natural and normal to ask the question, “where is God, in all of this!?”

I’ve been exploring a couple thoughts on that exact question. In Part 1 I suggested that God is ahead of us, inviting us towards a better future, a better way of life. And, like the father in Luke 15, God stands poised to run towards us at the first inclination that we might be ready for repentance.

In Part 2 I suggested that when we are in the Valley of Hard Times that God ALSO is right there, IN the Valley with us. Present, holding us, carrying and sustaining us. Not just waiting on the outside for us to emerge, but in the trenches with us being our strength.

Finally, I’ll offer one more thought.

Part 3: In the Hard Times, Where is God Located?
Behind us. Having just shoved us off the cliff and in to the Valley of Hard Times.

What if God isn’t just at the top of the valley, cheering us on, waiting to welcome us home?!
And what if God isn’t just also down in the valley with us, carrying us and sustaining us and holding us…

What if God also stands on the OTHER edge of the valley, the once from whence we came, because it was God who directed us to the valley in the first place?

What if God is the one who actually PUSHED us over the edge?

What?!

Okay, I know that sounds a little crazy. And it probably is. I’m probably wrong about that. And that’s okay.

But I can’t help thinking about it anyways.

Two reasons why.

  1. My own life experiences have given me reason to think that this might be the case.
  2. In Matthew the Gospeler’s opinion that’s exactly what God did to Jesus.

In chapter 4 of Mathew, as he’s about to tell the story of Jesus being in the wilderness for 40 days, Matthew writes this:

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” -Matt 4:1

Did you catch that?

Jesus was led BY the Spirit of God in to the wilderness.
Yes, sure, eventually he encounters the Satan while he’s out there. But it was the Spirit who sent him there.

Now, to be fair, perhaps God didn’t PUSH Jesus over the edge and in to the Valley. I imagine this leading was more of a gentle prompting. But the point still remains. It was God who initiated Jesus’ entrance in to the wilderness and ultimately in to a time of great temptation.

Have you ever done something that you just felt, in your bones, in your very spirit, was something that God was leading you to do? You just had this sense that this was where God was leading you.

Take this job.
Begin a relationship with this person.
Initiate this conversation.
Go here.
No, no, no… I mean there.

Are you with me?
You been there before?

And then, think back, and examine if any of those situations, those scenarios, those relationships, those life choices eventually went to crap. Just a total backfire. And you found yourself thinking, “wow, did I just TOTALLY misunderstand God on that one? How hard did I swing and miss on that?!”

I’ve been there.
I’m betting you have, too.

But I think that sometimes, even though we end up questioning ourselves and doubting that we really were walking in the direction God was leading us, that sometimes (in our more clear-headed moments) we end up concluding that indeed we had done as we felt led by God.

We entered the wilderness at God’s prompting. Not fully realizing (of course) that it would, in fact, turn out to BE a wilderness. Filled with pain and sadness and rejection and hunger and thirst and temptation.

But we still say it was God’s leading.

And don’t we generally come out of those times stronger than before?
I mean, isn’t every wilderness, every Valley of Hard Times, something that ultimately shapes us and grows us to become a better US?
I don’t know… maybe not every time. That’s likely not true.

But most times. I wager.

Julian of Norwich is one of the most important Christian mystics in church history. She was an anchoress in Norwich, England in the 14th century. An anchorite was essentially a spiritual hermit who would live in a cell, carved in the side of a church, choosing to live a life of prayer and meditation.

Julian said this:

“First, there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!”

Yes.

Just, yes.

I love placing the very FALL itself within the mercy and the grace of God.

After all, we grow most after we fall, right?
We discover more about ourselves after we fall.

If we are to grow, mature, then losing, falling and failing is a requirement. It is a necessary, and even GOOD part of the human journey.

I have always tried really hard NOT to fail.
I won’t start a new effort unless I know I’ll be really good at it.
This is why I put off learning to play guitar for like 3 years. Because I knew I would be awful at it in the beginning. (Brilliant, right?)

But there is grace IN the fall itself. Not just in the getting back up again.

So I guess that’s why I feel that sometimes, when we ask the question: where is God during this incredibly hard season of my life, I just wonder if one possible answer is: at the beginning of it all, prompting you to journey out in to the desert, in to the wilderness, so that you can find a type of transformation that can ONLY happen in the wilderness.

But (to go back to Part 2) God doesn’t just send you packing with a couple loafs of bread and a canteen… No, God is beautifully present IN the wilderness with you. Every step of the way.
IN the darkness.
IN the thick of the trial and pain.
Holding you… sustaining and carrying you…

And (to back to Part 1) God is also ahead of you.
Waiting with open arms… ready to RUN to you, scoop you up, and carry you home. Throwing a party to celebrate the courage it takes to finally repent, to turn around, to decide to live a new way.

Praise be to God, the One who leads, sustains, and invites.

Amen.

Part 2: In the Hard Times, Where is God Located?

Part 2: In the Hard Times, Where is God Located?
Alongside us. Sustaining and strengthening us. Unmoved by the chaos.

Yesterday we explored one potential response to the question of where is God when life is hard. And we borrowed from the story of the Prodigal Son in suggesting that God is out in front of us with two postures.

1: God calls us forward. Inviting us out of our patterns of unhealth and misery. Beckoning us to a more abundant life.
2: God anxiously anticipates the moment our hearts begin to turn away from the path of destruction and towards the path of life. And in that moment God runs out to grab us, envelope us in love, and lead us back home.

Today I want to explore another idea related to the location of God during the hard times of life.

I don’t think God ONLY stands at the edge of the valley you’ve fallen in to, cheering at you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start climbing up.

Though certainly I think that’s true.

And I don’t think God ONLY waits there patiently, with great excitement at the prospect of you finally getting out. God is not just a cheerleader inspiring us to get back up again, and then there to celebrate with us when we’ve succeeded.

Though I think that’s true.

No, my hunch is that God is actually down IN the valley with us.
Present in a way so that once you’ve reached the lowest of lows and cannot even FATHOM starting to get out of the mess you’ve made, it is in THAT moment that God scoops you up. When you’ve run out of all your energies, exhausted from trying so hard, is when the Grace of God can truly and finally take over.

You know, that whole “God is strongest when I am weakest” sort of thing.

Paul, when dealing with hardships in his life, takes this posture:

10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Cor 12:10

Paul takes a certain delight in the hard times because he knows that is, perhaps, when he is most aware of the presence of God.

And we all know this to be true, don’t we?

When life is going well and we’re in a rhythm of sorts, and there’s really nothing to complain about, then it’s pretty easy to… I dunno… sort of forget about God? To just sort of be like, I got this. Life is good. I’m good. All good.

