John, You Have Deviated From the Truth!

John, You Have Deviated From the Truth!

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From our Mailbag


A friend who is a pastor sent me this letter after reading my article “Can my friend be gay and a Christian?


With his permission I have copied his letter in its entirety and my response below.


Dear John,


Thank you for your e-mails. I must address your recent article entitled, “Can My Gay Friend Be a Christian?”


I feel your love and heart for those in the gay community. The compassion that I sense you have for them is rare and is the love of Christ. You help us all to understand compassion.


I wonder if after you left Love In Action several years ago, you have slowly deviated somewhat from the truth. Somewhere, I believe that the pressure from the gay community has compelled you to create a more accommodating doctrine for gays that will ultimately allow them to feel comfortable in their sin.


You speak about how we all live in opposition to God’s desires for our lives every day. I am in agreement with that. Of course, we all do. However, that’s different from living in iniquity.


Here is the dilemma: How do we distinguish Christians who struggle with sin from unsaved people who are practicing sin? I believe Paul explains it through his own early struggle with sin before he found victory. Even though he struggled with doing wrong while saved in Romans 7:15, he states that he hated what he was doing. In verse 16, he acknowledged that God’s law is good (holy, righteous).


When people call themselves “gay,” which God calls sin, then they are saying that God’s law or standard is not good. They do not agree with God’s standard if they continue to live in their sin and call themselves gay. They have not accepted God’s truth.


A Christian should inwardly recognize that God’s Word is right, true, and good, and that their sin is wrong. This is the key to distinguishing a sinner from a Christian who struggles with sin. If there is no guilt, conviction, or inward shame when a person commits an act of sin, then this is reason to question his/her salvation. A Christian who still struggles with sin, however, will not want to practice sin. They trip up occasionally, but they have a desire to stop sinning. They do not feel good inwardly when they sin. The issue comes down to the heart.


Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).


The person who continuously practices sin is lawless or without God’s law. He has no regard, acceptance, agreement, or conviction from the laws of God. This is the sinner who has no guilt, conviction, shame, or hatred for evil, as Paul described in Romans 7.


If a person has made the decision in his/her heart to depart from homosexuality (or any other iniquity for that matter), then he/she will not want to remain in that sin and call himself/herself gay. A Christian cannot still practice being gay; therefore, they cannot call themselves gay. If we fall in a moment of weakness, we repent and keep going. This is one thing. Practicing and continuing to call oneself gay is another. I hope this provides some perspective. I pray that I have not offended you.


Sincerely,


Pastor



Dear Pastor,


First of all, I have read through your letter and I’m pondering your words. I want to make sure you know clearly that your letter did not offend me. I deeply respect that you have taken the time and written me about this.


As I thought about having received your letter one thing that stood out to me clearly, I have always felt loved by you. As long as I have known you, your heart overflows with affirmation, kindness, and certainly I feel connected to you personally. Therefore, I know your letter is coming from that place. I know you love me.


I will attempt to reply to the letter as I find the words to do so. These last two years have been a wonderful season in my life. God has been at work digging into my heart on many levels. When I left Love In Action, I had time to rest and ponder the things of the Lord. After 22 years of managing the “wheelhouse” of Love In Action, I was completely worn out for sure.  I needed to rest in the Lord. I have experienced a long overdue sabbatical of sorts. During this time I have put a lot of prayer and work into hearing from Him about how He would have me to respond to the reality of homosexuality.


I am finally feeling refreshed with new vision, a new understanding of God’s love for me!  I find that He is using me in new ways out of the changes in my heart.


Pastor, instead of getting into a biblical dissertation I think I would rather answer you in spirit.

.

Our sexuality is a very significant aspect of who we are and how we live. It is extremely complicated and for many people is a HUGE challenge to manage, to embrace, and to sort out. I want to continue to learn how to grasp the reality of God’s movement in us, and through us concerning our sexuality. To simply say, “homosexuality is sin” would be a gross over simplification of a human experience. I also see that even the word “homosexuality” is truly undefinable as it doesn’t really have a meaning that applies to someone’s life.  What is homosexuality?  Is it an erotic attraction, is it emotional desire?  Is it a behavior, or an identity?  Is it an intrinsic part of our being, or is it a temporary act under the influence of alcohol?


