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.