Thursday, June 11, 2015

With God, All Things Are Possible. Even Loving People We Disagree With.

Recently I posted a comment on Facebook that generated a lot of conversation among both Christian and non-Christian associates of mine. It was a comment regarding some of the reaction I saw online to the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner controversy.  

You can see that at this link, if you like.

It was…. Enlightening.

That comment and the resulting thread discussion prompted a friend of mine to ask me some questions in a private message. I thought they were very good questions, many of which I’d heard before. I tried to answer them the best I could, to the best of my understanding.

I give you my thoughts on the questions. As always, the opinions expressed are mine. You are cordially invited to disagree if you see fit (which I know a lot of people will!).

So…. Onward to the questions.

***Is the LGBT community choosing to "be" this way, or do you think they were born this way?

I don’t know.

I personally think it’s not a choice, as we define “choice”. 

Yes, I believe most homosexual people are born with a sexual drive that is contrary to what many consider “God given” heterosexuality. I think there are other homosexual people who, through life circumstances, develop an affinity for the same gender.  God knows there are a myriad of psychological opinions (abuse, anger, fear, etc) on the matter for why this could happen.

The bottom line question is, did a homosexual person “choose” to be homosexual? I think the answer almost always is “no”.

If one is born with a certain sexual orientation, then it is what it is. Nothing one can do about it. If one “takes on” a certain sexual orientation, via whatever psychological events that take place, then it’s also not a “choice”, as we define it.

Does one choose depression, or anger, or fear, or anxiety? No.

Is the tendency to anxiety or depression a genetic, inborn one? Sometimes. 

Sometimes it is in response to factors in one’s life.

Does one choose it, though?


This is different from the person who, for the sake of excitement or gratification or self-indulgence, decides to take up with the same sex simply for the sexual gratification of the act. This is debauchery. These, in my opinion, are the people that Paul is talking about in Romans 1. Not people who, being true to whatever it is they feel in their heart, are following their path to love and companionship with another human being, but people who are purposely practicing debauchery for the sheer pleasure of it, without regard for the damage they may doing to relationships and people.

It is in THIS understanding that I can say, sexual behavior for the perverse pleasure of doing something considered forbidden is sinful. This kind of behavior, debauchery, is harmful to feelings and relationships and the value we place upon one another as things to be used for our gratification. This is wrong, be it homosexual or heterosexual.

Homosexuality lived in an honest desire to find love, companionship, and all the joy that heterosexual people take for granted as “God given”, to me is not sinful. 

Is it a twisting of God’s original intent? Maybe.  But if homosexuality is an inborn thing, only God can affect or change it. If it’s an afflicted condition taken on from the surrounding environment and our experiences, then only God’s love can fix it. 

My Christian mission is to see the person as a whole person, and love them as they deserve to be loved, as a person with value, not a project to be saved. It is through that kind of love that hopefully they will see, seek, and find, God. Then He can take over and change the heart, if God sees fit.

***Granted I am grouping them as a whole, and really everyone's story is unique……

That’s the key statement. Everyone’s story is unique, and we can’t lump anyone together with anyone.

***You see, if they are born this way then that implies that God created them gay (or whatever). If this is true, why would God create a human that "goes against" his word?

Why indeed? My assertion is ….. God didn’t.

The questions you ask come of the Calvinist view about God. It permeates everything in our American Evangelical churches, including many Southern Baptist Churches, which I currently attend. The Calvinist (sometimes called Reformed, but even that’s not universal) view is everywhere, even when most people don’t realize it. 

You’ve probably been taught that God is all powerful, omniscient, and eternally the same, never changing in any way.

(Most Christians accept this as absolute truth, without question. This view has its basis largely in Greek philosophy, tracing back to Plato and Aristotle. They posited that if something is perfect, then it cannot change, because if it changed, it was not perfect to start with. Early church fathers, such as Thomas Aquinas, used this logic to argue that because God is perfect, then He must be unchanging in all forms.)

