Questions??

Questions??

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.


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8 Responses to “Questions??”

  1. Paul White says:

    John,

    I just read the article in the Memphis Flyer. I got on your email list after hearing you speak at Faith Anglican Church one Sunday, but I admit I rarely read the Grace Rivers emails. In fact, I don’t think I’ve really looked at one for over a year. I’m on way too many email lists and regularly delete most of what is in my mailbox.

    That will change now. I’m a former Baptist pastor who struggled with the whole gay is evil thing while I was still in the pastorate. For me there were two real turning points. First was reading Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel. I became really uncomfortable condemning people who were having just as much trouble struggling with life and sin as I was.

    Second was my wife’s experience at her work place. She had a gay colleague who kept his relationship with her very formal. She really admired his work ethic and professionalism and could not understand why he was so distant to her. Connie finally figured out it was because he knew she was a Baptist pastor’s wife and he assumed she would be condemning of his lifestyle. When she learned his partner was dying with MS (a disease I struggle with myself) she sent her colleague an email offering to pray for them. That began what became a much closer working relationship and friendship. Eventually her colleague admitted to Connie that he had AIDS. This was back in the 90’s when AIDS hysteria among straight folks was still very high. Her unwavering acceptance of him made him begin to question his own atheism. He even got to the point where he would call or email her and ask for prayer.

    What made us struggle with all of this was the fact that her colleague’s behavior in the workplace was much more Christ-like than most of the professing Christian’s in her office who had no problem stabbing each other in the back if that could help them get ahead. Our theology just didn’t mesh with the reality of hateful Christians juxtaposed with loving, gay atheists. Something had to change. For me it came one day while reading Roman’s chapter one. In verse 27 Paul says “men committed indecent acts with other men.” Then, just a few verses later he speaks of envy, gossip, slander and disobeying parents as if these sins are just as evil. The Holy Spirit made me see that if the church could not open its doors to gays, then we had to kick out all the envious gossips and teenagers as well. That would pretty much leave the pews empty.

    I left the pastorate not too long after reaching that conclusion and worked in the social services area until I retired a few years ago. I took an early retirement just before the recession, which unfortunately decimated our savings. We’re getting by, but it doesn’t leave us with much left over so it is impossible to support your ministry financially at this time. But I want you to know that you are in our prayers and if there is anything you can think of that I might be able to do to help let me know. Even with 12 grandchildren, I still find I have a lot of spare time.

    Peace and Blessings,

    Paul White

  2. Michael Watt says:

    John,

    Very well said! I have been on this journey myself for over 32 years. I can relate to much of what you said above. My seat belt is fastened. Let’s keep going, my friend.

    Michael

  3. Gerard says:

    Seatbelt. Fastened.

  4. Peggi Willis says:

    I loved the quote from Billy Graham “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and our job to love”!

    As carnal as the publicity can be at times, you are stirring up feelings and discussions about Our Father. He loves each of us and He created each of us; differently….black, white, rich, poor, happy, sick, healthy, sad, wrong, right, gay or straight. No matter what our circumstances in life are, All He asks us is to love one another.

    The bible is HIS word to us and He knows our heart when we earnestly search for the truth. Thank you! Blessings today for you and Vileen!

    Thank you for your thoughts while on your journey, John! To turn away would not be who God intended you to be. Continue to pray and seek HIS direction for you.

  5. Jeremy Marks says:

    Dear John

    Another wonderful, thoughtful post from you. As you know John, I so understand this journey – but thanks for articulating it all. I never quite thought out my heart responses or wrote them out in the way you have, so I find that especially helpful. Maybe that was because through the journey I was just so busy trying to answer the mail and the questions that came, all the while still trying to run group meetings and keep all the skittles of running a ministry in the air, that I never had time to think out what was going on in me.

    And wonderful that your post prompted Paul White to write his amazing and very moving story – thanks Paul.

    I shall continue to walk with you in all this John – you can count on my support.

    God bless you and Vileen

    Jeremy Marks

  6. Tim Warner says:

    One sincere question I have wanted to have answered and from primary sources, is how homosexuality and homosexuals were treated within the Church during the first three centuries (up to Constantine.) I can’t seem to find comprehensive and conclusive answers. I firmly believe it would reduce the anxiety and the dissension personally and within the Church to see the historical record on this issue. Otherwise homosexuality in relation to conflicting interpretations of scripture and to a diversity of attitudes within the Body of Christ leave no absolutes; the answers are too vague and subjective. Hence, one can go to the extremes of anti-homosexuality to pro-homosexuality and have little foundation or firm basis for a definitive conclusion.

