Friday, May 3, 2013

Flowers Fade Friday: Uncomfortable

One of the last times I remember being truly uncomfortable in my surroundings was about a year ago. I was studying at a coffee shop in downtown Phoenix and it was growing crowded around dinner time. Eventually, with no tables available, the waitress came up to me and asked if she could seat two customers in the chairs next to me against the wall. I happily obliged and moved my stuff out of the way to make room. When the guests were seated, I quickly discovered that my neighbors were two gay men on a first date. We were sitting awkwardly close to one another in the odd seating arrangement at this hipster locale and I could hear every word of their conversation even though I wasn't trying to eavesdrop.

As I tried to continue studying, I heard them talk about their lives, their broken families, their friends and past relationships. I also heard them flirting with one another as they navigated the uncertainty of the first date. And I left there an hour later feeling sad. Sad for them. Sad for the world that tells them their lifestyle is okay. Sad that the sins of other people - disengaged parents, bullies at school, backstabbing friends - possibly influenced them to choose the life they now lead.

Hipsters love unconventional seating.

Now before you decide you despise me for being homophobic and stop reading this post, please hear me out. I do strongly believe that engaging in homosexual activity is wrong. It's a sin. It displeases God. It's not His best for anyone. Treating homosexuality as sinful is not old fashioned. It's not some defunct rule that passed away after the Old Testament. Jesus and his apostles clearly tell us that homosexuality is still wrong today and always {see I Corinthians 6:9, I Timothy 1:10, Romans 1:27}.

But you should also know something else. Although God hates homosexual behavior {and all sin}, He does not hate gay people. And neither do I. I love them. I am kind to them. I have some friends who have announced they were gay over the years, and I still like them and talk to them and appreciate their same personality traits I did before they announced their sexual preference. When I sat next two those two men feeling uncomfortable, I didn't run away. I smiled nicely at them and shuffled my stuff around to give them more room for their meal. And when I went home that night, I prayed for them. My hope is those who have adopted the false identity of "gay" will come to know the one true and living God and realize how much He loves them. My prayer is that Jesus, in His power and love and mercy and grace, will set people free from enslavement to homosexuality. That He will show them an abundant life free of sexual sin and constantly questioning their identity and seeking love in the wrong places.

Because homosexuality is not the only sin that makes me uncomfortable. All sin should make me uncomfortable. I remember one Friday night in high school I got the same feeling I had in the coffee shop.  I stopped by a party because one of my best friends was there. She was dating the host of the party, a guy in a rough crew, and most of the people there were just acquaintances to me. I remember standing in that living room for five minutes feeling so uncomfortable and hopeless in the midst of drunkenness, promiscuity, and drugs. There were unhealthy relationships, women being used, lies galore, and jealousy all around me. These were kids whose parents were completely absent from their lives. Kids who didn't care about school and some didn't make it to graduation. These were teens who were so wrapped up in alcohol, drugs, sex, and money that they didn't have a single thing to hope for in their future except the next fleeting pleasure of whatever substance they put in their bodies. Two of the boys in this group ended up being convicted for murdering a girl a few years after we graduated. It was an uncomfortable place and I felt it like it was suffocating me. I had to get out. And I did.

No one at that party was gay that I know of, but I felt uncomfortable all the same. Because I don't hate gay people. I hate sin and the way it damages people's lives. I hate that people look for relationships or substances or hobbies or emotions to fill the void they feel because they don't know the God who fills every void. And while I hate all sin because it separates us from God, the Bible calls us to extra careful about sexual sin, because it's sin we commit against our own bodies {I Corinthians 6:18}. This is why crimes like rape and sex trafficking get so much attention, even by those who aren't Christians. There is something especially horrifying when we sin against our own body or someone else's body. And this is why homosexual behavior is such a sensitive issue too.

