Thursday, August 17, 2017

You are LOVED, NOT for what you do, but for WHO you are

THIS world is about competition — being better than others, or being good enough for others. There aren’t many places we can go where we are welcomed and safe as we truly are. And it’s not always others forcing us up or down the social pecking order. We ourselves are the ones who feel driven to compete or to conform.
We place that kind of unrealistic pressure on ourselves.
Universal acceptance is something God is calling us to: self-acceptance, our acceptance of others, and, not least, our acceptance of God.
This is the principal reason God in Jesus came: to herald and to inhabit the good news; to let us know that we’re loved, not for what we do, but for who we are; that, we’re not judged here in this life for what we’ve done (our sins against God and others); that, we’re not condemned for the sin that is in us; that, in Jesus He sees us, and the Father is for us. As we immediately are. Unconditionally. Relationship. It’s about love. That’s about losing power:
There’s only one thing that really matters. Relationship. ‘Do you love me? Do you love me as I am?’
— Jean Vanier
Only when we have accepted people as they are will they be inspired to become better than they are. Only when we are accepted are we bravely curious enough to look at role models to become better ourselves.
Growth is contingent on acceptance,
for only when we’re free to be who we are
are we then enabled to become.
When we’re constrained within the vast chasms of division in this world we’re far from the Kingdom of God. Our thoughts are chaotic and awry and senseless. But when we loose our thoughts from judging and condemning, when we can let each and every person have their place, their view, the Kingdom of God comes immediately into sight.
Here is a fact for the naysayer of God:
You are loved by the Creator
of the universe and you,
yes, just as you are!
If only everyone knew.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Grace, the gift of right relationship with God

ONE of the profoundest word-gifts I’ve ever been given was when I was told to ‘enjoy the gift God has given you’.[1] Astoundingly simple, unfathomably deep. The gift.
As Christians, we do not make as much of the concept of grace as truly we should. That is because we cannot wrap our heads and hearts around it. There is too much theology to contain it. Grace is too much to contemplate. The gift is too gargantuan to comprehend. Grace is a gift that gives a spiritual reality of overwhelming eternal abundance.
But indeed, we’re blessed by studies like the one in present focus — that God’s positive work of redeeming humankind has not an iota of recrimination about it. Although we should rightly be condemned, and without Christ we were, our justification at the hand of Christ has now no longer anything to do with our criminality.
We are bequeathed right relationship with our God, just as if God looks at us and sees Jesus — no spot nor wrinkle of sin, though we’re still spotted and wrinkled; no condemnation, though we know we still deserve it. How irrevocably good is this gift?
For the matter of putting Christ at the head of our lives, to live according to the faith of trust in Jesus, right relationship with God is the decreed consequence. This is the good news. Not that we’re given easy lives nor are we promised joy at every turn, but, much more meaningful, that we’re ascribed worth as sons and daughters of God.

Acknowledgement to Dr Richard Moore whose life work has involved the study of Paul’s Concept of Justification: God’s Gift of a Right Relationship and the production of the first New Testament in Australian English.

[1] With credit to Elaine Olley, wife of Old Testament scholar, Dr John Olley.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Peace Amid the Anxieties of Daily War

