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Archive for October, 2011


Fruit from the Vine

Friday, October 28th, 2011


fall treeSo, Fall Harvest is upon us. It is the time to reap from what we have sown.  Celebration is in place, baskets are full, and we are blessed.


I remember all through my years as a child my favorite time of the year was the fall. Leaves beautiful, strange comfort coming through the comfort of the season changes and cooler weather.  Going to the apple orchards to get cider and to smell the aroma of the decaying leaves.


There is a spiritual harvest as well.  This has been a year of digging, sowing, toiling with weeds and blight. but in the end, I am so thankful to see a harvest that has been worth it all. This harvest has come through the lives of people who’s lives have been changed, lifted, and encouraged.


The fall harvest is also a lot of work. We don’t see the fruit come to any kind of meaning unless we close out the year with the harvest process. This last two weeks has been tremendously challenging.  I have wrestled with God over what He wants me to do, to say, what I should continue writing.  I thought it was best to review some of the more positive comments to regain my focus. What am I doing, why am I doing it, and who am I doing it for?


It’s Time For the Harvest!


As our mission statement reads:


Grace Rivers is a ministry with the gay community that reveals the message of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and genuine community with His followers – because every person deserves to know that Jesus loves them.


It was time to send out our third quarter thank you letter this week to our financial supporters. So I compiled some of the comments from those who have been touched by our ministry. This became very helpful for me to refocus, to gain courage, and to continue moving towards this mission. What I see in these comments is a reflection of the power of the Grace of God to change hearts to move towards Him.


Dear Friends,

It is now the end of our third quarter of 2011! My how fast this year is flying by. Instead of words from me about how tremendously thankful I am for you, I thought it might be better for you to hear from those who have been impacted by our ministry. I have captured a selection of comments from individuals that convey the real heart of why I am doing what I am doing.


John

Thank you so much. I have never needed to hear anything so much in my life. I can do this, with God. and he will still love me. Thank you so much. Thank you. David


John,

I just want to let you know that I read your blog about repentance, and all I can say is thank you. That one writing helped me more than everything else I’ve been through in the past several years that was supposed to help me, combined. I had so much shame and guilt inside about who I am, and I never believed I could be good enough for God… I couldn’t even be good enough for myself. So thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Warm regards, Jim


John,

All I can say is that I did not expect the men and women dressed in the I’m sorry shirts at the Memphis Pride parade to be Christians. That blew my mind, I didn’t know how to react for a minute, that was probably the coolest thing that happened there. I was not being judged by Christians. I was being said sorry too. Still at this very moment every time I think about that I want to cry. I have a lot to say about that moment, but to keep it short and simple I’ll remember that moment of acceptance forever, it’s all I ever really wanted, and it made my day 100 times better.


John,

The hardest segment of my journey has been to re-engage with God. Ultimately, that is my responsibility. I know I love God…oh so much… But the rejection I have experienced has really been the road block to that connection.



John,

Personally I am in a season of learning that my relationship with God is outside of my performance and this is a hard thing to crack as I came from a high-performance background. So although I am not “behaving right” especially in my sexuality, this is not the end of my story. He is changing my view of who He is and who I am. That is the place out of which I can be a Son and live by the Spirit’s direction because I will trust Him.


John

Thank you for your commitment to love… reading your articles recently has made my soul cry – thank you. For the first time in a very long time Ii feel that someone understands me and what I have been going through. I have been fighting for a long time with the question in your last article the yes or no side. I have been giving myself over to God to have his will with me. J.


************************


Wow! I’ve read through these many times and they still impact me. Removing the roadblocks to God! Sharing the message of value and worth that God says we have in Him! Setting the captives free!


I’ve taught so many messages of freedom and grace in the past.  But now, today, in this hour, they have so much more meaning!


These are real lives, real people who are finding a new and deeper connection with God. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.


Thank you so much for your financial support. I cannot tell you how much it means to receive your tangible sign of love. Please pray for me, for us. God has His hand on us in a very special and significant way.


************************


I want to also share with you an excerpt from a letter I received that amazed me. I felt so reassured after reading this response.


