Tag Archives: Bible

Defending the Gays: What I’ve questioned and can’t deny

Yesterday, I posted a thought at Facebook about defending gay people.

images-4

It got some great responses supporting and challenging. But it left me with little doubt this thorny issue is not going away for Christians, many of whom believe we’re supposed to know what we’re talking about when we discuss homosexuality.

Which seems to me like mistake #1….

images-5

I’m still thinking about this and I don’t have many answers. But I’ve seen some things…

I’ve seen the American Psychological Association publish study after study about the complex nature of sexual orientation and Christians repeatedly disregard the research that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation” (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx).

I’ve seen the 2 arcane verses in Leviticus that talk about killing homosexuals. The Bible is brutal, folks. Look it up.

images-3

And I’ve seen the few verses mentioning homosexuality in the New Testament. Yet how do they excuse the widespread prejudice about monogamous homosexuality between two loving adults? Even suggesting there can be such a thing gives some people hives.

That’s called prejudice. It’s assuming there are some people worse than we are. I’ve also seen how prejudice throughout history has led to attempts to eradicate others for being born different.

I’ve seen from experience that whatever turns my stomach about humans, that’s what God, in his perfect love, never feels for me, regardless of my ignorant revulsion.

And if I only understood the “unconditional” part better, I’d be able to share this better even with bullies.

This realization has made me question some things about this topic…

3ouc7t

First, I’ve begun to question our idea of the underdog and the aggressor in this losing battle.

I question how long Christians can ignore brutal domination of the human spirit and represent God so falsely.

images-6

I’ve begun to question why we’re so quick to assume being broken is a sin. Why do we make people feel like their brokenness is because they’re evil? Is there anything more damaging and hateful than to believe someone’s evil?

Yet there are some things I can’t deny:

I can’t deny Jude’s point about pursuing desires that may feel very natural to us (http://www.openbible.info/topics/homosexuality), or that everyone—hetero and homo—is already condemned for pursuing what feels more natural in their fallen state.

Yet I can’t deny that if I condemn anyone, I know in my heart: I’m condemned.

imgres-1

I also can’t deny that Jesus said the new law abolished the old, and he summed it up—“Do to others what you want done to you” And so I can’t dismiss that what I do, not just what I believe, will condemn or free me. I don’t believe saving faith comes through what I do, but I also don’t believe I have saving faith if I don’t do to others what I’d want done to me.

I can’t deny that everyone I know has feelings that betray them. Everyone is confused to find themselves attracted to what’s wrong. And I can’t deny that brokenness is in me and in all of us by no fault of our own. And whatever it looks like, a lack of shame just does not seem to be the problem.

imgres

I can’t deny the proof in my own life that true change only comes through a realization of unmerited, sacrificial love. It’s the only thing that has made me willing to admit I’m wrong and to leave my “right” place to go with anyone who asks me. And even if it’s my enemy who wants me to go 2 miles, Jesus says I’m to go 4.

Love is the only thing that can make me.

And I can’t deny it’s only a loving defender who has made me less of a condemning dominator.

I can’t deny I was born into sin by no fault of my own, and without help I will automatically perpetuate others’ pain. And it’s an unnatural, i.e. a supernatural, work to stop it.

I can’t deny I’ve seen a change of heart can only come through love.

images-1

So can gayness be changed? It’s looking unlikely, folks. And certainly not by me. That much I know. At least a greater love would be needed.

Judge not lest you be judged. Can anyone say anything about a gay person that wouldn’t only prove his own ignorance of love? I’m trying to understand. But all I can do is acknowledge my prejudices and repent. Like this:

If being broken is a sin, Jesus died for that. Why would I act like it didn’t count for some people?

Brokenness is not a choice. Brokenness is how we are BORN. Can we stop acting like anyone can do anything about the way they are?

images-2

All I can do for someone is what I’d want done for me–to provide endless permission to share all that holds them back from wholeness that only comes from God. And as they find their feet on the narrow path to freedom…to give them all I can.

 

For a more biblical breakdown of this sticky issue, see John Piper’s response to “Why homosexuality is sin” here.

The One Word the Journey Requires

“I love, therefore I am vulnerable.”

― Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Yesterday morning, as the children’s pastor shared from Psalm 119, I felt tears well up. She simply spoke the uncanny truth I’d been slowly realizing for months:

“The word of God,” she said, “…is a miracle.”