DAYS off are not necessarily a blessing, nor are days at work necessarily a curse. Peace may evade the one, but be positioned centrally in the other. Yet, as per joy, peace is an enigma. So much of our peace belongs to the mind; procuring and possessing it through mastery of thought, of letting go, amid experience. And only for the now.
Like many of you I suspect, I’m easily confounded by time and task pressure; the whirlwind of competing priorities and the contracting concertina of time. At the one extreme I’m bored, at the other I’m barraged. And it’s a fine line that separates the two.
It’s humbling how fragile I am when it comes to the circumstantial. And yet, without such relentless stimulus, the life unabating, I would never have learned the powers of the mind that can superintend, and be salubrious for, the vulnerability of my heart.
Peace is an enigma, a paradox, a never-ending conundrum. Yet is it ever available. Those realities seem genuinely opposed, but they’re once and at the same time true as contradictions of reality.
Peace seems impossible when the present brings several competing pressures simultaneously, but that circumstance is merely the invitation to slow down and enter the phenomenon of process — doing one thing at a time through attentive discipline.
The goal of peace within the limits of time and space makes us face an irrepressible reality. We cannot shift dimensional law to come into conformance with our whims. Expecting these laws of time and space to bend our way is absurd, but it’s common that we get frustrated when we find we cannot cram more into less. We simply need to see how futile it is to expect the impossible.
When we accept life is a war, peace is the armistice we go wilfully into battle for.
Peace and Anxiety
For peace to be our possession there first needs to be the awareness of our anxiety.
Denying anxiety is pointless. Acknowledging it is the first step of embracing it as the next step toward reducing it. To common anxiety we can say ‘no!’
The simple effect of employing calming strategies that are within continual reach proves we can lessen anxiety or nip it in the bud for the definitive moment. Of course, there’s no long-term solution other than the mastery of that which we easily devise and employ; but, that which is only for now.
Accept that peace and anxiety are possessions of the now. We may have one as much the other. Peace takes no more work. So why do we allow anxiety free reign?
Prayer for Practicing Peace
as I come before you,
help me accept my war,
to You Whom all is true,
give me peace now to explore.
Life is a war, but it’s not to physical death that the battle seeks to take us. It’s a war of attrition. Life’s purpose is not to wear us down. Its invitation is for us to reconcile the tensions and arise, acknowledging anxiety as the precursor to peace, for without the one we wouldn’t passionately seek out ways to attain the other.
What better way to address anxiety than look up into the skies and ponder possibilities.
We can only find peace within the eye of the storm. It’s the only place amid chaos that’s dead calm. It’s the place of the mind at the core of the heart. When chaos swarms and threatens to overthrow all rationality; where reasonability seems impossible.
In the storm, move toward the eye; the stillness within the fury; silence in the howl. That place is found in the absence of our mind. Experience through the senses.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shalom Within a Sea of Unresolvable Contradictions

“There is no ability to live with paradox, mystery — which is exactly what contemplation teaches you — to live with contradictions, unresolved ones; in fact, if we don’t teach people that I don’t think we’re preparing you for the only life you’ll ever have… every one of you are facing a half dozen unresolvable contradictions, in yourself, in your marriage, in your children, in your country, in your church… and if you can’t learn how to hold those with patience, and forgiveness, and freedom, and even joy, you’re a pretty bitter person by the time you get to my age.”
― Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
FIRSTLY, what do we mean by shalom? Then, how does that relate to what Father Rohr is saying? And then, so what?
Without referencing anything I posit that shalom is a state of being. And there is so much in that; of being rather than doing; of sitting still in the heart; of a mind at rest. This is possibly the hardest thing to do in our world — to refrain not simply from activity, but from the gravitations of our thoughts, the surges of our feelings, and to resist distraction through a paradoxical mindfulness that sustains cognitive emptiness. Life simply coming at us and us bearing it.
The Rohr quote is pungent with truth. It describes an existential challenge few approach, let alone seek to master.
Life is a moving feast of unresolvable contradictions. And it is impossible to master any of them because every day is too dynamic, besides the variables we encounter that we cannot predict. Our only solution is to stand apart from life, covet its machinations much less, and learn to be centrist in every area of life.
What I mean is our views, our opinions, cost us dearly. We all judge too much. It’s not to say we cannot be passionate about aspects of life, we just need to decide what we’ll be passionate about — something worthier and sustainable — like the ability to appreciate a range of views and opinions without judging any of them; like being an advocate in nonviolent, non-violating ways.
It brings to bear the great power in the Serenity Prayer… accept the things, and every other person, that we cannot change… have the courage to challenge and change the person we can: us… apply the wisdom that discerns the difference.
The irresolvable contradictions are beautiful, to this extent: God uses them to rein us in. He gets our attention if we have the humility to acknowledge what it does us no good to ignore.
Shalom is a chosen and trained state of being, possible in the fury of chaos, like a clock ticking methodically away even in a thunderstorm.
Shalom is the journey God invites us to join Him on. To accept the limits of change and, where appropriate, to challenge the limits we accept.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Reason We Learn to Dislike the Real Jesus