So, because we understand God to be this way, John Calvin (and others) went on to argue that everything that has ever happened or will happen was ordained and prearranged by God to happen in a certain way. That means every good gift is from God, but also every tragedy, every horror, every terrifying death was prearranged and preordained by God for His glory.

This is the theology that makes God into a monster, because God would then be the author of all evil, and God would be the creator of everything that we need to be saved from! In essence, in my opinion, we’ve been taught that we need to be saved by God, from God! God Our Savior had to save us…… from Himself?!?

Screwy stuff, if you follow it to its logical conclusion.

What I think is, God creates life. He creates it perfectly, but God is not alone in the ability to affect our lives. God gave us, His created beings, a frightening amount of freedom and “say-so” in this world.

Say a woman becomes pregnant, but her child is deformed due to momma drinking or doing drugs during the child’s development. Fetal alcohol syndrome, or a meth baby, has staggering problems to overcome. Did God “make” the child that way?

No freakin’ way.

How does a child get Down’s syndrome? MS? Autism? Missing fingers, two heads, wrong genitals, too many toes? Why is a child born in comfort and safety here in the US, but another into suffocating unescapable poverty in India?

Why are children killed in car accidents? Fires? Wars? Earthquakes? Tornadoes? 
Why do people get debilitating illnesses, or young children get brain cancer and die?

(Visit the website of Jessica Kelley, a woman who has dealt with the death of her precious 4-year old son, and see how she sees a beautiful God who walks with her through the pain at )

Why is someone born homosexual?

I believe we live in a fallen world, and in a very real spiritual war zone. Paul says in Ephesians that there is a war going on. Our enemy is not flesh and blood but spiritual powers in heavenly places that affect life on Earth. I think he meant it.

We tend talk about “spiritual warfare” mainly in regards to resisting the temptation to sin, but it’s really about free-will agents fighting God’s plan to reconcile and redeem the world, through Jesus Christ.  Sin is a tool in the arsenal of those fighting God’s reign. Sin twists and distorts God’s good creation, and I do believe just about every deformation of man and nature is due to the consequences of this war and our sin.

Jesus was the perfect sinless man, and even he suffered the consequences of our sin. We killed him!

I think the same happens to us. We suffer the consequences of a long history of a broken world due to sin.

The Good News is that God is restoring all things, and in the end, He will prevail, and restore all things to the right way they should be.  Jesus calls us into the battle to join him in redeeming the world. I’ve heard someone talk about 

Jesus as a medic in the war. He healed thousands from their illnesses, partly to show God’s love and power, but also to simply heal the war wounds inflicted upon us, upon the collateral damage in this great spiritual war. To bring healing to the nations. To bring comfort to the tired and the weary.

***Why would God create anyone with flaws and did God create the flaws or are they just there because of sin?

I don’t think God creates the flaws, but God is in the business of creating beauty even out of the flaws.

Through God we can overcome anything.

The disciples asked Jesus pretty much the same question in John 9:2, when they encountered the man blind from birth.  “Teacher, whose sin made this man to be born blind? Was it the sin of this man or the sin of his parents?”
Jesus’ answer is priceless.  “The sin of this man or the sin of his parents did not make him to be born blind. He was born blind so the work of God would be seen in him.”

I don’t think this means that God pre-planned the blindness so that Jesus would have the opportunity to heal the man. That would be a Calvinist reading of the passage, but I think that would be plain mean on the part of God. No, Jesus is telling the disciples that they are missing the point.  

They assumed there was some particular thing, some sin the man or his family that caused God to punish this man. The disciples lived with the assumption that good people enjoyed God’s blessing, and bad people suffered God’s wrath. But Jesus says their assumption is wrong. Jesus is saying, the reason the man is blind is irrelevant. He is blind. He is a casualty of war. Now, though, Jesus can bring glory to God by healing him, and restoring him.

