I need to start off by saying that the foremost benefit of God’s grace is in the atonement afforded through the finished work of Christ. His incarnation, going to the cross in our place, and rising from the dead transcends any “list.” It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway because I adore Him, Jesus is the most amazing thing about Grace. He, is the greatest benefit of having received God’s grace.
Now, to the rest of the post …
One relational benefit of grace is to meditate on the finished work of the cross with wonder, not shame or condemnation. This will deepen our relationship with God.
When we ask our Savior exactly why He went there for us specifically we will experience an outpouring of love from Him, not anger. It’s not difficult to imagine why He would go through all that for humanity with all the evil, sickness, and tragedy in the world. However, the atonement of Christ is also very specific for us as individuals. The Holy Spirit used this meditation as a new Christian to help me fall deeply in love with Him. Also, considering the cross is also not a quick “lesson learned” to check off of our spiritual enlightenment checklist. It is true that Jesus is no longer on the cross and doesn’t ask us to camp out there, but meditating on the personal meaning/application/significance of the Atonement will forever be relevant to us. There isn’t a time when this focus of meditation is not appropriate. Each time I consider what He has done, I fall deeper in love with Him.
Another relational benefit of grace is that now I am free from God’s law, I don’t have to live under the judgment of others.
Other’s judgments only have power when I allow them to have that power over me. In Christ, other’s curses do not have to go from their lips into my soul. Those bitter seeds die before they ever hit ground. Now, that I understand the loving favor of God toward me, I don’t need to try and manipulate favor with others. Of course I care and would like for people to like me :). But, truly, I don’t need others to “like” me in order for me to have a personal sense of worth or to love them. Their judgments don’t prevent me from seeking to see and love them as God does. Whether we agree or not, even on major issues, does not devalue either of us in the sight of God. That is what I choose to focus on.
When it comes to gay marriage as a public policy issue, I was once very outspoken on the topic. From the 2003 to 2008 I lobbied for marriage amendments in Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, California, and on other national media platforms (interviews.) I went to Washington DC more than a few times and lobbied for the Federal Marriage Amendment on Capitol Hill. I also visited the Bush White House a couple of times and sat 20 feet away from when President Bush made a statement in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Because those experiences are not something I enjoy reflecting on lately, I have avoided writing this post. However, I can’t get away from it. If I was passionately willing to lobby for banning gay marriage at one point, I feel I should speak up on the topic if my views have changed.
To be clear, my view of marriage in a spiritual context has not changed. I believe the wedding union of husband and wife bears the image of God uniquely. Individually they bear His image equally and beautifully. Together they bear His image in a way that neither can do alone. I believe marriage between a husband and wife is transcendent; that Christ refers to the church as His Bride is stunning. One of my favorite meditations is to consider Christ and His Church in the symbolism of marriage.
What I am also trying to learn is how I can state my beliefs without being a jerk about it. I don’t have to contextualize my personal belief by insulting gay couples who have married or gay people wanting to get married. The beliefs that guide and direct my life also compel me to seek to be a blessing and friend to gay couples; to see God’s presence in their lives as individuals and as a couple.
I have also come to believe that trying to make our secular government impose my spiritual beliefs in this matter is not helpful or appropriate. Let me explain …
It was 1986. I was a senior in High School, and somehow I ended up with a group of guys at school sanding down an old short school bus. Two of them (brothers) had gotten the bus as a Spring Break present from their Dad. We gutted the thing, painted it black, and I painted, “Party Barge” on the sides. I also painted “Party Barge” on the little flip-out stop sign. It was no longer the iconic red and white flashing stop sign; it was now the solid black with gold Def Leppard-esque lettering “Party Barge” on it.
Surprisingly, my parents said I could go. However, like all the times before when I really wanted to do something, the night before they said I couldn’t go. They got mad because the boy’s father wanted them to sign a liability waiver for me to be in the Party Barge during spring break.
I don’t remember having a fit, but I do remember being incredibly angry. My parents relented at the last-minute (there is a lot to be written about that at a later date) and the next day the “Party Barge” crew headed to Pensacola.
Pensacola was boring. We thought MTV was there. They weren’t. However, we quickly traveled a million more miles to Daytona Beach where the MTV Spring Fest was actually happening.
It was wild.
I will never forget pulling up on the beach where there were practically naked young adults and crazy old people … EVERYWHERE! I was mesmerized.
My parents weren’t. I called them … eventually … to tell them we left Pensacola and were now in Daytona. To describe them as “not happy” is an understatement.
