This week I came across a Facebook post that saddened me in two ways. It was a letter posted to a lesbian from a church, by a person who WASN’T the woman the letter was sent to. It was a rebuke to a woman who was living homosexually and had been contacted by the same people in this church previously, with no response from the accused woman.
First, I was saddened by the letter. While it seemed to communicate compassion and love for the person, it was nonetheless, cold and without empathy. Myself having been in this situation a good number of years back, I think around 30 years or so in my circumstance, It felt familiar in it’s loveless condemnation. It contained all the right words of “love” and “care” but it rebuked and condemned this person for her lack of response and the assumption that she was choosing immorality, and therefore the hand of fellowship was being removed and won’t be restored until she repents. OUCH! You can’t make that kind of judgement without a solid confirmation from the person accused, one can speculate but not being able to see what God sees, they should have gone further than a letter. Much further.
My second reason for sadness is that the responses to this persons post went on and on and on of how Jesus was a friend of sinners and how Jesus didn’t condemn anyone, and made nice with all the sinners. Anyone who truly walks with Jesus and KNOWS their Bible knows this is the furthest from the truth, however, there’s this paradigm out there painting Jesus as this cool cat with sunglasses, smiling at the sinners around Him saying, “It’s all good”, ” you good”. What a lie from the pit of hell.
While I completely understand that this church CLEARLY was trying to do the correct thing, I believe they missed the mark. For one, I doubt it if this church has done it’s job in confronting all of it’s members on their own sins ( fill in the blank), sending out letters reprimanding them for their brokenness and sin and calling for repentance upon threat of being kicked out. Chances are, and this is speculative, mind you, but with the statistics being as high as they are and that pornography is a click away on any electronic device, that possibly some of their congregants are hooked on porn. And then there’s the other sins, adultery, sinful entertainment, pride, unforgiveness…. the list goes on. Not that I am defending homosexuality, obviously from my having repented from homosexuality FULLY, and embracing the truth that I was created Heterosexually, and standing in agreement with God’s word that He never created me to be homosexual, by Gods grace and mercy I have some measure of truth and understanding when it comes to this topic.
I noticed that the second letter, the one exposed to the public by the person the letter was NOT addressed to, that there was 0 mention of ” we have attempted to visit with you in person to find out what’s going on in your life”, or ” we understand in the times we are living in, people are dealing with a plethora of situations in their life, we would like to find out where you are coming from, and how we can love you best”. A church that is committed 100% to the authority of scripture would have made an effort first to have face to face conversation, to find out where this person is in her heart, and determine if she is dealing with any kind of brokenness that is informing her attractions or her identity. As a men’s minister, I understand that it’s important to understand what’s going on behind the scenes of this persons life, and how best can they serve her. THEN, if there wasn’t any sign that she has any conviction about this path she’s chosen, THEN they have the responsibility with GREAT compassion to communicate that scripture clearly prohibits a variety of sins in the church, including homosexuality, and as a church that has the responsibility to Shepherd their church well, they cannot allow fellowship with someone who is choosing to remain in blatant, flagrant sin. This should be with ANY ongoing immoral sin in the camp. Even Paul said, a little leaven leaven’s the whole lump (1 Cor 5:1-7). Making excuses for it to remain in the church is to invite ALL sin to come in and set up camp. And I have learned by experience that the church’s approach , when it comes to immorality, should always be redemptive rather than merely punitive and condemning.
This response to the post by well meaning people brings up a HUGE misunderstanding about Jesus, and while I’m sure there’s plenty that has been written about this subject, I’m going to take a stab at defining what I have come to understand about Jesus and his approach to sinners.
