by Jonathan Daugherty
If I'm honest, I don't really want to write this article. Not because I don't believe the title has merit, but because the issue of sexuality is such a hot button between the two communities mentioned. Orthodox Christians are often viewed by those in the LGBTQ community as archaic and anti-love, whereas those who identify as LGBTQ+ are often viewed by those in the Christian community as "sinners in the hands of an angry God." What can be done to resolve this "battle" of sexual ideologies?
For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I am a Bible-believing evangelical Christian. So, automatically there will be assumptions made about my worldview. I believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and I affirm such confessions of Christian beliefs as The Apostle's Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I am, as some might say, a conservative Christian.
But I don't hate anyone in the LGBTQ community. And I invite my Christian brothers and sisters to do the same. However, we must do so without abandoning the foundation of our faith. We must love as Christ loved -- in grace and truth.
There are three key things that I think Christians can (and should) learn from the LGBTQ community. And by learning these we might establish a bridge for conversation and relationship. We might even discover that at our core we are more alike than we are different.
1. We all want a place to belong.
I have listened to many stories of those who identify as LGBTQ+ and there is often a common refrain when it comes to a person finally "tipping the scales" to fully embracing their sexual orientation: "I was welcomed with open arms by the (fill in the blank with LGBTQ+) community." The longing to belong is strong in us as human beings. When we find a place that accepts us, we tend to move in that direction.
So, Christian friends, what can we learn from this? Might it be that we don't hold out open arms to those who are different from us? Maybe we need to learn a lesson here about the kinds of environments we are creating in our churches. Are we inviting people just as they are to come explore Jesus and our Christian faith, or are we creating a moral obstacle course for people to pass before they can gain access?
Hear me clearly on this point: It is not our job as Christians to change people's behavior (or their heart); we are called by God to introduce people to Jesus, and walk with them as they grow in Him. And how can we do that if we construct so many obstacles before they hit the front door?
Jesus sought out the most broken people to show He loved them. Religious people didn’t like that, including the Pharisees who murmured about Jesus letting the woman anoint his feet, “If He knew what kind of woman she was He would not let her touch Him.” (Luke 7:39)
Broken people responded so well to Jesus because He essentially showed them, “You belong here with Me.” Their behavior changed after being with Jesus, not before. Christians need to understand the power of our belonging together with Christ, and should extend that fellowship to others as Jesus did.
2. We all want an identity that is unique and celebrated.
One of the hardest questions to answer is "Who are you?" This is a question of identity. And it's easy to construct our answers based on external factors, such as job, family, hobbies, and reputation. One element that is central to being human is sexuality. So, it makes sense that this would be an area in which we want to "stand out" as unique in our identity. But at what cost?
I remember the "old days" when there were only two distinctions between sexual orientations and gender identities: heterosexual and homosexual; male and female. But today, by some reports, there are dozens of distinctions of sexual orientation and gender identity! Why so many variations?
Everybody wants to be somebody. In other words, we all want a sense that we are unique in the world. And the truth is, we are. Fingerprints, DNA, and even body odor are distinct to every human being on planet earth. You and I are born unique. But sometimes we want to plant a flag (no pun intended) that declares this to the world. Sexual/Gender identity can be an easy (and obvious) way to do this.
Christian friends, the LGBTQ community does an excellent job of defining and celebrating a person's uniqueness based on their sexual/gender identity. Could the same claim be made of you and me based on our identity in Christ? Do you know who you are in Him and how you are uniquely gifted for His purpose? And do you celebrate this gift of God's grace in a way that is attractive and life-giving to those who are far from God?
When Christ is at the center of our identity there is nothing that can destroy or diminish our value and significance.
3. We all want our lives to matter and our voices to be heard.
I have a Google Alert set for LGBTQ. This means that every day I get a report from Google on all the news and articles related to anything with LGBTQ connections. Every day lots of news comes up! One thing I notice over and over again is the relative consistency and persistency of the messaging for LGBTQ rights and the predictible attacks against those who oppose such rights. But what's the real message here?
A group of people (LGBTQ) with a shared worldview and common goal are crying out to be heard and to make a difference in the society.
What can Christians learn here? What is our primary message? It is that "God so loved the world" that He sent Jesus Christ to die for sinners like you and me. (John 3:16) But when our message simply becomes a reaction to the latest shock news we find ourselves being grinded into dust by the political and media machines, rather than offering hope and life and freedom to "those who have ears to hear."
Let's also remember that all of us come to God with our own baggage and sin. A lot of our baggage and sin we don’t realize is harmful or even that it exists until we have spent time with God. Often, in His wisdom, He waits (sometimes years!) until the time is right to point it out to us and invite us to unpack it. We must offer the same grace to the LGBTQ community by focusing on welcoming them and introducing them to God, then allowing God to work with them as He sees fit in His timing.
My Christian friends, what then should the church's response and role be to the LGBTQ community? Might we stand together and declare:
Love is actually the common language Christians share with the LGBTQ community, even though our worldviews for how to present and practice love are very different. But might we have the courage to demonstrate the same love that Jesus Christ demonstrated to us, that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Would you die for the sake of a LGBTQ person?