“I would summarise Jesus’ teaching under two headlines: forgiveness and inclusivity. You go through His teachings. You can see why they killed Him.”
— Fr. Richard Rohr OFM
I’M going to ask you to channel your inner Pharisee for a moment. Sure, we’ve all got one. It’s that self-righteous self that views others through the lens of the law, and ourselves through the lens of grace. Be honest. That inner Pharisee is never too far away. None of us is so full of Jesus that we don’t recognise how quickly we resort to judging and condemning others. Even as we intellectualise our rationale — (‘Oh, I have logic and data on my side that tells me how wrong they are!’) — we only put a more self-deceptive mask on. (That ‘logic’ and that ‘data’ never normally finds others innocent and ourselves guilty.)
Most of those red-letter Bible verses our inner Pharisee hates.
Those red letters highlight everything he can’t do, because to do them requires denial of self, the taking up of one’s cross.
The reason we have to enter our inner Pharisee is it’s the only way to see something so fundamental to our visceral condition.
Unless we see that we are the ones with the log in our own eye we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Until we concede their sin is a speck from our point of view we cannot be healed and will remain utterly broken. Lest we see that, as far as Jesus is concerned, He can only heal us as we allow Him to, we’re forlorn.
Our healing has nothing to do with the person who besmirched us five or fifty years ago. But the bitterness we harbour at their betrayal forever holds us marooned to the mast of misery.
The reason we learn to dislike the real Jesus — even though we ‘love’ Him — is we detest having to soften our hearts before the person we despise has, never understanding it’s more blessed to give than to receive. And even more so when they never soften their heart, forgetting the judgment they may bring upon themselves that has nothing to do with us, and that we’ll never know anything about.
Our relationship with Jesus is manically bipolar when we consider we love Him for all He’s done for us, for the gospels, for who He is, yet when we see Him looking at us with those forgive-that-person-who-has-hurt-you eyes, we hate it. Sure, we don’t want to think we dislike Him! But we can certainly begin to avoid those who bring His discipline our way.
Jesus wants disciples — those who disciplined in bearing the weight of their cross.
Nobody likes to do this. It’s like the apostle Paul. We all have a thorn in the flesh that torments us. It prevents us getting too conceited. The only way we can bear the tremendous burden — the gargantuan weight — of our cross is to surrender the burden of our pride to Jesus by being honest. By drawing to conscious awareness that which would latently reside in our unconscious mind.
Pride causes division, and this is where Jesus also divides. Those who would remain prideful, choosing to remain bitter, or refuse to reconcile, choose to be lukewarm. They say they love Jesus but they show they dislike His teaching. They ought more to say they dislike Him. But, honesty will cause us all to wriggle in at least mild discomfort. None of us are that perfectly surrendered, although the perverting inner Pharisee in us is persuasive in fooling us into thinking we are.
The Jesus of the gospels — the real Jesus — is less interested in doctrine, tradition and protocols, and more interested in honesty that leads to repentance and transformation.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thank God for Life and then you’ll Live

