Shamefully, my bravest post yet!

I have been out and about for the last few weeks and I asked for a friend of mine to write a post for me.  Unfortunately, because of the state of the church I have chosen not to reveal my guest name but  I will say that shamefully, this is my bravest post yet.  Please take a few minutes and read  some of the bravest and honest post I have read in a while and then lets please begin this conversation.  I look forward to your comments below.

My father sits across from me. He points at me, and his voice makes it clear that he can’t imagine the possibility, even as a joke. “You’d better not be one.”

He doesn’t know.

Two older men in church, whom I respect greatly, nod in solidarity. “I wouldn’t allow those people as members.”

They don’t know.

A dear, kind woman looks at me in shock. “You don’t believe in that, do you?”

She doesn’t know.

My own convention expresses its ‘continued opposition to and disappointment in’ the Boy Scouts for allowing boys like I used to be membership.

They also act with great care to declare their love in Christ for people like me… regardless of ‘perceived’ sexual orientation.

They don’t know, but now you do. I’m a firm follower of Christ, and I’m also a homosexual man. I’d like to talk about how I feel in the church, and why I believe the church should be doing better.

A few years ago, in response to an increasing number of homosexual teens committing suicide, the “It Gets Better” campaign was started. The message was a simple one: offering hope, in the form of promises that the pain those teens were going through was temporary, and that life got better. It was a tremendous success, and that phrase has become a byword for anyone facing bullying and rejection.

Contrast this to my experience with some parts of the Christian community. Shame seems to be the dialogue objective, focusing exclusively on that one facet of life. With the usual combination of selective Scriptural sniping and heated argumentation, the Christian seems to desire driving away the listener, rather than drawing them closer to Christ.

Christians have forgotten that sin can’t be shamed out of someone. They have confused changing behavior for changing hearts, and the disapprobation of the Church with the conviction of the Spirit.

The world offers pride and celebration, the church shame and rejection.

We have to change that. We have to be a place where anyone can show their imperfections and temptations.

It works. Despite the above conversations, there have been those, like my pastors, who have welcomed me in church, who honor the difficult choices I’m being asked to make, and who will be there when times are rough. Their love in Christ is based on who I am, not who I am perceived to be.

Let’s start there.

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About Jon Nelson

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody [Christ Jesus]!

Posted on July 30, 2013, in Guest, Life, Outsiders view, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Being painfully honest I do have a hard time handling with the issue of homosexuality in a graceful way. This is because I am so tired of being accused of being this or being that, just because I refuse to accept sin as anything less than what it is, an offense against a Holy God which must be repented of. Two main problems arise whenever a dialogue on the subject is approached. You are forced into one of two boxes accepting (which scriptures clearly describes as sin, so this is not ok) and being viewed as this Christlike paragon of love or confronting, and being seen as a worse than Satan hateful bigoted jerk, no matter how lovingly you approach it. I believe that dialogue has gotten stale and old, I’m tired of the labels both parties place on each other. Here is the bottom line if someone is confessing Christ and willfully living a continual lifestyle of sin, any sin, be it homosexuality, alcoholism, heterosexual sexual sin, drugs, anything, then the body of Christ has a responsibility to call them on it. If one continues to live this way one has to question if they really are saved, as repentance is vital. It is not out of hate or fear that they must be confronted although you almost always will get painted that way, it is out of love. Sin destroys period, if you love someone you do not want to see them destroyed. If they are not a believer it is still out of love because sin is detrimental to a person’s life, however it is not the chief concern, their receiving Christ is primary, then the Holy Spirit can work on their lives and continue to transform them more like Christ. Look, we get it the church in general has dropped the ball on the love message, many of us are working to change that. This however, does not make it alright to condone the sinful actions of another, especially if they profess Christ. I have refrained from using any verses here intentionally because generally even though they are a 100% in line with the immediate context and context of the totality of scripture you still usually will be accused of “sniping”. I say all this to preface the simple message. I do not shame anyone, it is not my goal to shame anyone, but I will call sin for what it is and warn of it dangers. having said this sinning brings its own sense of shame and guilt, which is why the Bible calls them deeds done in darkness (because of our shame we try to hide them). The reason why homosexuality in particular is targeted amongst these is twofold. First, because in general it is a lifestyle, which shows unrepentance certainly it is not the only one but is the most vocal one. Which leads to the second reason, there also comes with it this idea of gay pride. (The bible also speaks clearly about boast of our sins.) Where as say a man who has a lifestyle of adultery against his wife will not vocally be making a stand for his sin, but rather be trying to hide it. So yes I will unapologetically speak out against it, at the same time I am not trying to shame you, if you feel shame it is conviction of the Holy Spirit. I love you whether you are gay or straight or whatever, that is why I cannot compromise, to do so would not be out of love but out of indifference. Just as to not share the Gospel with someone because it might offend them is not an act of love either.I am sure I left out some important points and I’m sure there will probably be responses tot his that argue against this, or try to say I am bigoted or whatnot, that is fine, it is expected and it does not change the truth.