(I’m not alone in this, am I?)

But when the sh*t hits the fan and everything starts falling apart, well it is then that we start to search for God. To grope around in the darkness, hoping for something secure to grab on to.

And IN that searching, IN that desperation, is precisely God.

If you grew up in conservative Christianity like I did then perhaps you struggle with some of the same religious baggage that I do. And one particularly heavy suitcase is the one that suggests that God can’t stand evil. Can’t stand sin. That God is Light, therefore there is not God-ness in the Dark-ness.

Are you with me?

And so what happens, or what can happen, is that we begin to believe that when we are in the depths of disaster (perhaps brought on by our own propensity to screw things up) we tell ourselves that we have to escsape the darkness in order to find the Light.

That surely God can’t be here, because there is too much “bad” here.

Here’s what I have to say to that: name for me, if you will, the primary tangible spot, the very location, of what amounts to the most horrible and tragic moment of evil and darkness?

The cross on the hill of Golgatha.

Isn’t it?

I mean, that’s how the biblical writers saw it.
That on that cross was the weight of the whole human race’s sin.
The cross: where the full power of sin and shame and evil and death all piled up and were hurled at the Son of Man.

Perhaps the singular most dark moment in history.
And there, right alongside it, right IN it, was the Light.

Jesus stood in the very place of human tragedy and sorrow and pain and suffering and evil.

The cross itself points to the reality that God is present precisely in the moments where you would least expect God to be.

21 the Anointed One, who had never experienced sin, became sin for us so that in Him we might embody the very righteousness of God. -2 Cor 5:21

On the cross was exposed the weight of humanity’s shame and guilt.
The point at which the powers of sin and death were exposed.
Sin was on full display.

And there was Jesus.

(Who, rather ironically, felt abandoned by God. Do you blame him? Don’t you feel abandoned by God at times?  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Clearly God had not forsaken Jesus, for God does not. But even Jesus himself felt the agonizing loneliness that accompanies great sorrow and suffering. But that’s another thought for another day.)

I ask you to pause and go read this post, written by Richard Beck. Specifically because of the section taken out of Elie Weisel’s holocaust memoir, Night.

I’ll wait…

You back?

Wasn’t that a harrowing tale?
And yet also a powerful, powerful image.

So that’s why I think that God does not merely sit atop the valley, waiting for us to emerge. I see (and have experienced in my own life) a presence and reality of God RIGHT IN THE THICK OF IT.

Right there in the valley. In the darkest places.

Where is God when life is hardest?

Exactly there.

Part 1: In the Hard Times, Where is God Located?

“Where is God?!”

It’s a common question.
One most often asked when we are confronted with the more ugly side of human existence. We ask about God’s presence or existence or involvement when we witness tragedy and disaster.
We also wonder about it when we go through really hard seasons of life.

Sometimes life is hard because the world is hard. Be it natural disaster, or uncontrollable economic forces, or disease or sickness.

Sometimes life is hard because people are hard. We are the victims of other people’s hatred or fear. We are beaten up, hurt, damaged by other humans.

Sometimes life is hard because we make it that way. Be it bad decisions or patterns of poor choices. Maybe we chose a path of destruction for ourselves, or we are consumed with selfishness, pride, or fear. And so we are in a hard time of our own making.

In all those cases it is natural to ask: where is God?

This is admittedly a HUGE topic. It deserves much more time and thought than what I’m about to give to it. So just know that this Three Part series is obviously not exhaustive. But it might serve to help you (if you are in a hard season of life) to find just a moment of Peace. To discover, if only briefly, where God might be in it all.

Part I: In the Hard Times, Where is God Located?
Ahead of us. Both inviting us to a better Way, and ready to welcome us home.

20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. -Luke 15:20

You know the story.
We call it the Prodigal Son story.

Son demands money, runs away, spends it wildly. When everything is lost and the son has hit bottom the son decides to return home. And where do we find the father?

Standing on the porch waiting.
With eyes wide open, toward the horizon, never giving up hope that his son would come home.
Anxiously and excitedly anticipating the slightest hint that his son is done with his prodigal living.
Running. Running out to meet the son.
Embracing. Holding.
Taking by the hand and welcoming the son back home.

Where is God when life gets hard?

Ready and waiting for you to say, “okay, enough is enough. I can’t keep running. I can’t keep wasting my life. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I’m lonely. Scared. Exhausted. I’m ready to change. I HAVE to change.”

That’s called repentance.
And when we just start to show the smallest glimmer of turning-around, there is God.

BAM! Right there, with open arms and an open heart, ready to take us home.

‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

For those hard seasons of life that come about at our own doing, because of our lack of wisdom, or lack of courage, or lack of listening to those in our life who are worried about us, I see God at the edge of the cliff of the valley we’ve made for ourselves just biting Divine nails, anxious for us to wake up.

We are invited to a better way of living.
This was (and remains) the call of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus offers a way of living that John described as a “life of the ages” (or, eternal life). He also calls it an abundant life. This is Life the way it is supposed to be lived. The most human life. The Divine life.

The life of, well, Jesus. The God-man.

When we make a mess of our lives (which is often) God’s posture towards us is one of invitation. Of beckoning and calling. God is ahead of us, pulling us forward towards greater peace and love and beauty and hope.

And the millisecond that we make a move, no matter how small, towards coming back home, the God-of-all runs to meet us. To cover us in Love. To bear our shame for us.

In the Prodigal Story the father runs out to meet his son. The picture here is that the father runs out to meet his son before the son can enter the city and take the long walk-of-shame home. Instead, the father meets the son outside the city walls and adorns him with gifts of the father’s blessing, and then leads his son home. Taking on the shame that ought to have been the son’s.

What a beautiful picture of where God is when life is hard.

Ahead of us. Inviting us to a more beautiful, abundant life.
And also ready to swoop us up, clothe us in grace, and welcome us back home… no matter how far we’ve wandered.

New Teaching: Wild Goose Festival and the Women Who Made Them Soar

A couple weeks ago I travelled out to Hot Springs, NC to attend The Wild Goose Festival for the second straight year. Wild Goose is a fantastically wonderful convergence of progressive-ish Christians who are interested in dialoguing about things like justice, music, and spirituality. (I shared some of my thoughts from last year here).

This year, instead of posting on my blog about my highlights from Wild Goose, I came back to Missiongathering and preached a sermon about it. Our church is going through the book of Acts this summer, and I was already planning on speaking from Acts 16:11-15, the story of the conversion of Lydia. Weeks ago I knew I wanted to talk about the issue of women within Christianity, and how the movement began by repositioning the social ladder; namely, by demolishing it altogether. Acts tells the story of the racial outsider being invited to the table, of the sexual-other being invited to the table, and in this passage we see how women were elevated to a status of mutuality and equality in the Kingdom of God.

