What if you came with me?

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A Facebook friend posted a status today that said, something to the effect of, “Sometimes you just have to trust that evildoers (I believe he actually said wrongdoers) will get it in the end or you would go insane.” (paraphrased)

This is a sentiment I have heard over and over my whole life. Every time someone does something ranging from merely inconveniently bad (stealing our wallet/phone/car, et al.) that we can’t do anything about to the flat out horrifically evil (the Castro brothers of Cleveland, Ohio) that we can’t think of a punishment awful enough for, we say something like it. We like to think that God‘s punishment will be worse than anything we could dream up. We say things like,

“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”

“He/she will get their’s in the end.”

“I hope he/she burns in hell.”

But what if there was another option?

What if wrongdoers are in the end made to understand their wrongdoing and then transformed into who they were always meant to be? Wouldn’t that be better? Isn’t that a more satisfying and complete defeat of evil? Is not the love of Christ enough to consume even the vilest offenses of the worst of humankind and transform the evildoer into something beautiful? Who they once were would cease to exist and who they always should have been would be all that remains. Doesn’t that type of justice also account for the wrongs done to that person that contributed to their descent into darkness? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that here and now there must be consequences to evil behavior and there are some acts so heinous they are difficult to even comprehend. I understand that some people cause a legacy of pain so deep that we as humans cannot see a way to redemption. But isn’t that why we are not fit to judge? Is not our love incomplete? As I said in an earlier post,

People always say you should fear his [Jesus] judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness.

Why does this idea, that the evil could be redeemed and made right, make so many people mad? I think it because most of us hurt so badly for the people (sometimes others, sometimes ourselves) that the evil have wronged that we just don’t see how it is fair for them to receive mercy. Not now; not ever.

Jesus once told a parable about about some workers. He said he told the story to reveal a little bit of what the kingdom of heaven is like. In the story, the owner of a vineyard hires groups of workers throughout the day. In so doing the groups all work different amounts of time. At the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same amount regardless of how long they worked. Some of them get angry, and think they should get more for working longer to which the man in the story says this, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

I worship a generous God who forgives (thank goodness) when I would not, who loves when I cannot, and died for all regardless of what they had done or would do. He has set about making “all things new” and “restoring all things”, including humanity. Can you imagine a world where (insert the name of your favorite bad person here), instead of growing up to lead people to death, destruction and hatred, grew up to lead people to life, wisdom and love of the other? What if all their gifts had been used in the cause of love instead of hate? Wouldn’t that be a better world? What if in the end God gives us that kind of world? What if he lets us experience that kind of love? What if the people known to be most evil were transformed into who they always should have been? What if swords are really turned to plow shares, what if the lion does lay with the lamb? What if it is like none of us were ever damaged, or hurt or never damaged and hurt another? What if all evil is consumed by good, death is swallowed up by life and we each become who we were always meant to be? What if love wins?

What if as it says in 2 Cor 5 (*see footnote at the bottom of the post), Jesus actually died for ALL? What if God, through Jesus actually was reconciling the WORLD to himself? What if he really isn’t COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM? And what if, what if God actually wants to make his appeal THROUGH US? As far as I can tell from the passage, Jesus, by dying secured victory over sin and death.

My husband pointed out an N.T. Wright quote and response he read online yesterday when he was proofreading my rough draft of this post. I thought it fit right in so I am going to share it.

The Quote:

“This is what happens when people present over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent.“ You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’.”       –N.T. Wright

The Response:

It is not the wrath of the Father against the Son, much less the wrath of God against Himself, that is satisfied on the cross; but the justice of fair-togetherness: God willingly shares in the suffering both of sinners and victims alike. God doesn’t punish Himself, the Father isn’t punishing the Son (and especially not for something someone else did that the Son didn’t do!); but God is sharing in the suffering of punishment.

