Thursday, August 05, 2010

Holiness...and unconditional love




This is in response to someone’s blog…talking about the sting of death

If I look back on my experiences within the Church community, especially as I first struggled with same gender attraction, I felt as if I was a leper, that I was actually untouchable. People could talk about anything else but my "struggle". I think if they had the courage to actually talk about homosexuality as not just the taboo sin, but just sin and had the courage to learn to engage a community to talk about the issues of homosexuality, things may have turned out differently for me as well as countless other men who I knew personally who also struggled with same gender attraction.

Having walked out this journey for over 20 years (struggled with ssa, then embraced a gay identity, and now having walked out of that identity), I feel for those who spoke out against homosexuality out of their limited knowledge of the struggle itself. Today, I do not feel angry or hurt because of my experiences, rather I feel deeply for any person who may have perceived hate from a message due to their own internal struggle with gender confusion. I also feel deeply toward pastors/leaders who spoke out against homosexuality not because they hated those who struggled with the issue, rather they loved them, and in their own way, tried to get the message out that God had something better for those struggling. I believe that no matter what the issue, most people have felt offended by God’s holy call on our lives as Christ Followers. When we struggle and feel as if a person just doesn’t understand us or the issue, do we internalize that as hate, take offense and then walk away justified? Or do we walk that out in a way pleasing to the Lord. Going to him with our hurt, allowing him to heal our wounds, but also going to the person who we felt offended by and working through a process of reconciliation and redemption.

When we hear someone speak and they talk about holiness and godly fear, so we see that as constraining or do we see that as good. Sometimes I sense that we have to throw away fear and holiness in order to justify certain behaviors, specifically in terms of theologically sound teaching. If I make a statement that linked homosexuality with Sodom and Gomorrah as God’s wrath toward the sin of homosexuality, I may experience hate mail, I would be pronounced a homophobe, and yet when I do more research and cross reference other scripture regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, I find that I have to make a stand and that comes from good sound theology. Jude 7 references the judgment to the sexual perversion of every kind and given the cultural milieu of that time, that would have included homosexuality. (note that I said included homosexuality…it linked all sexual sin).

For myself, I walk many years with the thinking that I was condemned to hell because of my struggle. I eventually had to walk away from my faith, because ultimately God hated me somehow. That he made a huge mistake with my life and really didn’t care for me. I hated the Sodom and Gomorrah linkage to any term of my struggle. I hated when others used that term. (To be honest it still makes me cringe when I hear someone just spew it out as a judgment statement when there is no explanation given).

Now I say this not as condemnation for those who are struggling with same gender issues, or even to those who are gay identified. I believe that God loves all people. Yet as we are enlightened and come to know our identity in God our Father through Jesus Christ, I believe God calls us into a higher standard of holiness and we should have a healthy fear of sin in our lives. For myself, I do not want to become complacent and comfortable with sin in my life. As Jesus felt deep inner rage (he actually uttered a response when he heard of Lazarus’ death) could we not feel that same feeling toward sin in our lives and the sin in the lives of others? If death is equated to sin throughout the bible could this parallel how Jesus felt toward sin/death? I have a close friend who is struggling with issues. I love him beyond compare. I have offered that he live with us, I have wept deeply for him and where he is at, because he is believing lies about himself, and to put it straight, he is caught in the grips of sin issues and he can’t see past that. I feel angry sometimes not at him, but at the enemy that wars at his soul, and enemy that is killing him. I would do anything for him. I see Jesus who did the same for Lazarus. He did the ultimate and raised him from the dead. Then he addressed the crowd to unbind him. Could this be a picture of rage against sin, calling someone to life and into the redeeming work of Jesus and then unbinding the person, ministering truth and love?

I wonder sometimes as we build bridges, how often we fear making a comment because someone may be offended. But in fearing making a statement, we are actually helping to keep someone in bondage to death.