    • I’m the original poster, so I thought I’d go ahead and answer some of what you say. Firstly, I only had 400 words to use, so… unfortunately, there was a lot I had to leave unsaid. This is a conversation that could fill several books, so there’s no way to get into all of the facets of it in one post. I hope that you’ll understand that, and that you at least got some benefit out of the post.

      To be clear, I’m a follower of Christ first and everything else second. This includes my sexuality. The problem, as I see it, is that this struggle is treated as uniquely different, in the church. You give the examples of alcoholism and heterosexual impurity, and those are very good comparisons. To be even more clear, I do see homosexuality as not all that different from other sexual misconduct- while I think we disagree on whether the orientation itself is a sin or not, on the point of the expression of that orientation, we both agree that it is against Scripture, just like any other sin.

      But in the end, that’s kind of my point. It’s just like any other sin. Yet it is treated as something uniquely disqualifying- as I gave in the quotes above, there are those who would deny me membership based on my orientation alone, or so their words sound to me. For few other sins would we do this. Likewise, we have come to understand that, for many sins, just calling someone on it isn’t enough. Alcoholism requires support and grace. If a couple is living in adultery, we realize that sexual urges are strong, and we work to help the couple work through it. No sin is so uniquely bad that it disqualifies us from God’s love, I think you’d agree, and yet that isn’t the feeling I get in a lot of churches.

      To put it another way… trying to live the Christian life with these urges is hard. My reading of scripture says that my only options are heterosexual relations with my one wife, or complete celibacy. Even Exodus International’s best guess is that one in five would switch orientation, and I’m reasonably sure I’m in the four there. Which means… essentially, complete denial of one of the deepest longings of the human heart. Complete abandonment of one of the great goods that God has given.

      That’s hard for anyone to ask for. It’s practically impossible for those who don’t have God’s love to replace that deep longing. I don’t ask for anyone to treat me as ‘just fine’ when Scripture says otherwise- that’s insulting to me. But what I do ask is for those who are in the church to understand what they are asking of people like me, and just how difficult a challenge that is. We wouldn’t ask for an alcoholic to abandon the bottle without offering the support he needs to get through the rough nights. We should offer just as much support for those who are trying to struggle with this.

      • “We wouldn’t ask for an alcoholic to abandon the bottle without offering the support he needs to get through the rough nights. We should offer just as much support for those who are trying to struggle with this.”

        In short – well said, Ben.

      • Well said, I am hoping to search the scriptures for and against this subject. What God says, I am aware is for “one man and one woman to unite in marriage” if they must marry but He prefers us to stay single and concentrate fully on Him and live totally for Him. This is a subject I need to study to know how to respond to my sisters and brothers no mater what life styles are practiced. We are to love our brothers and sisters as our self.