My whole life I have struggled with depression. It's been an on-and-off thing since as far back as I can remember. It's not something I talk about very often. I have been on medication in the past to help regulate my mood. It is one of my core weaknesses, like a "thorn in my side." And although I have discovered on life's journey that I don't need to live in fear of my weaknesses, there is no guarantee I will not feel afraid because of them.
My imagination is vivid and active, just ask my wife! This is a great blessing when attempting to write or tell stories, but it can be quite crippling when mixed with a depressed mood. Several years ago I was going through my mental checklist of all the events and tasks and projects our ministry had coming up in the months ahead. The list just kept going and going and... I felt this wave of pressure come crashing down on my soul. I wanted to kick and thrash, try my hardest to swim to the surface of this overwhelming ocean. But instead I was frozen, unable to move, suffocating. Fear enveloped me and I felt myself slipping into emotional unconsciousness.
As I experienced the scene above, my mind wandered through a trail of old movies. I love movies, especially those with lots of plot twists. I'm always drawn to stories that have an element of free-spirited living, like in Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins' character refuses to let the walls of prison entrap his sense of wonder and hope, or Eric Liddle in Chariots of Fire, feeling God's pleasure when he ran. Freedom, hope, these wonderful passageways that lead the burdened heart to a place of calm and lightness. But sometimes I feel like these passages are walled off, or constantly moving, requiring more and more searching to find their treasures.
I believe God is not cruel or into playing games with our emotions. I believe He is what His Word says, a loving Father who cares infinitely more for us than all else in His creation. And although I believe this, I still find it a great mystery that God allows His children to suffer, to endure pain and unanswered questions, and even prevent some "thorns" from being removed. This mystery doesn't cause me to abandon my faith, but it is puzzling nonetheless. I really don't want to struggle with depression, yet it lingers. I want to feel at peace, unburdened, able to breath, but the seasons come in which I taste nothing, see nothing, feel nothing. Is God uncaring? Absent? Busy?
Ironically, it has been through my depression that my love for God has deepened. I'm not saying I would have chosen this method, but this has been my journey. I often picture God as an endless ocean. His richest treasures are not found washed up on the shore, but deep in the depths of the waters miles and miles away from all that is safe and "firm." The more I venture into those "unsafe" waters the more my weaknesses are exposed -- and experienced! I flounder, sink, gag. But then something unexpected happens. In certain moments I'm enveloped not by my weakness, but by the majesty, power, and grace of God. The waves of my depression that sought to crush my soul are replaced by waves of God's steadfast love and tender heart. And although the power and force of just one cresting wave in the ocean of God could completely destroy me, instead it refines me, instructs me, moves me, heals me.
I still don't like feeling depressed. And I don't always manage my fear of it very well. But for the moments God reveals to me how His power is made perfect in weakness, I will press on. I will not give up. I will confess my frailty, acknowledging my complete emptiness apart from Christ. Then, and only then, do I know what it means, "When I am weak, then I am strong."
Are you wrestling with God over your weaknesses? If not, I hope you will. Not because I think you'll win. No, I hope you will wrestle over them because sometimes it's the only way to get into deep enough water to see the rich treasures of God. That's a sight worth seeing, and something I believe God only reveals to the truly broken; even the depressed...
The Cry of the Soul
by Dan Allender
Order on Amazon.com
Everybody loves a good story. The drama, the suspense, the unexpected twists and turns that draw us into the characters and the momentum of the plot. We like it when good triumphs over evil and when, in the end, the guy wins the girl. Even sad stories capture us as we feel the emotion of each character as they suffer or grieve.
What seems to be consistent in all good stories is a piece of reality to which we can connect it. We like to think that what compels us to become enthralled in a really good story could somehow happen, even in the smallest sense, in our own lives.
When I was a kid I watched Superman. What a great story! Baby gets jetted off a distant planet just before it gets destroyed and lands on earth. But he isn't like other babies. No, this kid has special "gifts." He was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (or something like that).
But his powers weren't what actually made the story great. It was his struggle with how to use his powers that drew me into the story. Would he hide his special abilities and just try to fit into this foreign culture of human beings? Or would he use his powers for selfish gain? (What guy hasn't wished for x-ray vision?) But he knows deep inside that such gifts are to be used for good, to save lives and resist evil. That makes the story great, and is why I would wear a cape, pretend I was flying and "become" Superman.
We don't just love good stories. We want to be part of a good story. We all want what the good stories offer: a spark that moves others to respond. We want our lives to compel someone to "put on a cape" and emulate the good we are striving for. But a problem arises when we engage this pursuit? We discover we can't achieve good or offer the "perfect story" for others to admire. And rather than continuing our search to be part of a great story, we give up, tuck our head, and resolve that Clark Kent is as close to the dream we can get. But I believe there is another way, a way you and I can be part of the best story.
