-Watch the Video: Gay People and Church People (approx. 10 min)
-It saddens me to hear the story of the young man mentioned in the video who wrote the letter. It breaks my heart to hear his father’s response to his open and honest assessment of how the son sees himself. I’m sure his father loves him, but remember, his father is flawed just like the rest of us. I think the father is doing what he believes is right in God’s eyes. Here is the problem however; what he is doing is NOT what is right in God’s eyes! Oftentimes we have good intentions that end up harming others, particularly those close to us. Maybe it is time we stop and examine what God’s views are before we show our “knee-jerk” reaction to those who are giving us an honest evaluation of who they believe they are (be it their sexual orientation, eating disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar, invisible, worthless, etc.). During Jesus’ time on earth, He focused his attention, along with His message of love, mercy and grace, on those who were broken and flawed. These people may not have known they were in need of mercy and grace, but they quickly realized it when they came in contact with Jesus. Ironically, the religious leaders of the day, who should have been more in tune to the heart of God than anyone, were regularly called out and chastised by Jesus during their frequent exchanges. You see, these men had become professional lawyers in regards to the Law of God and set themselves up as great moral and religious men. Jesus wasn’t impressed. He could see how these men thought they were superior to the average person and they enjoyed placing a heavy yoke of the Law on those they lorded over. They did not love those in their congregations, instead they viewed those people as simple, uneducated, unreasoning people to be used for the personal gain of the religious elite. Before I finish ripping on these religious leaders (aka: scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees), in fairness I have to mention that some of these religious leaders (though admittedly not many) were good men and understood and accepted the message that Jesus brought. But Jesus focused on those who were the most broken, the most hurting, the most rejected. It was those who truly pricked His heart with compassion.
-We tend to interpret the world around us through the eyes of our own experience. As much as some of us try, we can never be totally neutral and unbiased when we evaluate the things we see and hear in life. I believe it is best practice to be honest and to not lie; to always tell the truth. What has become quite apparent to me is that I am biased as to my version of the truth. You are too. About a year ago I was selected for jury duty. Apparently my not wanting to serve on the jury wasn’t an adequate reason to excuse me from this service… who knew?! Though I was reticent to be on the jury, I did my civic duty. As usual, I looked for something positive I could gain from this experience. As it turned out, I was able to see human behavior in a way I was never able to before. I must admit it was a little intriguing. The court case was not big murder case, but was actually a rather simple aggravated assault case. As a natural people-watcher, I got the chance to watch eleven people in a closed, controlled environment; kind of like a small sociology experiment. As we (the jury) sat in the courtroom listening to the attorneys question and cross-examine witnesses, I listened very intently to every word, making notes as to what was said, as well as the nonverbal cues that they were giving. Several of the other jurors took notes as well. I was amazed and fascinated by the discussion that ensued during our jury deliberation. Even though we had all heard the exact same questions and answers, and had all watched the facial expressions and body language of the witnesses during their time on the witness stand, there were several different versions of what was said in the courtroom! Some jurors actually heard different things in the same room. One juror heard the a witness say they were in a certain room at the time of the assault, while another juror heard the same witness say they were in a different room at the same time! The deliberation discussions were full of such inconsistencies in our perception. On top of that, there were definite opposing opinions as to the credibility of each witness. It seemed that each juror tended to give more credibility to the witnesses that were most like them (same socioeconomic status and similar backgrounds), while the inverse was also true, meaning they found those less like them to be less credible as witnesses. In the end, every individual juror was convinced that it was their version of what was said in the courtroom by the witnesses, and their assessment of the credibility of each witness, was the truth. As a result, each juror spiritedly argued their version. By the time it was all said and done, we compromised on a verdict. It became very obvious to me at that time, how powerful our biases can be. So much so that when I describe to someone what happened in a particular instance (especially when it involves a disagreement between individuals) I instruct them to take what I am telling them with a grain of salt, if you will, since I recognize that despite my attempt at objectivity, I realize that I cannot truly avoid bias. I say all that to say this: “Don’t be so quick to judge others, no matter how strong the urge. We don’t know their story or the intent of their heart.” Do I have to agree with everyone in every situation? Absolutely not. But what I must do is treat them with respect. We are all God’s creation and God doesn’t love me any more than anyone else. As a matter of fact, as soon as I begin to think I am better than someone else, I am guilty of being prideful and I have now set myself in opposition to God since God opposes the proud.