    Out of all the sinners who approached Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, it would have been comforting to read about the homosexual man who approached The Messiah with his honest questions. And we could then read about Jesus’ response to him. That would probably answer all our questions. Otherwise we seem to be left with interpolation, extrapolation, exegesis, eisegesis and subjectivism. No wonder we ultimately have to say “who knows?”

    Great discussion as always!
    ef

  7. Will says:

    Walking with you, John. Ever trusting that our Father is .. indeed our Father who never gives a rock when our hearts cry out for bread. I think, again, of Henri Nouwen’s unforgettable line from his book Return of The Prodigal .. “YOU are God’s beloved .. on YOU His favor rests.” He knows your heart, and of course you know that. In Christ is our confidence; let nothing disturb you (Teresa of Avila). http://youtu.be/go1-BoDD7CI

  8. Tim Warner says:

    I have another way of looking at this stuff:

    When I was younger, and desperately seeking God’s will for my life I realized that even though I was a Christian I was deeply homosexual.

    I looked for a resolution. I didn’t want to displease God. When Love In Action came along in my life, it resonated with my conscience, and my heart. Yes I am homosexual, but God can help me to live in Christ. So I “bought into” Love in Action’s philosophy and discipline and everything the program offered. I lived within the program for 4 years . Now all of a sudden, former leaders within the Ex-Gay movement (not just John) are saying “well, we didn’t really mean what we taught or professed.”

    oh…ok,….

    Another way to look at this is the “Third Way”. A Christian who is deeply homosexual senses that something is “wrong”. Yet, he can’t change himself no matter how hard he prays or repents or cries out to God or whatever he does to attempt to change his internal orientation or as I prefer to call it, his homosexual constitution.

    Along comes someone who says I am just like you, but God showed me that this is the way I can change so that I can be the man God wants me to be, free from the homosexual struggle which is causing you such deep pain and shame. God doesn’t want you to live as an active homosexual, and He can change you, I promise, He changed me.

    So the poor young man goes through the program. He enjoys the fellowship and the honesty and friendship and freedom from shame and hiding and so forth with which he had been living. He feels that God is truly entering deeply into his life and it brings him a lot of joy.. However, he cannot seem to overcome his homosexual yearnings. He acknowledges this and is told to do this more, try that harder, come on…. here read this book, ok see this counselor…. well, maybe you should do this, do that, what’s wrong with you? You must not be following the program.

    Finally the young man gives up in despair because, here he was, in the place of healing, the place of deliverance from homosexuality and everyone around him was getting healed and married, and the leaders were shining examples of the glory of true transformation from homosexual to ex-homosexual. Everyone was getting it but him. What a bummer!

    So the young man is stuck in a place of not only having homosexual feelings, knowing that therefore he is a sinner and incapable of ever being anything else… incapable of entering into God’s Original Intention for him and his life, but also, he has done everything he could do to try and change and even in that, he failed. No wonder the young man is bummed out. And he is probably going to go to hell too! Oh well… might as well get it over with….

    And then, one day , oh, I don’t know, …. maybe twenty years later, the man (no longer young) hears a leader of the ex-homosexual “ministry” say, “You know, we never really were able to do what we said we could do. None of us ever changed. We just said that we did, and we just said that we could help you change.”

    Of course the problem was that the young man knew that there was truth in what he was being told about living in Christ, being able to live a Truly Godly Life, even though he had “this problem.” Combined with the young man’s love for God, and his sense that there was something wrong with himself that could be “fixed,” there was a perfect “dovetail fit” with what the ex-homosexual ministry presented and the claims of its leader. In fact many many many many people similar to the young man trusted the claims as well. And then, what a blow! They find out it isn’t true. And they find it out from the Leader himself.

    Now what?

    The point I am trying to make is that there aren’t just two options; one being embrace homosexuality and live it out OR the other option, repent repent repent (but really just repress and deny and ignore. Lie about it, in other words.)

    I just don’t know what that third option is, but if the first two are false, there has to be another way.

    I will save my personal thoughts about what that third way possibly looks like for a subsequent posting.

    Thanks for the forum here!

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