Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's a matter of identity

Often I see critics of the emerging conversation take quotes out of context and then building straw men arguments against them.

I admit there are some issues in the emerging conversation... yet that is true in all "movements" or denominations. I feel sometimes that the critics actually hurt people like me who can speak to those in my camp and show them were error may lie. (I also still do not see the conversation as a movement as it loses its prophetic power to speak to this generation)

One area is the area of homosexuality. I agree with Brian McLaren that we need to step back and look at human sexuality as a whole and respond to thinks like divorce, fornication as well as homosexuality. The issue I have is that some are too "accepting" of the lifestyle and not seeing that it is not about accepting lifestyles but about accepting people and teaching them a proper identity as a new creation.

Yet, instead, I see the backlash of the gay bashing crowd... the back lash being "gay is ok"... and that is not even a question to me biblically. Gay is no more ok than if I cheated on my wife... grace covers it, but is not a license to sin, but to do what is good. Is cheating on my wife good? No! So also any sin, gossip, slander, homosexuality or fornication and one and on... are all harmful to us and others and is not expressing the love of God.

Now that does not negate that if we sin... or that we may struggle with sin... that we do not have a Mediator... yet the challenge is not to accept our sin and live in it.... but to overcome it and leave it.

This is not some over night success process... and I think God teaches us through the struggles.

If I cheated on my wife and she gave me the grace of not leaving me, we would have to learn together how to trust and love each other once again... or even for the first time. That would be hard... and not something God would just heal overnight in most cases...

Sexuality needs to be addressed in light of our new identity as New Creations and being Children of God... once that is in place, we no longer cling to "I am gay" or " I am a drunk" or " I am a doctor" or “I am a fireman" or “I am a schizophrenic” and so on... We may struggle with these things... (Pride with a job even) but we no longer identify as that being us.

We who are now in Christ are New Creations. Though we still have this corrupted suit of flesh, God now has given us to power and all the tools to live by the Spirit. This means we should listen to the Holy Spirit as he leads us in all truth and have our minds renewed. By having our minds renewed we learn that sin, though forgivable, is not just wrong, but stupid. By learning to live a confessional life, we learn to agree with God when we do stupid things. He does not condemn us and will lift us up and help us to be the living sacrifices he has called us to.

Living or “abiding” in Christ, is about learning to understand what God wants us to know about being fully human. To focus on just our sexuality or job or whatever and allowing it to be our identity we are not believing the Truth of who we are “in Christ”.

I think that anyone who sees sin as God does will realize that if someone is gay, or overweight or any other “sin” they are not allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them.

We all have a big “Fail” sign on our foreheads. Only Jesus has “accepted” on his… and when we are “in Christ” we too are accepted by the Father.

Again, this is not easy to learn for some… there is a struggle yet grace gives us a huge learning curve toward success. God loves us, and by that we learn to love ourselves and others as God does.

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rick said...

If I understand you correctly I agree with your point. I need to say however that not a day goes by where some representative (sorry for lacking a better word) of the emerg* world seems to be bragging of their receptivity to open sin in others. And about weekly I read about how that sin is not sin.

To your point, Christ moved well among sinners but He always called them ultimately to repentance. At the same time that he condemned the religious leaders for weighing people down, he did not brag on the "ok-ness" of those he was calling to Himself.

This is why I love the prodigal story ... the older is bragging on following the rules, the younger is bragging about his freedom from that, in the end, both were wrong and needed to return to the love of the Father.

In the emerg* v. whoever tension, I see both in grave error. I do not often see the older attacking straw men, i.e., while that's true far too often, the majority of what I read are real issues the emerg* person seems proud to be embroiled in. I often see sin in the heart of the emerg*. At the same time I see sin in the heart of the older as they attack that sin in the younger. Per Jesus, the older has committed the greater violence.

KC1253 said...

We do need to look at human sexuality as a whole. We need to look at the human experience as a whole. Once in Christ, we certainly are new creations. As “emergent” Rob Bell says in “Velvet Elvis,” there is nowhere in scripture where those in Christ are to identify themselves primarily as sinners. We are now saints who sometimes sin. In our counseling at Re-Union, whatever we are addressing, much initial focus is given to our identity in Christ. This issue is well addressed by the writings of Neil T. Anderson.