For sinners, the suffering is punishment. For God, the suffering is love for the sinners. (And abuse by sinners, too, willingly allowed by God. The sacrifice on the cross is a highly complex action. The intention isn’t complex, though: love for everyone, sinner and victim alike. :) )  –Jason Pratt

I do not claim to know for sure who all will be saved. But as Christine A. Scheller said in her article about Dallas Willard who passed away this week,  “A consequence of Willard’s academic honesty is his unwillingness to state who’s in and who’s out spiritually, which bothers critics who worry that he is a universalist. He says he doesn’t believe anyone will be saved except by Jesus, but he adds, “How that works out, probably no one knows.”

I like that. I like to at least consider that there will be more people in on this thing we call redemption than we think.

Perhaps in the future when I am confronted by wrongdoers (as my friend called them), I might change my responses to, “Won’t he/she be surprised in the end?” and mean surprised by forgiveness.  Or maybe, “Vengeance (repayment exacted for an injury or wrong) belongs to God” and remember that God tells me not to repay evil with evil. And rather than say, “I hope they burn in hell,” perhaps I will learn to say, “I hope they become who they always should have been.” I’m not there yet. I have a ways to go. What if you came with me?

*For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Response

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Have you seen this meme? It has just hit facebook and is all up in my feed. Here is my response…

Yes, I am a follower of Jesus.
I believe the truth contained in the Bible and in THE TRUTH who is Jesus Christ.
I support my homosexual friends and their right to marry the person they love.
Yes, I love all people.
Yes, I am still friends with people who disagree with me.
No, I am not judging you.
Yes, I am trying to persuade you to love like Jesus.
Yes, I will stand up for your right to free exercise of your beliefs as long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s right to practice theirs.

I will never call you a name but I will point out where your practice lacks grace, mercy and compassion. I will not remain silent as you say that I do not respect the scriptures or that I do not believe “the truth”. I will not remain silent when people God loves are being told they are not welcome in his family. I fully support your right to speak what you believe, and I will continue to speak what I believe.

* Due to demand I turned this into a meme of my own which you will find below. Please feel free to share it.

mymeme

 

If someone comes out to you today…

There are a lot of things coming out means. Here are a few things it should not mean.

That you will be told God hates you.

That you will be bullied at school.

That you will be called ugly names.

That you must live in fear of violence.

That you forfeit your rights as a human being.

That you are less equal.

That you are less loved.

That if you are a teenager you will be thrown out and become homeless. (This happens to 26% of LGBT teens who come out to their parents)

Today I call on everyone to let love rule the day.

If someone comes out to you today, instead of reacting with judgement or disappointment or anger why not try this…

Ask them about their journey. Listen. Try to understand.

Love them. Right. Where. They. Are.

That is what Jesus would do.

More resources:

Human Rights Campaign: Growing up LGBT

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Pray Away the Gay

Who Can Withhold the Water?

The True Magic Kingdom

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

A Little Late to the Party

Somehow I only became aware today that June is Gay Pride month.
So, WOW. I am a little late to the Gay Pride party.

It is interesting but at this time last year gay folks in the military were still under the umbrella of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” and I would have told you that I wasn’t sure where I stood on the issue of gay marriage. Oh what a difference a year makes. In the past year I have read and studied and prayed and refined and defined my beliefs about homosexuality and God and written about them in detail here. I have come out of the church closet (so to speak) as an affirming straight ally and supporter of same sex marriage. And then today, I read an amazing article from the Associated Press on plans for the military to honor gay troops and their service to our country for the first time in their history, much like they honor other service members during Black history month or Women’s history month.

In many ways my journey has paralleled what I read in the article. (quotes taken from, Pentagon the Mark Gay Pride Month)

  • The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy forced over 13,500 service members out of the military.
    • The way I used to view gay people has forced thousands out of traditional churches.
  • A Pentagon spokesman was quoted in the article as saying, “Now that we’ve repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ he [Leon Panetta] feels it’s important to find a way this month to recognize the service and professionalism of gay and lesbiantroops”.
    • Now that I have researched and prayed and changed my position, I feel it is important to find a way this month to recognize the ways in which gay and lesbian people contribute to society and the church.
  • “Although some feared repeal of the ban on serving openly would cause problems in the ranks, officials and gay advocacy groups say no big issues have materialized”
    • Although many of my friends feared the support and inclusion of gays and lesbians serving openly in our church would cause problems, no big issues have materialized.
  • “I don’t think it’s just moving along smoothly, I think it’s accelerating faster than we even thought the military would as far as progress goes,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, a finance officer and co-director of OutServe.

