You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16
I had a really great conversation yesterday with a woman whom I respect immensely. She is fair, balanced, knowledgeable and even handed in her approach to spiritual matters, and if I am honest, life in general. This woman is wise beyond her years and is incredibly meek, which I define as velvet covered steel.
I love God and follow Jesus, but I am no theologian. I do not study the scripture as much as I should. I, quite frankly, am a ragamuffin with a checkered past who is embarrassed by the things I have done, the short comings I still have, and struggle from time to time to be more faithful to Jesus every day I live. I am also like any other human, I am more committed sometimes and less other times and I do not always agree with the woman mentioned in the paragraph above. However, as she and I were discussing “gay issues”, we both agreed that being gay was not a salvation, eternity deal breaker for God. We started at the exact same point in our theology, faith and belief system. However, we would venture down a path and would be in agreement to a certain extent and then she would say something to the effect of we have to remember or bring in to the equation what the Bible says. To which I nodded my head and in my heart was in total, absolute agreement. The fly in the jam is that we both deeply believe the Bible says two different things.
Which got me to thinking, what does the Bible say? How do we know what the Bible says? Whose interpretation is correct? Whose essay is the most accurate?
When a person can go to any bookstore and pick up a book which supports just about any stance, on any issue, how do we wade through the mire to get to the truth? For instance, I can go to any Barnes and Noble and in a matter of three aisles find books that say the faiths of Islam, Hindu, Buddha, Jews, Mormons, Catholics or Protestant are all correct and the ONLY way to the hereafter; if in fact there is a hereafter, because there is a book for that too. It can be confusing at best.
So back to my conversation. As this woman and I were talking she said “I think the thing that bothers you most is the hypocrisy”. At first I thought, yes that is it … people want to strain the gnat out of another’s life while swallowing a camel in their own. Yes, that is it! That is what bother me! Case settled.
But the more I pondered her words, I discovered, yes that bothers me; yet it is not what bothers me most. Quite frankly what others say DOES have an effect on me. My feelings can be hurt by critical evaluation or rejection just like anyone else. So when someone tells me I have sin in my life it bothers me. I want to honestly self-reflect, see what is going on and make it a matter of prayer.
You know the old adage we all live in sin, we are sinners fallen from grace, no sin is greater than another, etc. I agree with all that. I agree we are all in a fallen state. I agree I have sin in my life. No argument from me on any of those points.
The problem for me is when people point out a “sin” that is NOT a sin. Just because a person is uncomfortable with something does not make it a sin. Just because a person heard all their life it is a sin, does not make it a sin. Just because a person’s momma or preacher or auntie said it was a sin, does not make it a sin. Just because a person believes something, does not make it truth.
Yes, it is hypocritical of anyone to point out sin in another’s life while they have sin in their own, and she is right, I do not like it. But when you tell me by simply BEING I am sinning, I have a problem with it. If you are going to point out sin in my life then pick a REAL SIN. Pick out something that can be changed, pick something I can address and become more Christ like. The solitary fact I am gay does not make me less like Christ.
Tell me I am uncaring, inhospitable, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a gossip, unloving, lazy, prideful, impatient, undisciplined, greedy … something … give me something that can be changed. Do not tell me I am living in sin each and every day when I wake up and draw a breath just because of who I am.
The reason I don’t want to hear this is because I have petitioned God for YEARS, I have cried innumerable tears, I have fasted, I have prayed for hours, I have read books, I have contemplated suicide, I have attempted suicide because death seemed like a relief, I have been excluded from churches and ministries, I have been laughed at and bullied, then at my ropes end I have petitioned God some more, cried some more, prayed some more and guess what … nothing. Silence. Deafening silence.
Instead of giving up in the silence, I leaned in more. I repeated the prayers, the moans, the tears, the fasting, etc. then one day, in my spirit, I heard God whisper … “You are as I have created you. All I ask is for you to be willing and obedient and I will take care of the rest.” Since that day my prayer each and every day I breathe is for God to lead me to do what He would have me do and give me the courage to do it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. I am still a ragamuffin who is saved by grace and lives through mercy. But strangely my life is fuller than it has ever been. My relationship with God is deeper than it has ever been. My ministry to others is more effective than it has ever been. My heart is more expanded and compassionate than it has ever been. My motives are purer than they have ever been. While I have millions of miles to go, I am more Christ like than I have ever been. God is bringing me to a place each and every day that is sweeter than the day before.
