acceptance, brokenness, community of grace, Compassion, ethics, grace, Holiness, inclusion, LGBT, love, truth

It’s a SIN?

I recently blogged about the Church needing to be loving in its attitudes towards people especially those in the LGBT community.

I deliberately didn’t blog about where I personally stand on the issue, as normally that normally means that only the people who agree with you read your post!

I long for all sides of Christ’s Church to become more loving, to read the Bible together in loving, God-honouring, humbling, respectful exchanges.

People talk about grace and truth being held together, and I think much of our Christian theology is about holding some difficult things intension in a Godly way (which is hard at times).

For some this is primarily a debate about the authority of scripture, what authority does scripture have over how we are followers of Christ live our lives? Does scripture say what we think it does, are we reading things the same way? Let’s talk and seek God together about authority of scripture and then about what it says within it?

For some this debate is about pastoral theology, how do we live out our faith together in community?

For others it is about how people make sense of their story and the story of God that captivates us, and the fundamental question of “who am I in Christ?” And for some, how do I make sense of “who I have discovered I am” with “who I have discovered I am in Christ?” and is there a tension with the two, and if so, how do I authentically deal with this under the Lordship of Christ.

The question people often say is “is it a sin?” as it seems be saying “if it is a sin, then the gloves are off and we can treat them how we like”, pastorally, even if it is a sin we are still called to love people and to “love our neighbour as our-self”.

Some think unquestionably the answer is yes.
Some think unquestionably the answer is no.

Some distinguish between desire and inclination and the practice.

I think the problem is we want a ‘clear cut’ discipleship and yet I have discovered that most pastoral theology is often complicated, messy and often not as clear cut as we’d like it to be.

I know many people in different places on the spectrum.

One Christian I have spoken about this, is an amazing Godly person and this person has chosen to be celibate rather than living out her sexual desire.

I know other Christians, gay and straight, who genuinely have really studied, prayed and sought God and believe the opposite.

Much ink has been spilled in the “nature/nurture” debate, yet irrespective of this Jesus is a God that meets us where we are at, and this is true for all people regardless of gender identity, and yet loves us too much to let us stay that way. we all need transformation, and we are all fallen, broken people. The straight person is not superior to his gay neighbour, as before the foot of the cross it is level ground, we all come from any and all walk of life, empty handed before a loving God who died for us.

I worry we have re-written the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to the “straight and the gay person”, and I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the parable.

Christ’s grace and love extends to every area of our lives include our sex lives and inclinations, as does his Lordship too.

As I said in my previous blog, the only way we can see these rifts within the wider Church and individual fellowships be healed, is in love journeying together prayerfully, seeking God and seeking him honestly through scripture (which can be immensely challenging for us all whatever perspective we hold, as scripture always shapes and challenges us profoundly to the core of our being).

Even if we don’t agree and may never read the Bible the same way as someone else our challenge remains to love them and to ensure that our conduct towards them reflects the Christ we serve.

It is a difficult call, and groups like synod will make stands some of which we will applauded and others of which leave us perplexed, yet rather than walk away, lets keep engaging, praying and seeking God with those who see things differently by reading his word together.

It is hard being in conversations about things that are deeply personal and important with people that don’t agree with us, and the Bible can feel incredibly sharp on occasion, yet even though it is difficult it is the cost of being a disciple to be a loving community, gathered around Christ and his word, and to seek together to follow Christ, which is often more complex, messy and ambiguous than we would like it to be.

As we seek to share our journey of faith with our brothers and sisters from many different walks of life, we need to let God work in us and shape us, and these things are often costly, “Iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another”.

The Church in the U.K looks like it might split over this issue, which would be a tragedy for us all. There have been many big and important issues that have threatened to tear the Church apart, but we need to remember the heart of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane that prayed “let them (the Church)be one as you and I are one”, Christ wants his bride to be united. To stop fighting and prayerfully gather around scripture takes bravery from all sides, and even more courage to stay praying and sharing around the Bible when it gets challenging, but worth it, to show the world that Christians can disagree in a Godly and honourable way.

The Church needs to heed the words of murdered MP Jo Cox that said “there is more that unites us that divides us”.

I believe the Church can and should be an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven, and I believe it is worth fighting for, because you are worth fighting for, because we are the Church of Jesus Christ and we will not let’s not allow Satan to divide us.

Keep loving.
Keep meeting with people who we disagree.
Keep praying.
Keep sharing.
Keep reading scripture.
Keep on seeking God together.

Bravery, truth

Can you handle the truth?

Tom Cruise: I want the truth…

Jack Nicholson:- You can’t handle the truth!

I love that film… I was thinking about truth but I’m running ahead of myself…

There is a saying ‘the truth hurts’. I was thinking but why does it hurt?

