“Jesus would be the first to toast the happy couple, the first to dance.” Those were my words from a post I did about not missing your gay child’s wedding.
Then I got an email. I thought it was worth answering for others here on the blog who may have the same questions.
The comments from the reader’s email are in italics and indented – my words are in regular type….
My heart stopped when I read that last sentence [about Jesus dancing]. I had to let its implications sink in for a minute. I gasped, because that is not the Jesus I know from the Bible.
Yes, I know, and it’s not the Jesus you’ve been taught–and it’s not just you. Many Christians believe that Jesus is all about stopping sin, but he’s not; he is all about imparting life. I know you’re just taking the teaching you’re receiving, but that view misses the whole flavor of Jesus. He is about following HIM, not a list of rules. Remember, he always surprised the religious people in favor of defending the marginalized and powerless. [Here, here and here.]
Jesus, perfect in holiness, would never ever celebrate sin. Jesus, perfect in mercy, loved and FORGAVE sin…and suffered and died for sin, so that we could be FREE from it, not so we could accept it in the name of love, revel in it and celebrate it! His anguish on the cross (and leading up to it) shows both the depth of God’s love AND the great horror of our sin.
But what is the horror of our sin? It’s our independence from God! It’s doing things our own way, with arrogance and self-righteousness. The book of Hebrews is all about that. How are we FREE from sin? By our dependence on Christ. The legalists among us are horrified by sin. Jesus is not. No, he’s not. Look how he dealt with Zacchaeus, a crook who had extorted tons of money from people! Yet, Jesus simply said he would dine at his house (an enormous honor). Then, all on his own, Zacchaeus had a complete transformation! He volunteered to give away half his wealth, because of the change inside him. Jesus never said a word about that. He embraced him, in relationship, and it profoundly changed Zacchaeus. That’s how it works. And when a word does need to be said, the Holy Spirit is quite capable of saying it.
He had mercy on the adulterous woman and told her: Go and sin no more. He didn’t say, “don’t worry, we all mess up. Cheers!” He had mercy by calling her to repentance and a NEW life!
No, he called her to a new life, in him, by which that sin falls away! That is repentance: changing our minds and relying on him, not ourselves! Jesus never asked us to stop sinning for its own sake, but entreated us into a dependent relationship. PROOF: The Pharisees RARELY “sinned” (as WE look at sin—provable legalistically from the Bible). Yet Jesus BLASTED them for that very reason—they were consumed with details of the law and completely neglected love and mercy. Re. the woman forgiven for adultery, which I’ve repeated my thoughts on several times—please read my post about it. It’s really illuminating.
Unconditional Love sometimes makes the hard decision to speak a truth that might hurt, for the sake of another to come to repentance. To be willing to be hated and reviled (like Jesus was, to death) because what or rather WHO you are believing in is bigger than your own likeability, preservation, relational harmony and acceptance…sometimes people don’t want to be confronted with the truth that they have a God who loves them and calls them to leave sin and live for Him, and they will reject you for being the messenger.
Totally agree: and there are two necessary parts to that. That truth we speak MUST be in relationship. [Rules without relationship equals rebellion.] I can take correction MUCH more easily from someone who loves me than someone waving a sign on a street corner or disowning me. Jesus ALWAYS started with relationship. And ENDED with relationship. 🙂 And everything in-between was relationship. Because whatever change was needed came because of relationship. It’s equivalent to a rule-based father holding his son accountable, without love—and that son learns to be afraid to come to him with issues—versus a kind father who guides and loves. You’d do anything for the father who loves you kindly and gently compared to a rule-enforcer. Remember, it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance!
Second part is: what truth? When Paul coined the term “speaking the truth in love,” he was reminding his audience through his letter the truth of who they are in Christ! How redeemed they are! It was a positive! It’s equivalent to saying, “You don’t have to beg on the street for money—you can come into the palace! You’re a child of the king!” He was entreating them not to follow the pagan practices of the culture because they were no longer that person! You see what I mean? The truth he was speaking in love was their identity in Christ, NOT how horribly they were blowing it.
We are to be willing to be hated and reviled because of our devotion to Jesus, NOT because we are correcting others in his name. He did not give us that job. Christians who take license to blast LGBTQ people about their (in their opinion) sin are NOT revealing the love of Christ. It is NOT the truth [disputable issue, see resources] and it’s NOT spoken in love.
Love Unconditionally…as God defines love. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
First, this instruction is to us for US, not to us for others. How would you keep the commands for someone else? Now, to keep means to guard, to value his commandments. It does not mean to obey them legalistically. [Proof: Pharisees who obeyed them legalistically.] Again, it is in the context of a love relationship. Applied legalistically, they ARE burdensome. So you are going to tell a man who has never been attracted to a woman in his life, who has begged God to remove this orientation, who has come to hate his sexuality and himself because of how he has been treated and what’s been said about him—you’re going to tell him that to “not be gay” is not burdensome? That to me is evidence of how off-track we’ve been on this. Jesus likewise said, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” To require a gay person to be or act straight is in no way light or easy.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” ~Jesus
That right there is the most poignant element of this whole gay-Christian debate.
The non-affirming segment of the church has not loved one another as Christ has loved us. They have not laid down their lives for their friends (much less their enemies, which we’re also called to), and they have not kept the most foundational command to love God and love others.
All of this is why we must attend to our own business of learning to love, learning what it means to sacrifice for others, and learning to trust God with everyone else.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
It couldn’t get any simpler.
[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit www.FreedHearts.org]
SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – FreedHearts.org – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.