Jesus’s approach with people was always redemptive, unless they were religious leaders who were themselves walking contradictions of what they demanded from other people in obedience to religious law, and although Jesus did want them to repent, He still exposed them to others and made examples of them publicly. Now, take the woman at the well, ( John 4:7-29) when Jesus engaged in conversation with her, He fully well knew that Samaritans and Jews were completely at odds with each other, mostly hostile. And when He first began talking to her, He wasn’t asking her about her sin. He offered her Living Water, which then opened the door for Jesus to tell her to go call her husband. He already knew, being that He WAS Jesus, that she was with a man that wasn’t her husband, and that she had been previously married. Even then when she acknowledged the truth, Jesus didn’t say, ” You need to repent or you will get a letter of rebuke and notice of excommunication”. The woman marveled at this man who called her out, so much so that she ran into her town, telling everyone of the man who told her everything she ever did! (John 4:29).
I read somewhere that it’s documented this particular woman went on to become a born again believer, and raised up a godly heritage of born again believers. THIS woman repented after her encounter with Jesus.
Then there’s the woman caught in adultery. Everyone knows this story. The religious leaders brought this woman to Jesus, early in the morning, freshly caught in the act of adultery. Ironic that they happened to know who she was and where she was sinning. Total set-up. And they confronted Jesus, again, for the bazillionth time trying to catch Him in error. And we know the famous words Jesus spoke, ” He who is without sin, cast the first stone”. I personally believe that it’s quite possible that these men who just happened to be ready to kill her, were among the men she had sinned with previously. I imagine Jesus saying ” He who has not sinned with her or, in the way she has sinned, and has no sin, cast the first stone”. To me, this is more accurate in how Jesus confronted people concerning the condition of their own hearts. When the familiar thud of stones hitting the ground resounded and the men all walked away, Jesus asked her, where are your condemners? She replied they are gone, and Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you, now don’t get caught next time. Now is that REALLY what Jesus said? Absolutely not! He told her ” Go, and sin no more”! (John 8:11) But I guarantee you, more people will paint a picture of a Jesus who glossed over everyone’s sins to just be cool with them. God Forbid! Rather, He, by the nature of who He was, and the way He lived and the TRUTH He spoke, caused everyone who let Him into their lives by way of relationship, to repent. Every interaction where someone’s life was impacted by God in the flesh, the Messiah, would come to walk away from sin and repent!! What a beautiful picture this is!
Anyone who paints a picture of God in the flesh blindly passing over everyone’s rebellion and wickedness with a senile smile and a wave of His hand over it all clearly does not know what the word of God really says. The very fact that He was born in the flesh tells us, especially in the word of God, that He had to become the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind SO that there would be a way to be in relationship with the Father. It was the only way! He is a Holy God! Romans 1 shows us what God thinks of wickedness and rebellion, and no I’m not exclusively pointing to homosexuality, I’m talking about ALL sin. In fact, Romans 1 gives us a really clear picture, and it is my belief that the devil has deliberately made it look like Romans 1 is all about clobbering those that struggle with homosexual sin that many folks turn away from actually examining what it says, so lets look at it shall we? Romans 1:18-24
18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, ( knowing it’s wrong and doing it anyway) 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them (He has made us in such a way that we know He is and that He exists) ; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and [d]crawling creatures. ( That’s not indicative of homosexuality, it’s IDOLATRY…jus’ saying)24 Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity in the lusts of their hearts, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. ( at this point it’s still not mentioning homosexuality, but it’s getting close to it now)
Is God serious about homosexual sin? Absolutely! Why does He even care? Because that is NOT how we were created in the beginning. His intent all along has been one man for one woman. Always. When one takes a really good look at the Genesis account, it’s super clear that it was His intention all along. But then the serpent comes… ” Hath God really said?” You surely shall not die!”. This is the lie that is still being perpetuated in the human race. The beauty of what God has created in the Imago Dei is so amazing! Take a careful walk through the entire new testament and you will see, over and over, this call to purity, repentance, to holy living, to walk away from immorality and Idolatry, and, the consequences for those who refuse to repent. It REALLY is THAT simple. And God loved us so much that not only did He give us His son in our place, as a sacrifice that we might be reconciled to God, but He also gave us a book of instruction. The Bible. Written by God, breathed out by God, inspired of the Holy Spirit and has stood the test of time.
