Dear LGBT friends and family, please accept my apology for my Christian friends and family. I am sorry that you have felt unloved, unwelcomed and unworthy.
You have been my friends, my family, my roommate, my cousin, my niece, fellow members of my church. I love you. I welcome you. I believe you are as worthy as I or any of my “Christian” friends and family.
Some of you have blamed me, and my Christian friends and family for the Orlando shooting so let me put this on the record: the Orlando shooting was evil, pure and simple. I am sorry for the confusion that you feel about me and the Christian world.
It is confusing. While we would like things to be simple, black and white, they rarely ever are like that. The shooter, for example, was Muslim and attributed radical Islam to the shooting. Some people would like to blame Islam, but the shooter was probably as gay as he was Muslim. The only thing we know for sure is that he was not Christian.
But, the world is a confusing place.
Christians have lobbied for cultural, societal and political positions that are in opposition to your lifestyle, your desires and your hopes and dreams. I understand why you would consider Christians your enemies. Of course, there are other Christians who are fighting with you for the things you want. Some you consider yourselves Christians. The world certainly is a confusing place.
I can’t speak for all Christian friends and family. I don’t even agree with all of them. While I don’t think I will change that with this blog, I am hoping for some understanding. I think agreement is overrated (and impossibly idealistic). Understanding, though, is something that is attainable.
A long time ago, I had an encounter with God, and that encounter changed my life. Whatever I thought before that encounter, all my hopes and dreams before that, it was all changed. I have vacillated somewhat between my former life and the new life I found in Christ, but I could never go back. I could never undo the knowledge that God exists and my existence in relation to God.
Through this encounter I came to believe that the 66 books written over about 1500 years that we have come to call the Bible is God’s word, spoken through people, of course – people who also had encounters with God and were forever changed. I have not always understood clearly who God is, what God expects of us and what the words in the Bible mean in every passage or as a whole, but I have not doubted the existence of God since that time or the authenticity and veracity of the Bible.
I know that sets me apart from most of humanity, and it immediately sets me at odds with many of you. I am sorry that you may feel that way, but I can’t apologize for that. It is what it is, as I like to say. I also know that some of you agree with me on these things.
The world is indeed a confusing place.
My purpose in writing this to you is to attempt some better understanding. I don’t expect you to agree with me.
First off, I think the Bible is pretty clear on what is sin and what is not. The sin part is hard to divorce from the Bible, unless you want to pick and choose what you accept and what you reject, but then you might as well write a bible yourself. You would be no less true to it.
As one who has had an encounter with God and who believes the Bible is God’s message to humankind, I can’t do that with any degree of integrity.
Now let’s be clear. I may be wrong about my understanding of the Bible and understanding of God. I may be mistaken that I have even had an encounter with God or that the Bible is God’s word to us.
I have given 30+ years to those questions. I was in college when I had this encounter with God, and I began questioning it from the beginning. The academic world around me forced me to question it. I have as much confidence as a person could have in the fact that God exists and that God is revealed authentically in the Bible – but I understand that I could be wrong.
Therefore, I must accept that sin is sin as revealed in the Bible, and this is where a lot of confusion exists. You would have me ignore what the Bible says and turn from what I “know” to be true. You want me to approach you with a clean slate, but I can’t do that.
I suppose that some of you have already dropped out and stopped reading at this point, but I hope you will stay with me for a few more paragraphs. I really do. My view of sin doesn’t affect the way that I see you that I described in the beginning! It really doesn’t.
For one thing, I am a sinner. I don’t celebrate that fact, but it’s true. I know that isn’t a popular notion. I grew up in the “I’m okay, you’re okay” world of the ‘70’s, and things haven’t changed much since then. The thing that I discovered, though, is that we can’t encounter God unless we understand that reality. He already knows it so we might as well admit it.
But, that is the beauty of the Gospel (which means “good news” by the way). While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! That is a direct quotation from the letter Paul wrote to the Romans. That is the good news! God doesn’t require us to be good enough to come to Him. He came to us!
In coming to us – and dying for us – God showed us that He loves us. Understanding that changed my life, but I will say more on that later.
Jesus cleared up some confusion when He told us that His expectation for us is summed up in these two statements: 1) love God with your whole heart, mind and body; and 2) love people as you love yourself. Many, many consequences flow from those two principles, not the least of which is the instruction for me to love you.
To say that we have a hard time with such a simple and all-encompassing instruction is an under-statement. Thus, I give you my apology. We have failed to do this most fundamental thing.
Even if I loved you perfectly and unconditionally, as Jesus loves us all, I don’t expect all of you to love me back or even to appreciate that love. Jesus did perfectly and unconditionally love us, and we know how that ended up.
But the fact remains that I and my Christian friends and family have not loved you perfectly or unconditionally. I have to admit it, and not just admit it, but ask for your forgiveness. In fact, I think we have failed miserably, but that is the problem of sin.
Sin means (literally) to miss the mark. The “mark” is to be perfectly what God intends us to be and to live a life of perfect love. Fortunately, though we (and I mean everyone) have missed the mark, God does not miss the mark. He loves us perfectly (and I mean everyone), even though we do not.
There is one final thing. An encounter with God changes us. The change happens on the inside. If the encounter is genuine, we no longer want to live for ourselves; we want to live for God. If the change is genuine, we are no longer comfortable with sin; we want to be who God intends us to be. This change is from the inside out, but we get confused there too.
We continue to struggle with sin. In fact, sin is is part of our DNA as finite creatures to whom God gave freedom of choice. The uninhibited exercise of that choice has created a far from perfect, sometimes evil and confusing world.
Many Christians try to make things black and white and live by rules and regulations in an attempt to change ourselves to be who God says we should be. Though we fail miserably at it, we keep going back to it, and we try to get everyone to live by the rules, even people who have not had an encounter with God and who do not subscribe to those rules.
Please accept my apology for that too. We should be talking about Jesus, not a bunch of rules. That doesn’t mean that the rules (what is sin and what is not) are bad; it’s just that we cannot even begin to have any victory in avoiding sin unless we have had an encounter with God and continue (every day) to let God work within us to change us at the level of our inner being.
And that leads me to one final apology. I apologize that we (Christians – at least the people who call ourselves by the name of Christ) have failed to let God do His work in us as we should. If we truly were yielded to God as we should be, we would not fail so miserably to love you. If we allowed God to work within us as we should, we would be lights set on a hill reflecting the love of God that would draw many of you to the source of perfect love that we all need and desire to know.