Dear John,

Just wanted to let you know I saw the part of a recent interview and was moved to tears. I haven’t talked too much about this (in the circles we’ve run with, it’s scary!) but God has had me EXACTLY in the place you seem to be in this past 6 months.


So much of what I’ve been taught in fundamental, evangelical, legalism has created an environment of judgment and criticism and even hatred for people (not just gay people, but lots of other people) who God loves passionately. The Holy Spirit is increasingly teaching me that I’m not here to “fix” anyone. I’m just here to love them unconditionally, as He does. He is a lot less worried about their sexuality, or political alliance, or anything else along those lines, than He is their (my) heart and having it completely.


I can completely trust that He will deal with anything in our lives that He wants to rid us of that is unpleasing to Him, but only after He has our hearts. And what lover would ever woo us to him/her by judging, criticizing, etc.? Would you run into the arms of that lover? I sure wouldn’t! But He doesn’t do that. He loves, courts, woos us to Him by his passionate unconditional love. And on the day we draw our last breath, He’ll still be loving us just as unconditionally and passionately regardless of whether or not we chose to walk away from ANY sin we struggled with in our time on earth.


Good grief, if our entrance into Heaven is determined by how victorious we are over sin on this side, we’re all doomed! Thank goodness it’s only determined by our response to His grace! Anyway – off the soapbox now… Just wanted to tell you how much I support you, love you, and am so blessed by your courage and humility in the Lord to speak truth specifically into areas where you have been publicly on the other side.


God is honored, John, and we can all learn a lesson from watching you say in essence (to the whole world), ‘I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?” I have loved you and Vileen for so long, but I love you much more now. I wanted you to know that God has several of us on this journey (and it feels really uncomfortable to me, but also really freeing).


I have experienced a lot of feelings of guilt, as if I’m betraying someone or something by opening my heart and mind to this REAL truth (which has been in the Word right in front of my eyes) I am hesitant to share this journey with many people because so many of my fundamental evangelical legalistic buddies just don’t get it (yet..). Won’t they be surprised to meet up in Heaven with all these people they assumed were not God-followers?


Enough rambling… just wanted to say I love you, support you, and am really proud of you.


fruit from the vine

Thank you so much, all of you who have written to encourage us.  I believe with all of my heart that God has me on a tremendous journey that has His stamp all over it!  I know He is working all things together for good and that there is a purpose and a potential outcome that is right in the center of His heart.


I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. I Cor. 3:6

 

Questions??

Friday, October 21st, 2011


surprizedWow, that was sure unexpected!


We’ve had over 5000 hits on our website in just six days connected to the article I wrote on October 7th. (Where is the Repentance?) I’ve been on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and featured in a cover story in our local paper “The Memphis Flyer”. Our own local channel five has done an interview with me.


The thrust of my message is:

“There is room at the table for gay people. God loves all of His children.”


I can’t imagine what many of my readers might be thinking, but from some of the comments and emails I have received I do get a glimpse of the reactions.


Some have been positive, some certainly have been challenging, and some have been quite negative. I am sure if you are reading this you had your own reaction. I want to begin with a little foundational information.


A Full Life of Work

Last week when my grandson was at his volunteer job and was asked to pull a nail out of a board the coordinator began to tell him how to do it. His response was “I’ve done that before. You know, this isn’t my first rodeo.”


Suffice it to say that for over 50 years of my personal life homosexuality has impacted me at a very deep soul level. While I do not have any official degree at all, my life work has been in this area of study. It is as though I have my undergrad, graduate, and doctoral degrees in the issue of Homosexuality.


This is very often something that so few people really understand because they haven’t experienced it. Well, from a very up close, and personal level, I have experienced it. Sometimes it is very difficult to describe what this is all about with someone who just can’t fathom an attraction to someone of the same sex. For some it is just plain repulsive so there is little desire to get very close to the matter and it becomes easier to just point a finger and say “Stop it!”


School-of-Hard-Knocks-300x284

I have spent virtually my entire vocational experience with the lives of men and women who are homosexual. For over 25 years I’ve read, I’ve listened, I’ve studied and I’ve invested my heart, mind, and soul into the issues of homosexuality as well as my life of the last 30 years of being a committed Christian. Knowing personally, hundreds of people and hearing their stories has indelibly marked me with heartbreak, frustration, confusion, and a deep desire to find answers from God on what to do.