Think about it. If God caused all the sicknesses and diseases that Jesus spent his ministry healing – thousands of people – then wouldn’t God (in Jesus) just be fixing things that He caused to be broken in the first place? That’s insane thinking! Yet it’s what we’ve been taught, and it’s what he think, without even realizing it.

No, God, in Jesus, was fixing the things that had been broken through sin and spiritual warfare. Look at Job. God didn’t cause Job’s pain, Satan did! God allowed it, having given his created agents a staggering amount of freedom. But realize, Satan could have left Job alone! But Satan chose to defy God and afflict poor Job, in hopes that Job would sin and turn against God. Job was faithful, And God healed Job.

God as healer, not oppressor.

Again, Jesus as battlefield medic is a neat way to look at one facet of his ministry.

***If they are there because of sin, then why would God, knowing the outcome of the person’s life, create them at all? So, if God creates man and man is created with flaws, is it not then God's fault that we suffer?

Logically yes. God would be at fault, but only if God was a Calvinist God who ordained everything to be the way it is. But He’s not, because He gave us a staggering amount of freedom and true free will that we misuse.  God is on mission to restore His good creation, to redeem it, which includes us humans who are the pinnacle of God’s good creation.  He asks us, his created beings, to join with Him in the work.

See, I don’t believe in the Calvinist God at all. Or maybe I do, but not that way you may think. More on that later.

***Now, on the flip side, what if it is in fact a choice for them to live this way?

I don’t believe homosexuality is a choice, any more than you or I choose to be heterosexual. But if it is a choice, then that opens the possibility that heterosexuality may well be my “choice” too. 

But, for those who choose sexuality with the same sex because of the gratification of the fleshly desires for debauchery, for the sheer gratification of the body, they may well be sinning, just as much as a heterosexual who chases after sex for the same reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, sex is good! God made sex, and the act of sex in a loving union is an act of communion of body and soul that is achieved in no other way. It is lovely, deeply satisfying, and in many ways healing and refreshing. It cements relationships, and builds trust and favor with one another.

But debauchery, sexuality that seeks only to gratify one’s self without much thought to the needs of the partner, leads to people getting hurt, both physically and emotionally, regardless of sexual orientation. That’s why it’s a sin. That’s why adultery is called a sin. That’s why coveting is a sin, and stealing, and lying. Its hurts people and relationships.

That’s why God doesn’t like it, because it hurts people. It hurts people that God loves.

***In that case why is it that being gay or trans or whatever is so unpardonable that we as a church scream against people with viscous force?
(Here’s my thoughts, and again, they are mine, though I know many others who share similar thoughts.)

I think it’s because we’ve created this thing called Hell, and have developed a theology that says, “if you don’t accept Jesus, and live by the Bible, then God is going to punish you by sending you to Hell to burn for eternity in a never-ending fire, suffering for eternity (or sentence you to eternal separation from God, or some such thing).”

I think Hell as described this way, (eternal conscious torment, I’m sure you’re familiar with the term) is BS. The God who loves me enough to die for me would not condemn me to an eternity of torment. To me, that is just plain stupid. (I believe there is a judgement and we are all accountable for what we do, but that’s a whole different thing).

People get aggressive and preach so hard against sin because we have our theology and mission all screwed up.

It goes generally goes something like this:

“We’ve got this Hell thing, and a God that hates sin, and, well, we’re supposed to go reach the world for Christ and save them from Hell, right? Jesus saves us from Hell, right? The wages of sin is death, and death is Hell, and Jesus loved me so much that He died on the cross to save me from having God send me to Hell, and if I don’t reach sinners and get them to accept the Gospel and Jesus, then they are going to Hell! I don’t want anyone to go to Hell, especially my friends that I love! Jesus told me to share his gospel in Matthew 28, and if I don’t share the gospel, well, I may have been that person’s only chance to hear the gospel and escape Hell! What if that person I didn’t talk to today, dies in a car accident tonight? No one knows how long we have on this Earth, right? Then I will have to explain to God how I let someone go to Hell! I’ve got to tell them about Jesus, and they need to change their ways and accept Jesus, so they don’t go to Hell! And, I need to protect my own children and family from the evil influence of sinners because if I don’t, then my kids might see or read or hear something that leads them off the path of salvation, and oh dear God, my child may end up in Hell!”

