When I say I am Not A Christian

My faith has gone from one end to the other over the last five years. It has taken me from certainty to doubt more times than I care to count. There are seasons in life where I just really don’t know anything.

And I have learned to be comfortable during those times.

What I call myself is not necessarily a reflection of where I am in my faith journey. I do believe that what Jesus taught and how Jesus lived is something so unique and different from a life without any faith or purpose. I want to teach my kids to live that kind of life. A life that loves and serves others. A heart filled with compassion. A desire to take care of animals and the environment. I want them to learn to be happy with less in order to give away more.

Sounds all pretty and happy and beautiful, right? Would you believe that this offends people?

The other night, Bryan and I were at a house gathering with people who don’t view faith/life the way we do. This is not new to us. We left the Church officially about a year ago and even before then, our changing views were not well received among most of our friends and family. A political discussion broke out at the table Bryan and I were sitting at. It was your typical echo chamber of people who all agreed on the same things: Jesus and His love for guns. As polite as I possibly could be, I began asking questions. I challenged the notion that Americans should fear the government and therefore maintain the right to carry automatic assault weapons in their homes. (I mean, WHAT??????) I also refuted their accusations that liberals only want to shut down, persecute, and silence all Christians. (Are you for real??????)

As we continued and eventually ended our discussion, we all maintained a level of respect for one another and in the end, agreed to disagree.

The next day, Bryan received a message from the host of the party. In his message he accused us of making the other guests at the party feel uncomfortable and demanded that we no longer share our thoughts on faith, love, and politics in his home…ever. We asked why? We tried to understand better where they were coming from. We explained that we had never banned their voice in our home despite many disagreements. But instead of talking this out, we were met with the following meme:

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Of course our defenses were and are still up. No voice? Not even a discussion on how things could be different? Or the decency to even ask us why we believe differently? It hurt us. Verbally abuses??? Never at any time was there name calling or attacks thrown by Bryan or myself. Just questions.

Here’s the thing, though. Bryan and I will always welcome discussion and conversation in our home or anywhere we may be. We want to learn from people who are different from us and we realize that change will never happen without talking to each other. What surprises me is how we aren’t viewed with that same love, care, and worthiness. And these are people that claim to be “Christians”. Something is so off with this picture.

No matter where my faith journey takes me, I hope that I will always be moving closer and closer to the Cross. What I mean by that is this: Jesus (whether you believe or not) came into this world as the Son of God…He was God in the flesh. But instead of flexing his power muscle, He lived a humble life. He washed feet, healed the sick, hung out with outcasts, fed the hungry. And then died at the hands of his enemies on a cross. That story is powerful. I don’t have the answers regarding Heaven or Hell or who’s in or who’s out or if all of that is even real. But what I do have is a desire to love people the way that Jesus loved. Call me a dreamer, a liberal, or a crazy person. This way of life is the only thing that makes sense to me right now. It’s the only thing that has made sense to Bryan and I for the last few years.

Why is it that “Christians” who read their Bibles daily, attend church regularly, and have “Jesus” bumper stickers, don’t really want to follow Jesus much at all? Let’s say that my views on Faith are all wrong. At the very least, wouldn’t the “Christian” want to witness to me in some way to help me see the light? Instead, my voice has been banned from the party…literally.

When I say that I am not a Christian, it’s not that I don’t want to follow Jesus. By all means, I love Jesus! Bryan and I have made huge changes in our life and marriage to live out His call to love others sacrificially. What I mean when I say I am not a Christian is that I am not like “them”. I don’t care if you are a gun toting, trump supporting, conservative extremist. You are welcome to enter into a discussion with me. You will be treated with love and respect. Things may get heated and you may not like what I have to say anymore than I like what you have to say, but how else will we ever get anywhere if we never sit down and talk to one another?

There are very few people who have stuck by Bryan and I through all of our ups and downs. And some of these friends aren’t even people of Faith. What does that say for the testimony of the American Church? That people who don’t even believe in Jesus could love us far better than those who claim to follow Him.

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It’s been how long?

Sometimes the only way to combat writer’s block is to just. write.

I miss writing.

There. I said it.

Over the last year, I have gone through many more transitions. I feel like people are going to get sick of my ever changing ways, but I can’t help it. I have to follow my gut. I’m different. again. ugh.