For myself, I had people who walked the journey with me. Some understood the issues that I faced and some didn’t, yet they still walked with me. They still offered soothing balm to my wounds of death. There were men and women who in this journey out of a gay identity, spoke encouraging words, but also words that made me think. Words of challenge and sometimes they were hard words, especially when they saw me walking in a way that wasn’t life (when they saw me sinning). For me, my community challenged me to radical holiness. A holiness that feared the Lord of ALL creation and that fear was there because I knew the radical LOVE of my Papa God. The core gospel is unconditional love, God loves us despite ourselves. He unconditionally loves us because we were designed and created to worship Him and Him alone. He loves us because he knew us and imagined us even before we were even thought about here on earth. He knit us together, formed us in our mothers womb. Yes, it’s about unconditional love. What is the definition though of that unconditional love throughout the gospels?

As a daddy now, I see my daughter and I LOVE her with my whole being. If I saw her walking in danger I would tell her. I think I would probably shout it out, because I don’t want her to get hurt. She may not understand or she may feel as if I don’t love her, yet I do it because I love her. I have come to see God my Papa the same way. He loves me with a radical love, one that doesn’t always feel good, and yet he is the one calling me out. He is the one who shouts my name, because he doesn’t want me to get hurt. Our God of unconditional love disciplines us out of that radical love. Only because Jesus went to the place designed for our sin…which was death!

So maybe death is always supposed to be close to us, and maybe it’s something we should fear not just for ourselves but for others. I think we may have a greater sense of the physical death, but do we really understand death to the degree we should as Christ Followers? Do we understand the depths of the unconditional, radical love of God? An understanding so rich in love that we can’t help but fear the Lord, and speak boldly of His call of holiness on our lives.

10 comments:

Marcia said...

Ken, you said that so well. I have had the same thoughts and you articulate them much better than I ever could. Thank you for your words. They made me nod, well up with tears and praise God for his unconditional love. I'm so thankful that you had people who walked with you, loved you and were honest and loving through this journey. I know that most don't. It is sad. I pray that we as a couple in ministry can also spill out the love of God and at the same time say what we need to say, and say it well. Blessings.

Tommy said...

Wow. Thank you for writing these words. I came across your blog through the comment you left on Wendy Gritter's Bridging the Gap's blog.

I still have a problem with the term unconditional love of God. I prefer to refer His love as being unfailing.

If you pass by Toronto, I would love to have a chat with you. I have been struggling big time lately and your post brought me back to the Father's love ( or Papa love as you cutely term it)

God bless....

Tommy

http://tommyclc.xanga.com/

kenny said...

Hey Marcia

Thank you. I believe that Paula and I meeting up with you and Richard was not by chance or mistake. The Lord has equipped you with every good thing...and when we don't know...it makes for great dependence on Him to give us all we need. He is so faithful. The more you know how much Papa loves you...and your worth in His eyes, the more you can give love away.

Tommy-thanks. I don't get to Toronto very often, but hey, if I do, I will definitely get in contact with you for a chat. I like the term unfailing love too.
I once heard Randy Thomas (Exec Dir for Exodus) use the term Papa God and explained the use of the word Papa and the intimacy of the word. As a new papa...I hear my wee little girl say papa and it melts my heart. It is such an endearing word, in which I think we should use in addressing the one who knew us and created us...and loves us with unfailing love. Papa loves you Tommy, He cares deeply for where you are at, this very minute...and He will NEVER leave you nor turn his face from you. Take care.

Sarah said...

I'm glad I took the time to read through your blog post today. I haven't visited this particular blog of yours for a while.

You said ...

"I feel for those who spoke out against homosexuality out of their limited knowledge of the struggle itself."

And as a result of speaking out of their limited knowledge allowed their own fears to get in the way.

I work down in the West End and Davie Village area of Vancouver. I came across this man by a set of pay phones. He looked troubled, I was in a recognizable uniform plus I've seen this guy around A LOT, our paths are constantly crossing and so it was inevitable for somebody to say something. The GLBT Resource Center was closed and he didn't trust the pay phones so I offered him my cell phone to use. I just felt a prompting in my spirit to offer my cell phone.