  2. Great conversation. Thenweareheirs has it nailed. Ultimately sin is rebellion against God and therefore must be repented of. While the church admittedly has its fair share of people that are not responding in a holy manner to these issues, there are those of us in the church (global) that would never respond in the way that some have chosen.

    I think one of the cardinal mistakes of people that are ensnared or entangled in specific habitual sin deal with are identifying themselves with their sin instead of their redeemer. Personally, I am a Christ-follower that struggles with lust, not a lustful man that is a Christian. They look very similar but are polar opposites. The former is a view of who we are in Christ, i.e. redeemed, adopted, reconciled, forgiven, loved and a new creation that has a struggle with a specific sin. The latter is a lusful man that is beaten down by sin, condemned and perverted, that goes to church.

    Applying the gospel to the core of your being is recognizing that all sin is rebellion, that we are all guilty, and yet there is redemption in Jesus. He can make you new and then preaching that to yourself daily is huge. You are a child of God, heir to the throne, royalty, loved, cherished, prayed for, sang over…

    Don’t identify yourself by your sin, identify yourself with your Savior!

    • Mark, I appreciate you being honest about yourself, and so I feel confident that you can understand where I’m coming from. I think we can both agree that one major problem confronting the church, with this issue, is that both the culture and the church are in agreement. Culture says that I am a gay man- that my sexuality defines me, and that celebrating it is no different from celebrating me, or conversely, that denying it is denying me.

      Unfortunately, the church often feels like it believes the same thing. Part of it I understand- there is a culture war going on, and the defenses naturally come up as a result. But… it also feels like the church is happy to do the beating down and the condemning, sometimes.Likewise, it sometimes feels to me that the church is willing to say that people like me are loved by God, but focus so much more on the condemnation and less on the love and support that dealing with habitual sin requires.

      If more Christians said and lived out what you said, I think a lot of our current problems wouldn’t be as bad as it feels. You know how hard it is to struggle with lust- imagine how much harder it would be if you didn’t have the option of expressing that with your wife. Then add to that the concern that you can’t admit your problems to your fellow Christians. That’s kind of the state I think we’re in now, in terms of how the church interacts with people like me… but responses like yours make me confident that things really are improving.

  3. As the mother of a gay son in a homosexual relationship, I struggled deeply and intensely with this issue. How was I to respond to my son, my only remaining child on this side of eternity, whom I loved very much. If I stood firm on what I knew the Bible said clearly about the sin of homosexual behavior, would he interpret that as rejection of him? If I continued to accept him and show unconditional love to him, would he perceive that as acceptance of his lifestyle? The Lord had much to teach me…first about his unconditional love for sinners, which includes everyone (God so loved the world!) and how Jesus Christ responded to those seen as others as really bad “sinners”….tax collectors, woman taken in adultery, Samaritan woman, etc.) The gospels records how Jesus reached out in love to each of them, welcomed them, ate, with them, but his message was, “Come follow me,” and “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Somehow Jesus was able to reach out in love and acceptance of the person, and regardless of their sin see them as someone valuable to God, made in his image, but never lower his standard of “following him” and leaving a life of sin. My prayer became, “Jesus, teach me how to do that — to love my son (and his partner) with your unconditional love (compassion) but without compromising the truth of Scripture.” I was able to say to my son, “I love you very much, but all my love can’t call wrong right, and the way you are living is wrong.”