Superman is cool and did some pretty wild stunts, like reversing the earth's rotation to "rewind" time. (if you're a physicist, please don't write me explaining how that could never accomplish this) But while Superman is cool, he's got nothing on Jesus. (also, Superman isn't real...) Jesus created the heavens and the earth, raised men from the dead, walked on water, fed thousands with a handful of fish and bread, and made a way for us to be part of His story -- forever.
Jesus' story is the most compelling of all, and it started a bit like Superman's story. Jesus left His place in heaven to be born as a baby on earth. He came on a mission to save human beings from the deadly effects of sin (separation from God). He was tempted to use His power for selfish gain and abandon His mission. But He chose to complete His mission and sacrifice Himself to pay the penalty that we all owed to God for our sin. Upon completing His mission He then offered to us the simplest way possible to cross from death (where sin leads) to life (what Jesus brought through the cross): faith. Everyone who believes in Jesus becomes part of a new story, one with a great ending.
But what about your story to this point? Does it matter? Is it worth telling? Absolutely! No matter what your story includes, it matters. It may not seem compelling to you, or interesting, or dramatic, or mysterious, or anything that resembles a blockbuster Hollywood hit. But you are precious to God, so much so that even before you took your first breath He was "reading" your story. With rapt attention, I might add. He loves you, total story included.
Here at Be Broken Ministries we value story. It matters immensely to us when a person takes that courageous step to spill their guts and share their story. A story of pain, secrets, sin, betrayal, lust, anger, shame, everything. Nervously, they dip their toes in the water, wondering if a shark is circling, just waiting to devour them once they jump in all the way.
But there is no shark, only regular people who desire healing for broken souls drowning in the dark. As more and more of their story bursts forth, the Light of Jesus cascades into hidden places in their soul and a new sense of hope and freedom and direction is realized. Could it be that the way out of their terrible bondage might come by way of telling their story? It seems too simple, so it must not be. How could sharing a story matter that much?
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17)
No one comes to God without faith. And no one acquires faith without hearing God's story. What a picture. The God of all things telling us a story. A story that changes everything. But what moves me most about this picture is that after God tells His story, He sits quietly, patiently, and says to us, "Tell me your story."
For some of you, He is still waiting. And He is still interested...
Because your story matters...
Secrets: A true story of addiction, infidelity and second chances
by Jonathan Daugherty
Order at New Growth Press
My eyesight has never been that great. I could blame my mother and father, but then they would have to blame their parents and so on. Regardless of how my genetic makeup came to create my eyes as they are, the fact of the matter is that if I don't have contacts or glasses on I am virtually blind. This allows my wife to have some fun with me in the mornings and at night when my corrective lens aren't in place, as she might hold something up ten feet away from me and ask if I can tell what it is. I don't do well at this game...
Although my physical eyesight continues to deteriorate, my spiritual eyes are seeing more clearly than ever. While I look around at all that this world has to offer, its appeal wanes. I see the wealth, the fame, and all that seeks to draw me into a mindset that believes that somehow there could be true life and peace in these temporary trappings. But I am seeing those things for what they truly are, a horrible delusional distraction from the One who gives eternal life, true peace. All that attempts to draw me away from Jesus is not worth straining my eyes to see.
One of my long-time musical "heroes" is Rich Mullins. Although Rich isn't with us any longer, and I didn't know him personally, the impression he left on me has been lasting. I was in college in the early nineties and just fell in love with his song writing. I mean, who comes up with lines like, "There is fury in the pheasant's wings?" That's golden! But more than his writing and musical genius, it was his heart for Jesus that pierced me. Rich loved God, even in his imperfections and brokenness. He displayed for all to see what abandonment to God might just look like. And what it looked like was a man who embraced the unimaginable grace of God.
I have experienced such grace in my own life. And it is shaping how I see life and the world around me. Apart from grace I would be forced to see this world and the people in it through cynical, bitter eyes. I would see greed, lust, abuse, anger, and all else that sin has darkened as reason to cower in a lonely corner of the planet and simply wait for judgment to rain down. But grace has changed everything -- everything!
I don't see the people around me as pitiful excuses for humanity who God should have wiped out centuries ago. I see lost, dying, needy people whose eyes simply haven't been opened yet. I see people who can only see through the lens of their physical vision, who can only see the hurt, pain, and hopelessness of a world under the spell of sin. I see wonderful, beautiful, broken people for whom Christ willingly carried the cross and paid the final, total payment for their sins. I see lives of infinite possibilities just waiting to be unleashed the moment they encounter, and embrace, the grace of their Maker.
While I wouldn't ever desire to be blind, I wouldn't mind if my vision continues to worsen as I look at all that tries to appeal to my sin nature. Because I want to continue to sharpen my vision for truth, resting fully in the wonderful grace of Jesus. As I gaze into His beautiful face, His glory blinds me to all else. I can then see clearly that it is only by His grace that I stand, that I truly live, and that I can touch those around me with any impact. Grace blinds us to sin's appeal and to ourselves, thus allowing us to finally live as God intended: by faith.
Will you look today into the compassionate, inviting face of Jesus and be blinded by His grace? I pray you will, for when you do all else fades and life truly becomes worth living.