Anyways, I didn’t know exactly HOW I was going to talk about this issue, I just knew I really, really wanted to.

And then, Wild Goose happened.

When I got back, I knew that I couldn’t just speak about “women” in an abstract sense… no, I knew I needed to get personal.

Get raw.

Honest.

So this sermon is me opening up about how I was raised and educated into a worldview that elevated men over women.

I am a product of patriarchy, and, as a result, can be sexist at times.

Okay… I won’t give it all away… you really should just listen.

But I WILL say that my three favorite presenters from Wild Goose (which I talk about at length in the message) were Nadia Bolz-Weber, Julie Clawson, and Glennon Doyle Melton.

Nadia

Julie

Glennon

So check out the message, and then go spend time at each of these amazing people’s websites.

I love them. And so should you.

(Right Click to “Save” the Sermon .mp3 file)


5 New Teachings Added

Fresh off the press… er, off the Garageband, I guess…

Five new .mp3′s have been added to the Teachings page.

1) Theology of Doubt

This is a modified and expanded-upon version of a talk I gave at Corban University last year on doubt. This time, speaking at Courtstreet Christian Church in Salem, OR, I unpack a little more about how doubt can be a GOOD thing in the life of a Christ-Follower.

2) The Carpenter: There and Back Again

Stretching the Christmas season one more week past Epiphany, I explore the story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod. And then, of course, I use that story to talk about corporate worship. Makes sense.

3) Jonah’s Prayer from the Fish

Looking at chapter two of Jonah, where he offers a prayer to God from inside the belly of the sea beast, we can learn a few things about life getting hard. Also, I take the common perception of Jonah the Prophet and casually suggest we’ve gotten it wrong. Are you convinced?

4) Illuminate the Love of Jesus

What does the “love” of Jesus look like? I explore the love the that Jesus has for US, as well as what it looks like for us to love LIKE Jesus loved. And then, how can we, as a faith community, illuminate that love to the rest of the world?

5) God in Film: The Hunger Games

This is my first attempt at a God in Film sermon (it’s a sermon series our church does every year). I love the story of The Hunger Games, and I was pumped to dig in to themes like Empire and non-violence. Check it out.

The Bible is Tricky; Love Shouldn’t Be

(This is the 4th and final post on my series: Why I Write/Post So Much About the “Gay” Issue. Thank you for taking the time to better understand where I’m coming from and why. Make sure to check out Part I: Gay Balloons and Star Wars Legos, Part II: Speaking of Jesus…, and Part III: And Yet it Moves)

THE BIBLE IS A TRICKY BUSINESS

If you think the Bible is easy to understand, you probably haven’t read it.

If you think that historically Christians have basically gotten pretty close to agreeing on how to interpret the Bible, you probably haven’t studied much church history.

If you think that historically Christians have, more or less, not been majorly wrong on some pretty significant issues, then you probably haven’t been paying attention.

At the risk of offending your intelligence right at the beginning, I want to make sure we are not naïve about something. Or, as it likely could be, ignorant.

The Bible is a complex compilation of literature that ranges in different styles; from historical narrative, to poetry, to metaphor, and everything in between. It was composed by humans over the span of possibly a couple thousand years and written in many different cultures and contexts. It was not written in English, so our English copies are a translation of Greek manuscripts (a dead language) which was either trying to translate Hebrew manuscripts (also a dead language) or it was the written recording of the spoken word in Aramaic (also, you guessed it, a dead language). Translators, for the most part, have done their best over the centuries to help the people in their historical context to understand the words written hundreds/thousands of years ago. It’s a tricky business, and we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think that sometimes people’s biases (theology?) influenced their choice on which English words to use to translate the Greek that recorded the Aramaic that translated the Hebrew.

Furthermore, as if the translation process itself weren’t difficult enough, virtually no two people in history have ever agreed completely on how to interpret every single word/phrase/sentence/verse/passage/chapter/book of the Bible. Followers of Christ have splintered in to thousands of different variations of what it means to be a “Christian.” New ideas and altered interpretations pop up in the scholarly world all the time. The church of 100 years ago would barely recognize the church of today. The church of 200 years ago would barely recognize the church of 100 years ago. And so on. As a result, if you study Church History, you will discover that the Church has been wrong so many times on such major issues that even the drunk old uncle at the family reunion would blush. Just to name a few (in no particular order): polygamy, patriarchy, slavery, witch hunting, astronomy, Inquisition, Nazi Germany, American Colonialism (i.e. Native American genocide), more slavery, various predictions of the End Times, denying women rights, denying colored people rights, beating our children, more slavery, etc, etc, etc. Yes, I realize some of these “misfires” are from what you might call “fringe groups.” But most of them are not. Most of them come from the majority position. And most of them are a result of misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misapplying the words of the Bible.

It is a tricky business, Bible reading/interpreting, and millions upon millions upon millions of men, women and children have suffered throughout human history as a result of God-fearing Christians missing the point. Don’t ever think, for one second, that you or I are immune to missing the point. That you or I are immune to misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misapplying the words of the Bible. None of us are. This is serious, serious (and tricky) business, and SO MUCH IS ON THE LINE.

If you read yesterdays post (And Yet it Moves) then you know that I would add to the above list: “homosexuality.” Millions of us are convinced that the church has misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied the Bible when it comes to sexuality and same-sex attraction. And as a result, millions upon millions upon millions of men, women and children have suffered throughout human history.

So why do I write/talk about this issue so much?

Because I think we’ve been wrong long enough.

HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE BIBLE

Many of you have followed my series called UnClobber: The Bible and Homosexuality. Frustratingly I paused that series as we picked up and moved to San Diego and I have not yet gone back and finished it. But I promise within the next month that will happen. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, UnClobber is my effort to go passage by passage through the texts in the Bible that have been used to formulate the position that any expression of same-sex attraction is a sin. Or, to put it simply, that “homosexuality is a sin.”

The bottom line is that this simply is not true.

The Bible does not communicate this message.

We have erred on this just as we have on slavery. Just as we have on astronomy. Just as we have on segregation. Etc, etc, etc.

I won’t try and summarize my thoughts on the Bible and homosexuality here. You’ll have to come back for UnClobber. But I do want to share one insight from the Bible as I close up this series. (For this insight, I am indebted to Matthew Vines and his incredible 1 hour and 7 minute talk on the Bible and Homosexuality. Definitely worth your time.)