    The next big thing I had to learn was to understand the complexity of the “condition” of homosexuality, and to separate the orientation, or attractions/urges from the behavior. I had to understand the “gay” person does not choose to have the attractions.. in fact most of them are deeply troubled when they first realize they are attracted to their same sex. I have come to understand and empathize with the pain, hurt, and struggle that is in the lives of probably most gay people. I have also come to understand that while the attractions are not a choice, the behavior is, and that can be changed or abstained from…. though that, too, is not easy. But– there are many Christians today who may still struggle with the attractions, but who truly love the Lord and honestly recognize and accept the teachings of the Word, and by God’s power, grace, and enabling are able to live a celibate life. I agree with one of the writers above about the importance of the Church, fellow believers, being willing to reach out in love and acceptance of those who struggle with the attractions, or even who have been involved in the behavior, but want to live in obedience to Christ and stand with them… providing the support, friendship, and sense of belonging that is needed. We need to see our own sin, (Scripture also calls pride an abomination along with dishonesty, and lying, etc. – read Proverbs 6:16-19) and heed God’s call to holiness in our own lives.

    Today, more than ever, we as Christians need to learn how to stand on the truth of God’s Word, but stand in love, grace and compassion toward others who are struggling. We need to be ready to reach out a helping hand to those who take the risk of sharing their struggle and walk with them toward wholeness and holiness.

    So much more to say, but too much for this short space. Because of this journey God allowed in my personal life, he has also directed and enabled to write a book, now in process of being published. The book is aptly titled: “If I Tell You I’m Gay, Will you Still Love Me? One Mother’s Journey to Truth and Grace.”

    • (Original poster here, I just have to respond to this.) Ann, let me say that your son is very, very blessed to have a mother like you. It’s a hard thing to go through the realization about one’s orientation, but I can imagine that it’s difficult to face the conflict you did, too. It sounds like you handled it well, and I’m going to have to see if I can’t find a copy of that book.

      Other than that… I agree with what you say, and I’m glad that you were willing to listen and learn without betraying your convictions- which, in a sense, would be betraying your son as well. I hope that he’s been impacted by it… and that he realizes how fortunate he is.

  4. i’m a mother of a bisexual daughter. Like all of you above, I am a devout Christian, but I too struggle with this particular issue. As a church, we choose to point out the homosexual or bisexual as a ‘worse’ sin than some of the others…..it isn’t…a sin is a sin. BUT, lying is a sin also. Do we condemn and thumb our noses to those that lie to us? No! So, why do we do so to those of a different sexual nature. I struggle and struggle with this…..not so much because my daughter falls into this category, but because I know of a good many people that are gay AND are Christian, yet feel abandoned by church. How do we embrace the person and not the sin? I’m at a loss here……I just don’t like the way the holier than thou’s treat people that don’t fit in…..how do we change that? I may have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but I never have been one not to speak my peace.

    • (Original poster here.) Debbie, that’s the question of the moment. Obviously I don’t have a perfect answer, but… I can tell you what happened with me, and maybe that will help show one way forward?

      See, the irony is that Jon’s really been the one that’s encouraged me to open up, even though he never really knew it. (Or so I assume, anyway!) The first time that I felt like I could talk to him, about anything, was when he pushed back in one class to someone else, who was talking about homosexuality in… well, not too bad a way, but still making it clear that it was a bigger deal to him than some other things. Jon then challenged him on that, when he didn’t know if anyone was my way. It was just a thing he did, on principle.

      I talked to him about it, after the fact, but again, not letting him know. Wanting to see how he felt about the issue, where his theology lay. Two things became clear: first was that he was unmoving on sin and what God demands of people, the second was that he saw this sin as no worse than any other, and that he didn’t single it out as a horrific thing- and that he cared about people like me.

      It was honest, and it was from that point that I thought that I’d talk about it to him first. I really felt like he’d give me the full truth, but he wouldn’t just leave me there. Later on, when I did tell him about myself, he told me point-blank what the Bible says about sin, but he also made it just as clear that he’d be there for me in the struggle, that he’d stand up for me if it was necessary, and… hah, it still stands out in my mind, he looked me right in the eyes and said that he’d be honored to struggle with sin, with me.

      He’s also taken pains to treat me as more than just a homosexual man- which means a lot to me, because so much of my fear is being reduced down to just my orientation.

