Perspectives to Consider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of us who seek to honor the authority of Scripture in our decision-making processes, we know we shouldn’t be sloppy in how we interpret its words. I’d say that is especially true when it comes to issues that drastically affect peoples’ wellbeing and the trajectory of their whole lives.

With that conviction held tightly, I’ve been studying how to best interpret Scripture’s guidance on LGBTQ issues for several years. I continually find that there is more to learn about all of this than I previously realized. My older theology was often massively simplistic and shallow, and sometimes poorly reasoned. Nevertheless, it was all I was exposed to for a very long time in the circles I swim in.

Because my studies had only gone to a certain extent, I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know. The supposedly “plain reading” of the text could only get me so far. To my own detriment and to the detriment of those I sought to influence, I was responsible for my own lack of interest in actually taking a deeper look at what the Good Book really says and means.

In the past couple weeks I decided to revisit this subject once again and go another layer deeper in my own research. So I read these two books, both about how to discern what approaches Scripture actually calls us to take on navigating LGBTQ controversies. Continue reading Perspectives to Consider

a (semi-)quick update

I thought I’d give a little update on life since I came out and subsequently got fired from my job:

Originally, I thought I’d feel embarrassed after coming out. I figured I’d “recoil” — wanting to hide from the world for a while. I assumed I’d have to push fairly hard for a while to get past my insecurity, wishing I could still cover that part of myself (particularly around other guy friends who I want to try extra hard to fit in with). I was bracing myself to face some difficult emotional work to move through.

When I made my original post though, I felt surprisingly self-assured about it. I went to bed that night filled with the most tangible joy — but expected I’d regret my decision later after the dopamine high faded. Continue reading a (semi-)quick update

Addressing the Deeper Needs

I genuinely appreciate conversations about developing ethical sexual boundaries. However, I am much more interested in conversations about emotional and relational wholeness. Sexual boundaries make a lot more sense and are a lot more viable for those with healthy hearts and attachments. The God-who-is-Love generally prioritizes addressing these issues at the core of who we are, in my personal experience. To use Jesus’ metaphor — He cleans the inside of the cup, rather than merely polishing its outer surface.
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That being mentioned, I want to highlight two profoundly beautiful books that deal with precisely these topics. Both are written by Christian gay men like myself, who have had to wrestle through working to find a measure of meaningful intimacy and belonging outside of conventional romantic partnerships and nuclear families. Without painting an overly idealistic picture of the situation, both have also found that the Church can itself serve as a life-giving chosen-family that effectively provides much of these needs.
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Whether you’re gay or straight, single or coupled, or even whether you’re a believer or not — I think these two books could greatly benefit anyone who has unmet emotional and relational longings. The stories and essays within them are filled with the kind of precious gems of insight that are worth carefully mining and treasuring in reflection multiple times over.….
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No Longer Strangers – Greg Coles
Spiritual Friendship – Wesley Hill
Related Posts:

Repost: “Yield”

“The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”

“You do you – live your truth, babe!”

These are exemplary of the sentiments I often hear when I discuss faith & sexuality with others. Honestly I find both of them to be pretty reductionistic. Neither go a super long way in actually helping one make responsible life choices or grow in wisdom and discernment.

For those of us who follow Jesus, we do not dive headlong into letting our fickle emotions drive our biggest life decisions. Neither do we throw our internal compass out the window and robotically comply with the modern evangelical standard of biblical interpretation. Rather, we give our allegiance to a living Person — who is very relational, respectful, dignifying, and process-oriented. That being the case, I generally think it is good to develop a deeper and more nuanced approach to sorting through decisions concerning things like our identity and destiny.

In light of the lively discussion some have had since I came out online, I thought it might be good to re-share this post I wrote back in early 2020. Hopefully it will give a good window into how I’m trying to navigate my own approach to life. Maybe it will even give someone else some food-for-thought in their own process… Continue reading Repost: “Yield”

RE: coming out

Since coming out to the world of social media the other day, I have observed a lot of people discussing what my theological and ethical stances are on sexual desire and expression. Some folks have asked me questions about this directly, and others have simply affirmed and honored me for stances they perceive I am holding. I generally welcome the feedback and conversation.

Nevertheless — as much as I think it is important to weigh our beliefs and practices against scriptural teaching, and to discern how to humbly follow Christ’s leadership in these areas — I want to be clear that I was intentional about avoiding the opportunity to define all my stances in one post. I have PLENTY of opinions related to all things at the intersection of LGBTQ issues & faith… There are a couple of those opinions I’m sure I won’t be quiet about forever. But all of that ultimately is not the hill I want to die on.

For one, I don’t want to always play into the silly culture war — if I can avoid it.  Secondly, I simply don’t need to tell the whole world what I think is right. I’ll more likely share about that with folks who share in common with me some fundamental assumptions about the very nature of truth. I can’t expect everyone to live the way I live when we don’t have the same core values or give allegiance to the same sources of authority.