For the last three and a half years I have prayed, wrestled, studied the word of God, and opened my eyes and ears to some very different experiences than I have had ever before. I have had deep angst in my soul from what God was showing me. At times this manifested in sleepless nights wrangling with the Holy Spirit and my own flesh over the challenges that I have been going through.


Through many divine appointments from God I have had a tremendous opportunity to be an olive branch for wounded souls and Christ’s redeeming love. Making amends and saying I’m sorry has become a daily practice for me. I recognize that over the years it has been very difficult for me to make amends and I was often tempted into defensiveness. I’ve learned how to listen better without making excuses and offer amends when the Spirit of God revealed to me it was important to do so.


So, I have been writing my story and sharing it with whomever wants to read it. I have been processing my very personal transformation in life outwardly for all to see. You know, we are all on a journey, aren’t we? A journey isn’t static for any of us. A friend said the other day, “John, do you want to end up in front of Jesus exactly the same as you are today, or do you want to grow as long as you are on this earth?” Of course, my answer is to “grow”. This is the transforming life in Christ, the journey of sanctification that we can embark upon if we are up to the challenge.


faceboardI have heard many kinds of reactions to my journey. The ones that affect me most are from those who know me most personally. Some have personally asked me questions about my thoughts. These are wonderful opportunities that help to round out my process and to think more deeply. Some have allowed me to talk, enabling further verbal processing of my thoughts.


However, there are others that have primarily met with me most of all just to share their own ideology and opinions. These are most challenging because they aren’t discussions, but rather they can be one sided preaching sessions very often with closed ears from both sides. Then there are those who are silent and seem to remove themselves from the conflict quietly.


In any case, this road is not easy. I am on the end of a pin it seems, or maybe better described as a razor blade. On each side is danger. Danger of the paralysis of fear, danger of falling into personal harm, danger of harming others and the danger of removing myself completely by doing nothing. My life has never been an easy one. It seems that I am often embroiled in some kind of challenge or conflict. However, I cannot say I’ve ever been comfortable with the “status quo.” This motivates me to change, to grow and hopefully embrace the transformation process with Jesus.


yes-and-noYes? Or No? Please answer me!

I find that most often I am faced with “closed ended questions” that would only allow for a “yes” or “no” answer. I have recently discovered that Jesus was asked about 25 closed ended questions. As I read the gospels in the New Testament I can easily see now how Jesus was pinned into a corner by the Pharisees asking Him to answer their questions with a “yes or no”. He didn’t answer them like they wanted Him to and always went to the higher ground of a kingdom focus. This is what I have tried to do only to find that many are not satisfied without me giving them an absolute yes or no answer.


Often when I am looking for a yes or no answer I am trying to discern if someone is on my “side.” We all want the comfort of having others on our side. But is that the most important goal? Or, I want to know where someone stands so that I can figure out where they are on a particular issue or thought. The end result of the answers can then reveal how I want to treat them. If they are for me, then I can move in, if they are against me, then I am tempted to move out.


When I realized this was the issue, it gave me some pause to think about what I have been writing and why I have gotten some of the responses I have. People want me to answer their questions simply, with conviction that matches theirs, and certainly with a “yes or no” answer. I clearly understand that now. However I also fully realize that I cannot do that. Homosexuality isn’t as simple as “did Jesus rise from the dead?” It is very complex because people are very complex. We do not fit into nice neat little boxes of “yes and no.”


One side says “John, do you believe homosexuality is sin? ” The other side says “John, have you come out?”


I say, God is always at work in me. These are the kinds of questions that I cannot answer with a simple yes or no. In the articles that I have written I’ve tried to talk about the “journey” in my life. I have written about Christ’s redemptive process in our lives no matter where we have been or what we have done. I have emphasized forgiveness, patience, and kindness with those who experience homosexuality. Jesus has been clear with us about taking the plank out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck from our brother’s.


I have talked about the definitions of the word “homosexuality” being vague, sloppy, and indiscernible. I have tried to bring forth the struggle with the semantics of this question and how it can end up in confusion, judgment, and certainly a lack of understanding. We will not get anywhere until we have more clarity of the terms we are using.