This post was published on Dr. Kathy’s blog back in June. She wrote this as an introduction:
Today I’ve invited Randy Thomas to blog for me. He begins with a beautiful illustration from friends and contrasts their father-son relationship with his own. You may be able to relate to Randy’s sadness and grief. But, keep reading, because Randy writes about God becoming his new Father and that changes everything. Everything. He writes about the chase and I love how it ends. I wonder if you’re familiar with it. Read to find out. – Kathy
Four-year-old Isaac, with a flash of his bright eyes and curly blond hair, could pretty much convince you to do just about anything. That boy is a handful and all you can do is smile as you pull him off the next piece of furniture.
The staff were all gathered together for lunch one day when Isaac came by the office, along with his mother and sister, to visit his dad. After the meal was over, Isaac ran around the conference table taunting his father, “Catch me Daddy!” Every time he passed one of the guys that had gathered around for lunch, we would growl and try to hook him with our arms. He giggled that 4-year-old sunshine of a giggle, eluding our scary traps as he playfully derided us, “I passed you!”
“Lately, he likes to be chased and get caught,” his dad later explained to me.
A new reader to the blog contacted me privately with the following. It is edited slightly to maintain confidentiality and for readability:
I have a quick question to ask and would appreciate your advice. My company was invited to attend a(n) :::edit::: event to honor LGBT older adults during pride month. Everyone is going but I’m not sure if I should attend. My friends are saying if I attend, it means I’m endorsing their lifestyle, politics, propaganda, etc. Perhaps but I don’t think so and don’t mind attending. I just want to listen and I’m also curious since I used to keep my distance from these things. So what do you think? My friends are saying talking to a LGBT person is very different from attending an organized event (true). They say I should only go if I’m going to hand out tracts or share the gospel which I don’t think is appropriate. It gets complicated when all my co-workers who aren’t Christians are attending but my friends say that’s fine.
Thank you so much for your message and question.
Regardless of the purpose of an event, attending specifically themed events will always be a matter of personal conscience. I will assume that your company isn’t making this mandatory so the exercise of personal conscience won’t have as dramatic (but probably still impactful) effect. That said, the relational aspect with your co-workers could be greatly blessed when they see you’re interest, humility, and willingness to listen.
Today I am seeing a lot of pictures from my gay friends on social media of various gay pride events they are attending. Gay pride events happen throughout the year but June is kind of the launch of the yearly gay pride season (please correct me if I am wrong.) Anyway, seeing all those pictures reminded me of an article I wrote on my old blog that I want to share with you again today. I hope you find it worth the read. It’s been slightly edited from its original version.
It’s A Gay Pride Time of Year
It’s that time of year again, drag queens strolling down main street, the activists groups chanting their slogans, and gogo dancers causing parade float designers nightmares (they just won’t stand still!) Then there is the other 90% of parade people like your neighbor Sarah, or cousin Bill and his partner walking along hand in hand. They commit to completing a long parade route to show solidarity with the LGBT community and/or cause represented within that sphere of influence. Common + Unity = Community. Everyone belongs to one (a community), or several (communities), because we are wired to want to be known by others and to know others.
Tomorrow is my 46th birthday. Normally I start announcing it … loudly and often … for up to two weeks prior. This year it has come up in passing, and while I still expect a parade to honor this wondrous event, I haven’t been hyping it as much as usual.
Maybe my “mellow out” age is 46? ::: laugh ::: I still want a parade though … that’s not wrong is it? … what?
For a little while now I have been humbled by how much the gay vs ex-gay (and vice-versa) debates had defined me. While in the ex-gay movement, I always knew that I had a life beyond that realm. Lately, the humbling part of actually living life beyond Exodus, is the realization of how some of the polarization found in that movement did define my identity. A bit shockingly, its influence on my vision for my personal future was much more than I realized, or cared to admit.
Martha and Mary
38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Late February, maybe early March, I went to the art store. I had created a few paintings over the holidays and absolutely loved the refuge/communion that activity provided. While creating them I kept thinking, “This is a life-giving and affirming activity. This is a major part of who God created me to be.” However, as I stood looking at the blank canvasses in the art store, I was focusing on the smaller canvasses. It occurred to me to not “settle” for limiting my artistic vision.
So, I just went all hog-wild and chose a 3×4 foot canvas!
Buying this giant of a canvas literally made my stomach nervously rumble as I took it up to the counter to purchase.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” – John 14:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
I was involved in the “ex-gay” movement for almost 21 years. While rare, there is an argument I have encountered saying that a person’s response to homosexuality is the litmus test of whether someone is truly applying The Gospel or even saved.
Every time I hear this it gives me chills. The truth is that if there actually is a litmus test, that test is Jesus Himself. To put anything else in place of Him as being the singular evidence of salvation, The Good News (Gospel), is simply idolatry by a different route.