    • I don’t think it’s just moving along smoothly, I think it is accelerating faster as my gay and lesbian friends are welcomed to worship and serve with us and as my straight friends are realizing that we have more in common than they thought.
  • He said acceptance has been broad among straight service members and has put a spotlight on unequal treatment that gays continue to receive in some areas. “We are seeing such tremendous progress in how much the military is accepting us, but not only that – in how much the rank and file is now understanding the inequality that’s existing right now,” he said.
    • Acceptance has been broad on the blog and has put a spotlight on unequal treatment that homosexuals continue to receive in many areas. I am seeing tremendous progress in how many of my friends are becoming more accepting, but not only that – in how much they are now understanding the inequity that exists.

So, even though I am a little late to the party I am really happy with where I am.  Recently I have had friends come out to me who remain closeted to their church and their family but who love Christ and seek to serve him because they knew that with me they would be encouraged in their future marriage and walk with Jesus. I have other friends who say that through this blog they have learned to look at the way they have treated gay people and to become more loving in their speech and actions.  Sadly I also have friends who have severed ties over this issue, who say “stay away from her she is a dangerous woman”. They say it is because I am accepting of my gay friends who come to my church. They say it is because I support them in their marriages. They say it is because I publicly speak out in support of marriage equality. All I have to say is this, I am proud to be known by my love for ALL people.

I may be late to this party, but I am here, my glitter is on and I’m ready to dance.

When Did I Become Such A Dangerous Woman?

Was it when I said, I don’t believe you can Pray Away the Gay?

Maybe it was when I suggested that I am capable of independent thought and that Kent is not responsible nor does he agree with everything I say.

Perhaps it was one of the days I decided to stop being divided in my heart and become an ex-good-Christian woman.

Or maybe it was the day that I decided it wasn’t my job to keep “the peace” when keeping the peace requires the silencing or muting of half of the church.

Most definitely it was the multiple days I encouraged others to take a closer look at what they have always been taught about what God says about homosexuality and consider that maybe there is more to the story.

Certainly it was the day I encouraged other women and men in patriarchal situations to become what God always intended for them to be.

The Scriptures say, as much as it depends on me that I should live at peace with everyone. And I do. But sometimes it does not depend on me. Sometimes the peace comes undone because people do not want to live at peace with me when what I see when I read the scriptures does not match up to what they see. They say I will have to answer to Jesus for every word I have written and spoken. I am ready. I am prepared to stand before the lover of my soul and say that I have tried everything in my power to move people to love God and love each other with no unless. I have not been perfect. I guarantee you I am wrong about some things (as are we all). But I KNOW that what Jesus did is enough to fill the gaps and erase my sin and cover my errors. It is enough for yours too. It is enough for all of ours. As my good friend Sarah said yesterday,

I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.

Make no mistake about it. Somewhere along the line I fell in with a dangerous crowd. I posted this status last month on fb and i think maybe it fits here.

“You say I run with a dangerous crowd, we ain’t to pretty we ain’t too proud. We might be laughing a bit too loud, but that never hurt no one.”

I have good news this morning. Jesus came for the poor and the sick not for the rich and the well. What many “good” church going people fail to realize is we are all poor and sick because of all that is wrong here and now both in our hearts and in this world. But old things are passing away, and he is making all things new. You bring his kingdom on earth as you love the people around you. God hates no one. His love is for everyone. He can and is making all things new. Our rules we place on ourselves and others seem like they will work (see Col 2) but they have no effect on the heart. Love? now that changes things.

“So c’mon Virginia, give me a sign. Show me a signal. I’ll throw you a line. That stained glass curtain you’re hidin’ behind, never lets in the sun.”

Only the “good” die young.

Here ends Theology 101 with Prof. Billy Joel.

Being dangerous isn’t always a bad thing.

Oh yes, please read this spec-freaking-tacular post by my friend Matt.

