Monday, August 25th, 2014
I received this in an email from someone that I was in a small group with at one time. We knew each other fairly well and were a part of the group for over eight years meeting every week.
John, Read 2 Timothy 3:13, It is a direct prophesy about YOU!!
You helped save my marriage, and my life, but you can’t save yourself from an Eternity without God, in Hell!!
You are LOST, and I feel so bad for all those precious lives you sacrificed, and trampled on for the sake of your own personal gratification!! Boy did you have it all wrong!!
For people like you, false-prophets working against God, there is no forgiveness and no mercy from God’s Wrath and Punishment!!
(a former small group friend)
What would you do if you received a message like this? Many would respond back and I was certainly tempted to do so. I wanted so badly to throw some bible bullets back, or to call names, or just blast him. But, I knew that none of my overt reactions would do anything other than continue the banter over these issues. The message he seemed to have for me is that I’m going to hell and there’s no hope for anything else.
I’m really wrestling lately about the division of theology within the Christian faith. I’ve been really mad, sad, and frustrated about these matters. I am struck with some obvious reactions I see over the issue of homosexuality and so many other things that occur within Christian community that really stem from diverse doctrines of salvation. I’ve often said that when church doctrines divide on things that scholars disagree on, there’s room to disagree and seemingly, there isn’t an absolute answer for many of these questions.
Some hold to divine election, and eternal security for those who are of the elect. Others hold to free will and that someone can lose their salvation if they choose to rebel and reject God’s grace for eternity. People can become quite dogmatic about having the “true” answer on this one way or the other.
The outcome of the belief in one of the two doctrines is HUGE in the life of an individual. But it is also deeply impacting on how people treat one another in the larger scheme of things based on what they believe.
First Corinthians chapter 6:9-11 speak of a list of behaviors including adultery, slander, drunkenness, and yes greed! Homosexuality is included in this list however there is great contention as to what kind of homosexual behavior is truly meant by the original language. It goes on to say that these wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This one passage has been used to condemn homosexual people to hell more often than one might believe. But how often has it been used to condemn a greedy American to hell? This passage has also been interpreted by parents of gay children to believe that their sons or daughters are condemned to hell just because they’re gay.
Of course, some would then say, well if a gay person is repentant and they don’t take on an identity that is gay maybe then they’ll be saved. Of course, we don’t think of someone to be innately greedy so how does this all really apply. The foundation of the struggle is based on one’s doctrine of salvation. Would a greedy person go to hell if they live a life of being greedy? This could be any one of us, especially in America! But why is this so different in the application of LBGT persons?
The ExGay movement has primarily had a foundation of belief that one can lose their salvation. The ExGay component has hung on a belief that a gay person could be transformed by God to not be gay any longer. This was the far-reaching and quite frankly, a harmful motivation for the forty-year movement. Many have said, “I’m not gay.” to adhere to the expectation of not taking on a false identity and find approval. But if they have strong same sex attractions, they’re still gay no matter what they call it. Does it really satisfy the doctrines of salvation to say the right thing even though it contradicts the reality of one’s sexual orientation? This all sounds ridiculous to me.
I never held to the doctrine that one can lose their salvation. It just never made sense to me. I couldn’t imagine that if God did it all, that God offered to me the free gift of salvation, not of my own works, then how could I lose it? I didn’t earn it, and God’s grace freely forgives me, past-present-future. I believed God’s grace could also hold me in my shortcomings through to eternity after this life.
The thought that one could lose their salvation based on a reaction to life struggles or even negative behaviors is extremely damaging in my opinion. Where is the line drawn that would cause someone to go beyond grace? Intent, action, heart condition?
As I listen to the responses I can see that humans attempting to be spokespersons for God are drawing the lines very subjectively. My friend who sent the email has somehow believed he has the direct line to God on my salvation. This has been the case throughout the ExGay movement from my perspective. People that are uncomfortable to deal with can easily be written off as bringing “sin into the camp” and therefore shunned. Others that are cute or winsome are those that leaders strive with and give lots of personal attention just don’t seem to write them off with the same disdain. Some people’s behaviors are seen as obnoxious. Those are also the ones that seem so easy to write off into God’s punishing abyss.
Underlying this doctrine also can cause the fear that if we don’t warn people of their actions and the potential result, then we are responsible for their eternal death. I believe that taking on responsibility for someone else’s beliefs or actions is something that goes beyond our scope of responsibility.
But another response is that some people take the opportunity to throw people under the bus by using this against them when they feel betrayed by them due to some behavior that they’ve have a hard time dealing with. I believe this may be the case for my email friend. For some reason, it looks as though he really doesn’t want me to regain my salvation. His words seem to reflect that he’d rather see me punished for all of eternity.