It was the weight of the statement, so strong I knew it in my bones.

It was true. It had to be. There was no other explanation.

How else could this book I used to loathe (is it even a book? More a collection of mysterious, contradictory ancient writings) bring me to tears? Me, such a tightly controlled man.

red tree
For months, this slow sifting through words has been doing work on me. Through the processing of writing I’ve learned many lessons. But some of my favorites are these ongoing, continually unresolved simple ones like this one recently about the Bible and realizing how it’s changed and still is changing and is changing me. It’s just one more remarkable journey that rewards deeper attention, simplifying so much into a collection of truths–some of the truths I memorized as dead words long ago in Sunday school.

You’re my place of quiet retreat;

I wait for your Word to renew me.” – Psalm 119:114 (MSG)

This book I once ran from, made fun of, even dreaded, it was a menace. Anywhere there was fun the Bible was probably not part of it, and wherever the Bible was, all fun and excitement had long since skipped out. This was such a given fact of my early years that those who can’t relate still seem a bit alien to me.

What, you never hated the Bible? Who are you?

Certainly it was this electrically charged book, but the reason I didn’t like it was because it was so stinking bossy. Like 20 generations of old relatives all piled in between two fat covers. And similarly, people were always trying to get me to kiss it.Initially, the way it looked to me was something to bow to and respect and basically fear as a force to help keep me in line. Adults talked about it like it was the President or a policeman. “The Bible says…” they’d say, as if that settled whatever it was I was previously thinking of doing before that. No, the Bible said it didn’t approve. And its implicit threatening glare made me hate it.

That is, until I figured out that I too could use it as a weapon.I guess that was the first day I really felt its charge. The power it gave me. Wow, I thought, seeing my mom back down from the quoted verse, the one she’d helped me memorize herself. It had come back to bite her and I got off the hook.

A guy could get a lot more done this way…

Later on, I’d find it stomach-churning to see people using the Bible. Whether to excite people, condemn them, shame them, praise them or prove how they didn’t measure up, I wanted to punch pastors’ lights out for all I thought I saw behind their phony smiles. As an angry young pastor’s kid, I’d seen how easy it was to wield the Bible as “instruction” and exhort people to do what they, er “God,” wanted. This utilitarian view of the Bible as a tool was as old as the Bible itself, but I figured it was the reason so many people thought they could just pick it up and whack me with it.fall trees

What I didn’t know then was that people who come to it thinking of dominating and manipulating were merely finding it as they were, not as it was. I figured it was just the way all Bible-readers were. It made people feel better and gave them some sense of power back.Well as my fate coalesced, I was freed of this compounded thinking. My wife and two of the sweetest girls in the world began bringing me back to reading the Bible. Slowly, though them, I saw a renewing and recharging power in this old book. I was afraid at first it it’d charge me to preach, but my liberal arts degree convinced me I didn’t need to interpret it so literally. I could preach right from where I was.

As I began to accept it on its own terms, it began to correct and to restore the full truth I hadn’t yet appreciated in all those years I’d heard the words. Something new was being filled into the exact phrases, a crystal clarity infused with life, and a profounder, subtler touch, not of excitement, though it led to that, but of incitement.

I wanted to do something with it so badly I could cry. And I did. Often. Soon the words I’d memorized blindly would come to shape me as I expounded on its truths within a strange new life I’d discovered as well, something I’d read about for years but never quite penetrated: becoming Christ’s body.And this is how it happened.My ears changed. My eyes saw connections I’d never seen before. I felt my mind reaching out to connect with everything around me and especially certain people, which was the strangest thing because I’d always disliked them before or at least simply tolerated most of them as annoyances. Instead of pretending to like them so they’d like me (and leave me alone), I was genuinely and annoyingly interested in the strangest bits of information they’d share. And I’d hear things that would trigger a thought and say things I never said before.

“Maybe God’s trying to tell you something there,” I’d hear myself say.

What? Who was I?backyard autumn trees
This was only several years ago now, but it still feels very recent. I’ve since learned to restrain some of my suggestions about God’s speaking voice. But when I write or have dreams or go to church, it seems like coming back to something, seeing more and realizing how much bigger and smaller it really is.Then yesterday morning came and I was watching the kids there in front waiting for Miss Katie to share and she just says, “The Word of God…” very slowly like that, and then… “is a miracle.”