After a long and difficult year of fighting for my marriage, my family, and my sanity, life began to look up. My husband and I moved us, our three children, dog, and hamster across the country back to California where we are from. It’s been so great to be back on familiar territory. I have been enjoying seeing the mountains surrounding us and visiting the beach more often. I have loved being near my family and reconnecting with them in new ways. The move hasn’t been easy, but we are in a good place and I am grateful.

Being here has presented new questions for me, however. I’m learning more and more about myself, about who I am as a wife, a friend, and a mother. Since getting here, I have turned off a lot of my self-reflective tendencies. I have shut down my desire to “speak out” against social injustices. I have spent the last seven months focusing on the present- my kids, their friendships, losing pets (RIP Cheeky and Luna), building/strengthening relationships, and putting in new boundaries with old relationships.

But I have missed the world. And I have missed sharing my voice.

The truth is that its hard to jump back in. I’m not even sure what I care about anymore. I’m not even certain of what I believe, spiritually speaking.

The one thing I am certain of and that I rest in daily is this: I am no longer afraid. Yes, I struggle with anxiety and no, I won’t be taking an airplane anywhere anytime soon. But I am learning to let go of fear more and more and more in my daily life. I am freeing myself up to ask more questions, to speak what I really mean to say, and to be comfortable when I don’t know… and I really don’t know much.

That’s just where I am at.

A friend of mine just got into town with her brand new baby girl. That’s what is bringing me joy right now. I just want to soak up my time with people that I love.

There are other unfortunate circumstances where I am learning to stand up for myself, my family, and not be taken advantage of. These are hard lessons to learn, but I’m hanging in there.

I honestly don’t know what to write about. Trump? Clinton? My God. What the hell is happening here?

Faith? I have No. Clue. My family and I don’t attend church and we are the happiest we’ve ever been.

Friendships? I am learning that it’s hard to find friends when you’ve always relied on church to find your friends for you. It’s been a challenge, but I’m not giving up. Let’s have coffee some time!!

There is just too much life that happens in ten months of time. That is how long it’s been since I’ve written. I should probably try to break it down into small bits or something.

And how does one end a blog post again? I am more than a little rusty. One post at a time.

 

Surviving Narcissistic Abuse and Victim Blaming

Throughout my life, I have experienced a few different forms of abuse. Because I need to protect the privacy of these circumstances, I am choosing to not discuss the matters online. I do, however, remain open and willing to share my story with anyone who cares and personally inquires. (Basically, let’s talk over coffee.) Instead of hashing through the details of my abuse online, I think a more helpful subject to discuss is that of survival.

Leaving your abuser is only the first step towards healing and the road to healing can be long, difficult, and very painful. There is always collateral damage along the way and that damage can prolong recovery. Here are some things that most victims of abuse feel at some point or another and in varying degrees. For those who long to support survivors, these are some things you should be aware of.

  1. Isolation. Sometimes isolation is a part of how victims cope with the embarrassment of what they have gone through. Even though the abuse was not their fault, the nuances can be very shameful and cause us to hide from the people we love. But there is also the isolation that comes from being brave enough to share our story. I cannot tell you how many times I have chosen transparency only to never hear from those friends again. I get it. Not everyone is comfortable with the responsibility of bearing another’s burdens. But take it from one who has survived, we NEED loyal friends who are willing to make those tough choices; friends who are willing to stand by us, encourage us, and walk us through the dark process of healing.
  2. Voiceless. After the abusive relationship has come to an end, finding the words to share our story can be really difficult. In each of my situation(s), my abuser(s) chose to keep silent over the matter. It took a while before I was finally willing to speak up about my circumstances from my point of view, but finding those words is still a challenge. Once you let people in, you risk being hurt all over again. Seeing my loved ones hang out with my perpetrator(s) has been one of the most painful things to watch, but there are some battles where my voice has been taken and I know I just won’t win. Accepting the loss has become part of the grieving process for me. In a better world we would be able to step into each other’s shoes and understand one another’s pain, but not everyone is willing to do that and I have learned to cut my losses.
  3. Guilt. Guilt comes from all kinds of angles when dealing with trauma. In my circumstances, there where decisions I made that contributed to the abusive relationship(s). I was wrong on many levels and feeling guilt over that is normal and appropriate. However, there is also guilt that comes from needing to rely on others during the process of healing. The range of thoughts that would run through my head was vast. Things like if only I hadn’t gotten myself into this mess… or this is going to put others in a difficult position… are just a couple of examples of what it’s like to carry around a burden and not know how to ask for help. Everyone of us needs grace over and over and as Christ followers, we should be ready and willing to pour it out unconditionally, no matter the messiness of it all.
  4. Blame. Victim Blaming is usually very subtle. It happens when the above feelings are affirmed by outsiders knowingly OR unknowingly. I cannot discuss my situation(s) on a public forum such as my blog, but what I can say is that I ALONE chose to get out. I ALONE chose to get healthy. I ALONE chose repentance and transparency. And unfortunately, I have suffered loss for my decisions to move in a healthier direction. This is one of those things that I still am struggling to make sense of. Why would people I know and love choose to turn away from me during a time when I needed them the most? Why do my perpetrator(s) seem to be rewarded for their silence and deceit? Examples of Victim Blaming are thinking/expressing thoughts such as: …if she hadn’t been wearing such a provocative outfit, …if he/she had only not resisted the arrest, …if they had just kept their mouth shut, …i cannot partake in listening to “gossip” 