TO BE, OR NOT TO BE (Alone, that is)

If you are Christian and still think being gay is a ‘choice’ then I’m here to tell you that you are in the minority position within your own clan. Most conservative Christians have moved or are moving away from that position because it has repeatedly been demonstrated to be false. The prominent position nowadays within the conservative Christian world is this: if you are gay then you are called to be celibate. Just being gay is not a sin, but any expression of gay love is.

In other words, if you are gay then we invite you to be alone.

It is now your cross to bear.

All people are born with certain pre-dispositions to certain sinful behaviors. Our calling is to learn to live in a way that does not give in to those temptations. (I saw this clip from John Piper about homosexuality. After cleaning the vomit off my keyboard I realized this summarizes pretty well the ‘conservative’ position).

Of course, no decent Christian would put it so bluntly (“if you are gay then you are called to be alone”). They would probably point out how a relationship with Jesus can fill that lonely-shaped-hole, or how friendship and Christian fellowship can help us not be lonely, and so on. And all of that is true… sort of.

But check this out.

Although it’s not technically a clobber passage, many people will point to Genesis chapter 2 (and a hyper-literal interpretation to boot) as foundational evidence that heterosexuality is the only God-blessed union. Here’s the perennial nail in the coffin:

21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

And there you have it. God’s design is for one man and one woman. Clear and simple.

However, when was the last time you backed up a few verses and reminded yourself of why God created the woman for the man?

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.” 18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

Did you catch that?

Man had relationship with God. But still, God said “it is not good for the man to be alone.” So God set about to make a suitable helper for him.

After making a community of creatures for the man, the man still felt alone. None of them were suitable helpers for him. And at that point is when God makes a woman, who is a suitable helper for the man.

Man was alone. In spite of a relationship with God and other creatures. Man was alone.

And God said, “this is NOT good. Many other things have I created lately, and I’ve called them all very good. But this? This loneliness? This emptiness? This lack of relational connectedness I’ve discovered now exists within the pinnacle of my creation? It ain’t good. I got more work to do!”

God himself was not okay with man being alone.

But this is precisely the message that so many in the church say to those in the LGBT community: “Since you are attracted to someone of the same sex, and since that is not a “Biblical suitable helper” for you, then you need to remain celibate. You need to remain alone.”

See the irony?

The church stays hyper-focused on “a man will leave father and mother and be united with his wife” to the detriment of the fact that this relational environment was instituted precisely because it is not good for a person to BE ALONE.

Some would even suggest that a gay person learn to live with (and marry?) a person of the opposite sex. Be a homosexual that lives out a heterosexual life. But I ask you, is that a “suitable helper” for them?

Why do I write about and talk about these issues so much?

Because the Bible has been used for too long to suppress and oppress our LGBT brothers and sisters. It has been used to fabricate an anti-gay theology. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted and misapplied to the homosexual community. Not only have we ripped the clobber passages out of their historical, cultural and textual contexts (and endured terrible English translations of some words), we have also missed the beautiful thread of relational love that was sewn in to the fabric of what it means to be human: it is not good to be alone, thus saith the Lord. (sidenote: some people throughout history have sensed a special call to celibacy. Nuns, priests, missionaries, etc. This is a unique calling that we dare not impose upon someone else and force them to manifest or try and convince themselves that it is true. Heck, Paul even wrote that “it is better to marry than burn with passion,” but once again we say to our LGBT brothers and sisters, “you CANNOT marry, sorry, you must burn with passion.”)

As a result of my convictions and conclusions about what the Bible says and doesn’t say regarding human sexuality, I am compelled to be a part of sharing the good news of God’s grace and love for all.

THEY’RE REAL, PEOPLE

When I first met Rich, my very dear friend/pastor/boss, and told him my story of how I was fired over my views on sexuality, he asked me this question: “so who is it?”

“Who is what?” I replied.

“Who in your family came out as gay? A brother? Cousin?”

“No one,” I said in return. “I have no gay family members or friends, that I know of.”

He went on to tell me how unusual that is. Most straight folk like myself who experience a transformation in their theological and ideological positions on this issue do so as a result of having to reconcile with the fact that someone close to them has come out of the closet. But that wasn’t the case for me. My path of transformation was not launched by the discovery that someone close to me was gay. Embarrassingly, I had no experience with the gay community and had no gay friends. Instead, it was through prayer, study, contemplation, and being open to God’s guiding Spirit that led me through the years it took for my head and heart to change.

But now? Now I know gay people. Now I have gay friends.

And guess what…

They are REAL PEOPLE, people.

With real stories. Real families. Real passions and loves. Real interests. Real gifts and talents. Real likes and dislikes. Real jobs and real lives.

They are not simply abstract concepts that we can discuss in our ivory towers. That we can pretend to know more about who they are and what they want and what they need than they do.

When you sit and listen to someone share with you how their own family rejected them and kicked them out of the house because they came out of the closet, your heart simultaneously breaks a little and grows a bit bigger.

When you sit and listen to someone tell you about the years they spent running from anything and everything that is good, and wasting their lives on destructive behavior, because they bottled up so much for so long and then fought the most extreme identity crisis you could imagine, your heart breaks a little and grows a bit bigger.

When you have coffee with someone who has to choose between either staying in a relationship with the person they love OR staying a part of their own family, your heart breaks a little and grows a bit bigger.

When you break bread with two women who have been in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship for 20 years and watch them love each other in the same exact way you love your own spouse, but they CAN’T call each other “spouse,” your heart breaks a little and grows a bit bigger.

You want to know why I write so much about this? Why I talk about it, post about it, focus on these issues?

Because my heart has broken too many times, and because it’s also grown three times its size.

After my theological/sociological/philosophical/political transformation was complete, but before I met all my friends in the LGBT community, I was convinced the issues and the theology was worth fighting for.

Now that I’ve met, loved, and befriended the real people behind these issues, I am convinced THEY are worth fighting for.

Yes, the work of the Bible is certainly tricky business.
But the work of Love? That should be far less tricky.

Paul wrote these words to the Philippian church, “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” 2:3,4

Why do I write/talk so much about these issues?

Because I’m tired of looking out for my own interests. I’m a selfish person and Lord knows I’ve done plenty of that in my life thus far.

These are my friends. And they, along with countless others, have experienced enough pain, marginalization, shame, guilt and fear. It’s time that I, and you as well, start looking out for THEIR interests.

IN SUMMARY

Well, I’d like to thank you for spending this week with me. Reading as I share from my head and heart some of the reasons why so much of my online presence has been consumed with the “gay” issue over these past 9 months.

A quick recap:

Why do I write/talk so much about the “gay” issue?