I hope the memory of my awkward night at the coffee shop reminds me of a few things. I hope it reminds me to pray for my friends who are partaking in homosexual behavior, that God would show them the sin in their choices and the redemption they can find in Christ who died on our behalf to save us from our sins. I also hope that it convicts me to speak the truth often, like I'm trying to do in this post. Because you have to be honest... even if you don't believe what I do, what I'm saying makes sense. If I believe that a relationship with God is the BEST thing that could happen to anybody, but I also know that there is sin in your life that is separating you from God, and that trusting and obeying Jesus is the only way to overcome this separation, then {if I truly love you and care about you} wouldn't I try to tell you about what is preventing you from having the best thing in the world for you? I want the BEST for you. And the BEST is Jesus.

Finally, though, I want to be uncomfortable about my own sin. I might not be gay, but there are a hundred ways I sin every day in my thoughts, actions and words. I get impatient and irritable for no good reason. I get puffed up with pride for achievements I can't even truly take credit for. I stretch the truth, hide my flaws, and thrive off my self-centeredness. In all honesty, I'm kind of gross, just like that party I went to back in high school. My sin should make me uncomfortable always. And when I get this feeling of discomfort, this feeling of wiggling around in my own flesh as I try to justify my wrongs and make myself look better than I am, I pray that I will turn to the true Comforter, confess my sin, and run into the arms of the only One who can save me and make me whole and worthy.

In fact, I hope we all feel a little uncomfortable today.


Kimberly Bonham said...

This post is so beautiful!

christina said...

well said! hate the sin, love the sinner. I will never put my stamp of approval on something that doesn't match up with scripture. However there is a god. He is the judge, not me. My job is to

C.Curley said...

Love this post!! Good for you for writing it! Homosexuality is a topic I dread b/c there are so many conflicting emotions that I have about it and it all gets kind of tangled up. But at the very core of it all is Jesus, and he says it is sin, but he is also the one true redeemer. I get sad about the ways people try to fill voids too. It's so obvious looking from the outside in. All we can really do is pray. Thank you for sharing your experiences and being so brave in your convictions!

Amy @ grey ceiling said...

I absolutely love this post. Thank you for speaking truth - this is what I have grown up knowing and believing but in recent years of not spending as much time in the Word (the foundation and truth of all things), I've found myself questioning what's really true on the issue of sin (particularly as it relates to homosexuality). This post speaks truth and I'm grateful for your boldness. Thank you.

Liz said...

Wonderful post. Scripture is clear. Sin is sin no matter what. Thank you for being bold enough to share your heart on this topic. I think people are so worried about being "nice" and not hurting peoples feelings that we desensitize what God's word says. If more believers prayed this specific prayer about people who we know are living this lifestyle & then lived like Jesus did, maybe we'd see a radical change.

Alison said...

Anachronisms and cultural misinterpretations are important discussions that I think God requires us to have. God gave us intelligence--it's a gift, and surely we're meant to glorify God with careful, intellectual rigor.

I don't see the biblical evidence for homosexuality as a sin, just like I don't see the evidence for Christ-like submission by "turning the other cheek." From my pretty extensive readings by religious scholars, both are significant misinterpretations.

The Christ-like "turn the other cheek" advice comes from a culture where slaves got a backhand and punches were for an equal. Hence, by turning the other cheek, Jesus' "turn the other cheek" wisdom is about a redistribution of power, because God loves us all equally. The "walk two miles" with a Roman solider's equipment instead of the lawful one mile is about shaming the soldier and redistributing power. So is the cultural nakedness -- it shames the audience, not the naked dude. Jesus is all about equal power and love for everyone, and uses non-violent, but surely clever strategies, to demolish that hierarchy.

It's tremendously irresponsible to impose our cultural map onto a specific biblical time & place, and frankly, that's what well-intended Christians are doing when they read the Bible.

I think it's an ab-use (irresponsible use) of our intelligence to not recognize how we've necessarily used a certain lens to look at the data. As rhetoricians, we understand concepts like cultural knowledge, audience awareness, etc. and so far as I understand it, as a Christian I'm commanded to use my gifts to rigorously analyze what's going on and to speak of God's equal love.

