Friday, September 30, 2005

Zeke the Adulterer on Grace for the Gays

I'll never forget my first encounter with evangelical attitudes towards gays. I was a baby Christian, just recently attending a Calvary Chapel church in my home town and drinking in everything about being in Jesus. Reading the Bible voraciously, praying and thinking about Jesus constantly, and watching very carefully what the more mature Christians were saying and doing.

I quickly joined the church's men's group which was led by our pastor. One evening before the group began a number of us were sitting around chatting with each other and the pastor when the issue of gays came up. He blurted out, "Those disgusting fags..." and I lost the rest of what he said in a blur. I remember turning to a new friend with an incredulous look on my face: Did our pastor just say 'fag'? I couldn't believe my ears, and wrote it off to just an unguarded moment from a regular human being who forgot that he was a pastor and gave in to a particular prejudice. I should have listened more closely.

While I haven't heard that particular epithet in normative churchly circles since, the same fear and resentment has been present. It just manifests itself differently, primarily in an unshakeable conviction that unless the church "takes a stand against" homosexuality we are headed the direction of Sodom. We can't expect anything other than the wrath of an angry God unless we, the safekeepers of social morals and integrity, do our level best to resist the perversion (and perversive influence) of homosexuality. If we are ever to expect America to be spared painful judgement by a God that expects certain standards to be upheld--and will hold his Church accountable for not upholding them--we had better get out in the streets, write letters to our congressmen, and preach against homosexual perversion and toleration of perversion from the pulpit. Evil triumphs when the good do nothing!

I don't want to debate the Biblical standing of gays in this forum. For the record, I don't think that those that believe that gay sexual relationships can meet the standard that God has set for men and women have a scriptural leg to stand on. I think their arguments are exceptionally weak.

But here's the thing: I'm really one to talk about sexual standards anyway. Those in favor of the normalization of Christian gay relationships point out that Jesus was not recorded saying anything one way or another about homosexuality are certainly correct, though I'm not sure that that really contributes anything to the debate. But this much I know: Jesus had some strong things to say about divorce. This one hits home:

"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
-Jesus, as quoted in Luke 16:18
Mrs. Zeke was divorced before I married her. According to the plain, indisputable teaching of Jesus, Zeke is an adulterer. I was certainly well aware of the existence of this scripture when I was considering marriage to Mrs. Zeke, and we spoke openly of it. Ultimately, we saw the hand of God in our lives and we felt the strong conviction that God had plans for us in marriage, plans for service and mission. So we married, and we became adulterers.

I should point out that there have been zero penalties for us within the church. No one has "taken a stand" against this adultery. To the contrary, I serve on the church board and am a respected member of the congregation. I've taught from the pulpit and been appointed over ministries. When I've raised this issue to others in my congregation, they responded to me with grace. No one refuted the scripture or tried to put it "in perspective." They simply gave me grace and forgot about it.

This is not hypocritical or heretical. It's simply grace. I have received grace in abundance from God and from my Christian neighbors despite violating a direct teaching of Jesus. That grace has enabled me to have a blissful (if storm-battered) marriage and to serve openly in my local church.

So why should I, recipient of such grace, deny it to others? And why should my Christian brothers and sisters, so many also recipients and givers of grace in the area of divorce and remarriage, deny it to others?

So here is my personal commitment, and simple request: Give grace to gays. For as we have received it from God and each other, so we should give it.

Don't ask me what that looks like; I'm just figuring it out myself. For my and Mrs. Zeke's part, we took in a gay homeless couple that showed up on our church's doorstep hungry and with nowhere to sleep. They still live in an apartment set up in our garage, living an open and unrepentant gay lifestyle with no interest in attending church or accepting Jesus. So we give them some more grace. Sometimes I get fed up with it, and then I remember grace. And if I forget, Mrs. Zeke reminds me.

So, my Christian brothers and sisters, is there any reason that with regard to gays--especially those that confess Jesus--we couldn't, to conjure up Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men, extend them a little flipping grace?


At 4:30 PM, Blogger Kc said...

I suspect, as you, that the just judgment of Christ will be a surprise to those who’ve judged already but I think those who’ve justified themselves will be equally surprised. Neither will be pleasant according to scripture. I am concerned though, that there are many people who would settle for the acceptance of men rather than seek the approval of God in many things. My concern is in no way limited to homosexuality but to any habitual behavior born out of desire. With that in mind I prefer to encourage all believers to question their faith and devotion and pray for one another, as none of us are immune to sin.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

Quite right, kc, but it is also true that we are repeatedly reminded that it pleases God when we give grace to each other. When we forgive the speck in our neighbor's eye, given the plank we have in our own.

The greatest commandment is that we love God and love our neighbor. Not fullfilling that commandment in all things, all the time, is in my judgement of scripture the most pervasive sin in all our lives. So it wouldn't hurt us to give grace to sinners in full measure before we compel ourselves to uphold moral standards for other people.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger dorsey said...

Damn, dude.

For all the talk I hear about loving everybody and those no good church people being so freaking judgemental and wanting to send everybody to hell and we ought to stop trying to shove our crap down people's throats're one of the few in my circle of blog friends who's put legs on the lovin'.

I really appreciate the perspective. Consider me challenged.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Heidi said...

Zeke, I just found this post via Stupid Church People, and I just wanted to say: thank you. I've been giving this topic a lot of thought recently and your post was very real, raw, edgy, and full of grace. I like that. I'll be back to read more of your thoughts.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous shelly said...

So here is my personal commitment, and simple request: Give grace to gays. For as we have received it from God and each other, so we should give it.

Exactly. I wish more Christians out there would do that.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Nellie Bellie said...

Unfortunately homosexuality, not a gay person, is a branch of sin like any other sin on the tree of sins. That would be like me saying I am a Christian but I am still going to lie or steal or fornicate. God wants us to repent from our sins and give our lives to Jesus completely. May gays say, "I was born this way..." They are right, they were born a sinner and we have to turn from our sins. I suggest you read the article on about Christians and Homosexuals. We are all sinners who need a Savior, we shouldn't say that some sins are okay and others aren't. That couple you took in, yeah, show them Grace and mercy but also do as Jesus told, spread the Gospel to all. I belive you are showing only one side of God's character...loving, full of grace but also holy and just!!!
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites" 1 Corinthians 6:9

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Recovering said...

Thank you for articulating this so well! I agree wholeheartedly!

At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Bar said...

Hey, I agree wholeheartedly too. Found you through recovering. Hmmm..wonder if we went to the same CC here in So Cal. I doubt it, there are tons of them.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

I'd rather not mention the name of the church publicly, but if you email me I'll tell you.

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say, it is nice to see a little grace here and there. Grace caused me to
-quit church(after 12 years)

-accept all people as equally justified, loved and accepted..not because of their picticular performance(or lack there of), but because of Christs performance.

-realize I need not(should not) eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) but from the tree of Life.

-that Jesus fullfilled all of Gods law on behalf of all humanity, who thus is under grace.

-that God will be All in All.

-thats amazing grace!

take care all,
Marco. Nova Scotia


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