I fully recognize there are created designs, desires, and plans that God has for each of us as His beloved creation. The real dilemma is that each and every day we struggle to find Him in the midst of our humanity and how to reflect His glory to others.  I know many incredible people who try desperately to sort out their homosexuality while they also seek to love Jesus with their whole heart.


I also realize that there are Biblical “standards” that seem to be communicated from God’s heart to ours through His word. But under the canopy of the standards, there is a human life experience which struggles to fit into a prescribed box that humanly cannot be explained sometimes. I see these as uniquely different and yet connected deeply to our faith and desires to please a Holy God.


I believe we can all agree that indiscriminate sexual sport is undeniably wrong.  However having homosexual attractions and desires for personal connection or intimacy is not something I would call “iniquity” and therefore I do not believe it is something that would disqualify someone from a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. What one chooses to do with those desires must ultimately be sorted out with Jesus.


surprise yarn ball


Picture with me if you will, a ball of yarn  that is colorfully variegated. As we experience life with the Lord I see it like the yarn is pulled off of the ball a little at a time.


As it is rolled off it is explored, healed, changed, and moved on. As life unfolds in Christ, there will be many surprises! God is a God of order and will not a bruised reed break. This tells me that He enters our life to sanctify it, but in order and over time. Sometimes, large things are dealt with, other changes can be smaller and incremental. The issues we bring to the table of our growing process in the Lord may be somewhere in the middle of the ball and will come through His fingers in the time that is best.


As the yarn is rolled past His fingers, it is knitted into a wonderfully restored, useful, garment. The yarn may still look the same but it is woven into something more in line with God’s plans for us rather than just a ball of yarn with no real purpose.


From the very beginning of time God was busy making something useful out of something that appeared purposeless. He made mankind out of dirt!


Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7


mess of yarnIf this yarn were all pulled off at once, erratically, we would find a tangled mess on our hands. Sometimes it sounds like Christians believe that God deals with everything all at one time. If so, it would look like this pile of yarn. It would be knotted, scrambled and less able to be used.


I believe God can remove some very big things with expediency. But who am I to say what a “big thing” is? My heart’s desire  is to communicate the gentle purposeful, orderly aspects of a loving God. Over a lifetime He is at work transforming His people with precision.


This last week I received an email from a very significant person in my life. This email reveals my heart more effectively than any other way I could say it.


Dear John,

I don’t follow FaceBook much, but I had a bit of time yesterday and I noticed your post which led me to your website articles. (www.gracerivers.com/articles).


I was raised and lived in a cultish religion. I have broken free from that but now I am always skeptical and distrustful of any religion. I am squeamish around Christians of any ilk, or religious dogma for that matter. I have chosen to seek traditional Indian spirituality. It has been a very personal search because it has no religious dogma.


I went to your website to read the whole thing. I was nervous. I do not handle ‘preaching’, ‘piousness’, or religious ‘judgment’ very well at all. After having read some of your writing I have to say that I’m greatly impressed with your insight in regards to the Gay/Christian issue.


When I read what you have written, I realized that there is a possibility that Christians really can be ‘Christian’ towards others. Until now, I don’t believe I have met one that is like that.


But your writing might makes me more hopeful.


Thank you for sharing in your life stories (Through the Windshield of My Life) what must have been a horrible experience for you. I had some as well, while not with a family member, and not as a child, my experiences have certainly changed me forever.


My own painful experiences have taken away dreams, beliefs and trust; and in their place they have left me with fear, cynicism, anger, and many wounds. My experience with the those in the cult I was with, was just as damaging. It left even deeper wounds for me than sexual injury, it left my soul scarred for life.


It was a breath of fresh air to read your piece and hear compassion, a non-judgmental approach. You have given the opportunity for others to think for themselves and act like the Christians they profess to be.


Thank you, John. Not only for your story, but for being a respectful voice in a din of noisy cackling religious zealots.