The problem with Victim Blaming, aside from the obvious misappropriation of blame, is that it’s also extremely judgemental. There are books all about how to survive abuse and trauma, but trust that there is no simple or clear-cut way of navigating through each individual situation. The pain comes from the grief over all of the complexities that made up such a toxic situation in the first place. In other words, survivors are dealing with enough on their own without the added judgements of outsiders. Why do we make healing that much harder for people?

My guess is that most people struggle with taking a stand. I have found that in this world, there is a deficit of leaders and a surplus of followers. Following is easy. It takes the difficulty of thinking through hard choices out of life and I can see how plugging our ears can be so tempting.

But the world needs more leaders. The hurting need to see others demonstrate loyalty. We each need to experience grace as people choose to enter into solidarity with our pain. I am thankful for those who have come along side me and my family during our dark times. God has given me a few very special people who have seen me through some very deep pain. It is in those times of grace where the vail between heaven and earth is so very thin. It is in those sacred friendships where we encounter Jesus in such a tangible and human way.

If you have found yourself not knowing how to be a friend to someone who is hurting, don’t shy away. Ask how you can be there for them. Roll up your sleeves and be willing to get messy. Stand by those who are choosing the difficult path of repentance and healing. They need love and support more now than at any other time in their lives and we will all find ourselves in that position during our time here on earth.

I have come to believe that it is discovering our need for grace that draws us closer to the love of Christ. It is what grows our capacity for empathy, grace, and love for others. These times of pain and healing move us into times of compassion. I am learning how to be a better friend and how to better follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Henri Nouwen calls Him our Wounded Healer. May our wounds teach us how to help bring healing to this hurting world.

What’s The Alternative: Pro Life or Pro Choice

Have you noticed how quiet it’s been on social media regarding the issue of abortion? One week ago a video was released allegedly exposing the hidden sales of unborn baby organs by Planned Parenthood. The video was edited down from over 2 hours to a little under 9 minutes. It was certainly filmed, edited and published with an agenda. That agenda was to paint a picture of Planned Parenthood as being cold, callous, and uncaring of the unborn. And honestly, regardless of the truth behind that 2 hour conversation, I was very disturbed by how cavalier a person could be while talking about the procedure of late term abortions.

But other than a few blog posts here and there, and some initial reaction following the release of the video, I haven’t heard anything. Why?

Speaking for myself, abortion has become one of those (if not the only) topics that I just find difficult to talk about. Coming from your typical Evangelical-Conservative background, abortion was always a very black and white issue for me. I was the high school girl with “pro life” flyers taped to her bedroom wall. I had seen the pictures of garbage bags full of dead unborn babies, and I was not afraid to show the world the grotesque images of what aborted babies really looked like. I knew the statistics of the casualties of both the Civil and Revolutionary Wars combined compared to the millions of unborn babies being aborted and I knew that abortion was murder. Simple as that.

Or was it?

Now before my anyone starts to panic, bear with me.

As I got older, I began hearing the stories of women who had been faced with the decision to have an abortion at some point in their lives. Stories of teenage pregnancies, rape, women being abandoned by the fathers of their unborn. Stories that made me realize that while I believed (and still do) that we ought to care for the unborn lives, I needed to also show care for the mothers who find themselves in some very difficult circumstances. I don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant at 14 or to bear a child from my rapist, or to be a single mother. It doesn’t mean that I am not for the unborn. It simply means that there is a whole world of situations that I know nothing about.