There frankly isn't any sturdy biblical evidence for hierarchical judgments on love and relationships, except that the teachers will be judged more harshly because of the position they hold. Women aren't supposed to be silent in church, that message was directed to a super-zoomed in specific audience in a particular time and place.

I've never seen these devaluing arguments come from Christians who have lived in multiple cultures and have who have learned how to recognize their lens that colours their reading. I've only seen them from people who have never been the minority culture. It doesn't count to figuratively hold your breath in academia and go home at the end of the day to a dominant normative cultural worldview. That lens recognition only counts when you are immersed in the diverse world that God has created for us and removed from places that seem comfortable and normal. God made some people gay, and he made lots of people women, and they're not inferior for it. Rather, all of Christ's teachings are about dealing with a particular inequality, with advice dialed in to the particular exigence and power dynamic, and about radically shifting that dynamic so that everyone is equal.

Love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy or boast . . . and love is not sinful. God commanded us to look more deeply and use our intelligence, and to really immerse ourselves in the world. If you don't have the evidence to see that there are lots of Christ-like gay relationships out there, then you're not living in the world like you were commanded, but a comfortable bubble where you don't have to stretch and grow and deal with the discomfort of feeling uncertain.

The only certainty is that we're all loved by God, and that we've all got lots of hard work to do to help the orphans and the widows (which surely is not about only those specific people, but about those who need a stronger hand to pull them up in love--about radical power redistribution so that everyone is cared and loved and equal).

With love and in Christ,


Tamara @ The Workout Mama said...

Beautiful written! I love reading everyones Blog a Day in May!

jessi bridges said...

Amen, Amen, and Amen. This is so beautifully written. And right on. I hate that Christians have gotten such a bad rap for treating gays the way we have (and in many cases, haven't, but that's just how we're portrayed). Sin is sin is sin. And any sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sin. This is a very good reminder that sin should make us uncomfortable, it should make us mourn. And my heart breaks when I think about my own sin and about the sinful lifestyle so many are living because of the broken world in which we live. I know God's heart is broken a million times more than mine!

Bek said...

SO well said, Jen! Thank you for talking about all sin and for all the Scripture references!
I'm enjoying all your May posts!

hs said...

I would just like to share a thought as a fellow Christian...

It is a scientifically accepted fact that homosexuality is not always a choice; that people are, indeed, born gay.

It may say in the Bible that homosexual behavior is a sin, but does NOT claim that being born gay IS.

I would just like other Christians to consider this when they assume that people have "become" gay "because of disengaged parents, bullies at school, backstabbing friends". It's just simply not true.

What someone chooses to do with their body is between them and God, but as Christians we must do our part to be educated about the facts and stop judging others as to why they are the way they are.

I feel that a lot less families would be torn apart by false accusation that their loved one is "choosing to live a gay lifestyle", when this ignorant perspective drives so many of our brothers and sisters to suicide when they cannot accept themselves for the way they were born, or be accepted by those around them.

Again I acknowledge the fact that the Bible states homosexual behavior as a sin. I am not claiming that people who believe that should have to change their beliefs and accept it as otherwise.

I recommend all Christians to read "No More Goodbyes" by Carol Lynn Pearson.

Beffy 55 said...

Well said Jen, but one of your readers is right some people might be born with a preference to their own sex, After all we are all born into sin. But we all have to fight our sin nature and being born a certain way, doesn't mean you have to act that way. "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

Antonette Scott said...

I'd also like you'd to think about this... When god created us as human beings, he had the option of not giving us the power of choice. He could have created each of us exactly in his image and with no other thoughts than the ones you are referring to in the bible. But he didn't. He gave us the power to choose. Not only in our sexual relationships but also in our belief for him. I have a belief for god. I do not believe that the bible is relevant to a modern day world nor was it ever intended to be.

Anonymous said...

This was an absolutely amazing post. Thank you so much for writing it.