Some within the Christian community want me to just say “homosexuality is sin.” Some challenge me with their thoughts that I have lost my mind! While some within the Christian gay community are saying I haven’t come far enough and that I have to pay dearly for my mistakes from the past. They want me to say that God is excited about it when they find a gay relationship.


How can I please all sides? Of course I cannot. I wrestle with fear, insecurity, and certainly ongoing questions for my Father. I think if anything, this is a season where God is building a more solid relationship between Him and me. He is rooting out some more of my habit of being a “people pleaser.”


Needless to say, this is very complex and there isn’t a simple answer.  I have spent many hours writing, thinking, praying and sorting out my history. I struggle with wanting to continue writing in an attempt to be more clear. But I am finding that at this point I have written all I can write and must step back and seek God some more. This doesn’t mean I am finished, I have plenty more in my heart to say. But I need to gain God’s leading for the next “chapter.”


Is Jesus Lord?


The most important thing of all for us as believers to remember is to remain in the Potter’s hands! The journey of our walk with Him must include a submission to His work in us. Loving God first includes a willingness to allow Him to be our Lord. This is a very personal matter for me and I hope for you as well.


In Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation, Billy Graham is attributed to saying:


“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and our job to love.”


Boy, I need to get into the business of loving! Jesus said that we are to love Him, and love each other.


I’ll address some other questions in a later post. Fasten your seat belt. We are on a journey through a rocky road! If you have the courage, come along with me.


 

Stretching Week!

Friday, October 14th, 2011


JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1

It’s Friday and I am preparing to send out my weekly communication to you all. I didn’t complete an article this week. Oh, I have written a seven page item but as I ponder this week I am not ready to send it out.


I sent an article (Where is the Repentance) last week that included many things I have previously said over the last couple of years. I was encouraged by a friend to publicize an answer to a question I received and I did just that. Little did I know that it would go “viral” within internet circles.


Statistics reveal that there have been over 3000 “hits” on that writing.


It was reposted on FaceBook, websites, and personal blogs 100’s of times. Many people have written comments publicly, and I’ve heard from people personally.


Some have said “hurray”! Others have been ponderous and have further questions. There have been the warnings of caution regarding my journey of searching God for His thoughts and answers to my questions. And yes, I have received a couple of rebukes that I have embraced a different “gospel.” Someone even called me to tell me that I am in threat of losing my salvation sharing that in their theology that can happen and they are in fear for my soul.


Needless to say, I’ve been very busy this week. We’ve had a busier than normal work schedule cleaning homes. We had some social engagements that have hit us all at once. Our family has gone through some internal challenges that have impacted us at a deeper emotional level, having nothing to do with the article or people’s responses.


Vileen and I have spent a much larger portion of our time talking about all of the things we are facing right now in our lives. It has been a really good thing. We are grappling through some very challenging, and personal matters with each other.


Due to God’s grace, and our love for each other, we are not at odds with each other and none of our conversations has even come close to an emotional outburst, or shutting down. We are searching God’s heart together for his answers, His truth, and His grace for all people.


I’ve had some great discussions with close friends. I’ve had an ongoing dialogue with someone who has said she disagrees with some of what I have been communicating, but that our friendship transcends our disagreement and God’s love for each of us is clear.


Yep, it’s been a very busy week and its’ not over yet. Several more things to go to, to finish, and to sort through over this coming weekend.


In the end, I hang onto this truth. God loves you, He loves me, His grace is sufficient.


He has an awesome plan of redemption through Jesus Christ if we hang on, remain steadfast, and receive what He desires for us.


And, to remind us all, our viewpoints on homosexuality are secondary to His gospel and there is room for discussion on secondary issues.


 

The I’m Sorry Campaign – 2011 Memphis Gay Pride

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


An Introduction to Andrew Marin

Three years ago I learned that an acquaintance of mine was asking for support and prayer about his desire to work with a ministry in Chicago. I did some research on what he was pursuing and found it was a ministry that somehow was connected to the gay community.


As I thought about his desire and knowing he had wrestled with homosexuality, I was hesitant to any positive feelings about what he was pursuing. At that time in my life I was absolutely not open to anyone being aligned with any ministry with the gay community. Since I had known many men and women who had come to embrace their homosexuality I feared he was doing the same thing. Instead of just shutting his request out, I decided to write him and ask for more clarity on what he wanted to do.