In the world of politics and religion, the sides of this debate seem to be loud. You are either a “baby killer” or you are “judgmental and invasive”. But is that all there is? Is there an alternative?

I think many Progressive Christians are too easily labeled “liberal” and are lumped in with those who identify as “pro choice”. We seem to lump all of our issues into these two categories: conservative and liberal. But what if you don’t find yourself on either side? What can you do to actually live pro life rather than hold up a sign and scream it into someone’s face?

Many of my friends who identify as “pro life” and fall into the conservative category regarding religion and politics actually have some good ideas for how to help women in these situations. Unfortunately, they get drowned out by all of the rhetoric surrounding their political parties/religious organizations. The problem I have with what I hear from so many “pro lifers” is their failure to acknowledge men and women who face these decisions each day. Yes, we are each responsible for our decisions and of course I don’t think ending a life is the way to solve our problems. But isn’t that the kind of world we live in?

When there is a problem, we kill. If ISIS is killing Christians, the seemingly obvious solution is to kill ISIS. If a young black male gets in the way of law enforcement, we’ll teach them a lesson. If you hit me, I will hit you back harder. And so the cycle of violence continues and in the case of abortion, it would “appear” that by ending the pregnancy, the problem is solved. You see? The logic is the same on both sides of this debate, but each party seems to justify violence with their own man-made notions.

Here’s where I stand on this issue. I have friends who have had abortions and I can’t even begin to pretend like I know their situations. What’s done is done. But I can care for them. They are still here and however God chooses to speak into their lives and heal their wounds, I can be there to listen, to pray, to cry, or to simply try and understand.

For those who face an unexpected pregnancy, I am challenged. I am challenged again, to seek to understand, to listen, to pray and cry. But I am also challenged with this: What lengths am I willing to go to in order to save both lives? Can I take my hard earned money and use it to pay for prenatal care? Can I commit to showing up at Dr. visits? Could I take someone in, provide a bed and food as she undergoes 9 long months of pregnancy? Could I open my family up and offer to adopt? Could I support the local pregnancy crisis center? Could I open a pregnancy crisis center?

Life is messy. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable. But the Kingdom isn’t about comfort. It’s about sacrificial love. That is the alternative. As Christ followers, it’s such a temptation to expect the world to “get it”- to be responsible, be moral, pick themselves up by their bootstraps, climb out of the pit. It’s even more tempting to get our point across through voting and protesting. But that’s not our job. Our job is to be the helpers, to offer our hand, to admit when we don’t know (and there’s a lot we don’t know). Jesus demonstrated how we ought to love those we disagree with by laying down His life. Are we really willing to follow Him and lay down ours as well?

New Series: What’s The Alternative?

By now, most of my readers know that I don’t participate at all in politics. (If this is new for you, you can check out my position here.) But by not participating in the game of polarization and bowing down to Caesar, this doesn’t suddenly remove the problems we face in our world today. I still live in a world full of racism, discrimination, inequality for those on the margins, hunger and poverty, and the list goes on. And this means that I have to face these issues and deal with them.

My hope is to approach the world from a Kingdom mindset. Kingdom meaning: How can I follow Jesus through these things? Jesus said to love God and neighbor. Then He said that everything else hangs on those two things. Okay, that seems simple enough. But what is love? This is where it can get nuanced, gray, and maybe even slightly subjective.

I want to start a new series here on the blog titled: What’s The Alternative? This is for those of you who are tired of the polarization out there. And I don’t just mean within the political realm, but also the polarization of the Church. It seems that while we as Americans have a history of linking our Faith with our political views, for many of us, we are tired of there only being two options. We are tired of all of these issues being lumped together. And I know I am really tired of being labeled an “Evil Liberal” every time my view on something doesn’t line up with typical Christianity.

But what has troubled me the most is that everyone seems to know EXACTLY what they are against. It’s what they are against that seems to define them. But what are we for? I want my life to be defined by the things I stood for rather than the things I stood against. They may seem like they are one and the same, but I don’t think so. And I think that will become more clear as the series moves forward.

This series isn’t just for me though. It’s for you as well. I don’t have all of the answers to the world’s problems and I am not trying to suggest that the Kingdom can solve every single problem we face today. I am simply looking at ways for Christ-followers to do their part in helping to bring the Kingdom here on earth apart from participating in the on-going division we are finding ourselves in. This can’t be done single-handedly. It has to be done in community. This means that I need you. I need your thoughts, ideas, and participation.