 

Grab your Loop and Run like Hell -or- Hang Ten

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Dr. King

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker

—————–

As I reexamined that memory on light of justice I was beginning to realize that I wasn’t being neutral at all. My lack of conviction had been an accomplice to the unequal treatment of women. My diplomacy was misguided. In my quest to maintain peace and unity, I had become a woman with a divided mind and heart.  – Pam Hogeweide, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church.

—————–

over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman.  we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited.  we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured.

so here i am, in a place i never thought i’d be. an ex good christian woman. wreaking havoc on the norms that women are supposed to have in the church, encouraging women to get their voices, pursue their dreams, quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God no matter what other people tell them they can or can’t do. to seek change for their lives, quit doing the same old unhealthy thing in their relationships and learn a new way. to seek God’s love and approval instead of human’s. it’s been hard for me to make the shift. i still feel shame for feeling this way. even as i write this, i am wondering what person is going to say how unbiblical i am, how if i just knew my role and leaned into it i would have God’s perfect peace. you see, good christian women are filled with shame. shame for the things we do do, shame for the things we don’t do. and i was a great christian superwoman. – Kathy Escobar

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Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be.  Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.

Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

I imagine them around a fabled table, in suits, no doubt, pulling the chairs in tight and tighter, until they are the only ones left there, crowded around a tiny table in an airless room that feels small and smaller. Me? I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.  – Sarah Bessey

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At first I thought this would be a good letter to the 16 year old me and then I realized that in spite of the struggle and the difficulty and the muting, I am who I am right now for a purpose. Lovelies we were born for such a time as this. Do you get how exciting this is? Do you get how your struggle has brought you to the point where you are standing atop the surf board, salt air in your face, hanging ten as you ride toward the shore with the wave of equality and freedom at your back propelling you into a future where there is ROOM FOR US ALL?

We stand once again at the terminator of history. The terminator or twilight zone or gray line is the moving line that separates the illuminated day side and the dark night side of a planetary body. We are coming out of the darkness and sit expectantly in the gray zone, but instead of merely waiting for the light to arrive I picture us like the people who unfurl those huge flags at the Olympics opening day ceremonies. When the music starts they grab their loop on the flag and they run like hell for the other end of the field until the full beauty of the banner is visible to all.  I picture each of us, Rachel and Sarah and me and you and Pam and every woman God has made, grabbing the loops to our collective banner, yelling into the air, “FREEDOM!!! (like Mel Gibson in Braveheart)” as we run like hell for the goal line. I picture the stands full of people watching and waiting to see what kind of banner it will be. And let me tell you when it is finally displayed for all to see, when the full picture comes into view, WOW, my lovelies is it something to behold! The colors of the lives of the men and women made in Gods image bleeding together and showing a picture, the image (if you will) of God! Holy crap. Can you just picture it?

Now, imagine all of us, men and women, young and old with Jesus in the middle, our hands on the loops of the terminator of history running like hell for the horizon pulling the light of the new dawn across the whole surface of the earth. Do you hear us? Shouting and singing and proclaiming justice for the oppressed and freedom for the captives? C’mon. Grab a loop and run with us. And look! He is making all things new.

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This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event, One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.  You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read all entries by participating bloggers.

The Closest Friends I’ve Never Met and an Unladylike Manifesto

These days I have lots of friends I have never met and I am surprised by how much a part of my life they are. A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog by Rachel Held Evans (I am not even sure how). Then I got her book on Audible.com and she rode shotgun with me while I eagerly listened to her every word. Together we laughed and we cried. Rachel is actually someone that I have had the privilege of meeting and lived to blog about it here.  After a couple months of reading Rachel’s blog and several others it lead me to, including Sarah Bessey’s, I had an epiphany of sorts… I had something to say! For those who actually have met me in person it will be hard to believe that I would be at a loss for words, but because of past experiences over time I unwittingly became (or tried to appear to be…) ladylike. For me, most of the time meant biting my tongue. I am a natural talker and strong woman with leadership skills that don’t involve kids, crafts or tea and little sandwiches. Outside of my church life, this was never a problem, in fact it was seen as a strength in most areas: high school, college, bar tending, and in the art departments where I worked after college. No, it was only in my church life and with my church friends (I never thought I kept my life separate and I most ways I didn’t but when it came to my behavior and how much I spoke up and took a leadership role I was definitely leading a divided life) that I felt the need to be less _________ and more ___________ than I am. You could fill in those blanks with all kinds of words. I was always either too much (Alise Wright) or not enough (Rachel Held Evans). At one point I even had a friend (someone I admired and whom I love very much) write down verses and talk to me about how I needed to speak less and be more dispassionate about what I had to say. That one act both upset me greatly and muted me for a long time. I became somewhat convinced, in a very conflicted way, that there was something wrong with me. It took me a lot of years, the support of my husband and a lot of listening to the voices of other women who were tired of being quiet, dispassionate and ladylike to finally be okay with releasing my true and authentic voice: the one God gave me.