It didn't take long for him to start pouring out his heart to me, his struggles, his courageous attempts to remain clean and sober. Long story short we ended up talking about Jesus, the bible, the church, process of healing... he asked me, so what do you think about God, the bible, Jesus, and sin etc" My response, " I believe that God understands the brokenness of humanity and He's not afraid to engage in relationship with us." By the end of the conversation was a man inspired to read the bible and seek God. Did he walk away denouncing his gay identity and lifestyle? No ... what did he walk away with? He hopefully walked away with a hunch that just maybe God wants to be in relationship with him... maybe ...

With people's limited knowledge of the homosexual issue people can unfortunately fail to be the light and salt in the places that God has called us to be light and salt in. They turn being light and salt into a religious standard instead of bringing hope into a hopeless situation for another and to preserve life where Satan is seeking to bring death.

Sarah said...

do we really understand death to the degree we should as Christ Followers?

Good question. When we've denied ourselves, when we've walked away from what seems so natural to us, and when we count the cost to be true disciples of Christ then perhaps we are cultivating space where we come to a greater understanding of what this really means. I think when we've come to the point of needing grief counseling we might be onto something :) maybe ... I don't know, just processing out loud here because I'm thinking I've walked away from a lot, I've lost a lot, I've let go of a lot ... this might include a season of grief ... but I have an understanding of the goodness of God that gives me grace to walk through .. yeah tho I walk through the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for thou art with me.

kenny said...

Sarah

Thanks for your responses. It is very true that in limited knowledge, we can move to a fear based response. (that most often is the case and it usually doesn't fair well). Yet I was reminded the other day that my role is to pray for those who don't understand (definition is someone who could be perceived as an enemy...one who doesn't understand where or what I have gone through).
To bless them and to not speak ill about them. That in and of itself is a hard thing to learn, but as we do learn and submit that to the Lord, He will bless us in return.

I know that I am far from perfect and maybe it's the knowledge of that which gives us the insight to serve and minister to others. Luke 7:47 I tell you, her sins--and they are many--have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.

I think we all have that capacity to love much.

We can all fail to be salt and light...my prayer is to remain salty, and my hope is that the body of Christ remains salty.

Grief...that in and of itself could be a lengthy convo. I did write about grief in one of my blog posts.
I understand full well the losses that myself as well as my wife have experienced because we desire radical holiness...and out of that made some pretty tough decisions as we walked out of a gay and lesbian identity.
I share about our need to grieve with those who are looking to walk away from anything that isn't life giving/or the best that God has for them. In the leaving behind, there is sometimes very little understanding within the body of the extent of that loss. Yet...I experienced some real radical coming together and support. If I look around our home, I see countless gifts of support (most of what we have has been given to us) and the Lord asks me all the time to be content in all things. So even though what I have is no where close to what I had when I was in a gay relationship, I see more blessings than I do losses. Where is my home? Is it hear? Where is my treasures? Here? Just as I walk with those who grieve, comfort those who mourn (because I have been there), I want to stay focused on the eternal perspective of denying myself, rather than indulging.

Oh...that was a longer response...you got me in the morning when I've had all night to think. Keep pressing in...I love the story that you told about talking with the man on the street. May the Lord give you many more experiences of that!

kenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Thanks for the longer response. I'm thinking I needed to read that. By the way, it's part of my job. I actually ride my bike all throughout Vancouver looking for people to help. A week or two ago I told another guy about a drug rehab center at a local church and his response ..."your a God-send" and then started praying for me all in Jesus name" And earlier today I had one guy who walked up to me asking me to see if I could get him into detox. I placed a few phone calls and had paramedics clear him for a Safe Ride to a detox center. :)

Anyways... light, salt, life - Amen! :)

david w said...

Kenny, There are a few inappropriate links in the comments posted to your blog. Just a heads up.

the real Scott McLain said...

ken

could you please email me? we connected a long time ago and I have some questions. spmclain@gmail.com
thanks

scott