He sent me a letter and a book written by the man who led the ministry he was pursuing. It was called “Love is An Orientation” by Andrew Marin. I sat down and read his book and found a very interesting story and testimonies of those who had come into great conflict with their sexuality and Christianity. This is how Andrew describes his ministry:


The Marin Foundation is working to build bridges between the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community and the Church -through education, research, and diverse community gatherings. The President of the foundation, Andrew Marin, seeks to elevate the conversation between these two groups so that true healing can occur.


Andrew and his wife made the decision to live in Boystown, a gay community in Chicago. He wanted desperately to better understand the feelings and life experience of the gay community. The outcome of his experience was finding that there are many lost children of the faith and those who completely resist thoughts of Christianity because of the rejection of gay folks by church communities all around the country.


love-orientationLove Is An Orientation

Andrew’s book seemed a close parallel to what I had written in my book draft, “A Journey of Grace”. It seemed that Andrew had found it in his heart to be honest about his own life experience, listen to those he began to care deeply about, and to respect them as people.


At a conference two years ago, I met Andrew in person. He has experienced a tremendous amount of rejection himself. Many within the church communities he has connected with have rejected his message of listening to and respecting gay people. Learning to see the greater picture of Jesus’ message of Loving one another, Andrew has begun to span the globe with his challenge to the church to practice what Jesus taught about love and respect.


I had an opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with Andrew about a year ago. He was delightful, insightful, and certainly carried much passion for those who are really hurting who live in the tension of their sexuality and their faith.


One day a provocative picture showed up all over the internet. It was dubbed “hugging the man in the white underwear.” It was taken at a “gay pride parade” where Andrew and his folks held signs that said “I’m sorry” referring to their apology for how the church communities had treated homosexuals wrongly. Basically, “I’m sorry for how the church has treated you.”


This is Andrew’s report on the story: (click here for original article)


I hugged a man in his underwear. I think Jesus would have too.


Some friends and I, with The Marin Foundation, spent the day at Chicago’s (Gay) Pride Parade. We wore shirts that said “I’m Sorry,” and carried signs that said, “I’m sorry that Christians judge you,” and “I’m sorry the way churches have treated you.” Amidst religious protesters screaming hateful rhetoric into megaphones at participants, we wanted to share a different message.


I loved watching people’s faces as they saw our shirts, read the signs, and looked back at us. Responses were incredible. Some people blew us kisses, some hugged us, some screamed thank you. A couple ladies walked up and said we were the best thing they had seen all day. I wish I had counted how many people hugged me. One guy in particular softly said, “Well, I forgive you.”


man in white underwearWatching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified. My favorite though, was a gentleman dancing on a float. He was dressed only in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them. Then it clicked. Then he got it. He stopped dancing, became very serious, and jumped off of the float to run towards us. He and his beautiful sweat drenched abs hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”


Before I had even let go, another guy ran up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and gave me a bear hug that nearly knocked the wind out of me. This is why I do what I do. This is why I will continue to do what I do.


I think a lot of people would stop at the whole “man in his underwear dancing” part. That seems to be the most controversial. It’s what makes the evening news. It’s the stereotype most people have in their minds about Pride.


Sadly, a lot of religious groups want to run from such a sight rather than engage it. Most people won’t even learn if that person dancing in his underwear has a name. Well, he does. His name is Tristan.


However, I think Jesus would have hugged him too. There are churches that say they accept all. There are businesses that say they accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance.


Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness and unity.


What I saw and experienced at Pride 2010 was the beginning of reconciliation. It was in the shocked faces of gay men and women who did not ever think they’d receive an apology from a Christian.


I hugged a man in his underwear. I hugged him tightly. And I am proud.


I’ve Heard Their Tears

I have pondered this all through the months and recognize that I have also heard the pain, experienced those who have felt the very same way. I had a meeting with some local leaders in our own Memphis gay community. In the meeting we connected on how often teens struggle deeply with being gay. Their hearts are so alone and far too often, the church community doesn’t understand and therefore become antagonistic with their experiences. Far too many young people who are wrestling with something so very confusing have nowhere to go where they feel heard, understood, and accepted.