  • Because, practically speaking, this is the first time in my life I’ve been “allowed” to do so. That’s a lot of bottled up energy!
  • Because I’ve discovered I’m passionate about it. And just like you, when I’m passionate about something it tends to be more prominent in life.
  • Because my commitment to follow Jesus has taken me to this place.
  • Because I believe Jesus’ life demonstrated a posture of love, grace, and mercy for the lowest, the outcast, the marginalized.
  • Because I want future-me to be proud of present-me.
  • Because I want to be on the right side of God’s history.
  • Because I believe we’ve gotten this issue wrong as it relates to what the Bible says and doesn’t say.
  • Because I’ve met enough LGBT folk to be convinced they are REAL people, and they are worth fighting for.
  • Because my heart has broken for them, as well as grown for them.

If I may, I offer the following prayer of St Francis of Assisi as a Benediction to close this series.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

And Yet It Moves

BLACK SHARPIES AND WHITE SHEETS

Two years ago, while still working at The Grove, I attended Catalyst West Coast with the other pastors. One of the things the folks at Catalyst like to do is set up an interactive arts area in the chapel for people to spend time meditating, reflecting, worshiping, and doing some hands on interactive stuff. While wandering through the chapel two years ago I was drawn towards a large display of three sheets that created a three-walled box. One side of the ‘box’ was open so that you could walk in and be surrounded by three giant white sheets. Scattered throughout the display were black sharpies, and participants were encouraged to write out a ‘confession’ anywhere on the sheet. There were super bright lights that back lit the sheets and made the box translucent, so that you could read all the confessions from outside the box, but they were all backwards. You had to go IN the box to read them properly. I decided to pick up a sharpie and participate.

Just moments before I visited the interactive stations in the chapel I listened to a keynote address by Dr John Perkins who had marched with Martin Luther King Jr in the Civil Rights Movement. His speech reminded me that the stain on our nation’s history of segregation is still so fresh. People are still alive and walking around who witnessed first hand a country who treated African Americans like second class citizens. I found myself weighed down by the gravity of that thought.

We want to believe we’ve come so far as a nation. But we haven’t.

We want to believe we’ve come so far as a church. But we haven’t.

Sadly many, many conservative churches supported segregation. And prior to that, supported slavery. The Bible was even used to buttress such absurd positions.

And I got to thinking that afternoon of how many followers of Jesus there were during the days of segregation that knew it was wrong, knew that we should not discriminate against people because of the color of their skin, but did nothing about it.

Stayed silent.

And if those people are still alive today (which I’m sure many are), oh how their hearts must break at the stain on their own history. Could you imagine being 80 some years old and having to live with the reality that you were adamantly opposed to racial segregation but you did nothing and said nothing about it back in the 60’s?

I imagine the weight of that guilt and shame would be crushing.

Or, imagine those who were in favor of discrimination at the time (because their church told them to be, or because they interpreted their Bibles so poorly). And now that we “know” how wrong we all were, they must also be crushed under the pain of knowing they allowed a few verses in the Bible to trump their human capacity for reason, compassion, and love.

Anyways, so all those thoughts were fresh in my mind when I walked through the chapel, made my way to the white sheet art installation, and picked up a black sharpie.

Without really thinking much about what I was going to write, I popped off the cap, found a spot high up on the wall (benefit of being almost 6’3”), and followed the lead of my inner spirit as I wrote:

God, I do not want my future self to be ashamed of my present self. I do not want to remain silent and do nothing about discrimination towards the LGBT community. As the world continues changing and we look back on these times 50 years from now and wonder how we could have gotten this issue so wrong, I do not want to have been one of the fear-filled silent ones.

I stepped back from what I wrote and cautiously (fearfully?) turned my head from side to side to see if anyone else saw what I wrote. I don’t know why, but writing that out was somehow a formative moment for me. Even though I only told a white sheet how I felt, it seemed as though this gesture was significant. To actually externalize something like this, to put it out there, outside of simply my own heart and mind, somehow made it more real.

And I realized I couldn’t turn back from that moment.

Even though no one at my church and none of my family or friends knew how I felt on this issue, suddenly I was willing to put this out there for complete strangers to read.

I’m not even certain I knew that I felt this way until I entered that three-walled white sheet box and popped off the cap of that lone black sharpie.

It became evident in that moment that a significant crossroad had not just presented itself in my life but that I had also already chosen the path down which I’d follow.

Why do I talk about this issue so much?

Because I could never live with myself if I didn’t.

I believe with all my heart and mind that history will show the church to be on the wrong side of this issue just like it was with segregation, women’s rights, slavery… heck, we even swung and missed on astronomy! It is imperative that future-Colby is able to look back on these days, when so much is at stake in the LBGT community and people are finally beginning to lessen their grip on homophobic behavior and actions and legislation, and be able to look his grandkids in the eyes and say, “I helped fight for this. I spoke out when it wasn’t popular. I challenged people’s assumptions and helped educate their ignorances. I took an honest look at the Scriptures are realized how badly we’d missed it. I opened my eyes to the discrimination that had run rampant against our brothers and sisters and stood with those who said ‘no more.’”

AND YET IT MOVES

In 1514 the German astronomer, Copernicus, proposed the idea of heliocentric cosmology (which is the view that the Sun is fixed in space and the planets orbit around the sun). This was the complete opposite of geocentric cosmology (which was the view held up until that point, that the Earth was the center and fixed in the universe and the sun orbited Earth).

100 years later the Italian physicist/mathematician/astronomer/philosopher named Galileo agreed with Copernicus’ assessment. The Sun was indeed (and scientifically proven to be) fixed, and it was in fact the Earth that moved in space.

Unfortunately for him, the Bible says otherwise.

According to Scripture, the Earth is fixed and does not move. (Psalm 93:1, 96:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30, just to name a few). Therefore the official position of the church was geocentrism. So for Galileo to suggest the opposite was heresy.

In 1633 Galileo was summoned to Rome and stood trial by the Inquisition for writing literature that revealed the truth about cosmology. He was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life in house arrest while all of his writings were banned. (quick side note: lest we just blame the Catholic Church for suppressing the truth and silencing people like Galileo, the Reformer himself, Martin Luther, also rejected the evidence of heliocentrism in favor of the above Bible verses.)

Legend has it that, after his recantation in front of the Inquisition, he muttered the phrase, “and yet it moves.”

As if to say, “though I’m forced to reject what is true because of your insistence on a few clearly misunderstood Bible verses, that does not change the reality that the earth moves.”

Fine, we can all participate in this cosmic comedy of errors… and yet it moves.

Sometimes that which is true has a way of hiding itself for centuries. And when it is uncovered, should it threaten the way we’ve always thought/believed about something (or, even more dangerously, should it threaten a few Bible verses), we find ourselves poised in a difficult place. Forced to make a choice between three paths.

