Friday, March 27, 2015
I don’t want to write today. I don’t want to cook or grocery shop or even watch TV. I just want to sit and cry. Or, more accurately, pull the blinds shut, curl up in a ball under blankets and pretend I’m not alive.
I should be happy. I should be rejoicing. Something about rejoice when you’re persecuted. Or because if they called Jesus the prince of demons, what will they call those who believe in him?
Except I don’t deserve to be his. I’m a guy with a lot of problems. Failings. Weaknesses. I struggle against a lot of temptations. Not successfully most of the time. And when I do succeed, I can’t take credit for it. It’s Christ living in me. Not me. I’m a mess, people. That’s not an exaggeration.
But for some reason, God hasn’t given up on me. For lack of a better word, I’ll borrow one from C.S. Lewis - God is relentless. He pulls my strings, pushes my buttons, whispers after me. Shockingly, he doesn’t abandon me. He insists on loving me. Yeah. Relentless.
Here’s the part I have trouble saying. And believing.
I’m gay and he loves me.
I didn’t say pity. Even though he has taken pity on me. And even though pity is way better than I deserve. But it’s more than pity. He actually loves me.
And I have proof because he wrote it down in the Bible. Not just once, either. He wrote it again and again. And then he helped me find it. Again and again. And again. Then he made it obvious he was living in me.
I still couldn’t embrace his love. It’s scary. It means life changes. It means I have a reason to care. To hope. For something better than even the best of this life. Hope to be part of a kingdom to come. I’m not just a despicable creature cut off from God - he’s drawing me into his kingdom. That’s tremendous and frightening.
So I run away and wallow in fear and self-indulgence. And my relentless God keeps on loving me. He draws me into his church, surrounds me with loving people, encourages me with new freedom, blesses me with an amazing wedding and opens new opportunities to serve. I keep running away and he keeps pursuing.
I’m gay. And God loves me.
And right now in my head, I can hear a clamor of voices saying the same thing: “Of course he loves you! And he wants you to stop being gay.”
I don’t know what to say. I was buried under a pile of sin and Christ rescued me. Not because I stopped being gay but because he loved me. I was scared God would only help me if I could stop being gay. But he helps me while I’m still gay. I was terrified God would punish me for my same-sex relationship, yet he has blessed and protected us. I was overwhelmed by only ever seeing condemnation in the Bible, and how I see hope and life and freedom.
I don’t know why God loves me. I don’t know why he helps me. But I know I don’t deserve it. I know I can’t earn it by “not being gay”. Jesus said he would send his Spirit to those who believe in him and his Spirit would guide us into all understanding. I believe in Christ and so I believe his Spirit lives in me. In a gay man. I do not feel the Spirit guiding me to “not be gay” and I do not feel the Spirit trying to “make me straight”. I am what I am and God loves me and lives in me. I don’t deserve it. I don’t understand “why me?”. But there it is.
Undeserved love. Undeserved compassion. A filthy, impure, no-good gay man is saved by God’s grace. Not because of anything the man did, but by God’s undeserved love. By God’s power. The same power that raised Christ - whom all the religious authorities rejected - after he was dead and buried. God has saved me and given me new life. And it really is new and different. It’s about love - the same love God showed me. Undeserved and freely given.
Which sometimes feels hard to manage. Like when someone slaps my face. I really want to slap back. Except now, Christ’s Spirit in me produces something new in me. Rather than hate, there’s a spark of love. Love for the person who slapped me because I know that what controls them, once controlled me. Just as I don’t want to be a slave, neither do I want them to be a slave to selfishness, hate, fear, ambition, pride or anger. Slapping them in the face won’t convince them I love them. But offering my other cheek and forgiving their hurt to me will demonstrate how deep my love goes, how freely I will give it.
Love compels beyond just turning the other cheek. It moves, it motivates, it relentlessly pursues. Like when I see someone with differing religious beliefs who could use help. I could easily find a reason not to help, but love compels me. And not just to help, but to go above and beyond. I want God’s love to shine through me, to draw them in, to attract them. I don’t want to drive away my enemies or resist their requests - I want to win them over with love. As I was relentlessly pursued, so I will relentless love.
There are some new laws which give people the right in certain states to refuse service if it conflicts with religious views. It’s the right to discriminate in order not to violate your religious conviction. I don’t know how others will use these laws, but here’s my response: “I love you.”
I will love you if you even if you don’t serve me because I’m white or male or Lutheran or German or Democrat, or pro gun control. Or because I use electricity, drink alcohol, practice open communion, believe God created the world or believe in the resurrection. Or because I’m gay.
And I will love you, welcome you and serve you my best cheesecake even if you sign these laws into effect, if you ban same-sex marriage, if you refuse me communion, if I’m bleeding out and you won’t operate, if you vandalize my property, if you drive me out of your state, if you authorize execution of homosexuals, if you hunt me like an animal.
I will still love you. Period. Nothing changes that. Because we’re both in the same mess that requires the same solution. Relentless, undeserved love.