Wonderfully, the opposite line of thinking has freed more people than all of the work of many recovery programs put together. When people discover the goodness of God, the forgiveness and redemption freely given through Christ and the way God will never abandon them, there is a miraculous transformation that can be seen in the human life and heart. I’ve seen how the fear of loss and the fear that God will turn his back on us when we don’t measure up, can cause all sorts of problems in a person’s life. Loss of hope, depression, negative addictive patterns and other compensatory responses become very destructive. But, clearly, the opposite is true as well. God’s love, unconditional at the core, restores people to positive directions and decisions across the board.
With the divine election perspective, it seems to be easy for some to just say someone was never saved in the first place. This also causes negative results. How would someone know the answer to this question? Can someone really be a judge of another’s salvation, or if God has chosen them?
In my observations I also see a huge lack of true human care for those deemed to have not ever been saved in the first place, or for those they’ve deemed to have lost their salvation due to their rebellion against God’s grace. If people really believed their doctrines and truly believe someone they knew would end up in the fires of hell for all eternity, would they just write people off without any care through sending them an email? If they are that serious, I’d think they might engage in serious conversation to attempt to figure out where the blockage is that may prevent someone from what they deem necessary, true repentance.
Frankly, my belief today is that God’s grace has unconditionally covered all humankind through Christ. I believe that there is nothing that anyone can “do” that would prevent anyone from spending eternity in God’s tremendous plan for eternal redemption. His love is truly that wide, deep, and long. His arm is not too short so as to save us from our own humanity and into God’s marvelous grace.
Why would God throw someone into a fiery hell for all eternity because they couldn’t figure out God? If salvation only comes to those who accept and apply the grace of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, does anyone truly understand something so huge, so vast? Who can figure out God? There are people who say they hate God or the concept of God because they believe God to be something that our Creator is not. There are those who just can’t come to terms with what the implications really are of the gospel and don’t know how to import it into their lives. They just can’t intellectually figure it out! Will they go to eternal damnation? Oh, you say, they just need to accept it in faith. Well some people are hurt, wounded, and don’t trust things like this. Will God burn them forever because their wounds cause them to resist?
Who can fully understand grace? I believe that one of the most significant reasons a person struggles to accept God’s goodness is that they frankly don’t understand it. Some don’t believe they are loveable. Others are angry at injustice and lay that on God’s table. Then some are just complacent, often because they’ve tried so hard and deem themselves to be a failure in their spiritual walk. Is God’s grace big enough to cover their lives? If it’s not, then there are some amazing people who were just confused, or wounded, that will end up in the eternal blaze of pain and destruction. Is this the justified wrath of God at work? Oh, well, God’s ways aren’t mine!
The changes in my own doctrinal belief system have changed me from the inside out. I trust in God’s grace more than ever in my life. I feel loved by Him more deeply. I am no longer codependent and controlling about other’s behaviors due to my own fear they’ll make a mistake. I can freely release people to their own journeys trusting that God is at work for good in all situations regardless of what my opinions are, or how I feel about them as people.
In any way, there are tremendously diverse ways in which we all process spirituality and faith. No one has the faith of another. None of us shares the same beliefs in totality. We attempt to categorize our belief’s systems so as to relate to others as much as possible. In this we find denominations, as well as church splits. Doctrines that are all over the road map and disagreements about them cause more harm than one can imagine.
But I must say, the thought that one may lose one’s salvation due to their behavior, or their struggles of how to process a God that none of us can truly understand is one of the most harmful doctrines that I see. It causes relationship separation and deep personal fears that in some cases become personally destructive patterns in life. I just can’t go there and never could.
Two weeks ago, I was confronted in a FaceBook post by someone I’ve known for fifteen years or more. He is still involved in the ExGay movement and frankly is quite dogmatic about his beliefs. I’ve had no contact with him since I left the ExGay movement in 2008. I wrote a post on a common site about how I believed there was room for diverse opinions about these things and that we would do well to practice listening to one another more effectively and building better relationships.
In his “drive-by” confrontation he said that he was challenging me for the last time. Considering he had not ever challenged me before, this was kind of strange. He said that I had rebelled against God and that my soul was in threat of eternal damnation. He then blocked me from FaceBook. This is a man that is a leader, he is leading many people with this kind of doctrine. Is it possible that he might be the real false prophet here?
I’d think, if he were that concerned, he might contact me privately and have a serious conversation with me. If he really believes this doctrine, and truly cared about my “soul” then I’d think he’d not just slam me in a public FaceBook post. Am I supposed to take his confrontation seriously and believe it’s from a position of love? I think not.
Sadly, far too many LBGT people have been treated this way. A lot of LBGT people live in tremendous confusion and fear due to the conflicts in these doctrines of salvation and eternity. And, due to a long history of shaming behavior towards LBGT people many react to these ways of thinking so as to abandon their faith as a reaction to the unloving and confusing ways they may have been confronted.
I’m thankful today that I believe in a Creator who loved us from the beginning and loves us totally through our lives. I’m thankful that God has provided unconditional love, acceptance, and redemption for our souls.