GOD has given us one thing for which we could never repay. Life. Our lives.
This is a Note to Self (read as yours at your discretion and peril):
Does it not seem strange to you, in your bitterness and complaints, that you expect more from God — because He’s God — than you should? He gave you your life. He gives you life. Would it not be more appropriate, more just, to praise Him for the air you have in your lungs right now? To thank Him for those thinking abilities that you use to besmirch His holy name when things don’t go right for you? To revere Him for those senses you use apart from His will? To laud Him for the cravings of goodness that you oft let so casually go awry?
If God owes us anything, and let’s be certain, He does not, would it not be better to thank Him for that thing He gave us our lifetime ago? Do we not owe Him that debt?
From where does life — the power to live — come?
Consider these poignant Scriptures.
“Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
— Jeremiah 45:5 (NLT, italics added)
This passage commends us not to join crooked enterprises for our own gain. God will bring great disaster on them and we’ll be implicated for our compromise. No, it would be best not to seek great things for yourself. God is giving to me my life as a reward for the living, for His purpose, as I refuse to enter into wanton idolatry.
“Behold, [Satan], all that Job has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”
— Job 1:12 (ESV, italics added)
The theology here is problematic, but it is something we do well to accept. Evil will seek to corral us, but God will not allow evil to hurt us physically, protecting our lives. But every other form of suffering is possible in this life.
These Scriptures in unison herald one classic truth: God gives life; He saves, protects, and rewards us with life.
Being summarily happy having your life, and needing nothing else to satisfy you, means there is but one remaining conundrumdeath. But with faith in Christ there is both the hope in this life — a purpose to live for — and in eternity beyond this life indeed to stretch toward. We’re laden with hope that ought to produce peace and overflow us with joy.
You have been divinely appointed to live your life. You have been dropped from eternity — or, if you believe otherwise, somewhere foreign to this physical realm (let’s not get hung up on theology) — into your life. It is yours. God gave it to you for you, and, in that way, for His glory, as you live it fully in accord with His wish for you.
So, from where does life come? From God, of course. From God, for you. It is His gift to you, to live. Will you take it? It is, after all, your responsibility. Nobody but you can accept responsibility for it. It’s up to you.
Will you take this life that He gave you, not judging it, not looking through it nor hating it for any reason?
Will you go now, making it your own, taking it with both hands, walking with it with both feet, making the most of the life you have?
Will you agree today to accept your life as it was and has been given? Every moment of pain and fury, accepting every chastisement, as good and bountiful, as productive for the time before you now.
Will you?
If so, then hear the Holy Spirit utter these words of life into your soul:
Your life is yours, my son / daughter.
Be you, today, and Live.
And, importantly, look to life for nothing else but ME.
Simply live.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I’m From – Reflections at 50

I’m from Ron and Coral down Armadale way
and as a youngster in bed I wouldn’t stay.
I’m from Dampier with little brother Dave
together we had many a close shave.
I’m from wearing an army uniform
getting dressed in the right gear would become my norm.
I’m from sweet still sis Debra, in September ‘73
Oh how our lives have been enriched though you we did not see.
I’m from Dampier, to Perth, with little bro Matt
poor little guy in the middle seat he sat.
I’m from footy in winter and summer for cricket
gee didn’t I love to take a wicket!
I’m from cracking farts to advanced in mathematics
Yes, years 7 & 8 were filled with all kinds of dramatics.
I’m from Countdown and KISS, Pink Floyd and U2
I’ve always loved music especially when I’m blue.
I’m from Karratha, as good a place to grow
with mates, whose names, all ended in ‘Y’ or ‘O’.
I’m from squats, bench presses, and chins
bodybuilding and good times and other kinds of sins.
I’m from the Falcons footy and Salt cricket club fun
that goal on Taylor, 50 metres on the run!
I’m from pumps and diesels and iron ore screens
but work now involves the sharing of coffee beans.
I’m from the nineties and having three gorgeous girls
those dancing concerts and wigs with curls.
I’m from Amy and Zoe and Rhi
what blessings in their lives I’ve had the privilege to see.
I’m from separation, divorce and devastation
but thankfully God engineered my restoration.
I’m from God, who reset my course
a passion to serve others became my life force.
I’m from Sarah, from the family of Brown
solid as a rock, the jewel in my crown.
I’m from writing to unravel enigmas
a passion to advocate against all kinds of stigmas.
I’m from Ethan, our little dear
right now, he’s one I like to be near.
I’m from Nathanael, the preciousness of loss
But I’ve learned that life comes from death at the cross.
So... I’m from son and grandson to husband to father
and there isn’t another life that I would rather.
Now to you all, who have been important to me
love is reciprocal, I know you’ll agree.
Thank you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Manifesting the Beatitudes in My Daily Life