Do we, like the Religious Elite, dig in our heels and insist we have not been wrong. Insist that the Bible clearly says such and such and so all other evidences of logic, reason, science or alternative interpretations must be wrong. Insist on protecting the “truth” as we’ve always known it.

Or, do we, like Galileo, open up our hearts and minds to the possibility that we’ve gotten it wrong. We develop new convictions that reject what we’ve always known to be true even though it could be dangerous. But, like Galileo, do we ultimately acquiesce to the powers that be. Do we ignore our conscience, ignore the guiding of the Spirit inside us, and stick our heads in the sand. Not wanting to rock the boat. Not wanting to invite the wrath of the Inquisition. Fearful of what might be lost.

Or, thirdly, do we choose the path of people like Descartes, Keplar and Isaac Newton who boldly moved forward in life within the newly revealed “truth.” Regardless of the cost, there were those that knew that the Bible was wrong (or, more accurately, had been wrongly interpreted) and weren’t afraid to support heliocentrism. Weren’t afraid to speak out and do their part to move the conversation forward.

Homosexuality is not a disorder.
It is not a choice.
It is not something that can be cured or reversed.
A loving, committed, monogamous same-sex relationship is not forbidden in the Bible.
Gay people are not abominations.

These “truths” have been hiding for centuries but have now been uncovered.

The “church” is doing what it has often done throughout history: dig in its heels and insist it is right. Clinging to archaic science. Insisting on weak interpretations. And threatening anyone who dares oppose it.

There are many Christians who have taken the route of Galileo. They have been exposed to these “truths,” have met actual gay people and heard their stories, read material that challenged what they’ve always believed, and discovered how wrong we’ve been. And yet they remain silent. They would rather remain in house arrest, imprisoned within their own consciences, if it means they don’t have to endure the wrath of the Inquisition. Or lose their job. Or lose relationships.

I won’t do that. I can’t do that.

People’s lives are at stake with this issue. This is way more important than the order of the planets and stars. This is about the livelihood of our fellow brothers and sisters. About their mental health and inner happiness. About the rights that have been denied them that all straight people enjoy. About the destruction of their souls as they’ve been told over and over again that they are rotten sinners who invite the wrath of God on their lives and on our nation. This is about saving the lives of thousands of young people each year who would rather kill themselves than face this world that hates them, fears them, tells them they cannot love or be loved, tells them they are broken and deformed, tells them they have failed in their efforts to surrender to God.

IT’S NOT THE SAME, BUT IT IS

I understand that people don’t like comparing the LGBT movement with the Civil Rights Movement. I get it. It’s different in some ways.

But at the same time there are enough parallels, I think, that render it apropos to take principles from one and apply to another. However, even if you disagree and think they don’t belong in the same comparative sentence together, then I still want to ask you this question: imagine you are living back in the mid 1960′s and a friend of yours was spending all her free time at Civil Rights rallys. They were writing their local paper and calling out for equality. They were attending churches and begging people to re-read their Scriptures. They were focusing enormous amounts of time and energy in to ending discrimination in our country. Would you say to them, “hey friend, I know you’re passionate about this, but can you scale it back a bit? It’s like all you ever talk about anymore. I know it’s important, but there are other things in life that are important, too.”

I don’t think, looking back through the lens of history, you would say that.

You would root them on. You would tell them to not shut up until blacks were considered equal with whites. Until all people could eat in the same restaurant and drink from the same fountain. You would encourage them to never give up.

Well then, if you agree with me on some of the issues relating to the LGBT community, then I propose to you that this is THAT important. And I think future YOU would want to say to present ME, “don’t give up. Don’t stop talking about it until gays are considered equal with straights. Until all people can know the same basic rights. Until churches start to open their doors and their hearts to the gay community, and come to see how wrong they are.”

And if you disagree with me on these issues then perhaps you could step back and respect the fact that I, and many others, think this is THAT important. You may not understand it, but you can choose to respect it.

If you’re not tired of reading yet, I invite you to go here and read this amazing blog post from Richard Beck called “The Fence of Matthew Shepard.” He also discusses the commonality between Civil Rights, the Holocaust, and events like the killing of Matthew Shepard. He says this at the end,

Let me tell you what keeps me up at night. My deepest fear in life is that I’m going to end up on the wrong side of God’s history. Like so many Christians before me. My fear is that a moment will come when I am asked to stand up for those hanging on the trees, literally and symbolically, and I’ll respond with “That has nothing to do with me. That has nothing to do with the church.”

UNDERSTANDING MY PRIVILEGE

I am straight. And white. And a male.

These are three things that are true about me, and three things that grant me certain privileges that I did not earn nor ask for. But I have them nonetheless.

Those who have done study in the world of “privilege” have remarked that those in the majority position (i.e. myself) can speak out for minority positions without the immediate assumption or critique that we are speaking out of self interest.

While I certainly don’t want to take away or replace the “voice” of the LGBT community, I must acknowledge the “privilege” that I have in this arena. I can speak out against discrimination of gays and NOT be waved off simply because “I am gay.”

I don’t deserve and didn’t earn this privilege, but I have it nonetheless.

And for whatever reason I have gained a very tiny sliver of influence over an even tinier sliver of people in this vast universe. I have a platform (regardless of how small it is), I have white/straight/male privilege, and I have the firm conviction that we the church have been wrong on this issue for too long. My voice is needed in this conversation. For every 20 people that wave me off as a heretic there might be one young gay guy or lesbian girl who discovers that they are a child of God. Who learns for perhaps the first time that the Bible does not condemn them, that they are not an abomination. And even though they’ve felt that or tried to say that for years, now they have someone else who is saying it with them… for them.

I won’t be like the person who never stood against racial segregation and lives their remaining days in shame.

I won’t be like Galileo who knew the truth about cosmology but chose to renounce it and live alone.

The earth MOVES, people. It MOVES! And I’m not going to utter it under my breath as I walk away in fear. There are too many hurting people in this world for me to sit by and do nothing. Say nothing. Not use my privilege, my influence, my study, my voice.

Why do I talk so much about this issue?

Because it is moving… and I’m moving with it.
While also telling you its moving.
And inviting you to move with it.

I don’t want to be on the wrong side of God’s history.
And I don’t want you to be, either.

Speaking of Jesus…

SO MUCH HOMOSEXUALITY, SO LITTLE JESUS

(This is Part II in a Four Part series addressing the question, “why do I talk so much about homosexuality?” Click here to read Part I: Gay Balloons and Star Wars Legos)

Today I want to come at this question from the angle of how my talking/writing about this issue is related to my following of Jesus. Some of the “criticism” I’ve received has been that I talk about THIS stuff more than JESUS-y stuff.