Amazingly, these leaders and I connected at a very deep level of understanding. We could agree that something had to be done to bridge the gap, to open our ears to listen.


Memphis Gay Pride and the “I’m Sorry Campaign”.


Two weeks ago I received an invitation through FaceBook to a speaking engagement coming up in Memphis. Andrew Marin will be speaking at Rhodes College on Thursday, October 13th. He will continue through the weekend while attending our own local Memphis Gay Pride parade. The “I’m Sorry” campaign will be represented right here in the middle of the “Bible Belt” of Tennessee.


I contacted the coordinators of the event and was invited to attend a planning meeting for the “I’m Sorry” Campaign. I was curious as to who, in Memphis, would be interested in such an outreach. I pondered in my mind picturing some parents of gay children being motivated but thought it would be a small meeting attendance. It was being led by a gay man which brought up some other pictures in my mind as to whom might be there.


As I drove into the driveway of a home in middle Memphis I found two young men sitting on the porch and asked them if this was the place for the meeting and they greeted me with an affirmative response.


As I entered, I was the first person there and engaged in some introductory small talk with the man in charge. He was quite friendly and said he expected their might be 15 to twenty people coming. In just a few minutes a flood of energetic younger folks came into the room. They were married couples and singles most of which were under 35 years old. They were straight, Christian, conservative, and clearly developed a very affectionate relationship with each other as well as the gay man leading this endeavor.


I came to find out that they were primarily a part of a missional community to reach the inner city with the love of Christ. They were curious and desirous of learning more about how to love those in the gay community.


The leader asked me to share my story with the group. Afterwards we walked through some practice scenarios in preparation for the event. Then someone approached me with some heartfelt words.


“John, I have known of you and your former ministry for many years. I judged you as being legalistic, and at times maybe even hateful. I had no use for you or your ministry. After hearing your heart tonight, I want to ask you for forgiveness for the way I had judged you without even knowing you. I deeply appreciate what you have shared tonight and am thankful to know you as a person now.”


I was shocked, and caught off guard. This man was so forthright, and humble. What is amazing is that I experienced firsthand and up front and personal the spirit of the “I’m Sorry” campaign.


I was thrilled that in this energetic community of believers they had found fellowship with one another and included a gay man into their lives as Christians. The gathering of Christ followers felt so normal, so congruent!  There were no awkward feelings even though we were discussing homosexuality, the gay community, and Christ’s love for all people. I felt very much at ease and free. This will be an awesome group of people to meet the gay community through Andrew’s ministry efforts.


I’m Sorry

This week is flooded with meetings and events surrounding Andrew’s arrival in Memphis. I am going to as many of these events as I can attend. I will be at the Gay Pride Parade with the “I’m Sorry” folks. I want to say to the gay community in a very public way:


“I’m sorry for the way I have been a part of the rejection, the confusion and the judgment that has come into your life.”


I am thankful that my friend introduced me to Andrew Marin. He was successful in his desire to work with Andrew and is making a difference in Chicago. I am proud of his pursuit of Christ’s message of Love!


If you have interest in further pursuing Andrew’s ministry please check out his website:


http://www.loveisanorientation.com/


If you want to read more of my writing on homosexuality, click here.


 

Where is the repentance?

Friday, October 7th, 2011


mailbag_3

John,

I have been reading your posts since the beginning. Every week I have more questions. I’m sorry, I don’t understand where repentance fits into all of this. I don’t mean to be harsh….I just honestly don’t understand.


Are you saying homosexuality isn’t wrong or are you saying it is wrong, but we have to be patient while God’s goodness brings the homosexual to repentance? I see that you are saying homosexuals can be Christians, but can they remain that way…never expecting a change?


A Dear Friend




Dear Friend,

Thanks for your question. I know you have been reading through the blogs and appreciate your willingness to read them.


You have asked a very difficult question to answer. In order to understand homosexuality, and Christianity, it is important to look at the much larger picture of our faith.


Repentance from something means it has to be something you can control, like actions.