My first topic will be discussing Planned Parenthood, that video, and what a Kingdom perspective on abortion might be. This topic is very controversial and even Progressives disagree on their position. I would love your input. Feel free to link articles or books that you found helpful as you navigate through this difficult topic. I look forward to learning and growing with you…and if we never find concrete solutions, that is okay!! What matters most is our position towards the Cross, not how close or far we are from It.

What If You’re Wrong?

Since the SCOTUS ruling came out on Friday, I have been busy engaging as best as I can with fellow brothers and sisters who oppose same-sex marriage. The conversations have been long, heated, and at times difficult. Who am I kidding? I am among the minority when it comes to claiming my relationship with Jesus while also supporting the LGBTQ community. As tired as I have been over the last few days, it doesn’t negate that this conversation is necessary and vital among Jesus-followers right now. I have been so encouraged by the questions and the scriptures being looked at. It has been a challenge for me personally to go back and re-think how I landed here in the first place.

An even greater challenge has been how to weed through all of the angles of this topic and get to the root of what’s happening here. I have tried to untangle it all in my head, have processed with some friends and my husband and have found some key points that stand out to me:

1. Separation of Church and State. This one seems to be the most muddied point in the conversation. Most of the debate surrounding gay-marriage has been between Christian “traditionalists” and the rest of the American population (including progressive Christians, atheists, other religious backgrounds, etc.). I have chosen to abstain from the political sector, but regardless, I think it is imperative that we understand our different identities as well as the functions of those identities.

First and foremost, we are all human. This lumps every single person on the planet into one massive group. Our function as humans can vary upon opinion, but I think most of the human population are seeking purpose and meaning in life. The problem is when we try to find purpose and meaning in two much more narrowed down identities: person of Faith and person of Nationalism.

Faith and Nationalism are both noble identities to adopt. They even have many things in common such as wanting a better world and ensuring safety and freedom. However, what that kind of world looks like and how that kind of world is accomplished is where the line between Faith and Patriotism becomes pretty thick. They contradict one another. To illustrate, I am going to use Christian-identity and American-identity as my examples because that is my general audience and those are the only identities I can relate to.

If you look at the teachings of Jesus, He seems to be turning Nationalism on it’s head. I have said this before on many other blog posts, but the Jews were expecting Jesus to overtake the Roman government and rule…eventually ruling the entire world. Many expected the means that Jesus would use to take His seat of earthly power would be through the sword. There was a whole sect of Jewish believers (the Zealots) who walked around with swords ready for when that time came.

Doesn’t this sound very “American”? I can’t help but see the parallels. Americans “fight” (go to war) for freedom. We use the sword, so to speak, in order to keep the freedoms we have. Many Americans argue and protest to keep and or bring back things like the 10 commandments in schools or “In God We Trust” on our currency. They protest in favor of the right to bear arms. And they use pictures of Jesus from the book of Revelation to make their point. (Revelation 19) They want to advance the Kingdom through worldly means.

*Discussing the book of Revelation will have to be tabled for another blog post as it would be too much information and would distract from the point I am trying to make.

Here’s the distinction. While, I love being an American and while I am grateful for the advantages that come to those of us in this country, the mission of America is not the same as the mission of the Church.

The Church was called to be different-to advance a different ideal in this world. Personally, I find it a contradiction to try and live out both identities, but perhaps you see good in both the missional Church as well as American politics. Wonderful! But do not fall into the trap of thinking they are one and the same. They are not.

Some questions to wrestle with: How can you support war and violence, when Jesus said to turn the other cheek? How can you support a system that depends on classism when Jesus taught that there are no classes in the Kingdom? How can you participate in the rat-race of the so-called American Dream which perpetuates the constant longing for more more more, when Jesus taught us to not cling to the material possessions of this world? And how can Christ’s example of love be implemented through coercion of laws? These questions might lead to more questions, but I can assure you that there are answers (really good ones) found outside of politics and the legal system.

If you want to support America and you want to stand by the principles that America claims to stand by, that’s all well and good. But one of the BIGGEST principles is freedom for all people…not just Christians. Sure, that might mean that the reality of not being a “Christian” nation becomes clearer, but we ought to be accepting the reality of our culture if we are ever going to learn how to be missionaries within it.

Setting all politics aside, the major conflict seems to be about Biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality. This will bring me to point 2.