Your Friend


Pastor, this letter frames for me the very reason for the ministry approach I have adopted of late. It is my greatest desire to reach out to those who are hurting, scarred, and fearful of traditionally accepted church practice or religion. I desire more than anything to be a bridge to Jesus that is honest, strong, and trustworthy. As I reflect on the ministry vision that we have developed through Grace Rivers I think my heart is very clear:


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.


Each one of us has a different positional call within our Christian family. Some may be called to proclaim a truth, others called to walk alongside in the truth. I believe I am called to walk alongside.


It is my hope that my own personal mission statement will continue to bear fruit.


It is my desire to help people be the very best they can be, and this I know is only through Jesus Christ.


If someone is fearfully estranged from a loving God then, I want to be the loving voice that says, “It will be ok, He loves you. You can trust Him.” This is with the hope that they will seek Him all the more themselves.


woman-adultery

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.


In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.


When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.


At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:3-11


Many people have brought this scripture to my attention to help me see that Jesus asked the adulterous woman to leave her life of sin because they are concerned that I may have lost my concern for sin. But, what I see here is that the lady had to be brought to Jesus first. In the right order, He made it clear that He had no condemnation in His heart for her first!  He connected to her in a very significant and loving way so as to clear the way for Her to follow Him. I believe the message of leaving her “life of sin” here is more about a lifestyle of pursuing the Kingdom of God, than it is about behavior modification.


Over and over, Jesus spoke to us about living a kingdom lifestyle. All through the Sermon on the Mount He contrasted the law with our human nature to show us we could never reach perfection on our own and that He had come to redeem us and to inspire us to leave the kingdom of this world and join Him in His kingdom. It is clear to me that Jesus was not giving this woman another law to follow, but rather He was asking her to join Him and walk into a better future.


So, if you tell a gay man or a lesbian they are to “sin no more” this can be a cruel and unthoughtful thing to ask. Unthoughtful because of the lack of definition of the word and the potential of a severe misunderstanding of what you mean. This is why it is so very important that we point one another to Christ because He can work in our lives in such beautiful ways to show us what He wants from us. The real message of the woman caught in adultery who meets Jesus face to face is just that – she met Jesus and He showed her what He wanted her to know.


It is also an example of how human’s want to deal with people. The Pharisees wanted to stone her.  Hum. Have we also been Pharisees?  Do you think that many within the gay community have faced a crowd of Pharisees in their own lives? Who do they need to connect to?  Of course, Jesus! And what do you think Jesus would say to the Pharisee? Well, He asked them to evaluate their own lives of sin.


Years ago a lady that went through one of our progams at Love In Action gave a little talk at the completion of her program. She said:


“John Smid is a Pharisee! Much like the woman caught in adultery, he brought me to the feet of Jesus where I found healing and freedom.”


I would never want to be thought of as a Pharisee!  But I do want to be a man who has found a loving God and hopes to be a vehicle that will bring others to the feet of the Savior.


In all honesty I do not believe I have “deviated” from the truth. Rather, I believe truth is a discovery and I have delighted in finding another facet of God’s truth.


I hope we are walking together as the Body, one by one, uniquely with purpose and hope and most of all, a desire to bring the lost, broken, estranged, hurting folks to the redemption of the soul.


Your Friend,


John


This is part six of a series on John’s transition away from his 22 year vocation with Love In Action.

You can read other articles in this series by (clicking here).


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16 Responses to “John, You Have Deviated From the Truth!”

  1. Jeanette Howard says:

    Dear John, Thanks for publishing both letters in full as that minimizes the possibility of being misunderstood. As the years go by, I am more convinced that what all Christians and Christian Churches need to offer is “Belong, believe, and behave”; in that order! And we need God’s wisdom (see James 3) in order to live with the tension that throws up.

    This is community living, walking alongside at one moment and challenging at the next still walking alongside. It is exciting to see God’s Holy Spirit have freedom to move in every individual’s life at His and their pace. Yes it is muddy and messy at times, but when you see lives visibly changing before your eyes because people have finally found a safe place to be real, then the Truth presented at the right time really does set them free. Exciting (and tiring!) times.