DETACHED from God we are in this worldly life, yet attached to God we can be where we seek His kingdom. Direct passage into the heart of God is through investigation and contemplation of these Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 (ESV), Jesus’ spoken words:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “I’m see the folly in my self-reliance, so Lord, help me be reliant on You, alone.” It’s realising I’m nothing without my faith in Jesus. I’m rich when I’m spiritually poor. When I feel that way, (and it is rare!), I lack nothing, because I have everything, even though I have nothing of the world.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “I’m thankful for Your grace, Lord, but I hate my sin.” I may hate another’s sin, but that isn’t my interest in terms of this beatitude. Why am I so focused on another person’s sin when that thinking, in itself, is sin? When I hate my sin, God’s grace comforts me wonderfully.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “I’m thankful for Your provision, but Lord, help me to covet nothing.” Coveting nothing is the way to inherit all things. Only when I don’t hoard what is not mine, and can let go all of what is, when inheritances are no longer the goal, do I finally stand to earn an inheritance. Most of all, what I ought not to covet is mastery over other persons, but what I ought to covet is Jesus’ mastery over me.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “I’d rather do without than walk with the ungodly, stand with fools, or sit in the company of loud-mouths.” I need watch who I keep company with. I need to seek His kingdom and righteous first and foremost each moment of my life. I need to admit I don’t do these things with anything like the consistency I would wish to have. Manifesting this beatitude in my life is striving for His righteousness to speak into the way I live my life.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “Teach me Your mercy, Lord, so I don’t walk past those who are worthy of it, and so I don’t refuse it of those who I tend to judge.” Where my heart is merciful, as a direct result, God blesses my heart with His mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “Blind me to indifference, aggression, ambivalence, and any other spirit that isn’t of You, Lord. Help me guard my heart so it is pure in Your sight that I might see You.” When I see God, I walk in step with His Spirit. But my heart is ever wayward and I’m desperate for His help.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called [children] of God.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “Make me a pacifist capable of nonviolent resistance, Lord.” I need to be a peacemaker who is capable of fighting the good fight of faith in every situation.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “Make me strong in my weakness, Lord, to be humbly resilient when persecution comes.” I still don’t comprehend the nature of the kingdom of heaven in practice; I grasp it in theory, but I still marvel at, but am confounded by, the commitment of the martyrs.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Manifesting this beatitude in my life is me saying, “Even though I don’t know how You’ll do it, Jesus, make me more like You, worthy of suffering for You.”
The Beatitudes seem completely at odds with how we practice our faith. They challenge every sinew of our flesh yet enliven us in every flicker of our spirit.

Monday, July 24, 2017

God’s Use of and Delight in ‘the Least of These’