Perhaps this is a bit of an over characterization, but I’m not wrong, am I?

This creates a guilt ridden and paranoid people. It creates jerks who think they are loving.

Again, I call BS on this form of thinking.

The reason people get so angry at the idea of absolute grace is because they don’t want to have their theological underpinnings shaken. When you cling to some belief or thought that you are hoping will save your soul, and those underpinnings get shaken, it’s scary. It’s frightening. People scream and shout to convince you that they are right, and if they can convince you, that helps them to feel right and secure.

But when we get all of our self-worth, all of our identity, our life, our joy, and our hope from Jesus Christ, and what He says and thinks about me, then my underpinnings don’t shake. He is the firm foundation. He is my solid rock.

***We create wedges and then claim offense to their response. Isn't there grace?

Believe it or not, in modern American Christianity, grace is seen as a weakness, in my experience.

To extend grace, one must be strong in their own hope and salvation. To extend grace is to place all of my hope for salvation in Jesus, AND to place all of my hope for someone else’s salvation in Jesus, as well. We hold up the Great Commission as the most important part of our Christianity. We have to reach people for Jesus, we say. But the Commission is to go and teach people, make disciples, and baptize. Not create converts or save souls.

We mix up the Great Commission with the Greatest Commandment, and forget to do the former while doing the latter. God is our savior. He does this through Jesus. It’s a done deal. God through Jesus has finished it. We teach people about Jesus and let the Holy Spirit work to bring faith to those that hear the message, so that they can share our joy! We trust God, not ourselves or our words or our sincerity.  We trust love, the Greatest Commandment.

***Is being gay so bad that it's worse than any other sin?


But usually what you find people getting upset over is something that is “not my sin”.  It’s easy for most Christians to join the anti-homosexuality bandwagon, because most are not homosexuals.

The adulterer is usually very quiet on judging adultery. The divorcee usually does not judge divorce very harshly. The thief will usually not speak harshly about someone else’s theft. Those living together “in sin” without the benefit of marriage tend not to see living together as such a big sin (fingers pointing squarely at myself. I’m not immune).  We tend not to judge where we may indeed also be judged.

But the non-drinker will speak volumes about the evils alcohol. The first-marriage person often harshly about divorce. The heterosexual will speak of the evils of homosexuality. All while ignoring or downplaying the sins in their lives because, well….. I’m under grace, right?

In Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

This doesn’t mean “clean up your life so you can then rightly judge others”, as so many seem to think.

No, it means “we all have our own log. The speck that you see in your brother or sister’s eye is a log to them, and what they see as a speck in our eyes are logs to us. Understand, everyone has a log in their eye. Understand it’s there, and work to get rid of it, but realize others see it too. None of us can see clearly enough through our own log to truly tell others about the speck in their eye. Clean up the log in your own eye, then maybe you can help another. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite because you are no different than your brother”.

***There's only one unforgivable sin, and that sin is not being gay. So, as Christians, our response then should be of grace right?

Yes. In all its forms.

In that way we earn the privilege to speak to people about the gospel and God’s grace, which redeems people and makes them new.

***Does that make being gay ok? I don't think so……

I think that’s the wrong question. None of us are “ok” in that sense. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

God judges. We extend love and grace without making that judgement. See John 8:1-11.

We’re talking about Kingdom stuff here. We trust God with the salvation of others. God loves people more than we do. Anyone we meet, God loves them more than we do. We cannot love anyone as much as God, but God asks us to do our best. The point is, let nothing we do hinder the grace and love of God being seen through us.

