|Jesus, a friend of sinners|
“Don’t ask me, ask him, he is his friend”, remarked a dear friend of mine recently commenting on another person whom she was in conflict with. I have tried to be neutral and a friend to all, and sometimes, seen as standing up for the other party instead. “I am weak”, they say, insisting that I take sides but meekness and self control is far greater attribute than those who are quick to condemn and to judge. It is far easier and of human carnal nature to see the faults in others, rather than to see the sinner that oneself is, and the amazing grace of God in our lives.
Many have suffered incredible hurts and rejection, common in the gay community as they faced the homophobia from society and the church, especially for the deeply religious. Some are difficult Christians to be with, defensive, condemning, bitter, and self-righteous. It takes a decision, to be friends to such. Like the mainstream fundamentalist churches, they are quick to use God’s name to justify their actions. Healing comes from a deeper revelation of their acceptance in Jesus, and recognizing their own humanity.
Such Christians often reminds me of the Christian Right who do so much talking about the faults of others, I guess it is to shield them from condemning themselves. For many religious Gay Christians, their lack of acceptance of their sexual orientation can be seen quickly seen as they condemn others. Living in condemnation, makes one quick to condemn. Therefore, as we judged and see ourselves so harshly, we will likewise judge others. And we seldom realized it as this is done subconsciously sometimes over decades of rejection and pain.
The solution is to love oneself. We cannot fully love others, if we do not love and accept ourselves. If we consider being gay as a sin or as a fallen nature, when it is innate and a sexual orientation much alike the straight community, we are rejecting and hating ourselves and denying how wonderfully God has created us. A straight person doesn’t go around deciding to be straight and questioning his/her innate sexual orientation. If we do not love this integral part of God’s creation in us, we are wounding ourselves and the wound and self rejection can be very deep and caused great bitterness.
Loving ourselves is not only a decision, but a decision motivated by a spiritual revelation of God’s love for us, accepts us as who we are. It requires not only head knowledge and a deliberate decision, and a special anointing to break this yoke of bondage and deception in our lives that God takes offence at our sexual orientation. This yoke can often be broken when we experience the presence of God, in an atmosphere of faith, and offer our lives to God to be made whole again. The healing is seldom once off, but a continuous process as we seek God’s face and presence.
It is often argued that God is everywhere, and so we need not invite His presence or give Him the due honor and recognition of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we often treat the presence of God very causally, taking for granted His presence. Whilst God can be everywhere, beyond the constraint of space, God often chose to be active where He is welcomed and honored and where the name of His Son, Jesus is lifted high. We should not always presume that God is actively working in our midst. The Jews understood the importance of the presence of God, where God chose to make His presence known and felt at the Tabernacle. It was at the designated place, where the Ark of the Covenant was, consisting by the mercy seat of Christ hiding the Law from the sight of the Angels, that we would receive Grace to see God in a tangible manner. For any church, gay Christians visiting must be able to see God whether in us, or through the tangible work and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
In the NT bible, Jesus the re-incarnation of God the Father chose not the rich, wise, nor the powerful, but the poor, rejected, unlearned, sick, and the outcasts to start His ministry. It would be far easier to chose the first disciples as people who have it all, driving chariots of gold (Ancient BMW 7 Series). But Jesus knew what was in the heart is far more important than what is external. We can praise God when we have everything, but do we still give thanks with the very little that we have, and living in misery. That is Grace, and Faith. Jesus became identified not with the best and most glamorous that society had to offer, but the least in society. For Jesus, It was far better to be called a friend of sinners rather than those whose religious self righteousness stops them from seeing God in their midst.
In Singapore, in the backdrop of a very conservative Charismatic Evangelical Christianity which is extremely hostile to gays even the church of grace at Suntec city, the damaging impact can be seen in a Gay community that is very loud – able to bitch and put down others, yet being extra sensitive to receiving criticism. Their loudness, hides their deep rejection, wounding and hurts, covering it up with assertions of how good they are and how bad others are. The inclusive preaching that “God Loves us” and accepts us as who we are, can be repeated over and over again, yet do no good because of the deep woundings. Healing can only start when we speak less, and start to listen, to the Holy Spirit, and embrace the presence of God. We must break the “curse” and the Spirit of Condemnation of the mainstream churches. We do need God’s Amazing Grace to see ourselves as God sees.
In USA, the likes of the Metropolitan Community Church started in LA in 1968, was very much interlinked with the struggles for decriminalization of homosexual acts in California in 1975. It seems that without having the legal freedom, it will always be used by the main stream churches as reasons for exclusion, and the threat of going to jail for just having a same sex orientation hangs over the gay community. Our gay community cannot start living and be free to live as God intended until these anti-gay laws are repealed. In Singapore and Malaysia, we faced oppression the likes of in the States in the 60s and 70s. As Gay Christians we cannot but feel compelled to come against this gross injustice oppressing the gay community. If they were not free, they will not be free to worship God. We are never free until the yoke is taken from us. Jesus offers the same promise yesterday as is it today:-
Jesus was a friend of sinners, so should we. The Christian Right teaches us to ‘”to love people, but hate the sin”, but this is not biblical for judgment belongs to God especially when the religious right in the bible in their self righteousness and moral hypocrisy even condemned Jesus Himself as a sinner worthy to be crucified. Therefore, true biblical Christianity is that we should instead love people and forgive those who have sinned against us, giving them undeserved Grace and mercy, for God is Love. We can start by forgiving and loving those who insisted to persecute the Gay community and put us in jail. As we lift our yoke to God, He will lift us up and deliver us, and we will find rest and acceptance of our tired souls in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
At the Cross Jesus did not "hate" the sin they were commiting against Him, but in that moment of grace and mercy, He chose to forgive them. Even when He was dying and in deep torment, they made fun of Him, took His clothes away, made Him naked for all to see and be totally exposed to shame, and then in the ultimate indignity casted lots to see who would have the clothing as a souvenier for the crucifixion. Jesus chose to forgive instead of hate even to His very last breath.We can forgive, because Christ first forgave even though He went through much more indignity and suffering than we will ever go through. It is in choosing to forgive that we are free indeed and be in God's redemption for blessings and salvation.