As to addressing sin, the scripture is, as we know, given to God’s people. Nowhere, absolutely nowhere, are we instructed to make the world line up with our morality! We are instructed to live by the Spirit, not to try to force others to do so. As this applies to homosexuality, I do not wish to waste time arguing with someone who claims to be happy with their sexuality. If they ask me what I think, I can share my experiences and insights. Otherwise, I simply allow myself to be their friend. The primary mark of a Christian is not how high they can hold their signs during a protest or boycott. The primary mark is love. This doesn’t mean we condone things we don’t believe in. But we are now free to love unconditionally. We always say “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I have no doubt the world sees the evidence we hate sin (at least THEIR sin). I’m pretty sure they see little or no evidence of us loving them.

Labels are usually problematic. Most of the “ex-gay” ministries agree that “ex-gay” is not an accurate term. No one knows for sure what it means. Labels tend to advance “bumper-sticker reductionism.” From our counseling perspective, we use “gay” to describe a way of life, and we use “homosexual” to describe an orientation. The scripture, when discussing sex, focuses on what we do. I think “non-gay homosexual” is a better term for those who wish to no longer engage in homosexual activity. Most so-called ex-gays still retain attraction to the same sex. They simply choose not to act on those attractions. I believe we can choose our actions. I do not believe we choose our orientation. There are many factors that contribute to that. Of course, better than “non-gay homosexual” is the label “Christian.” I actually prefer “non-religious Jesus-lover.”

The whole “Ex” anything is not the best way to go. Let me make it personal. I am a man who has chosen to live in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. That’s it. I can’t identify myself as to how I have lived or what I have done. Neither can I deny that some aspects of the past are still very present in me. Again, labels and “catch-phrases” oversimplify the vast complexity of our humanity, and, to be sure, the vast complexity of sexuality.

Then, we can get into the whole discussion of the Bible and homosexuality. Most scholars agree that the exact meaning of the word we have now translated as “homosexual” in the New Testament, is truly not clear. The Old Testament references cannot be adhered to without also killing our rebellious children and avoiding shellfish. But that’s another discussion.

For me the words of Jesus to Peter are more and more my guiding light. Peter was worried about someone else’s walk. Jesus said, “YOU follow me.” Most Christians I talk to are always worried about what someone else is going to get away with. “No, I won’t use grace as a reason to sin, but what about THEM?!?”

As a counselor, and as a person, I will give my advice and insights as they are requested by others. But it is not my job, nor that of “evangelical” Christians to force my understanding of morality on others. God, Himself, does not do that. How horribly self-righteous of me to do so.

iggy said...

I love it when the responses are better than my original post! = )


I must swim an a totally different stream of emerging than those you read. Though I know a few, namely one that has openly state acceptance of the gay lifestyle. Namely Tony Jones. Though I understand his concern for those in the church, I see that he misses the finer point of identity.

I have never heard anyone else though I suspect a few may also be inclined to believe that also. I do think that this may be a reason that Tony stepped down from leadership and why some like Scot McKnight may be starting a whole other group called "The Origins Project.

Funny to me, most of my immediate emerging friends are very conservative to use a "label" most that I know of did not like Obama... so again I think that different regions may be more independent of the so- called "leaders" of Emgergent/emerging and Most are very interested in Brian Mclaren


I really appreciate you input. You have shared your struggles in the past to me various ways and to me I really lean on what you say.

I totally agree that "ex-gay" just is not the best term.

Bob George explains the exchanged life (which is about living as a new creation) like someone who is married.

First a person is single and lives the "single life". Then as someone gets married they vow to love intimately and faithfully only their spouse, and so, die to singleness and come alive to marriage. Yet some, seem to not come to life to marriage and still try to live the single life... instead of being able to live both, they find they cannot really be fully single or married and in fact are neither.

Those that come to life in Christ must understand that their old life is dead and gone. One may yearn for the old life, but the reality is that going back to it will never fully satisfy them.

Grace is not the opportunity to do what we want, but to do what God wants which in the end is what we truly desire as humans. It may not seem that way in the beginning yet as I grow older I am seeing this as true more and more.

Thanks again!

Melvin said...

Points are interesting...
thanks for sharing....

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