***But I don't see it (homosexuality) as anything different than any other immoral sexual sin.

It’s not.

Paul talked at length about sexual sin of all kinds. In Corinth there was even a man sleeping with his own stepmother. You’ve read the passage. But here’s how I look at that.

The man was a part of the Christian fellowship, doing something harmful not only to his relationships with his family, but his relationships with his fellow Christians. He was harming the fellowship, the unity and harmony of the body. That was his greater sin.  So Paul said, ask him to stop and repent. He didn’t, so Paul said banish him from the fellowship. They did. In 2nd Corinthians though, Paul told the Corinthian church to let the man back in, that he had been disciplined and now the body of Christ needed to love him and build him up. To restore him.

That’s what grace does.

This is far different from rendering judgement on a non-believing homosexual person of whom we should have no expectation to live as a believer. To them, we extent the lavish grace and love that Jesus extended to the people he reached, and teach them about Christ and his love. That’s how people come to make a change and become part of the body of believers. 

***How do we respond to the Christians who are on the hate bandwagon?

With patience and love. With grace.

Do not respond to evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. A quote from the Apostle Paul, who knew a lot about the hate bandwagon. Smart man. It’s in Romans. ;-)

1st Peter says, “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”

Granted, we’re not talking about unbelievers on the Christian hate bandwagon, but the principal is still sound. And, as I look at it, if a Christian is a hater, then I have some questions about the kind of Christianity they practice. God is light. In Him there is no darkness.  

***I mean, obviously the things they (Christian haters) are saying from the bible are usually correct, but I feel like they are missing a bigger part of the picture.

They are. Missing the bigger picture, that is.

The bigger picture is God’s grace that saves us. The bigger picture is the depths and lengths of God’s love for all people. (Romans 8:38-39).

The bigger picture is not God’s condemnation of sin, but God’s solution and redemption of it!

And…. The things people say are not always correct.

You have the right to question even learned sounding people. If the Holy Spirit within you rebels at a statement or opinion expressed by a fellow believer, then, for you, that is a questionable interpretation of scripture. If the Holy Spirit rejoices in you when you hear a speaker or read an opinion, then I’d say run with that and embrace it. Always test the spirit through scripture, but also listen to the small voice that speaks.

When I look back at some of my own writings from many years ago, I see where my opinions have changed, and for the better I think (otherwise why would I change my opinion?). The Christian life is one of learning and growth. I believe If we ever become stagnant and settled on what we believe about God and Jesus, and become stagnant in our search to understand the depths of God’s love, we cease being active in the Kingdom.

***Where’s the common ground? When does grace become nonexistent?

Grace is never nonexistent. Ever. Grace is what binds us together, that allows us to forgive one another and bear with one another.

The common ground is submitting to one another in Christ.

Consider others more important than yourself, seeing to the good of others, and speaking for their benefit and edification. If we all do this, as Paul and others so adamantly urge us, we will find the common ground – following Jesus as our Lord.  Sure, we’ll still argue, but without the need to be “right”. We can still disagree, but only because of a desire to help another Christian be a closer follower of Jesus. We discuss and debate, but out of love for one another to urge each other on to good works. Never out of a prideful need to be correct, or to demand that anyone else must see things my way (which is usually because we need others to validate our thoughts so we are secure in what we think).

But as with most things, its start with you (or me, or us. You know what I mean). Its starts with “me”.

***Why do we categorize sin into levels of badness?

Because that way, we can justify how much sin I can do and still be “OK” with God.

People tend to see salvation as a contract with God. Jesus died to save me, I give my life to Jesus, and therefore God won’t punish me to hell.  God saved me, therefore I will obey his commands. But, just how close to the line of “disobedience” can I get, before it gets called sin? We want things defined and clarified. We want to know where that line is, so that we can walk the line, dance on the edge of disobedience, doing what we want to right up to the line, but never crossing it, so that God isn’t displeased with us.