  2. John says:

    Hi John

    I want you to know that I was overwhelmed and encouraged by your original response to this issue. I as well have been pondering and wrestling with the same issues. I have said for the past few years that the future of our ministries would be very different.

    I totally agree Jesus always extended grace, love, mercy and then asked them to turn from their sin.

    Hanging onto God,

    John

  3. Rich P. says:

    Hey John…Love this article! Love your wilingness to put yourself out there for scrutiny…I love your response too! THanks! Lets get together soon!
    RIch

  4. Brian Smith says:

    And I wonder how many of us heterosexual men hide the fact that we are adulterers in our hearts, even though we don’t necessarily act on it….same principle applies to one who is gay in their heart, and who seeks God’s Grace not to act on it.

  5. Paul Swanson says:

    That was awesome John! I really appreciate the way you’ve articulated this delicate subject. I too suffer from a warped view of Gods love for me and am painfully aware of my own sin to a fault. Listening to others rub my nose in my own sinfulness only deepens my shame and reinforces my wrong view of God. I only want to grow in my relationship with Jesus and find peace in His arms. Thank you for your ministry.

  6. John says:

    The pastor wrote, “How do we distinguish Christians who struggle with sin from unsaved people who are practicing sin?”

    Perhaps this is a determination best left answered by God since we cannot peer into the heart of another man.

    Perhaps the question should be “Regardless of where they are today, how can I lead this person closer to Christ?”

    In other words, let God make the judgment. Simply bear the Good News and let the Spirit do His work in their hearts as they are willing to be discipled.

    The goal is not to change the man. The goal is to introduce and bring the man closer to Christ who does the changing from within. Sometimes we forget that the role of Judge is already taken; we are called to be priests.

  7. John Smid says:

    FaceBook comment:

    ‎”If someone feels no shame or conviction when they sin, that’s reason to question their salvation”??! That’s a very strong statement! God only recently convicted me of materialism in the past few months. Did that mean I was unsaved for y…ears before that? And doesn’t this imply we fully know what is/isn’t sin in our lives

    I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t arrived yet and God’s still working on me. But I reject the idea I don’t know Christ because of this… Nice response, John!

  8. Steve says:

    John, I enjoyed the read today and found it encouraging. Even so, I still struggle with issues of salvation (and what true repentance looks like) because of trauma in my own life, past sinfulness for which I am deeply ashamed, public labels now attached to me, disdain and a lack of forgiveness from the organized Christian church and general public.

    The pastor writing you fits the idea of being Christian into a nice, tidy box; and if you aren’t “nice and tidy”, you must not be Christian. If there were a true litmus test for being redeemed by the LORD, I wonder how many church-goers (or pastors) would pass muster?

    May the LORD help each of us (especially me!) to be more compassionate, loving, accepting, and forgiving as we seek to know the LORD and His plan for our life.

  9. Randy says:

    John,
    By no means do I mean to offend you by what I write. I only wish to reason together in Holy Scripture. To God be the Glory of our understanding.

    Jer. 17:9 ESV
    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
    Can we therefore trust our feelings about scriptural matters or should we just be obedient to the Word?

    Jude
    “24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

    We can have power over sin, we just should operate in that power. The entire chapter of Jude is quite clear on sin. Jude also gets specific on homosexuality.

    2 Cor 10.
    “4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. “

    The stronghold of sin is destroyed by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

    To say that one is a “Gay” Christian is a thought process in disobedience to Christ. To justify sin in ones mind by saying “…as long as I am in a loving relationship with my partner, God loves me and I’ll be in heaven…” is only deceiving themselves. Yes, God loves us. He is also Holy.

    1 Peter 1:15 ”but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”

    The pastor wrote, “How do we distinguish Christians who struggle with sin from unsaved people who are practicing sin?” Answer: we don’t. We know Christians by their fruit.