Since each person living on this planet have their own opinions, their own “truth” if you will, many say there is no such thing as absolute truth, that all truth is relative. I used to believe that was the case too. I have since changed my opinion. There is a truth, a truth not based on the opinions of men. A truth not tainted by the biases of an individual. This is a truth according to God; the Word of God, the bible. This book was inspired by the Holy Spirit (the third individual of the Godhead) and penned by the hand of men. The scriptures can be interpreted in various ways, by various people and that’s alright. The important thing is to search the scripture for the answers. When I say “search the scriptures,” I don’t mean to pick verses and pull them out of context, instead try to understand how they fit in context. I also recommend reading the whole bible. Eventually you will begin to learn what the character of God is like. When I hear people’s religious “opinions” I often compare them against God’s character. Like you would if you heard something about a friend, you ask yourself, “does this sound like something he would say/do?” The more you know about God’s character, the easier it is to judge whether something is right our wrong. That is how I know that the boy’s father, in the video, is not right. God loves everyone regardless of sexual orientation or other identifying factors that humans tend to judge each other on. God does not approve of everything we do. As a matter of fact, there is not one person alive who does not do things that God does not approve of, at times in our lives. It is best not to be as presumptive as to correct God on HIs opinions.
Let’s look further at how Jesus did His ministry:
[Luke 5:1-17 NASB]
1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.
-Jesus found two boats that had been out fishing, unsuccessfully all night and chose Simon’s boat. He asked Simon to put out a little bit from shore. In that day someone speaking to a crowd had to leverage nature since they didn’t have microphones, speakers and PA systems. Being out slightly on the water allowed the sound to carry well.
4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”
-Simon had never met Jesus, though he likely had heard about Him teaching and healing people. Nonetheless Simon, for whatever reason, decided to comply with His second request, even though he was frustrated and had no reason to believe that they would catch any fish. Maybe Simon had a feeling that something just might happen. Maybe Simon began to have the first stirrings of faith.
6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.
-Jesus did a miracle by causing Simon to catch fish; not just fish, but an overabundance of fish. Why did Jesus do that? Perhaps it was a repayment to Simon for the use of his boat. I think it is more likely that He wanted to give the crowd listening to His teaching that He wasn’t just talking to them to hear himself speak, but that His message was important and they should take to heart the things that He had said. Why the overabundance? To drive the point home that His message came from God and that God the Father had sent Him.
8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
-Simon fell at Jesus’ feet. This was a sign of submission and respect. It indicated that Simon recognized that Jesus was greater than Simon himself was. Why the sudden reaction? Simon had an epiphany. It wasn’t during His teaching, but it was when he saw Jesus’ miracle. Simon instantly was struck by Jesus’ holiness and by default, Simon’s sinfulness. So powerful was this encounter that these men abandoned their jobs, their business, and headed off into an uncertain future.
12 While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
-In this day, in this culture, those afflicted with leprosy were separated from the general population due to the highly contagious nature of the disease. The lepers were required by religious law to yell, “Unclean! Unclean!” when anybody came within earshot of them. In light of this, the reaction of the leper is even more astonishing. The leper broke the religious law by coming close to Jesus. Not only was Jesus a non-leper, he was also a Rabbi, which would make his offense even worse. Much to the surprise of those present, Jesus didn’t yell at the leper and harshly send him on his way. The man fell at Jesus feet, imploring him to heal him of his leprosy. Jesus would have been well within His rights to send the man packing or to simply ignore him, but instead He gave the man His attention. The man’s faith was evident by his statement, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.” Just a side note here: The leper called him lord which indicates that he recognized Jesus as someone of higher status than himself, but he probably wasn’t calling Jesus “Lord,” as an indication that he understood the deity of Jesus. Nonetheless, the man understood that Jesus was, at the very least, a man of God. It was worth the risk of getting in trouble for the man to get healed of his leprosy.
13 And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
-Jesus told the man that He was willing to heal him of his leprosy. I have yet to find an instance in scripture where Jesus denied healing to anyone who asked and who had faith. Jesus “touched” the man in order to heal him. Jesus could have healed him without touching him, but I believe Jesus was using his human touch to let the man know how much He cared about him. Even today we can use touch to minister to people. Ministering to others involves love and compassion. Some things just can’t be conveyed by words alone. Notice that it says, “immediately the leprosy left him.” This is an indication that his leprosy was caused by a demonic spirit. Many other times that Jesus healed people, the cause of their sickness or disease was organic and not due to an unclean spirit.
14 And He ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
-He ordered them to tell no one because He was not yet ready for His identity as the Messiah, the Christ, to be revealed. He instructed the man to fulfill the requirements of the law by showing himself to the priest and making an offering for his cleansing. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. Also Jesus wanted this to be a testimony to the priests.
15 But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
-Even without social media, news of Jesus was spreading far and wide and He was drawing large crowds. Notice that the people not only came to be healed, but they also were interested in hearing what He had to say.
16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
-Jesus frequently went away to be alone to pray and spend time with the Heavenly Father. Remember, when Jesus came down from heaven to become a man, He left His supernatural abilities behind. His power to heal and do miracles only came after He was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He also was not omniscient (all-knowing) as a man but had to spend a lot of time in prayer with God to be given the specifics of His mission, His “marching orders,” if you will.
17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.
-It is interesting to note that it says, “the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” This would indicate that the power to heal was not always present. There is a type of healing that is activated by the faith of the person who needs healing, but this is referring to the power to heal many, even those who don’t have the faith.