I’m not a rebel trying to stir up trouble. I’m not a person who is taking a stand, waving a banner of exclusiveness or a person unwilling to listen to opposing views. I am though a hypocrite at times, and I do rethink my position on issues a lot. I am a person who seeks positive criticism even though it at times cuts me to my core. I don’t have all of the answers, in fact, as I tell people all the time, the older I get, the more questions develop in my heart and in my tenaciously challenging relationship with God.
At times I just want to scream out to God; “Are You there? Do You hear me? Why can’t my heart find the answers?” All of this wrestling finds its way into my thoughts throughout each day. And at night, it is the source of my sleeplessness. I thought that God’s Word was supposed to bring peace, comfort and joy. I thought that the “truth” of God would always be evident. Well it does bring me peace and joy, but it still leaves me with empty anxious spots to be filled. One of the biggest empty spots in my heart lately has been over the special General Conference of the United Methodist Church that recently took place in St. Louis ( #GC2019 ). This conference has left me with more to think about than I had before it began. Some good, some quite distasteful. It has left me looking to the mountaintop once again yearning to scream out to God; “Hey, what’s up? Did You see what was happening there? Were You there where two or more were gathered in Your name?”
Is it possible … that God was present and active at the General Conference (GC2019)? Certainly, over the past several years, hundreds of thousands around the world have been praying for this special conference and its outcome. God’s children around the globe have been crying out for a resolution, for a Word of truth and a Spirit that would guide and lead the conference to wholeness in the will of God. The church of Jesus Christ worldwide has been seeking a way to move forward past an issue that has been smoldering in the background for decades and is now burning the forest down. Not a way to ignore it, but a way to find God’s will and truth in it and a way to answer the debate once and for all.
As a believer in Christ I have come to believe that when God’s people cry out to Him in earnest He answers. Is it possible that God did answer the prayers of the church for truth? Is it possible that we didn’t like the answers we received? Is it possible that having not received a favorable and supportive answer for our stance on sexuality, that we are now convincing ourselves that “God’s not done with us yet and He is still working on full acceptance of the LGBTQIA lifestyles?” Man, this becomes a mind-boggling dilemma! What to do! Where to turn! What to believe!
If I as a Christian, accept that God certainly answers the earnest prayers of His children, then why would I believe that God didn’t answer our many prayers for the General Conference 2019? Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or three are gathered God is in their midst. Was God in the hearts and minds of the delegates that voted at GC2019? Was God’s will manifested through the hearts of those delegates? I believe that to deny that would be a great way to dishonor God as well as the hundreds of thousands that have died for the truth of Scripture over the last 2,000 years. He doesn’t abandon His children! He doesn’t turn a blind eye to their plight! No, He emphatically states that He will be there in their midst. He will be there to bring justice, truth, direction and guidance so that we can continue to live out our witness of who He is. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things in the Scriptures that I don’t understand, like or agree with, but the question remains; was God there and working through the delegates to bring truth to the surface of the muddy water of the UMC?
Maybe some did not receive the answer and affirmation at the GC2019 that they were looking for, but with all of my heart I know that God was present. That being said, I have to also say that nobody won! Nothing has been settled. This is not a battle between sides, it is not a situation where my way has to be God’s way. No, this is and should always be a search for Gods truth even if it is contrary to our human understanding, desires or preferences. As Rick Warren so eloquently put it; “It’s not about you.”
Is it probable … that God showed up at GC2019? Matthew 18:20 recognizes more than just a statement about Jesus, it represents a promise. This promise is to be there where He is needed. To be present and active in the midst of believers calling on Him. What, would Jesus show up, and watch His kids slide down the slope of error? Would Jesus show up and do nothing? I think not! His promise represents His attentiveness to our needs, our need for clarity and our need for guidance. But like any loving parent, sometimes you have to tell the kids “no!” Is that what happened here? Do we have any substantial reasons to believe that God only answered us partially? Is He playing with us? Is He trying to teach us a lesson?
If God was active and in the midst of GC2019, why are we so distraught? Why are we still so divided? Why didn’t we accept with joy and gladness the movement of the Holy Spirit at GC2019 and leave as a church united? Is it probable that our hearts were broken because of several factors? First, are we looking at the real issue? Is not what we are struggling with, the question of whether or not God says that any type of sexual relationship outside of a monogamous heterosexual married relationship is sinful? Are we not struggling with what the truth of God is regarding our sexual preference? Are we not wrestling with the human desires of our hearts to physically, emotionally and spiritually love a person of the same sex? Yes, and the issue continues. The real issue is “what does God’s Word say and mean” not if I like it or even remotely agree with it.
Secondly, I don’t see the issue really revolving around “inclusion.” Inclusion in the 21st century has become to mean acceptance of all lifestyles and behaviors. Jesus never excluded anyone, in fact He went out of His way to include people. What was going on with people in regards to sexuality never stopped Jesus from including them. Are we? Jesus ate with sinners, slept at their houses and simply offered them His love. But one thing Jesus also did clearly was to affirm the teachings of the Scriptures. That being said, He never excluded anyone, He loved them, invited them in, cared for them, wept over them and affirmed their need for God. Why is it that we spend more effort on having our beliefs accepted by the church than being invitational to all people? You might disagree, and this might piss you off, just sayin.