Again, this is a warped image of our relationship with God.

God made a covenant promise with us. He saved us, redeemed us, and declared us righteous even when we were yet his enemies in our minds and hearts. I don’t serve God out of fear that if I don’t, I’ll go to Hell. I serve God because I see how much he loved me, and I want to love Him in return. I want to please him because I want to please those I love. I move closer to God, doing things to please, not seeing how much I can get away with.

A contractual relationship sees just how far one can go, just how much one can do, without breaking the contract. A covenantal relationship seeks the good, joy, and pleasure of the relationship partner, and seeks not to see how much I can get away with, but how much joy I can bring to the other by pleasing them with what I do.

That’s our relationship with God. That’s God’s relationship with us.

And that’s why we make grades of sin, because we want to justify doing some of things we want to do, without feeling condemned by God.  

Twisted, twisted, and twisted. But common.


Back to the hell issue, real quick.

I’m gonna say it, and people will think what they think.

I don’t believe in hell.

I don’t believe in a God that condemns anyone to hell.

The wages of sin are death, and God, in Jesus, saved us from that death. Death has been put to death. Death is no more. The sting of Death is gone.

esus has dealt with death for all of us. And, yes, theologically I mean THAT all of us. The big, everyone-who-has-ever-lived-and-ever-will-live, all of us. Every person from Adam to the last trumpet call. Some would call this heresy, but it’s been a part of the Christian tapestry of belief since the 2nd century. It is within the bounds of what we call “orthodoxy” because support is found completely within the pages of the Bible.

I believe after we die, there is a judgement and an accounting, and we will account for all we’ve done, good and bad. We will pass through the fiery furnace of God’s love, and that which is chaff will be burned away – that which is good will be refined and made pure. The fiery furnace may be more painful for some than others, but God will refine the beauty and burn the chaff so that what remains is what God intended to be there in the first place. 

But for those whose redemption started while in this life, who submitted to God’s refinement here and now, how blessed we will be that we are already greatly refined when we stand before God!

1 Timothy 4:10 “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”

Romans 5:18  “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.”

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”

Christian Universalism is but one way of looking at the work of God’s grace. I used to subscribe to strict 5-point Calvinism, but my heart was always troubled by it, so I went on a mission to read and learn what others think.  Turns out there is a myriad of ways to understand salvation. I’m not completely sold on Christian Universalism, but right now, it’s the most logical and compassionate way I’ve found to read scripture. As long as we all seek the center and agree on Jesus’ life and his death, burial, and resurrection as that by which God has saved us, then we can talk about the other issues.

Further, if one insists on believing in God as Calvin did, that God ordains all things, and picks and chooses those destined for glory and those destined for damnation, that grace is irresistible, why could a loving God NOT destine everyone for glory? Why would a loving God damn anyone to eternal torment in Hell?

I like to say (it’s a stolen quote, but a good one), If there is a hell, I think that God will do everything He can do make sure it’s empty.  After all, with God, all things are possible.

God is more loving than we can imagine.


On the topic of God and evil, there’s some books I’d recommend. There’s probably a gazillion others that people can recommend, as well.

“Satan and the Problem of Evil”, and “The Myth of a Christian Nation”, by Dr. Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN. 

“What To Do on the Worst Day of Your Life”, by Brian Zahnd, pastor of Word of Life Church, in St. Joseph, MO.

And on the topic of grace and forgiveness and following Jesus, “Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness” also by Zahnd.

I’d encourage you to google these men and take in some of their sermons on YouTube, or their church websites. Both have an extensive library of past sermons and post new messages every week. These two thinkers have been instrumental in helping me expand my thinking.

Also, “Simple Christianity” by NT Wright, or just about anything else by Wright. Great thinker.  

Submitted in my humble opinion. 

As always, follow the Jesus you find in scripture, the Jesus that loves from the cross, not necessarily the Jesus that someone else tells you to follow.

Grace and peace!