Help! “I Love My Son, But What About Behavior?”

Wiley-Coyote-Help

“Beyond that, we absolutely, definitely, completely have no place to demand someone else (our gay son) be crucified!”

We continue with a dad’s letter about balancing unconditional love with expectations for behavior.

Here is the Dad’s letter, Part 3…

“The immediate gift of salvation is free to all regardless of condition, but the sustained life of salvation and the subsequent gift of eternal life with our Lord and Savior constitutes entirely from a complete change of behavior/condition; a changing of the mind. This is the literal definition of repentence (Greek word ‘metanoia’) as cited in scripture. It is not good enough to just ‘be’ saved as defined by the act of confession of one’s sins and that Christ is the Lord and Messiah, died and rose again, but one must also ‘stay’ saved as they turn from all sin that would keep us from God and His eternal life. Yes, it is also true, that it is impossible for a human being to go through life without making mistakes and ‘slipping’ up from time to time. But our mind must be IN Christ, OLD thing must PASS AWAY. We must crucify our ‘old man’.”

[FYI, I personally don’t see homosexuality as something to fix or as part of the “old man.” However, I understand that this Dad and many others do, so I address this from that perspective today.]

Here is my answer to him – and to those struggling with the same issue…

How would you crucify that “old man”? Are you going to beat him into submission? Because that’s what we try to do, overpowering the flesh, but you can see that we’re not very successful at it. Self-help systems based on controlling ourselves only work for a time, then the spring pops out of your hand and across the room. You eat perfectly for a month, then you devour the entire chocolate cake in a sitting. Flaying that inner man will not make him sit down and shut up. You are right that in our walk as Christians, we do have a change of mind, repentance. But it happens in a different way than the sin-management model we’ve been taught.

We’re going to turn this thing completely on its head. You ready? Here we go…

Think of salvation as being born – the picture Jesus used, when he said we must be born again. When you are born, you are never again going to be unborn. Even if you balled up in a corner and sucked your thumb, you might look something like you did in the womb, but too late! You’re born. Done. The same is true with spiritual rebirth. You became a new creation! That pesky “old man” may wreak some havoc, but he is not you! You are now a new creation. The old has past! We don’t have to make the old past — it’s already past! But we have been taught that we aren’t working hard enough, that we must work harder! A baby never worries about “slipping up” and being back in Mother’s womb. That’s just not a possibility. Neither is it possible that by slipping up, you will no longer be a new creation. Instead you move forward, knowing the process will carry you.

What happens once new babies are born? They grow. They learn to walk and talk and all the rest that occurs with maturity. It wells up from within. A child may walk at nine months or at 18 months, but it doesn’t matter, because it will happen. It’s not even “work” for the baby. Yes, she tries, falls, bumps her head and cries, then gets up and tries again. But she never feels like a failure because she didn’t make it! She never says, “I can’t believe I fell again. I’m never going to get this. Maybe I’m not really born. I don’t deserve to be. Mom and Dad are so disappointed that I keep falling.” All of those kinds of statements are shame-based and they are LEARNED. When we learn to walk and talk, it’s just part of an unfolding process; we don’t naturally shame ourselves for working through the process until we learn to shame ourselves. Mom and Dad say, “Oh look at her! She took two steps – did you see that?” Because that baby is right on track. The baby is happy to keep trying and trying until she gets it!

That is exactly how our Christian life was designed to be — we’re meant to live in safe community with people who love us, dependent on the Holy Spirit who leads us in all truth. We grow from within, as we look to the Spirit guiding from within. It’s not a big effort. I mean, it can be hard, but it’s not the torment we put ourselves through trying to be “good Christians” (whatever that means). Just as a baby learns to walk, compelled from within, the Spirit guides us in all truth from within – what more could we want?

Much of our Christian church teaching says we shouldn’t be where we are, that we need to work harder. It’s like parents standing over their baby saying, “You need to try harder! Can’t you walk yet? Don’t take such clumsy steps. If you just get up earlier, maybe spend some quiet time contemplating walking, you would be farther along by now.” Yet we have internalized the common teaching in our spiritual lives that we should be farther along by now, and that wherever we are is not enough.