2. Listening to feelings rather than truth. Perhaps I have been listening to my deceitful heart, following my feelings, rather than following truth. Or perhaps I have been deceived by Satan, under his confusion, and I am unable to see what is so clearly stated in the Bible.

I have heard the anti-feeling argument for most of my life in the Church. Scriptures talking about how the heart is deceitful have been quoted to me more times than I can count. And this used to be something I really struggled to adhere to. “Truth trumps feelings” was what I used to believe. As a woman especially, any idea that went against the norm was deemed “womanly emotion”, silly and nonsensical.

But then I noticed something about Jesus… He felt.

Jesus felt anguish, distress, and grief- Matthew 26

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

We read about Him begging the Father to provide another way if at all possible. But as we know, there was no other alternative in the grand scheme of things. Jesus had to go to the cross.

Now you may be thinking, See Micky? Jesus may have felt, but He didn’t act on His emotions.

Let’s continue.

Jesus got angry- John 2

13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”[c]

Jesus may have even felt “hangry” (you all know what I am talking about)- Matthew 21

18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.

Jesus felt sadness over the loss of His friend- John 11

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted,“Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Jesus felt compassion- Matthew 9

35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

In fact, every act of Jesus was a combination of feeling and obedience to the Father. This is such an important thing to note from scripture. Yes, the heart can be deceitful. Yes, there are times when our selfish desires take over and we act against the Father’s will. But notice that when we are postured towards the cross, when we are submitted to the will of the Father, our feelings become things we can trust and act on. They are transformed from feelings of fear and selfish ambition to feelings of compassion and other-oriented love (see Matthew 5:43-45). The idea that we are to squander all emotion goes directly against the example we find in Jesus (the Old Testament is also full of examples of God’s emotions in relation to the Israelites including, anger, mercy, compassion, sadness, and delight).

What we find in the whole narrative of Scripture is that God is not a narcissist. Rather, He is a God Who is for His people. So when we look at scripture, we ought to be looking at how the Father’s character shines through. What He is really like and how He calls us into this other-oriented love.

The scriptures on homosexuality can be interpreted to serve both sides of the debate, but which side lines up the most with Jesus? That should be our bent towards interpreting the whole Biblical narrative. It can get muddy. I am not going to deny that. The Old Testament is full of blood shed and seems to go against the teachings of Jesus at times. But here’s how I choose to move through those passages without tossing them out the window:

Scripture must be interpreted through the lens of Jesus.

Hebrews 1:3-4

The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

If it doesn’t seem to line up with Who we see Jesus to be, we need to be open to alternative interpretations. Historical context usually clears a lot of these questions up, but we will likely never have it all figured out. We need to be okay with that and keep seeking to understand.

3. But what if I am wrong? The bottom line is that I could be dead wrong on whether or not homosexual sex acts (the Bible really doesn’t address same-sex marriage specifically, only sexual acts between partners of the same gender) are acceptable within the covenant relationship among two people. Same-sex marriage could be missing the mark. But I can assure you that my heart is to follow the example of Jesus. He demonstrated inclusivity. He loved and felt compassion for those deemed “unclean” and created avenues for them to come into a right relationship with God.

If I am wrong, than what am I guilty of? I have made my best attempts to remove barriers to the cross and I trust that God will sort out any confusion as He relates to each one of us. When I worship on Sunday with my gay brothers and sisters, I trust that they are there because they love Jesus and want to follow Him. Who can argue with that? We all have sin in our lives and we all have unknown sin in our lives-perhaps sin that is even encouraged for us to remain in due to misinterpretation of scriptures (the prosperity gospel is one example). Are we all in trouble because we unknowingly and even at times defensively remain in our sin? And is it our place to determine what “trouble” a person might be in (i.e. hell-bound)? Be careful to not kick Jesus out of the judgement seat.

What if you are wrong? You chose to make the gospel exclusive. You chose to put barriers in place, keeping people from seeing the attractive aroma of Christ’s love for them. You chose politics to become the means by which you further the Kingdom-which is antithetical to the calling of Jesus. And you chose to remove avenues for which you might build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus. I can’t find one example of Jesus doing this in the New Testament. In fact, if you read all about the Eunuchs, you will find an impressive example of how Jesus opened the gates of the Kingdom to a group of people who were historically not welcome (See Deuteronomy 23:1, Isaiah 56:4, Matthew 19:12, and Acts 8:26-40).