To help guide this post, I’ll use this email I received a while back from a Pastor friend (I think I can call him a friend… We did have coffee one time together. Although he mostly just wanted to get together to ask me why I gave such a heretical [my word, not his... but it was implied] message at my Alma Mater, Corban University. And we are also FB friends. So I don’t know… I think we are friends). Here is what he wrote:

Colby, Hope this finds you and your family well. Forgive me for a blunt set of questions and statements here but I’m really am curious about something and your perspective on it. I’ve noticed that many of your posts are regarding homosexuality. Question: If you are in fact a believer in Jesus Christ, why then are you focused on that issue? Why not focus on Christ and Him crucified? The Apostle Paul resolved to know nothing else…right? Or could it be that you are not really interested in the person of Christ as much as you are in the act of homosexual behavior? That’s the way that it comes across to me. Jesus loves dirty sinners like me, like all sexual sinners, gossipers, liars… All that to say, I believe homosexuality is sin but i’m very interested in loving them first with Christ’s love and allowing him to convict via the Holy Spirit. You’re totally wrong regarding your view of scripture and how it deals with homosexuality, but that aside, it’s ridiculous that the so called “liberal christians”, such as yourself, are solely focused on this issue and yet still call yourselves Christians. You might call yourselves Homosexualians. Find a new issue already. And I’d say the same to the “religious right”. And I have said it to them. I guess that’s my question: Why are you so focused on homosexuality and not on Christ? Hope you receive that with love.

I think this guy means well. Or, at least, I’m choosing to take my thumb off the scale. I believe he has a passionate heart for God and for God’s people, even if his theological system requires that he fight fiercely against what he sees as “error.”

On one hand this email was pretty jarring, and it annoyed me that he sent it.

But, on the other hand, I can sorta kinda understand the sentiment behind it. Why focus on this issue so much? What about Jesus?

I think others are asking a similar question, even if they wouldn’t word it as harshly or rudely as this guy did.

Instead of replying to him I told him I’d like to keep him anonymous and answer some of his questions here on my blog. So here I go…

“If you are in fact a believer in Jesus Christ, why then are you focused on that issue? Why not focus on Christ and Him crucified?”

Setting aside the passive aggressive dig for a moment, lest there be any doubt, yes I am a “believer in Jesus.” Even more importantly, however, I am a follower of Jesus (for even the demons believe and shudder. So, big whoop for being a “believer.”) I think the false dichotomy expressed in this question exposes a hole in some people’s theological grids. Namely, that to be focused on Christ and him crucified means we do NOT focus on other “issues.”

Say what?

Clearly this guy wouldn’t even hold himself to such a standard. I guarantee you that if you visited his church’s podcast then you would find a variety of different sermon series, messages on different ideas and concepts, talks about all sorts of different aspects of life and faith. Not every sermon would be about “Christ and him crucified.” Not every Sunday would be a Good Friday. (Even if  every message this guy has given is centered in Jesus or comes back to Jesus or has something to do with Jesus. Which would be great, mind you, and is probably true. But that doesn’t seem to be what he is implying or suggesting).

But, anyways, it’s absurd to think that being “focused” on a certain issue means I am therefore NOT focused on Christ. It is precisely because of my commitment to follow Jesus and where he is leading me that I “focus” on this issue.

It is because of Jesus’ love, mercy and grace for all people.
It is because Jesus’ death and resurrection ushers in a new covenant of new creation.
It is because of Jesus’ life and ministry to the outcast, the lowly, the marginalized and oppressed.

In my efforts to reach out to the LGBT community, in my efforts to expose the condemnation and judgment that has been shown them by the church, in my efforts to educate people about the Bible and homosexuality, I believe I AM actually focused on Christ and him crucified.

People like this guy are free to disagree, but that doesn’t change the reality of it.

And the Apostle Paul wrote about many, many issues that were indirectly directly related to Christ and him crucified. Let’s not cherry pick this verse and misapply it too egregiously, shall we?

“Or could it be that you are not really interested in the person of Christ as much as you are in the act of homosexual behavior?”

Setting aside the words of judgment for a moment, let me ask this person a question in return: have you sent similar emails to people who run blogs/Facebook pages/twitter feeds that speak out against sex slavery? Speak out against child abuse? Speak out against pornography? Speak out against ending malaria? Speak out for clean water in Third World Countries? Speak out for ending hunger? Speak out against discrimination against people because of gender or race?

Have you contacted pastors who write extensively within the studies of marriage counseling? Financial advice? Parenting?

Have you emailed Mission Agencies that work to teach English in foreign countries? Work to give micro-loans to people in poverty? Work to build hospitals and orphanages?

My point is this: what is your point?

Simply because a person (like myself) writes a lot about one particular issue does not mean that person is somehow uninterested in the person of Jesus Christ. I imagine if this guy contacted any of the people like what I suggested above who are passionate about and focus on those different issues that they would probably say the same thing I would say…“We focus on this issue, we are passionate about this issue, because we ARE so interested in the person of Christ.” 

Because I love Jesus, I love people.
Because I follow Jesus, I try and live like he lived.
Because I am interested in the person (and indeed the works) of Jesus, I am interested in the things that interest him.

Jesus, I believe, is against discrimination. And so shall I be.
Jesus, I believe, extends mercy, love and grace for all people. And so shall I.
Jesus, I believe, identified with the lowly, the outcast, the downcast, the oppressed, the despised, the hated. And so shall I.
Jesus, I believe, wants people to experience eternal life. Life in the Kingdom of God. And so do I.
Jesus, I believe, is about justice and hope. And so shall I be.
Jesus, I believe, desires mercy and not sacrifice. And so shall I live.
Jesus, I believe, longs for people to know him… which is, to also know peace, and hope, and love. And so do I.

Perhaps this question my pastor friend asked of me would be better asked of HIM.

If you are NOT also contacting all sorts of other people who focus on all sorts of other issues, then why are YOU so interested in homosexuality?

Why does it bother you that someone like me is writing about, talking about, discussing these sorts of issues?

It seems clear to me that it’s because this guy vehemently disagrees with me, and finds my conclusions threatening and dangerous. It feels like he is choosing to hide behind the facade of “why don’t you focus on only Christ and him crucified,” and has merely constructed a straw man in the process. A way to throw “righteous stones,” if you will.

It sounds really good (and probably feels better) to say, “just talk about Jesus… not this other stuff.” It would be much harder to say, “you are wrong to talk about this stuff, because you are WRONG.”