That is contrary to the teaching of Christ! Just look at who he embraced! The woman who scandalously rubbed his feet, crying enough tears she needed to dry them with her hair! It’s scandalous even that she was in the room with the men, but to have her hair down, and then to rub Jesus’ feet? No wonder Simon the religious leader raised an eyebrow watching all this! But what does Jesus say? This woman will be forever remembered for the good she’s done! Not only does he not correct her (as Simon wants), he extols her act of love. Over and above all common understanding, Jesus extols her because of her heart. We focus on actions, but God focuses on the heart. Simon thought her actions scandalous, but Jesus commended her heart.

Everyone in that room of men would have told you that woman was in sin, but Jesus never does. I don’t care how many people say that homosexuality is wrong, evidence shows us how we have misinterpreted those (very few) verses. We like to say where people need to change, including the gay issue, but it’s completely not our job. If someone needs to change, let God guide, and let us seek God to guide us for where we need to change.

What is repentance? Dad, you answered that: it’s a change in your thinking. (Not change in behavior — behavior follows thinking.) To repent is to stop focusing on behavior, or circumstance, and to refocus on Christ.

Jesus answers our need by telling us focus on him, to accept life in him, to trust in him. Not to get our act together. When he does say something that sounds like getting our act together, it’s because he’s revealing our hearts. If behavior were the end goal, wouldn’t he have been so happy with the religious leaders? They truly did keep the law. To the letter. But they missed the whole spirit! And he confronted them on it at every turn.

That old man we “must crucify”? He’s already dead! In following Christ, sometimes we must deny something we want. We must surrender our own desires to his desire for us. That can be excruciating (as in being crucified), but I cannot crucify myself; I can only submit to being crucified. It is a surrender to Jesus, not our struggle to fix ourselves.

Beyond that, we absolutely, definitely, completely have no place to demand someone else (our gay son) be crucified!

I strongly believe we have missed it in this area. We have required change God does not require. God has not changed countless LGBTQ people who have poured out their hearts pleading for change.

When will we say, “Hm, maybe that’s not what God has in mind”?

Our job is to be a body, a safe community, where people can live and grow. That is what the body of Christ is meant to be.

That’s why Jesus said love others and leave the rest to him.

[More from this letter tomorrow.]

8 thoughts on “Help! “I Love My Son, But What About Behavior?”

  1. N’s words read as if she is mature and intelligent way beyond her “just a teen” years. Susan, I pray you will allow me to give N and others a word… (I am not saying I either agree or disagree with any views on this particular blog) But N, and ALL other readers, please always feel humbled before your Lord. I too am “freaked out” that because of my questions to FreedHearts, that through the answers I receive, I will be responsible for opening someone up to erroneous thoughts and/or beliefs. But I MUST stand on these two promises: “They that hunger and thirst after righteousness, they shall be filled” and in John 8:31, He said to those who believed in Him: “If you continue in My Word, you are truly my disciple; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” I believe that if one comes before God and earnestly seeks to know HIS truth, that truth will be revealed. But we MUST be open to HIS truth. Please take a moment to read Ephesians 4. Paul speaks of a time that we all should be striving for, when through the unity of our faith, and the fullness of our knowledge of Christ, we stop being immature, and we are no longer swayed by every wind of doctrine. Nor will we be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth, as the New Living Translation puts v. 14.
    Please always seek God first, and He promises everything else will be added to you.
    It is a downright disgrace that there has been such a chasm between the LGBT community and the “so-called” church. I say this, because those who are militant and hating are not the church. Whatever one’s views are regarding the “sin” or “not sin” of homosexuality, there is NEVER ANY REASON to cause another person to feel pain, isolation, condemnation, etc…etc.. It angers me. These situations have distorted our entire society. God help us all.
    Susan, may God bless you for, in the very least, allowing hurting and confused people a place to come and rest. And thank you for allowing my humble replies to filter into your posts. I apologize for being so lengthy in my reply.

    • Your reply was beautiful. I agree wholeheartedly. We might also “freak out” that we reject LGBTQ people, even if only passively by not speaking up.We’re afraid to lead people wrong by NOT viewing this as sin, but to view it as sin has caused horrific damage — it is not the safe route! People who were afraid of racial equality caused a LOT of harm to minority races. This is not the safe route v. the risky route! It is choosing between two interpretations, on that leads to acceptance and the other to rejection of a whole class of people. Perhaps that perspective would yield a different view. Thank you so much, Scott.