These days, I am much less “ladylike” (Webster: feeling or showing too much concern about elegance or propriety or lacking in strength, force, or virility) and also much “less divided” as my friend Kathy Escobar (who I get to meet in October!) said in her recent post (you must read it, you must read it now!). It is one I am printing out and keeping to read and reread whenever I need it, kind of like my emergency chocolate. Like my friend Kathy, today I am happy. She writes,

the thing that makes me happy right now is that many people i know are finding freedom and becoming less divided.  we’re breaking free.  we’re finding our way.  we’re loosening shame’s grip.  we’re stepping into who God made us to be.

These are a few of the closest friends I’ve never met, let me introduce them to you my lovelies, you will never meet a finer, more fierce, more passionate group of leaders anywhere. There’s Kathy and Rachel and Sarah and Alise and Jo and so many more. It is in large part because of these women that I am able to be truly free to serve Jesus with all that I am. It is my great privilege to join their voices and add mine to their mission to bring freedom to all God’s children, men and women together.

Today one of these women, Pam Hogeweide wrote a brilliant post in response to The True Woman Manifesto which was posted on truewoman.com. I want to share it with you. It is truly inspired.

Unla­dy­like Manifesto

  • We believe that male and female are cre­ated to col­lab­o­rate, co-lead and co-exist in a mutu­al­ity of sub­mis­sion to one another. (Gen 2:18 – 23,Galatians 3:28)
  • We believe that gift­ing is appointed accord­ing to the will of the Holy Spirit and that call­ing is deter­mined by gift­ing, not gen­der. (1 Corinthi­ans 12,  John 20:1 – 20)
  • We believe that the power of the Gospel restores men and women in right rela­tion­ship to one another to live, serve and lead side by side rather than in patri­ar­chal hier­ar­chy. (Gala­tians 3:28, John 4:7 – 39)
  • We believe that the voice, influ­ence and author­ity of women is meant to be fully unleashed in accor­dance to the full per­son­hood that women pos­sess. Male  head­ship is a myth. (Joel 2:28 – 29, 1 Peter 2:9 – 10)
  • We believe in the mutual sub­mis­sion and part­ner­ship of mar­riage where nei­ther has author­ity over another by virtue of gen­der. We reject the headship/submission model as a bib­li­cal truth and instead embrace the lib­erty and wis­dom of def­er­ence to the other. (Eph­esian 1:22, Eph­esians 5: 15 – 33, 1 Peter 5:5)
  • We believe that the lead­er­ship of women is needed in full part­ner­ship with the lead­er­ship of men in all are­nas of cul­ture and church. Women were not cre­ated to fol­low any­more than men were cre­ated to lead. (Num­bers 12:15, Judges 4 & 5, 2 Kings 22:13 – 14, Acts 2, Romans  16:3 – 4, 7)
  • We believe that Jesus mod­eled a rad­i­cal agenda of respect­ing women’s full per­son­hood in how he treated them as noted in the Gospels. Jesus went against cul­tural and reli­gious norms in his treat­ment of women. (Luke 13:10 – 17, John 4, Luke 8:1 – 3, etc.….)
  • We believe that men and women of faith ought to resist the injus­tice of inequal­ity wher­ever it is found, includ­ing the halls of the church. Jus­tice is a king­dom of God value and is the lan­guage of love. (Hosea 2:19, Amos 5:15, 24, Micah 6:8)