And I just start crying.

I’m weeping in church, I think. Crap. Knock it off. These are nice Presbyterians! They’re going to think you’re struggling with some hidden sin.

Which of course I am and all of us are, but you don’t want to make a scene. So I quietly compose myself and no one notices and the kids all walk off to Sunday school. And when the pastor shares about Timothy who was tired and wearing down in his ministry, and Paul exhorting him to preach, she says it may sound unfeeling, even harsh.

And I know exactly what she means. I’ve always heard it that way.Shouldn’t Tim be allowed to take a vacation or just a break? But Paul just says, “Preach the Word.” And the pastor doesn’t say this, but I think how I’ve feared this very thing for years. How it used to sound exactly as she said, harsh and unfeeling. How it seemed to symbolize everything I hated about this old, demanding book that always smacks you on the head, and gives people the idea to whack others with it and Just-quit-being-a-selfish brat-and-come-to-Jesus-already!

And even the people who love the book have to admit that all of that junk has come directly from this horrible book.pumpkin patch family

I think of how Paul was blinded and shaped for service and how he once whacked Christians and maybe once he became one, he wasn’t very far removed from his former self, at least in personality.

But then I think, Yes, but Paul must have realized the truth of the Psalms. That famous psalm about loving the Word. And maybe to him, ministering and teaching required the same thing as when you felt worn out and beaten down. Maybe going out and following and getting whacked by life and people and all their crushing needs requires the exact same waiting for God to renew us with his Word.Didn’t Paul know most of all that this was where Timothy would find his quiet retreat? Directly there in the seeking to preach the gospel?

There are always difficult times. But we always have a secure place to be recharged.

It is a useful book. But when you love it, you don’t think about that so much. Its use isn’t the point so much as you just want to be with it, and in it, and to have it around you, living with you, breathing the same air you do.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

– Psalm 119:105

The New Bible: The Books of The Bible

There are many parts of my position as acquisitions editor at WaterBrook that are really cool. One of those things is certainly discussing ideas that have significant potential for publication. The exchange of intellectual capital, so to speak, is invigorating and always interesting. I’m truly amazed at the breadth of skill, talent, and experience of the people I get to call friends. 

But one of the coolest perks is all the free books.

When Mike Morrell of the counter-cultural Christian web journal The Ooze asked me to take part in the reviewing service for their site, I was more than happy to accept. I haven’t had time to write about any of the books—and I don’t really have time now—but one new arrival deserves a special mention.

The Books of the Bible is the new much-anticipated Bible project from International Bible Society and it’s everything we’ve been hoping for from the old bee-eye-bee-el-ee all along. No more artificial divisions and confusing textual structures. Gone are the arbitrary numbers and chapters, the text notes and superscript code language, replaced by the simple, straight-forward story of God and his creation.

Going through Luke-Acts, I kept thinking, Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? It’s truly a delight to read and I’ve made significant headway in my goal to finish reading the entire Bible this year already. If you don’t think it matters, that you’ve always read the Bible as segments of broken statements and disconnected phrases, I’d challenge you to go find one of these inexpensive new Bibles at your local bookstore. Someone’s probably already said it, but this new version of the TNIV brings the reading experience back to the foundational texts—it’s the Bible without the babble.

It changes the order of the books to be more logical and follow the intent of the original books, shedding new light on the history and meaning behind the well-known events. It’s broadens your perspective to include the particular distinctiveness of the authors’ voices and historical context, but also repairs misunderstandings about certain books’ type of writing, like James, primarily a book of wisdom writing like Proverbs rather than a letter like Romans. This creates a freedom to read the books in a new understanding of their theological traditions as well, which will be a completely new experience for most Christians.

Imagine if the Bible started to really come alive.

Now, of course, this is a very controversial Bible as well. Google it. Some Christians aren’t happy about it, and in fact rumors are IBS wasn’t all in on the concept either. But progress can’t be stopped. I’ve written about another controversial Bible here before—the Inductive New American Standard. And in fact, I still prefer that translation. If I could blend the two, I’d probably run off and join a monastery, so God’s preserving my family by keeping that from me. But after a couple weeks reading through this new Bible, I think I’ll probably still be talking about this. It’s that cool.

So check it out. And get into the real meaningfulness of "the word."