      All of that to say that it probably does depend on the person, and that not everyone will be responsive. But… in the end, I think that the biggest things are to show the love that everyone says that they have, and to be patient with someone who’s struggling. People like me hear, all of the time, that people love the sinner but hate the sin… but I don’t feel it that often. But when someone does show me that they care, when they spend time with me and they talk with me without driving me away? That makes all the difference.

      Again, not that I’m saying that this is a sure-fire way of making it work, or that everyone is like me. But perhaps that at least is a starting point, for you?

  5. Robert Graham

    I don’t think it’s possible to have short thoughts about this topic. I currently go to the same church as Jon. We had an event there a few years back where the speaker said something like, “I belong to the church of the jacked up.” I occasionally remind myself and others about this, particularly when they say someone is weird, which is me at times. On that side note, I’m pretty sure every one of us is weird in some sort of way.

    I have for most of my life thought it was odd how people tend to have a stronger gut reaction to certain labels that people place on each other. I genuinely find people interesting. I enjoy to learn about why people do what they do, their hopes, dreams, or just unusual talents. If you spend any amount of time around kids, you notice they tend to have strong gut reactions to things they are unfamiliar with or consider different. In general, people think, ugh, others are indifferent, and others are intrigued. I think this is a horrible way to treat people, but it happens.

    I particularly enjoyed the example of struggling with sin with another person. You obviously can’t be fake or quick to react while doing this. There’s obviously a lot that could be said about how this works itself out, but it all starts with listening to someone without them feeling like a label or feeling like they aren’t accepted.

    • I definitely agree, Robert. We’re all weird in some way, and while that’s not an invitation to have apathy toward each other’s spiritual journey, I think it is an important point to keep in mind. Certainly, your example of how some kids handle things that are different to them is a valid comparison to a lot of things we see in the church, and in life in general.

      I do have to make one minor bit of disagreement, insofar as there can (and is, sadly,) be short thoughts on this issue. That being said, I agree with your larger point, and I’m finding myself exposed to some new thoughts in the conversations this post has sparked, which I’m glad for.

      And… yeah, you’re right. Listening to an honest conversation is the first step, I think, and it does have to be with the assumption that what’s being said is being treated seriously and that it doesn’t condemn the speaker out of the gate. I really do feel like the struggle only works if the people involved feel like they’re in it together, and… that’s a tall order, I understand. But who knows, maybe issues like this one will help transform the church, not into a compromised ‘get along’ club, but into a body that better helps the people in it face the problems and temptations of their life together.

      If so, I think it could only be a change for the better.

  6. The thing that is wrong with church is that is full of sinners. I think that if we could realize this the church would open its doors and say hey struggling? Come on in cause here we all struggling and here we all stand by each other no matter what! Christ went not to those who were found but those lost. The healthy don’t need a doctor and neither does a saved church. But a bunch of sinners who continue by the grace of God to carry on just to make it day by day do need him more and mor all the time! If we would stop caring about the acts of others and care about sharing the grace it wouldn’t matter on iotta about whether or not you are a homosexual. It would be about Christ, finally. But I am so glad you wrote this. Sounds me like you are already doing that which God desires you to do, living by Grace!

    • If I may be so bold, I’d also argue that this is also what’s right with the church. After all, if there was a church that was full of non-sinners, I wouldn’t fit in, mm? 🙂

      But I take your point, and I agree with you whole-heartedly. We’re all struggling. We all need Christ and the support of our fellow Christians. Indeed, I’d even go further and say that most of us are engaged in sin that we don’t yet know we’re engaging in- that’s how sanctification works, after all. I would argue that the church should ‘care’ about the acts of others, in the sense of looking after each other and helping each other to grow more like Christ, but the means of doing that is like you say, sharing grace and being about Christ, and how His rule over us can and should play out.

      Thank you very much for your reply, Alaina. I don’t do that as much as I should, I hate to admit, but… I’m closer than I have been, which is the important thing. It’s a lot easier with kind people like you encouraging me.

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