Beyond that though, I could also just say this: It wasn’t an ethical or moral stance that made me fall in love with Jesus in the first place. And it wasn’t the tossing out of an ethical or moral stance that helped me figure out how to get more free from shame or how to grow more integrated as a person. I’ve long wanted far more clarity and resolution about all my “stances” than I’ve been able to find. But that has apparently never been a big priority to Jesus, in comparison to His own insistent pursuit of my simple trust. Our connection is thriving, and that doesn’t rise and fall on what an amazing job I do at managing my sexuality, coming to correct doctrinal conclusions, or identifying myself according to any expected criteria. Our relationship is covenantal, not contractual.

For the record, if you want to know if I’m “pure” or not, I can answer that in two ways: Continue reading RE: coming out

A Bit About My Faith & Sexuality

Hesitations

I’ve gone back and forth a few times about whether or not I want to talk about my sexuality much in public. I planned on making a post about it back in November of 2019, and I even had a specific date picked to do so. It was going to be a Sunday. The night before, the pastor of my church randomly called me out of the crowd and prophesied over me that the trajectory of my life was going to be forever different because of that weekend. That seemed like exactly the kind of overly-dramatic boost of encouragement I thought I needed. So I wrote an article, posted it on my blog… and shortly thereafter removed it, without ever publishing it to social media.

My life went on as usual.

All that said, I’ve shared this with a number of you in person or in my home group already. Nevertheless, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I still need to be more open about it. Especially with some of you that I’ve only come to know in the last couple years. God’s Spirit has seemed to be haunting me lately, regularly impressing upon me to more thoroughly address this subject. So rather than continuing to resist His clear prompting, I’m going to course-correct a bit before entering into 2022.

Here is the long and short of it… Continue reading A Bit About My Faith & Sexuality

What Does Consecration Look Like?

It’s common for a post to come up on my Instagram feed saying something like, “Avoid people who hold you back. Surround yourself with people who help you reach your goals.” It’s a popular sentiment, and there is definitely some super practical wisdom in it worth implementing.

That said, Jesus did not necessarily practice this philosophy very well. Continue reading What Does Consecration Look Like?

Some Thoughts on “Paradoxes”

One definition of “paradox” is “a seemingly absurd statement about two ideas that appear to be in tension, that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded, true and harmonious.” Paradox is real and it is mysterious and it is wonder-inducing. Growing in spiritual maturity always requires us to learn to sit with and explore the paradoxes of life. Much revelation is found from seeing how truth is revealed in ways that at first might make our heads spin for a moment.

That being the case, there are very common ways to speak about theology, spirituality and the nature of humanity that are not *paradoxical — but rather are pointlessly conflicting and self-contradictory. Further, trying to force these ideas to fit together not only might offer us no practical benefit… It often can actually make us double-minded. By trying to live out of such confusion, we could be interfering with our own ability to more effectively walk in integrity. Continue reading Some Thoughts on “Paradoxes”

Essentialism vs. Existentialism

Do our choices ultimately form who we are becoming? Or do our choices tend to flow from the center of who we already are at a base level? Do we “make something of ourselves” — or simply learn to express who we’ve been made to be?

As I understand it, how we answer these questions determines whether our philosophical framework is more an “existentialist” one or an “essentialist” one. And in the Christian community, which stance we take in the philosophical debate is likely to correlate to the theology we develop about subjects like “sanctification,” “depravity” and “identity.”

I heard a local megachurch pastor recently assert that “every part of our being” is marred by sinfulness, and that we need to constantly try to make decisions to become more free of sin’s mastery over us. Five minutes later his message took a turn and he then stated that Jesus has already radically transformed us and liberated us from the power of sin “at the core of our being.” Such statements are flat out contradictory to one another, but I continuously hear similar contradictions coming from every corner of the Church world. With such contradictions also come all sorts of mental gymnastics used to try and explain and reconcile this mixture of ideas that (if we’re honest) simply do not fit together in a functional way.

As I see it, a lot of this confusion comes from the fact that we go back and forth between talking as if we’re existentialists trying to define and better ourselves to talking as if we’re essentialists who have a fixed, God-given sense of self. We speak about human nature without clarifying which framework we hold to most tightly or which we are operating in from one moment to the next.

What is the fruit of these countering philosophies (and their related theologies)? What aesthetics do these notions hold? What are their implications? Are we even holding to what we assume we believe consistently? Or do our assertions about these subjects lack clarity, definition and sensibleness?

From my vantage point, it seems that a lot of this is still pretty fuzzy in our collective thought. I propose it would do us all good to more seriously think about how we’re thinking about these matters.

A Healthier Approach to My Spirituality

My whole life I’ve had preachers tell me I needed to “crucify the flesh” within me in order to be close to God. “Yes, He is always present, but it’s His MANIFEST Presence that is cut off from us because of our sinfulness.” The solution? Lots of time in isolation crying out to the Lord. Continual pleading for forgiveness. Subjective experiences with the power of the Spirit that would hopefully, finally “mortify” at least some of the power of sin over my life…

A Broken Pattern

I bought into this kind of messaging and I put it into practice. I would hunger and thirst after the manifest Presence. I desperately spent endless hours confessing and renouncing my failures, asking God to cleanse me of every wicked thought or deed. And I chased manifestations of the Spirit like they were Pokemon… “Gotta catch ‘em all!”