    Galations 5
    “19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, [4] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

    John, it is important that what you write is clearly Biblical. Ask yourself if a “Gay” Christian died today, where will they spend eternity? Many, many people look to you for guidance, especially on this issue. Please do not imply people can remain in a lifestyle in contradiction to God’s standards and inherit the Kingdom. Upon true acceptance of Christ the struggle against sin is won as Christians crucify the flesh.

    Agape.

  10. Jeff says:

    I appreciate the difficulty of your ministry, John. You can’t articulate the nuances in your heart because of the limitations of the written word. And when you write, it only shares a slice of the whole pie that is your heart in ministry. But, naturally, others will read and think that it’s the entirety of your heart and react to it. It’s such a tough position to be in and I appreciate your heart and friendship.

  11. James says:

    It would be great to see pastors exert as much passion and effort in caring, accepting, and loving rather than condemning, judging, rejecting, and criticizing!

    The Bible has much to say about Christian living and standards to live by, which is said in truth and love. Yet, it also emphasizes mercy, grace,and compassion to our Christian brothers and sisters!

    Lets face it, Christianity is messy and that is why we need Jesus every moment of every day. Jesus was NOT AFRAID to approach or SAVE (and continue to save and make holy) prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, liars,adulterers, murderers (e.g. Apostle Paul),self-righteous and pious (e.g. Scribes and Pharisees), gossipers, gamblers, sexually immoral, arrogant, judgmental, and prideful. However, it is a process called Sanctification! Thank God the Father that one day Christians will be like Jesus and without sin, but perfection is not in the here-in-now it is yet to come.

    Matthew 7:1-5 is a verse we ALL need to understand and adhere to in being careful about judgment.

    7:1-5: “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

  12. John Smid says:

    FaceBook Comment

    “The book Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill is getting the book of the Day award for finally addressing the issue of gay Christians from the perspective of an evangelical – homosexually oriented – who is of the opinion that homosexuality cannot be changed, but yet is not to be indulged. (Although I haven’t read it – just a massive amount of reviews about it,) It sounds to me like the book which has needed to be written for about 40 years, has finally been written.”

  13. Dan Hoeksema says:

    John,

    I surely appreciate YOU and all you are trying to do through your ministry! I have been on this long ride with you and do understand your heart! You are very selfless and articulate, and you do research your answers in Scripture! I am not without sin and am trying daily to Walk With Jesus! You are my brother, and I love you dearly, and I encourage you to keep on what you are doing, always keeping Jesus and The Holy Bible and It’s answers in the forefront of all you do!!!

  14. Cal says:

    I’m gay and Christian. I’m not in a relationship, but I know God would love me just as much with a partner. Nothing that fundamentalists say can change what I know to be true.

    I’ve given up trying to convince anyone else. I’ve come to believe that most Christians worship a book. They – and some that I am reading here – seem to have made the Bible their god instead of worshiping the vital, dynamic, unknowable spirit of God. They bow down daily to this idol and try to force everything in creation to fit neatly within the pages of a book – which it certainly doesn’t. Stop worshiping a book and open yourselves up to the loving, powerful, frightening, thrilling God of creation. The Bible was meant to be what it is – a source of inspiration and a chronicle of the good and bad man can do. It was not meant to be worshiped as a God. No real thinking person can ignore the gaping inconsistencies.

  15. Braxton says:

    I think what people who want to answer everything away with a Bible verse are forgetting that life is not all nice and neat in a box. It’s messy and subjective. Therefore, the nuances of one’s spiritual journey cannot be shoved away with a simple scripture or set of scriptures. Christ used the Jewish scriptures liberally and I think He would expect us as loving human beings to do the same with the gospel. Legalism doesn’t equal piety, but points only to insecurity. God doesn’t want us to treat people like a project, but like a personal human being with intrinsic value. Don’t put anyone in a box. Especially don’t put God in a box, because He will bust the walls every time.

  16. John Smid says:

    Braxton, how true. If we understood “grace” we’d be God! We surely don’t fit into boxes made by human hands. Thankfully, God understands our hearts and He is the one who has offered forgiveness. That is what is amazing about grace.

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