4. Fear based relationship. I will close with this last point. The crux of the Christian faith is that God desires a relationship with us. A relationship in which we dialogue, have back and forth discussions, asking Him questions, leaning on Him and partnering with Him. As His children, we have nothing to fear.

Romans 8-

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To be in a relationship with anyone means there is risk involved. It means we will fumble through-not always getting things right and learning lessons along the way. Anyone who has been married for any length of time can relate, I am sure. It is because of this relationship, that I am not wavered by doubts or concerns for my salvation or whether or not I am under the influence of Satan. I can only speak for myself when I say that I am turned towards the cross. I am infected by the love Jesus demonstrated to His enemies when He chose servanthood, power-under, and dying for the sins of the world. He did all of this so that we could come to the Father. He did all of this because the Father longs to be near us- His children, His image bearers, His creation. He invites us in on the wrestling match of how to live out this other-oriented love and we have NOTHING to be afraid of as we fumble, stumble, question, doubt, and even misunderstand. He longs to give us His heart for the world and THAT is what we need to seek after.

Are you seeking your Father’s heart today?

Did “Love” really win? My thoughts on the #SCOTUS ruling in favor of Marriage Equality.

Today, June 26th, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States gave its long awaited ruling in favor of marriage equality. This news comes as a huge win for the LGBTQ community who have been longing to be seen as equal citizens under the laws of this country.

When I first heard the news this morning, I cried happy tears along with so many who have been hoping for a day like today. I began reading through my Facebook newsfeed to see so many posts on the ruling with phrases such as “Love wins”, “Love finally wins!”, “Love has won!”.

But I was quickly reminded of so many civil rights laws that have come to pass throughout our country’s history and the struggles we still face today. My thoughts went to Charleston, SC, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Martin, Brown, and the list goes on and on. My thoughts went to the exploitation of women and movies such as 50 Shades of Gray that send messages that objectification of women not only is acceptable, but if you let a man use you for long enough, things might turn around. And how so many women are hindered in and outside of the Church simply because of their gender.

And I remembered that laws don’t equal love.

This is a huge day for the LGBTQ community. And I celebrate with them as they revel in the rights that have now been bestowed to them under the Federal Government. But Love hasn’t won. Not yet. I think about the future and while I hope that discrimination and prejudices will disappear, the realist in me says that there is still a lot of work to be done. And the work has very little to do with laws, petitions, and protest signs. The work has to do with how Christ followers will choose to move forward.

The issues we are struggling through as a country are not new, but because we live in this information age, online platforms have become speedy avenues for voices (and arguments) to be heard. The Church has made headlines over the last few years as she struggles, herself, to find where she stands on racism, violence, prejudice, etc. The debates over what God’s Word “really” says have been charged, controversial, polarized, and at times ugly. But here’s what I know to be true.

1. The story of the Israelites demonstrates how laws can change behavior, but have little effect on the hearts of men.

2. Every decision a Christ follower makes is somewhat (if not fully) based on their picture of God. Ask yourself this: “Who do I think God to be based on how I am living out my life?” “Who is God?” We know from many passages throughout the New Testament that God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Everything we see in Jesus from how He ministered, loved, befriended, to who He rebuked and why, to His willingness to go to the cross shows us the true nature of who God is. Do our lives and the decisions we make reconcile with the One we claim to follow?

3. The Kingdom is a Jesus-looking God raising up a Jesus-looking people. (Yeah, I stole that one from Greg Boyd.) Real change happens when Kingdom people get out there and shed their own agendas and put on the Kingdom agenda. And the Kingdom agenda is to live and die like Christ- loving our neighbors and enemies all the way to the point of death if necessary.

This ruling will increase the tension among Christ followers who find themselves on both sides of the debate. But Jesus prayed for unity among His followers. Church, it’s time to really get to know this Jesus-looking God. When you read about Jesus in scripture, who do you see? How did He treat those on the margins? What kind of character did He demonstrate as He preached, broke bread, laid hands on people? How do we reconcile hatred disguised by our political agendas with the person of Jesus?

I pray that this will be a turning point for the Church. I pray that the Kingdom would come and that we would love others the way Christ showed us how. He said that the Father loves like the sun shines and the rain falls. The sun and rain shine and fall on all people of all backgrounds, skin colors, sexual orientations, genders, ages, etc. The sun is always there, the rain will always fall. And Jesus said that if we love the way the father loves, we are living as true children of our Father in Heaven.

Walk in Love today.