Truth be told, there wasn’t much I wouldn’t do at that time for a spiritual high or for a reassurance that I was currently “right with God.” The problem was, it was all temporary. It was cyclical. I’d sin, or even just feel what I perceived was a temptation, and I’d be reminded again of my depravity. I was acutely aware of the apparent distance between myself and the One I wished I could better serve. Any security or assurance I had previously felt would escape me, and I’d be stuck in a mental battle with “conviction” until either 1) I started feeling like I was performing better or 2) I started thinking I’d had a revelation on how to get it right the next time the devil came to test me.

If I ever did seem to succeed at walking in obedience and in peace for a while, I was made to second guess myself by sermons telling me that I needed God to search my hidden motives all the more. After all, “nobody is perfect!” I wouldn’t want to get prideful!

My perpetual prayer was for God to transform me. To deliver me. Essentially, to fix me. All the while, I believed I was “legally justified” and technically in right-standing with God. I just couldn’t seem to get such ideas to bring me consistent comfort.

A New Message

Eventually, I came across some crazy grace-preachers who were preaching a message I’d never heard before… A message that struck me as heretical at worst, or “out of balance” at best. Like Paul, they taught that I was already thoroughly “dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11,14). That I am no longer “in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God is within” (Romans 8:9). That Jesus actually finished the job of crucifying my old self, and now “it is not I who live but Christ who lives within me” (Galatians 2:20). That, by some mysterious miracle 2,000 years ago, I “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). According to these guys, I “have been made complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10)… Most confounding of all, they said I couldn’t be any closer to God than I already am, for “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1st Cor. 6:17).

At first it was hard for me to stomach these radical, absurd notions. Nevertheless, I quickly began to recognize that the depths of my being overwhelmingly resonated with such truths. In a variety of ways, the Spirit of God clearly gave His stamp of approval to these teachings over and over. Through Scripture, I further began to find that these concepts were not just “part” of the Gospel. My research revealed that these concepts were ALL over the whole New Testament (and in much of the Old) — infused in the entire proclamation of Christ’s work.

Slowly but surely, I began a serious, intense religious detox. I was “deconstructing” before it was ever a buzzword. All the while, I fell more and more in love with the person of Jesus and more convinced of both His utter goodness and His insane loyalty to me.

Laying aside my self-righteous piety, I broke up with spiritual desperation. I abandoned my BS repentance rituals. At last, I let go of my confused commitment to what I called “self-denial” (which was really just self-loathing and shame with a nice coat of paint on it).

Very New Results

And would you believe it, my sense of connection with God improved exponentially. I started becoming aware of His nearness and activity in every area of my life — every day. Even on my worst days. I started having many more wild and frequent manifestations of the Spirit and His gifts in my life too, to the degree that I had to get used to NOT having dry-spells anymore. Confoundingly, despite being told that my willful, ongoing sin would push Him away — I even felt close to the Father when I recognized I was practicing bad habits! 

Over time, this all helped me only want to invite Christ’s leadership into my decisions all the more… I welcomed His input on my choices, not because I was still afraid of what would happen to me if I didn’t do so. Rather, it was because I was genuinely confident that He was invested in my well being for the long haul, through thick and thin.

Somehow, all these changes further gave me confidence to become more authentically vulnerable with both God and with other people. I generally quit shying away from discussing my weaknesses, failures or embarrassments. Because of that, I started developing a level of intimacy in my friendships that I didn’t even dream was possible. In the process, I came to see self-acceptance and Christ-like self-sacrifice as working together in harmony (instead of being in tension with one another).

I still embrace the need to address areas of dysfunction in my mindsets and behaviors, of course. Nevertheless, I’m done trying to in any sense improve on who I am. With that, I’ve completely ceased feeling like I get out of touch with God’s nearness! My prayer-life has only been enriched, and with so much less effort than it ever took me in my adolescence…

No Barriers to His Presence

My point in sharing all of this is to encourage you to stop buying into confusing, self-contradictory, mixed-messaging. Give yourself permission to take a deep-dive into the unconditional love and unmerited favor God so freely gives to you. Further, carefully filter through any voices that tell you there are prerequisites or qualifications needed for you to experience oneness with the Lord. 

If we can just quit tripping ourselves up with traditions and arguments that deny the Finished Work of Christ’s Cross, we CAN experience a more substantial satisfaction and contentment in everyday life. Even on our worst days and in our hardest seasons! After about a decade of living this way, I can guarantee it is real and it is better than what much of the evangelical and Charismatic world portrays as possible on this side of the age-to-come.

Lean into the faithfulness of God. He is here, He is for you, and He is endlessly accessible. He refuses to define any part of you by your decisions, and there are no barriers or obstacles standing between the two of you.