Thirdly, I hear a lot today surrounding the words “context,” “acceptance” and “love.” If I love someone, I will accept them they way they are, the way they were created. Friends, the way I was created is filled with flaws. Some hard to deal with, others easy. Regardless, I have a lot of things in the way I was created that need to change! I think our example of how to love someone should go back to the fall of humankind.
In the Garden, God certainly loved Adam and Eve. He cared for them, provided all that was needed and was in a loving relationship with them. But they still had to abide by God’s Word and will, regardless of how they felt, or more importantly, how they were created. Flawed. But even though they disobeyed, and disagreed with God’s law, God still loved them and provided for them. He gave them clothing and lovingly removed them from the Garden so that they would not make another poor decision and be stuck in a sinful state for eternity. In this account of the fall, God didn’t loose sight of what they needed, no, instead He watched over them as they “learned” to trust in God and His ways. What about us? Are we learning to trust in God’s ways, or are we arguing with Him about what He said or how relative it is considering our context? My dilemma is this; are we arguing with God or truly seeking His will?
I also hear the word “acceptance” a great deal lately. It seems to me that in order to be in relationship with someone I have to accept all that they say, do and believe. Really! All it seems that we are accomplishing with this mindset is the polarization of the Christian church. Your side, my side. What a great way to dishonor what Jesus died for! He called us to be unified and to represent Him and the Word of God to the world. He didn’t call us to ram our views down each other’s throats but to hold each other in love as we call out to God for understanding, guidance, love and respect. All of this while submitting our will, our views, our very lives, to the will of God. Wow, yes, so hard to do.
Is it clear … what God has said on the subject of sexuality? In Scripture the issues of sexuality and marriage are clearly defined. I know, you disagree, but hear me out. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find and read all of the individual scriptures regarding sexuality, sexual relationships and such. Over the decades we have also found many references to support what scripture says through archaeological means and discoveries. Today, we know exactly what the Scripture says and the meaning represented in it. We have more information than ever before regarding the words, meaning, situation and context of how and why it was written. Believe it or not, God’s Word is complete, clear and relative as supported by many theologians over the decades and in our Methodist seminaries. So why do we argue with it? I know, now you’re really mad at me!
Is it a hardness of heart issue … Ouch! I hope not! Many of the Christian brothers and sisters I know that left the GC2019 disappointed are wonderful, loving people. They love God, love each other and are truly disappointed and fractured over this issue. My heart breaks for them. These wonderful brothers and sisters want nothing more than for others on the outskirts of the Christian faith to develop a loving, lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. Awesome! But we are divided, and hurt, and broken-hearted as well as dismayed. Why would God create me as a sexual being with all sorts of manifestations of that sexuality and limit me as to what is acceptable? It seems to make no sense, it’s like a cruel joke! I guess I have to ask myself if I am doing life my way, or God’s way.
Is it possible … that we could all stow away our feelings, our personal understanding and our agendas for the sake of knowing God’s truth? Friends, someone is right, and someone is wrong. That’s by the very definition of the word “truth.” But it should never be a “my side, your side” issue. With open and humble hearts, we should collectively cry out to God for His truth and Holy Spirit to place it in our hearts, even if that means that we have to admit that we were wrong. Being right or wrong is indifferent next to a loving saving relationship with a holy and perfect God! It’s not about me winning, or my way, it should be totally about living for God … regardless.
Is it necessary … that we split? It certainly isn’t unusual; church denominations have split before. But if we split does anybody win? Not really. I believe that a split in our denomination would only confirm to the world that we don’t really understand what we believe. It would be a poor and devastating witness to the many hungry hearts that are looking for meaning in their lives. For the very people we are trying to reach we would be failing them.
This is not a new issue. How many times in Scripture do we read about how the hearts, true God loving Israelite hearts, were corrected in their understanding of God’s law. Many. Repeatedly through Scripture we see God correcting the thinking and understanding of truly wonderful loving devout people. Might we be any different? I don’t think so.
Is it hopeless … man, I sure hope not! So many times, I thought that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. So many times, I was wrong, and boy did that knife cut deep!
Both sides of the debate on sexuality are lined with good God loving people. People who believe that they are right and following the will of God, people who are striving for all to experience the love of God. That being said, I believe the answer lies in our hearts approach to God. Are we seeking our understanding and application of God’s position on sexuality, or are we truly seeking God’s?
Friends, my intention here is not to piss you off, alienate anyone or take any sides. I am struggling in my own heart with what to believe, and I’m willing to admit it. The last thing I ever want to do is to represent a church that excludes people based on some aspect of their lives. Nobody is perfect except God. I want all to be lovingly included, but I earnestly want to seek God’s truth … regardless of how easy it is for me to apply.
A heart that seeks God through intense struggle can be found all throughout Scripture. Moses gave it all up to follow God’s will and ways. He lost family, goals and the future he had hoped for. Abraham, the same deal. He sacrificed it all for something unseen, unexpected and almost impossible to follow through with. He even literally gave up his only son. And the list goes on, many who had to sacrifice their human nature and understanding of things in order to follow the will of God.
The hardest thing I’ve ever done … to love all people … be open to God’s correction … to truly have a humble heart … to admit when I’m wrong … to give my entire life to God and mean it … I guess I could say, to be a fool for Christ …