So often people will say someone needs to “repent” from homosexuality. It is something that actually cannot be repented of! People are, or they are not, homosexual. It is an intrinsic part of their being or personally, my being. One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable. I have gone through a tremendous amount of grief over the many years that I spoke of change, repentance, reorientation and such, when, barring some kind of miracle, none of this can occur with homosexuality. The article today is a great example of how we as Christians pervert the gospel as it relates to homosexuality as though homosexuals aren’t welcome in the kingdom unless they repent (which many interpret to change). But since homosexuality is not “repentable” then we put homosexuals into an impossible bind. (I’ve written another article that also addresses the subject of repentance – Click Here to read it.)


Surely, indiscriminate sexual behavior, stealing, gossip, and other “behaviors” are things that need to be considered when we speak of walking in the kingdom of God. God desires to transform us into His image more and more each day. But in the larger story of the gospel, biblical repentance means to turn our lives to God’s kingdom and away from the kingdom of the world. To change our allegiance from the god of this age, to the Lord of Lords! In this repentance, it allows God to be in the forefront of our lives and we decide to allow His kingdom to reign in us. Therefore we enter into a road of change, transformation. The issue then is what will that change look like for each of us.  Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people.  But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.


I have met men who find their transformation to include marriage to a woman and having a family and it is something for them that is a wonderful life experience.  I’ve met some who find their transformation to include satisfaction in living a single life in Christ and His calling.  But, I’ve also met some who experience transformation from sexual promiscuity to  a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience,  a great blessing to their relationship with Christ. Oh, I understand the controversy in all of this.


How would you answer the question: “Which is worse, two men who have been in a faithful committed relationship for 30 years, or a heterosexual who has been married five times?”


Well, often the Christian would immediately go to the homosexual couple. But, I would say neither is worse. First of all, I cannot judge one from the other because Jesus needs to judge the heart. But on a practical level, I would say the homosexual couple show a tremendous amount of work on maintaining a relationship, through faithfulness and sacrifice, to remain committed for so long. Any relationship that lasts 30 years is an amazing feat! The person who has been married five times shows some significant issues with unhealthiness. Five marriages is certainly on the fringe of a lot of damage personally and with many who are family and friends of this person. How would you prescribe these two scenarios to repent? Do you know what the person who has been married five times needs to repent of? What does the homosexual couple need to repent of?


From a spiritual standpoint, I also believe the homosexual couple could be more faithful in their walk with Christ than the person married five times – and yet……


The person married five times could also have a walk with Jesus that might be very intimate even though they exhibit relationally unhealthy practices.


We cannot grade homosexuality in its own separate category. It’s a shame, as followers of Christ, that we’ve been so judgmental and arrogant with so many people that we deem “unrepentant” because of our homosexual prejudice.


When I was in San Francisco this year a man made the statement: “John, you know who most of the gays are in San Francisco, they are wounded Christians.” Oh, my gosh! I think he may be right! They have been thrown out of most churches and have sought out someplace where they would feel connected, wanted and maybe loved.


My dear friend, this is a very tough issue and I am trudging through some very deep waters trying to better understand God’s heart on this matter. I have now gone around the world listening to Him, listening to the stories, seeing the tears of rejection in some, and the peace of God’s love in others. This is so different than I always thought in my small world of ex-gay ministry. And yes, it was a small world because I made it small. I was completely unwilling to hear anything that didn’t fit my paradigm. I blocked out anyone’s life story or biblical teaching that didn’t match up with what I believed.


When I was at LiA I never taught a session on the scriptures regarding homosexuality that I understood. I know that sounds strange but it is true. I didn’t teach them because I really had never studied them for myself. I merely quoted what I saw that others had written on the issue. I felt an obligation to at least teach something on what the Bible said, but every time I attempted to study it for myself it made no sense to me and I just went back to the writings of others within the ex-gay subculture.


Now that I am not submerged into one sided perspectives, I am open to studying and reading the scriptures for myself, I am finding so many rich truths that I wasn’t ever made aware of before. For the first time in all of these years, the scriptures that many have said refer to homosexuality are making sense! I am reading them in context. I am asking questions about who the passages were written to. I am asking what was being talked about, and why the words were written in the first place.


