My brother Noel recently expressed his concern for me.
Tread lightly if befriending those who will agree with you, based only on their need to be comforted and befriended, versus a true hunger for the truth of the gospel. This befriending and adoration though satisfying to the flesh is temporal and emotional at best. These are the the very same people who in one moment will roll out the red carpet until you preach the “Whole Gospel” and thus coming to fully understand your mission. They will turn on a dime and call for you to be crucified with your blood on their children and their children’s children. Unless we preach and teach the whole gospel, we are hiding the light under a bushel and our saltiness has lost it’s savor.
Noel, I’ve already undergone what felt like “organizational crucifixions” over this issue three times in the last few years–once in a secular LGBT organization, once in an LGBT-supportive Christian organization, and most recently in my own church.
I am preaching part of the gospel that you and your Christian friends neglect. I am called to a prophetic ministry to my own Christian community–my tribe, the people among whom I was born. I stand against thoughtless shepherds, against conservatives in search of scapegoats, and against Christian officials who yield to the most ignorant and bigoted voices in their organizations.
If you are not thoughtless, in search of scapegoats, or yield to the ignorant and bigoted, then these descriptions don’t apply to you. Relax, don’t get defensive and in a huff. But you do know that the descriptions do apply to some people.
Called to be salt? You better believe it! I leave a taste in the mouth of every conservative Christian on the net who engages me on the topic of a Christ-like love and acceptance for gays and lesbians. I don’t reinforce their ignorant prejudices. And yes, they are ignorant, ignorant of Christ’s acceptance of gays and lesbians, ignorant of the spiritual lives of Christian gays and lesbians, ignorant of their own ignorance. I have not lost my saltiness.
Called to be light? Oh yes! But you and I don’t shine the identical light. The light is the light of Christ, but it is filtered through different personalities, different life experiences, and shines in different places, illuminating different problems.
You shine your little light, and I’ll shine my little light. Yes, there’s darkness, but there are different kinds of darkness. You shine in the darkness you see, and I’ll shine in the darkness I see.
You preach and teach the gospel according to your best lights, And I’ll model and teach the messages of Jesus according to mine. Christians don’t have to all believe and teach the same message to be virtuous or acceptable to God. Period.
I have previously written to you at length about the diversity of gifts and callings, that not all people are called to the same ministry. Please stop assuming, even insisting, that I must act in accordance with your sense of calling to evangelism and ministry. I am not you, you are not me.
I think I have explained how, where, and by whom I’ve been crucified–all for being salt and light–but you may not remember.
I know you are expressing your concern, but consider expressing this concern for people closer to home who need it. My children are all grown adults, but some of yours are still in the nest. Are you prepared to love and support them no matter what kinds of adults they turn out to be?
I am doing what God has gifted, equipped, and prepared me to do, and I plan to continue doing it as long as I have the strength and the faculties.
And if your gifts, equipping, and preparation mean that you will continue trying to keep me on the straight and narrow as you understand it, preaching a gospel message that they preach in your circles–oh well, I guess I’ll just have to bear with you!
And thank you, Ron, for continuing to do “what God has gifted, equipped and prepared” you to do with such grace. Apparently Noel missed the passage – or maybe resists it – in which Jesus warned the disciples, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15.18); or the one in which he warned, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God” (John 16.2). Those are passages that frighten me, and yet if we are to be faithful to God and God’s calling in Christ, we trust that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For [we] did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!* Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8.14-17). Ooh, that “suffer with him” is a tough demand, but the joy of knowing the love of God in Christ Jesus more than compensates for any suffering we must undergo. I hope Noel comes to recognize that and to celebrate it with you.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Andrew Marin’s work through the Marin Foundation or his book “Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community”; but having come from a position akin to Noel’s and having had a transformation of his thinking, so that he came to recognize the need for conservative Christians to show love to LGBTQ persons in ways not defined by them but, instead, by those at whom such love is directed, he writes and practices in that vein. Having heard him speak on one occasion, I would say that such conversations have changed his theological and biblical perspective as well; but following the advice in his book is NOT predicated on such changes being made,” i.e., with regard to understanding homosexuality simply as one variety of God-created sexuality, which seems to me to be the direction of Marin’s thinking. His primary concern is people knowing that God loves them, and people – gay or straight – loving God in return.
Also, a psychologist friend of mine gave me a copy of Jack Rogers’ book “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.” Rogers, also, had come out of the more conservative evangelical camp and had his views altered completely. The book is an excellent antidote to the arguments Robert Gagnon made in his magnum opus on the subject that, nevertheless, contains within it admission that Gagnon knew of an openly gay man in his congregation with whom he had apparently never spoken about the subject of his book; and that he based his negative view of homosexual behavior on statistics in Jeffrey Satinover’s book, “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth”, without once asking questions such as, “How do statistics relative to gays who are Christian compare with those related to the general population?” or “How might even the statistics relating to the general population be affected if the Gospel of Jesus Christ were presented to the LGBTQ community as the ‘good news’ it is meant to be rather than the ‘bad news’ that we tend to want to tell them?” In relation to that, Rogers’ book is a deep breath of fresh air! I’ve been recommending that one of late, too.
Again, thanks for your ongoing good work. Blessings to you and your family.
I’m sure Noel is familiar with John 15:19 and 16:2. He’s probably taught them in his home Bible study. But we frequently don’t realize that our “opponents” can apply the same verses to themselves. I realized this when I was reading, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” I was an evangelical at the time, but I understood that a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon could quote the verse as easily as anyone else who uses the Bible as a source book.
Actually, my reading is fairly limited, and I have so far missed reading Marin, Rogers, or Satinover. (But I have looked at Gagnon!)
It may be that I should buy books to pass along to friends and family.
Thanks for the recommendations, Doug!