However, he did at least eventually get to the real issue…

“All that to say, I believe homosexuality is sin but i’m very interested in loving them first with Christ’s love and allowing him to convict via the Holy Spirit. You’re totally wrong regarding your view of scripture and how it deals with homosexuality, but that aside…”

Well, I don’t think that IS just an “aside.” I think that’s precisely the reason WHY this guy sent me this message in the first place. And also why I’m guessing he hasn’t sent similar emails to all the pastors and groups of people like I mentioned above.

If you agree that we should end poverty, hunger, malaria, then you’re probably thrilled that people are focused on it.
If you agree that we need to raise awareness on issues like sex trafficking, pornography, and abuse, then you’re probably glad there are people and organizations that focus on just that.
I could go on and on…

I don’t think this guy cares all that much that my Facebook and blogs aren’t littered with (whatever would be classified by him as) “Christ and him crucified.”
His concern is NOT that I’m spending so much energy on a peripheral issue.

It is because he is radically opposed to WHAT that peripheral issue is. And I’m fine with that.

(To be fair, not everyone who has asked me “why do you spend so much energy on this issue” is radically opposed to it like this guy is. So I don’t want to make the mistake and lump in all my critics with this one.)

But, I want to challenge people who feel like I talk too much about this issue to not take a passive aggressive posture and suggest that I just “talk more about Jesus.” Unless you are consistent and send the same critique to those who spend so much time, energy and effort on other “issues.” Like these people, this organization, this pastor, these people, and this organization.

“it’s ridiculous that the so called “liberal christians”, such as yourself, are solely focused on this issue and yet still call yourselves Christians. You might call yourselves Homosexualians. Find a new issue already.”

Again, setting aside the at-least-it’s-not-passive-agressive-this-time judgmental words, I’m not sure what the phrase “so called liberal Christians” means, exactly. Is the assumption that those are mutually exclusive terms? As in, if you are a “liberal” then you cannot also be a “Christian,” hence the wording “so called.” Weird. Do people really think like that?

Is “liberal” such a negative thing that we have decided it is in direct opposition to a life lived in the way of Jesus?

It is clear that this guy does not have very many Christian friends who are liberal. (um, after reading this, would you blame a liberal leaning person for not wanting to be friends? Yikes.)

It’s laughable (and ignorant) to characterize all “liberal Christians” as being solely focused on this issue.

And I still can’t figure out why I cannot call myself a “Christian” and ALSO be focused on this issue? That makes absolutely no sense. How is there any biblical or historical support for such a claim? Are we really to buy in to the line of thinking that says, “you cannot call yourself a Christian if you talk about _____________.”

Have we really lost that much perspective on what it means to call ourselves “Christian?”

Has our list of “essentials” swelled so fat?

It’s not enough to believe “positively” about Jesus anymore, now you must also believe “negatively” about homosexuality, or else YOU CANNOT CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN?!

Holy crap that’s absurd.

No one can possibly really, truly believe that. And if they do then they have zero ground to stand on, no way to support such a claim.

And the suggestion to call myself a “homosexualian,” is, well, so childish that I won’t dignify it with a response. I refuse to stoop as low as it would require to formulate a reply. Moving on…

I also refuse to believe that in order to be a Christian I must only ever talk about “Christ and him crucified” in the overt and direct way that this guy seems to suggest. If you follow me at all then you have zero question as to what compels me to write what I do and to post what I do. The Risen Savior permeates all that I do, and for me to talk about “these issues” is just one of a thousand ways to talk about “Christ and him crucified.”

So, in summary, I wanted to interact with this guy’s email because I know that others resonate with the gist of it (even if most would find the tone and delivery abhorrent. But hey, at least he “hoped I received it with love.”  And, like the Apostle Paul said, “love covers a multitude of sins.”)

I think that buried in his judgmental tone and accusatory language was a genuine curiosity as to why I would want to talk about something so much that is so clearly wrong. Because, like I said, if he agreed with me on the “issue” then I cannot imagine he would send such an email.

IT IS ABOUT JESUS

I am a Pastor.
I am a hack-Theologian.
I am a believer and a follower of Jesus.
I try to orient my life around God and His Kingdom.

It is my pursuit of Jesus and my passion to implement his Kingdom on earth just as it is in heaven that compels me to be a Straight Ally.

The more I love Jesus, the more I love people.
But not just any people. Yes, all people, but some people require a greater effort of intentional love from our part. (Like Jesus said, so what if you love your friends. Even schmucks do that. Go love your enemies… go love the people that are completely different from you. Go love the ‘other.’)

Unquestionably the LGBT community has been discriminated against, marginalized, demonized, and treated as “enemies” to the faith. That reason alone is more than enough for me be a Straight Ally.

But like I said yesterday,

It is my pursuit of Jesus and my passion to implement his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven that compels me to be a Straight Ally.

Why am I so “focused” on this issue?

Because I follow Jesus. And as best as I can tell,  it’s what Jesus is asking of me for my life right now. (More about that on Friday)

_____________

What about you?
What sorts of things and issues do you find yourself talking a lot about because you feel your following of Jesus leads you in that direction?
Have you ever gotten involved in a cause or an issue because your faith compelled you to?

Why I Write/Post So Much on the “Gay” Issue

Why So Much Attention on the “Gay” Issue?

If you’re my friend on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or stop by my blog from time to time then you may have noticed how, in the past 9 months, a significant portion of my online presence has been devoted to issues pertaining to the LGTBQ community. And, it’s possible, you’ve wondered ‘why.’

Why do I talk about this issue so much?

I think that, for those who have known me for a while, this is a fair, if not also interesting, question. Since I’ve been asked it (in one form or another) so many times lately, I think I’d like to address it and see if I can bring some clarity and understanding as to why it is that this season of my online-life has been so focused on homosexuality.

I have broken it up in to a 4 part series that will be published each day this week. So sign up to Subscribe to my blog (on the right hand side of this page), or just plan on checking back in each morning next week.

Here’s the schedule:

I hope you’ll take the time this week to read each entry and maybe even give it a “share.”

There aren’t enough of us Straight Allies who are willing to talk about these things. And while I know some of you wish I’d talk about it less, there are plenty more people who hope I never stop.

This week will give you a glimpse into my heart and my head. If it raises more questions than it answers, as always feel free to leave a comment in the comment section.

Grace and Peace.
Colby

Stop Acting Your Age

On Sunday I preached from Matthew 18:1-4

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child, whom he placed among them.
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4Therefore, whoever takes a humble place–becoming like this child–is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I talked about such questions as:

  • Why did the disciples ask this question?
  • Why did Jesus choose a child to illustrate his point?
  • What does it mean to ‘enter the Kingdom of Heaven?’
  • How can we become like children?
  • Who then IS the greatest in the Kingdom?

You can read the manuscript here.

Or to download the .mp3, go here.

To stream it, well, just click the play button below.