“Who would make good helpers, do you think? Clever ones? Rich ones? Strong, important ones? Some people might think so, but I’m sure by now you don’t need me to tell you they’d be wrong. Because the people God uses don’t have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things — they just have to need him a lot.”
— Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible
NOT great things. Ordinary things, by definition. Banal things. Boring. Unattractive. These are the things of the Kingdom. They hold no attraction for those setting their sights on nobility. Those with lofty goals, who may not have read Jeremiah 45:1-5 recently.
I know that too often I am one of them. A person who covets too much to be used ‘greatly’. And each time I do I miss the sense of truth that God uses ordinary people like you and me every day, especially when we’re unsuspecting. We can be, and are, the least of these when we relinquish the chase.
To be used greatly is to shun the limelight. Where we place ourselves in positions where we’re easy to reject. And there are many of those situations. Actually, we cannot avoid them. We only have to have been a Christian for a little while to see how worldly Christians can be, notwithstanding the world that would diss us without a thought or care. Perhaps we’re more covetous than ever, but our humanity would suggest there’s nothing new under the sun.
God will use the rejected much more than he will use those who are favoured in this world. Think of situations where people might not reach out the hand of compassion. Their condemnation is in their own choice.
So far as the Kingdom is concerned, God uses greatly only those who are both destitute and those who serve the destitute. One is used as an instrument for sifting the righteous from the unrighteous. The other is used as the hands and feet of Jesus. Forget the glamour of ministry with a million likes and a church of hundreds or thousands, being an iconoclast leader. That desire will melt away as vanity before His glory in eternity, and be shown for what is was; the sinful nature emblazoned at the height of its pride.
One thing the destitute and those who serve the destitute have in common: they need God a lot.
Whose is the Kingdom? Those who are poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How Must It Feel to be ‘Welcomed’ But Not ‘Affirmed’?