In the 90’s I was a wretch. I was sexually active nearly on a daily basis, drinking nearly daily and trying to get a need met from flesh that only God could meet. And it took coming to an end of myself to see my desperate need to lay down my life to have His. When I confessed to God, ” If it kills me I’m going to follow you” I wasn’t directly responding to the verse in Matthew 16:25, or Mark 8:35. I was desperate to get free. I was exasperated by the degradation of my life, and the sacrifices I made to try and obtain fulfillment in my homosexual sin, which did not happen. I have had, at one time or another, everything a gay-identified man could want, and nothing satisfied. And I made an attempt for 3 yrs to get free in my own strength, but I wasn’t willing to lay down the one thing I loved the most…my sin. And yet, when I did really chose to die, within 24 hours I knew there was a strength at work in me that I had not previously known. Jesus really does set the captive free, and He even said so at the beginning of His ministry in (Luke 4:18-19).
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
The significance of what Jesus did in that moment points to the beginning, in Genesis, and that Jesus demonstrated it to be JUST as important to know the Old Testament scriptures. It’s documented that He went to the synagogues, when He was 12, his parents discovering to their horror that He was not with the people they returned home with, to rush back to where they came from to find Him in the synagogue. (Luke 2:41-50). Even then, according to the scriptures, Jesus was not only listening to the word, but His understanding of the scriptures astounded everyone who was there when Joseph and Mary found Him. Think about this, Joseph was a carpenter, and he passed on his trade to his son, Jesus. Jesus was known as a carpenter. Yet, the importance of scripture and the understanding of the scriptures was of greater importance to Him. When we look at Jesus in the gospels, we absolutely must comprehend that He lived according to the tenets of the Old Testament, that He, being the Word, had understanding that no human alive has fully assimilated… yet. Every aspect of how He interacted with people and with Jewish life, indicate that He alone was able to fully keep the law, thereby being able to truly be a sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world. Having this in mind, how anyone can say that Jesus was some religious leader that hung out with sinners, blessing them in their sin, is beyond me. It’s plain as day as far as I’m concerned, and it’s actually, in my humble opinion, disrespectful towards Him in relegating Him to a teacher that tolerated any and all sin without calling all men (and women) to repent ” for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 4:17) Jesus lived His life in perfect compliance with God’s law as set forth by Moses through inspiration of the Spirit of the Living God. Knowing this in particular, leaves NO room for Jesus to pass over ongoing sin in the lives of people who claim to be His, in fact, His direct interaction with them called them to something better – repentance and a CHANGED life. (Luke 5:27-29, Luke 7:36-47,Luke 5:5-8) As you can see from these scripture references, Jesus had a way of provoking the fear of the Lord, and true repentance.
Do we even perceive that God was Holy from the beginning and will never stop being Holy? There’s going to be a lot of horrified people who wake up in eternity and realize they are lost forever. Many will remember the warning signs, the many people God sent their way to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, which they not only rejected, but even some will realize they had twisted God’s word and added things to it that made way for mankind to be his own god (Rom 1:18-25). I’ve heard the question, ” How could a loving God condemn people to hell?” and I tell you this……He didn’t. They chose to reject the Truth. The Book of the Revelation of John gives us a clear picture of just how Holy God is. Take Johns response, for instance, falling as dead before the feet of Jesus, the Lord whom he walked with for 3 yrs ( Rev 1:17). That tells me on that day no one is going to be casually strolling up to the Throne of God with their hand out for their ticket. Our culture has reduced God to something to be rejected, mocked, or ignored. This provokes the fear of the Lord in me.
I do fear Him. I fear Him because I love Him. I fear Him because He has transformed my life, heart and mind. I fear Him because He set me free. I fear Him because He IS Holy. He is so holy that NO uncleanness or any idolatry can be before Him. (Revelation 21:27).