So how do we know what is true? When it comes to really difficult decisions or issues within major theological splits we have to remember there were Christians BEFORE there was a Bible. Therefore, there has to be something more than searching scripture and fighting over interpretation. Doesn’t there? Two people look at the same thing and see two different things. To each they speak the truth as they see it. But truth by definition excludes opposing opinions.
This ragamuffin has a humble opinion that what is true is discovered through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through talking with Him daily. Getting to know him intimately. Christians are Christ followers, by definition. We become more like who we commune with. We become more like what and who we surround ourselves with. So if you are steadily pouring Jesus Christ into your life, guess what … you are going to become more Christ like. If you cannot go straight to the source for the difficult questions then to whom should a person turn?
Like I said previously I am not a theologian, I am simply a human who loves God. I might be wrong. If I am, I will have eternity to think about it. In the meantime I will take great comfort in reminding myself a tree is known by its fruit. I have dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. I know the fruit that is being produced in my life through Jesus Christ. I know, that I know, that I know what God has brought alive in my heart. I can only pray he brings such things you question and struggle with alive in your heart too.
Maybe, just maybe, we need to be open to the idea that many, many answers may never be found in libraries or concordances or reference manuals, but rather in times of prayer and communion pouring our questioning, doubtful and wounded hearts out to a loving God. Let’s dare to put feet on our faith and see where God takes us.
How does freedom of religion play into all this?
Great question! Of course I am writing from a Christian perspective, so my response is going to be Christian in nature. I am a firm believer in religious freedom. I believe as long as no harm comes to another, a person should be able to express their religious beliefs in a reasonable manner. I also believe that if a religiously identified, legally recognized church or organization does not want to hire someone due to their belief’s, mission statement or “tenets” they should not be made to.
Criselda Marquez said:
OMG! You have put into words many, many of my thoughts on this issue! I especially love: Maybe, just maybe, we need to be open to the idea that many, many answers may never be found in libraries or concordances or reference manuals, but rather in times of prayer and communion pouring our questioning, doubtful and wounded hearts out to a loving God. Let’s dare to put feet on our faith and see where God takes us.
Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I am so glad it resonated with you! I try to speak from my heart and be transparent about my own numerous flaws and struggles. But most of all I try with every breath to point to Jesus. Thank you again for the smile today!
Criselda Marquez said:
“Therefore, there has to be something more than searching scripture and fighting over interpretation.”
This brings to the forefront a thought I have been having a lot lately. Why are we so stuck on there being only ONE correct way to read the Bible? Not only that, but why is there only ONE way to enjoy a wonderful eternity with Christ? Why can’t more people be open to the idea that we might have been getting it wrong all these years. What if ALL Christians have been interpreting the Bible wrong…regardless of whether they think acting on same-sex attractions are right or wrong?
Ben Masters said:
“Just because a person’s momma or preacher or auntie said it was a sin, does not make it a sin.”
That’s, for a while, what I was faced with after I hit my head on a doorframe in my house seven years ago– I was hearing a voice in my head, possibly the voice of Ralph Sexton, Jr. (a TV preacher based in Asheville, NC my mother listens to) saying “Immoral!” whenever I would watch any kind of television show, even if it was from the past and had seemingly nothing objectionable whatsoever. I couldn’t make heads or tails of whether he meant that it’s most of today’s stuff that is the sin, or if the medium was sinful from the day it started in the 40s (although I leant more towards the latter, being that Ralph has been very big on the End Times and the Rapture). I still worry (albeit more mildly this time) that God is going to come back and leave me to the Tribulation (and possibly hellfire) if He finds me watching any kind of television at all (no matter how sexual or objectionable), and this is why I have not been able to enjoy many of the complete-series DVD releases of a lot of shows that I have tried (the shows were seemingly very appealing to me, but it’s that fear of God’s return that has likely kept me from enjoying them as much I would like to).
There is no need to be afraid of God. God loves you. God is for you. God is not a score keeper looking for a reason to send you to hell. Much of the teaching today has turned Christianity into a sin managememt program. That is not what it is intended to be. God loves YOU. You are his son. He sees you through the eyes of LOVE. Please refuse to accept the teachings based in fear and let God love you.
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Ben Masters said:
Thanks for that response! I’ve read other things that have said much the same thing as what you are saying here, and I appreciate that you said that, and agree with it. I don’t know why the constant need for “sin management” these days, and as such, you make a great point.