That illusive word – “Change”

Now to the other part of your question. If there is a change to be made, it has to be from Christ! If the gay man or woman is alienated from Christ because of the judgment they perceive coming from the church then we are placing a burden on them that they are not meant to carry. Many times  the church community sends the message that homosexuality is dirty, perverted, broken, and at times even a psychological defect. So, many homosexuals come to think they have to clean themselves up according to “our” standards in order for us to receive them into our pews and nurture them.


I am facing a challenging season in my life, my friend. I am at great risk of believers who have known me for many years rejecting me because I am daring enough to ask the questions I never would ask before. To be honest not many within the church are open to these kinds of discussions without being defensive and reactionary.  I stand to lose some very close friends because I have chosen to unconditionally love gay people and to support them now without pressuring them to  “change.” Someone has to take the fall for these folks whom Christ loves and desires a closeness with. I am willing to stand in the gap.


As I said, for many years I was unwilling to hear the hearts, the stories of so many gay people who were lost and afraid. I repeated the message “you can come here (to our program)  if you want to change” and yet the matter of change was so ambiguous that no one could possibly have met the mark that was expected. For the homosexual, the word change is deeply misunderstood and most often mis-communicated by the church.


Oh, I wish you could have been where I have been to hear the hearts and to experience what I have in the last two to three years. The sad thing is that many Christians would have not been willing to have walked the streets I have walked on out of the fear they would be “condoning” sin, or that they might have heard things they didn’t want to hear.


I was one of those Christians!

As I walked into a conference two years ago with Christians who were gay, my life flashed before me. I was very anxious and concerned about what others would think if they knew that I was there. I didn’t talk about having been there for a while and certainly not with certain people. My friend, what’s up with that? Why should I have such a deep fear of what others might think about me sharing space with Christians who are gay? What kind of legalism is that rooted in? What does that say about my own heart?


Now, to your second question,


So, John, are you a homosexual who lived as a heterosexual for all of these years or a heterosexual who was living as a homosexual?


I am on my own road of discovery in this area.  I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective.


Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience.  I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.


There are perversions that occur just because of one’s lust and a breakdown of morality. These are the perversions that I think you may be speaking of.  Men and women are certainly capable of extremes sexually such as in prostitution, pornographic exhibitionism and others.  However, today  I do not paint homosexuality into that broad brush.  There are surely men and women who act in homosexual behavior but may not be intrinsically homosexual, but I would say that the vast majority of those who consider themselves gay would not fit in the “perversion” category.


As to the question at hand, I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman.  My sexual desires, attractions and lifelong struggle with common factors relating to homosexuality are pretty much all in the classification of homosexual.  Someone once described this type of scenario a “mixed orientation marriage”. When I heard this term it sent me into quite the internal process.  In many ways it answered many questions that had plagued me for many years.  Now I had something that finally effectively described my personal experience with being married.


I am who I am, she is who she is.


I am homosexual, my wife is heterosexual. This creates a unique marriage experience that many do not understand.  For many years I tried to fit into the box of heterosexuality.  I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement.  Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.


There is no question, I love my wife. God has worked powerfully in and through our relationship.  The fact that she married me in the first place knowing of my past homosexual promiscuity said something quite profound about her love for me. Which, by the way, was not an enabling, “I can fix him” kind of relationship.  My wife has never tried to fix me or change me in that area of our relationship. She truly unconditionally loves me. But this doesn’t change the fact that I am who I am and she is who she is.


This is why I say things like “you can’t repent of homosexuality.”  In traditional homosexuality it appears that it is intrinsic to a person’s fabric of life. Nature or nurture, it is far to complicated to have a definitive answer for the origin of homosexuality.  However, I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.


This kind of searching can lead to deep depression, discouragement and often an alienation from God!


Commonly when a homosexual finds God’s amazing love for them as they are, their perversion diminishes, their promiscuity decreases or goes away completely, and at times they accept being single or they may find a God centered relationship that also seems to be healthy and faithful.


There is a lot of negative power in someone who feels ashamed of their homosexuality, guilt from misunderstood aspects of their lives that they have no control over.


I hope this helps.


Anyway, I hope you will consider what I have written.  I have loved you as a sister for all of these years. I am really trying to gain God’s heart for all of this and I am willing to allow Him to show me His truth.


John


Some other articles on homosexuality and Christianity