ALLEGIANCE. Swap faith in the sentence ‘salvation by faith alone’ to allegiance — salvation by allegiance alone. Self, this is a thesis by Matthew Bates. It reminds me of a chunkier more concrete way of loyalty for the gift of grace — I give Jesus my allegiance, reminiscent of His own imperative, “Follow me,” as I reciprocate His love by doing just that: I follow Him. As Andy Stanley might say, the acid-test is on me, the Christian. All non-Christians are absolved.
What is a disciple of Christ, but a learner? They cannot help but be open to learning, for they’re following Jesus. The extension of following Jesus is I don’t know where He’s taking me; my allegiance truly is by faith, knowing He is absolutely trustworthy. He, the Word, is the lamp to my feet. Every single step. As a repentant sinner, I’m helpless without Him, yet spiritually invincible with Him. And in following Jesus I’m to follow no other.
So often as a ‘follower’ of Christ, however, I forget how much Jesus included those whose lives were running off the rails. He sought them out. He risked His life to talk with them and to help them. He spent time with them, reclining and eating of all things, in a culture where eating with people said so much about how you felt about them. He healed them repeatedly, and often Jesus found in the broken person a receptive heart — a heart just waiting to be loved, to be sought out, to be redeemed — a heart ready to give allegiance. The allegiant person is spiritually poor, and it’s only the gospel of Jesus that flips many realities — hence, the poor in Jesus are infinitely and eternally rich. The Jesus I follow isn’t a rhetorician nor a lobbyist nor a spin-doctor. I might ponder Him as a rabbi, but the truth is, He transcends description. And, as the gospels seem to have it, His love always flew in the face of the religious elite whose piety was so off-course.
Now I come to an issue that has bamboozled me a long time: people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex. One step further and we’re into the same-sex marriage debate. Don’t worry, I’m not going there!
A Christian frame-of-reference is the well-worn term, ‘welcoming but not affirming’.
‘Welcoming but not affirming’ seems to have become a mantra from the book by the same title by Stanley J. Grenz. In some ways, the mantra has skewed over time what appears to be the original intent of Grenz. It has come to be used as a way of discriminating in terms of discipleship, at least it’s seen that way by those affected, not simply to disaffirm same-sex unions.
Over time God has put me into dialogue with a few (doesn’t have to be many) individuals who fit either loosely or tightly in the LGBTQI community. Not through what they said, but more through what I felt, I sensed them experiencing the conditional love in that turn-of-phrase, and the outworking of conditional acceptance, that I doubt could ever be a reflection of God’s love for them. I have heard some say they couldn’t set foot in a church that brandished such a ‘welcoming but not affirming’ vision. I think we need something better, more loving, more unifying, and more Christlike, than welcoming but not affirming. Sorry, I don’t have the answer. I feel God bringing me again to a place where the complexities perplex my urge for simplistic answers. And I cannot suppose churches aren’t very well intentioned in coming to that theological position. After all, many expect churches to state their purposes; to come to a landing on where they stand.
I sense that a person in the LGBTQI grouping takes ‘welcoming but not affirming’ to mean, ‘we welcome you, but we do not affirm you,’ instead of what it’s supposed to mean, ‘we welcome you, but we do not affirm of your lifestyle.’ I know that if I am welcomed, but part of me is unwelcome, I do not feel welcome. So much can come down to dichotomies of view regarding sin. And there’s the issue: something so central to another person is viewed as sin. For them it’s more than an insult. It’s damning, and it offers them no semblance of hope. It’s damning, and for many people in the LGBTQI grouping Christianity might as well be damned as a result. I can begin to understand. It saddens me when the church does not reach people for Christ.
As a church, I think we need to do better than say we welcome but do not affirm — and leaving it open to confusion. On the surface, it appears well-thought-out, as a direct response to the issue of marriage that departs from the biblical ideal (man and woman). I think the common person sees right through it, however, when they begin engaging with someone whose life is affected. Sure, it fits with biblical sensibilities, but it isn’t the fullest measure of the love of Christ, which is a love that trusts that the Holy Spirit works best when I get out of the way; when I focus on how loveable the other person truly is, in the sight of God; when I worship God by how devotedly I love others. Others argue that truth is part of love, that tough love is part of love, and I can only agree. But there is also much more to love than that.
When I place myself in the situation of the person who has lived their whole life wondering if they’ll ever be ‘worthy’ of love outside their minority group I’m saddened. I begin to think of this kind of person who, like me, is made in the image of God. The person whose life hangs by the thread of acceptance, only to be severed by the scissors of rejection the moment they have the authenticity and courage (or audacity, if I feel threatened) to be honest. The person in dire need of Christ, Whose love is the only saving love they’ll ever know. The person God has put in my midst to love, when I may struggle to muster such compassion, even though that’s my job (as an allegiant one) to issue compassion to ‘the least of these’. This is not easy. I’m on a journey to somewhere better — for them, for me, for God.
What about the son or daughter, the husband or wife, the father or mother, the brother or sister who has wrestled with their reality for years, if not decades, and in some cases their entire lifetime. Would I quietly cast them off — out of the family or community or friendship circle? Or, as with so many, do they begin to challenge my perceptions? Is God working within my repentance (for I can only do my own)? The theodicy is that they wrestle, like those with chronic pain or a grief that never ends, for how many of them would not otherwise choose to be ‘normal’? (This is not said as a slight on anyone who identifies as one within the broad LGBTQI grouping.)
That’s my question of myself… how must it feel to be welcomed but not affirmed? I think I have some vague idea, because I’ve experienced somewhat the unbiblical exclusivity of church, but nothing like the person who feels estranged not just from church but from much of society as well. What such a person — every person — needs, is the church. The church should be the sanctuary of peace for all persons. A place where all persons, no matter their particular brokenness, can be discipled with grace.
As an allegiant, surely it beckons me most to love without condition.
As an allegiant, could it be that God is asking me to ponder what it might feel like to be a bearer of His image and someone of LGBTQI orientation? I think so. That my care might rise to the worthiness of love. That no matter the nuance of my theology that I’d be affirming of an LGBTQI person, as they are, and in that way, be accepting of them.
And I also found this video that I find directs me in the way I should think and act.
Just as I was finishing this reflection I wondered how I could illustrate the topic. I looked outside my window and saw a man practicing walking a tightrope. God provides. I went over and asked him if I could take and use the photo above. He had no objections.
I find being Christian in this age of same-sex marriage, and the linking of LGBTQI issues, akin to walking a tightrope. What I need most is balance.
Jesus, please give me the balance of wisdom to love the marginalised well. Amen.