I hope I have made a reasonable argument for truth. I don’t think this church nor it’s leadership handled this in a way that Glorifies God, rather, it’s punitive without love. As a parent, I in the beginning, I was a strick authoritarian, and then the Lord, in His mercy, showed me how I was practicing the same kind of discipline I experienced as a child. I was horrified as I had sworn I would never be that way with my children. So I made changes and from that moment I always strived for love when I had to discipline my daughters when they disobeyed. As for this church, I do not know whether or not they called this woman and say “Hey, can we get together over coffee? Tell us your story, what has brought you to the place where you have embraced your same sex attractions? Where is Jesus in your life concerning this? But the letter, to me, is revealing to the degree that I can say with some confidence, it doesn’t sound like they did anything remotely that compassionate.
The person who shared her friends story along with the letter that was NOT mailed to her, in my estimation did everyone a disservice by provoking outsiders to be offended at this church, who will never personally be approached by them for forgiveness, if that were to ever happen. I understand why she shared it but I don’t know that the word of God directs us to do what she did. Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times a day, saying ” I repent,” forgive him. There’s even a layout of how to approach someone in sin in the church from Matthew 18:15-17. So we have a little bit of a problem here, It’s highly unlikely that the folks responding to this post are going to approach this church, rebuking them, and it’s highly unlikely that this church is going to say “our bad, we are sorry, forgive us”. So now you have a number of folks offended and bitter towards this church, and how much you wanna bet they are building up a case against the church in general, and then Christians? The devil loves to tempt us to be unforgiving towards others, and really loves to get us offended. If we spent more time in God’s word, letting it and the Holy Spirit change us from the inside out, then our responses to this stuff just might be different. The devil is devisive and loves pitting people against each other.
Jesus had much to say about forgiveness. In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus admonishes that if a brother sins against you, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day, and repents, forgive him. The word in general also has much to say about forgiveness. It tells me that Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8, but lets look at that further, it says ” Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Cor 13 gives us a really good picture of what love looks like. While we are throwing stones in retaliation against perceived sins against us, remember that there is a cross with blood dripping off it that is meant to cleanse those who have truly repented. Remember how Jesus reacted when He was sinned against? If you don’t, please go back and take a look. I remember at the end, before He died, He said ” Father forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34.
Does that mean Jesus was saying that the men who inserted the crown of thorns in his head were unaware of what they were doing?
How about the man who beat Him with a Cat-o-nine tails, does that mean that man was unaware of the horrible damage he inflicted on Jesus?
How about the men that drove the nails into his hands and feet?
The point I’m making is that in all the suffering, Jesus was asking the Father to NOT hold it against them. If I were to have witnessed his beatings and crucifixion, I wouldn’t have an easy time forgiving any of them. But there’s a greater, more wonderful reason behind all of this. Redemption. Even for those who cried out, ” Crucify Him”. And I firmly believe that there’s an opportunity to appeal to this church in how they have handled this to consider what they have done. Will they listen? I have not one clue. But I know God is saying, forgive just as you have been forgiven. There’s so much opportunity for redemption here, for that church, for the woman who exposed them to the world, and for that precious woman who doesn’t really know who God has created her to be.
In my own life, the kindness of God, the way He continually wooed me, the way He drew me to Him, like a Father tenderly calling out for His son, all these things spoke of a way out, a hope I could cling to, and apprehend. God’s kindness to me was His reaching out to me when I felt I was unreachable. My life was a mess, I was a mess. Anyone that worked with me at the time could tell you I was a huge, barely able to function, mess. Homosexuality did not fulfill me in any way, and yet the Lord in His great kindness met me at the well where I drew stagnant, putrefied water from and offered me Living Water. It didn’t happen instantly, but I kept creeping closer to the source of Living Water until I arrived at that place where I wanted everything that separated me from Him , to die, so that I may live. This is why I have a heart of compassion for this woman, this is why I know that church and it’s leaders CAN do better. way better. Jesus sets us free so that we don’t have to live like we once did, and I pray for that woman that she might truly experience the hand of the Father over her life.