  2. Im a bit apprehensive and on the fence when it comes to homosexuality and what not, but above all I want to have an open mind on this issue, because we can both agree–something needs to change. Im gonna spend my time reading through your site with an open mind, and I have to say that I enjoy it, and agree with so many of the points you continue to make. Its a but scary and nerve wracking for me though, because I never thought that I would entertain the idea that gay marriage is ok, and maybe its not a sin to be gay(even typing that makes me feel weird lol) Im not here to bash what you do, by the way, what you’re doing is lovely!! Its just that gays are bashed so horribly in the church, and even the people who support him get criticized unmercifully…its a scary thing, ya know?

    By the way, read these two blog posts about the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. It ties into the whole idea of Jesus’ true meaning behind go and sin no more, meaning you dont have to live like this, which is something she probably never heard before in her life, and changed her from the inside out!! The pharisee’s of the day probably told her literally, go and in sin no more(shape up! Do better, etc.) But Jesus told her something completely different…

    http://growinginfullness.com/2012/06/16/woman-washing-his-feet-part-1/
    http://growinginfullness.com/2012/06/20/woman-washing-his-feet-part-2/

    Bless you!! 🙂

    • Thank you for the comment and the links, N. Love it. So I’m wondering why it makes you feel so weird to say maybe it’s not a sin. I’m not putting you on the spot, btw, but asking the question for all of us, because yours is a common reaction. Why is it like this? If Jesus dealt so surprisingly with those the religious leaders had already soundly condemned, why do we continue to go there? Why do we focus there instead of the life of Christ? That’s the question we should all be asking. And if the answer is less than satisfactory, we need to rethink from the ground up! Thanks for your excitement and eagerness to see where this goes! Bless you too!

      • Why does it make me feel so weird? Hmm…I dunno, I guess I was raised to believe that men and women were meant to be together, not two people of the same sex, ya know? I mean, men and women are physically and mentally different for a reason–we compliment one another. For some reason, the thought of having a gay child in the future has been on my mind for a while. Im only a teen lol but It’s just the thought of having a kid who has to go through being treated like trash in the church or forced to live a life of celibacy kinda breaks my heart….not kinda in fact, it severely breaks my heart. I couldnt imaging not being able to love and not marry someone whom I love…I dont think that gay people are gross, it’s just the heartache that they go through really seems to be heartbreaking, and in searching for answers, I was lead to your blog…theres a part of me that worries that what if being gay is actually wrong, and that people are being lead down the wrong path? That scares me, cus I’m like, God is gonna hold us accountable for leading others down the wrong path, and that FREAKS me out…like seriously…

        • Sweet N, first, I want to make sure you know I was not calling YOU out — I was saying that your reaction is SO COMMON in the church, and I wonder why. Okay, so let’s pretend for a moment that we know gay relationships are sin. Just pretend (because we DON’T know that). A you’re afraid that God will hold you accountable for that. (Again, a fear lots of people have.) So let’s say you opened a Hometown Buffet. I’ve seen a LOT of people in places like Hometown Buffet who I feel sure are eating too much, probably using food as an idol (Gluttony is mentioned much more often in the Bible than homosexuality.) Would you be accountable for those people’s sin? Have you led others down the wrong path by opening your restaurant? God never tells us this. If this were true, the implications are ENORMOUS. Jesus would at least have mentioned it, but he doesn’t. Instead, he seems to lead people down the wrong path because he works on the sabbath, he embraces all kinds of sinners, he drinks. I mean, come on! How many alcoholics justify drinking because Jesus drank? Do you see what I mean? It’s something particular about homosexuality that gets our knickers in a twist (ha). We have ALL gossiped. Do we lose sleep because we have led the person we gossip with down the wrong path? No. Why not? Do you see what I mean?Are we judging another man’s servant in judging homosexuality? Why doesn’t that scare us? There are several stories about that and NONE about homosexuality as we know it, and none about gay marriage. In truth, we necessarily pick and choose. If we got bent out of shape over every sin (include our thought-life here), we’d never get out of bed in the morning. I encourage you with all my heart to seek God out and ask: WHY does this freak me out? And what do YOU want to tell me about that, God. I’d love to hear what happens!

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