I guess we have all had an embarrassing moment when someone lets us down and blurts out something deeply personal that we had told them in confidence… most of us have that playground memory of a mate letting us down… Even the memory as I type this the memory triggers those old feelings of embarrassment and shame.

The shame and embarrassment of exposure (even for minor indescressions) proves that the truth really does hurt us.

Once someone I worked with laid into me in an unprovoked but really nasty personal attack, afterwards I challenged him about what he said and his excuse was ‘what I said about you was true!’

A couple of days later I saw Piers Morgan interviewing Simon Cowell; Piers Morgan challenged him about the way he talks to people on his T.V shows his excuse was exactly the same: ‘well I’m just telling the truth’.

Words like ‘truthfully’, ‘honestly’ can be no more than a clever cloak for what is really simply bullying nastiness. Yet however many people tell us encouraging and up building truth it is those negative words that we seem to take more seriously and take deeper into ourselves and do more damage.

Truth (or a perception of the truth) can really hurt and damage us.

So the truth can hurt.

Sometimes we need to hear the truth… sometimes letting someone carry on and being deluded is as cruel as wollaping them with home truths.  I remember going our once and there was a girl on the dance floor with her skirt stuck in her knickers and her ‘friends’ were cruelly letting her dance away making a fool of herself.  Denying the truth can be as cruel as walloping someone with home truths.

The truth might hurt but so does the absence of truth. (And I could do a whole other blog about how lies can smash lives too).

It is interesting the power truth has, it can build people up or utterly destroy them heal or hurt. The same truth e.g. ‘you’ve got broccoli stuck in between your teeth’ and it may feel completely different. The WHO and HOW of truth are almost as important as the truth itself. One person may tell us the truth to save us from embarrassment whilst the other person might tell us the same truth to belittle us.

God’s honest truth:

The description of the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel as ‘the Holy Spirit of all truth’ or ‘the Spirit of Truth’ might make us feel uncomfortable. God is all knowing, he sees everything, he knows everything about us, and I do mean EVERYTHING!

He’s also Holy, in other words pure… so his standards are perfection again that makes me squirm a little in my seat knowing how unholy and unpure I am, how I even fail to meet my own low standards.

God’s Holy Spirit isn’t a Simon Cowell type bully that rips into us when we least expect it nor is he like the nasty colleague that gets a kick out of telling you things you don’t want to hear.

In the Bible there is a letter John wrote in which he describes God in just three words: ‘God is love’. So when the God of love is also the Spirit of all truth when have nothing to fear (in fact the Bible also tells us that perfect love casts out all fear!).

God is Holy and truthful, yet the Bible says, even though we mess up all the time, even though some of us have done some pretty bad stuff, God still loves each and everyone of us.

Jesus said: ‘No greater love has anyone that he gives his life for his friends’, our God put his money where is mouth is, showing his love for us when died on the cross.

‘Are you worth it’

God says: ‘You are worth dying for!’

…and as I said earlier, the Spirit of all truth isn’t going to be telling you a porkie!

The Holy Spirit reveals truth to us not to hurt us but to bring us healing, he wants to build us up rather than knock us down. Yet he loves us too much to keep us to keep us cruelly deluded like those girls did to their poor friend in that nightclub in Eastbourne.

When I did a placement at theological college working with people with drug and alcohol dependency I sometimes winced at the directness of the therapists and yet saw that this revelation of truth brought freedom, healing, restoration and wholeness.

The Holy Spirit will reveal the areas of our life that are sinful but he also points us to Christ’s cross by which our sins can be wiped away and our consciences cleansed.

So the truth is I am not perfect, I mess up all the time… I am not holy and squeeky clean, when I pretend to be I might be able to fool myself (and other people) but not God!

Yet the truth is that ‘if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us all unrighteousness’. It is true I am a sinner! It is also true, that God has forgiven me, and remembers my sin no more! It is true I am a saint, a Holy one of God, because God’s love and generousity is greater than my sin!

But there is more…

The Holy Spirit reveals to me, that I’m not God! I’m not master of my universe, I can’t add even another day to my life!

Yet he also reveals the liberating fact that I don’t have to be God, God’s God so we don’t have to be!

He (the Holy Spirit) will reveal our total dependence on Christ for everything, we might be able to add an extra five minutes to our life, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus.

The truth is, I’m a bit of a looser, I can’t do life on my own, I need help!

Yet the truth is that we don’t have to go it alone, Jesus says he will never leave us or forsake us, not only that the Holy Spirit of all truth shows us that the God of love is total trustworthy and awesome faithful. As he shows us our weaknesses and failures he also shows us his goodness, grace mercy and kindness.

When he shows us our limitations he also reveals the mighty power of God.

Yet God will only send his Spirit of all truth into our lives if we are willing to engage with him.

The bible describes Jesus as knocking on the door of our lives waiting for us to respond and meet with him.

We can handle the truth if it comes from the God of love?