Jesus. Real Life.

“If anyone [gay] wants to come with me, let him deny himself [the rest of you are already good to go].”

Dave Fitch is hosting a difficult and important conversation at his blog, and with much grace all around.  The following is my latest comment, which I probably should have posted separately here in the first place.  Sorry Dave!  Looking forward to future posts in the series!

One of the things I’m getting (and liking) in this conversation is a small taste of what I hope David means by “welcoming and mutually transforming.”

By David’s and Isaac’s conversation, I’m already seeing how I have taken so many of my own practices and desires and even parts of what I consider my own identity as givens, or rather how I’ve attached to them a sense of entitlement that is beyond questioning, even by Christ’s purposes.

I find the last comment by Isaac particularly interesting (Isaac, I don’t want you to feel like you have to address it if you’re growing tired of the conversation; you’ve already given a great deal.), especially as it ends with the idea that sexual orientation seems to be much larger than sexual desire.

As you guys mentioned, there are several ways in which this is true. There are almost always communal bonds at stake, not just with one’s partner but also one’s “people”, one’s community and friends. People frame their identities not merely as persons having this or that sexual “desire” but also as people who are faithful to their particular communities. I wonder which pulls us and shapes our sense of identity more, especially on this issue, our desires or our ties to our communities?

As I think about all these things, I’m reminded of Jesus’ call to priortize him and following him even over our communal ties to parents or children or spouse. Not a favorite passage of mine. We often think of or present Christianity as saying “you have to give up or resist this or that desire to be loyal to Jesus.” But it’s really more radical, more exacting, than that. It’s much larger than our desires. Jesus’ call to follow him is clearly a call to subrogate our desires and our identities and the communal bonds that form and maintain them to Jesus. Everything that would come under the broad definition of “our life” (everything we would lose by death) is what is up for transformation and redirection by Christ.

But I don’t think this is what the LGBTQ sees the largely hetero Church doing or even saying Jesus is actually about in America. We have implicitly said that Jesus doesn’t have any serious correction to give to the typical American way of life, other than to add tithing and church attendance. It’s a club with a cross on the building, claiming to be formed and frequented by God himself, and it discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation for who can join.

Maybe part of these discussions in real life has to be particular and personal confessions by hetero Christians of how they’ve flatly ignored Jesus’ Lordship because it has threatened this or that community bond or standing, or some other part of what we want “our” life to be like. Isaac and the LGBTQ community are right in that there is a double standard for what is required at the door of the Church, what’s required to “be Jesus’ disciple” as we’ve implicitly redefined it around us. That has to change, and it has to start with those already in the building, those claiming to be God’s friends. We’ve got to have a few more serious stories of our own about what we have given up to have the pearl. We have to reframe our own discipleship.

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2 responses

  1. JMorrow

    Thanks for your post on this and I’m also greatful for the unique (far too unique) conversation happening on David’s blog. I appreciate all this from someone who values the missional perspective.

    Just an off the cuff thought though, perhaps I’ll have time to expound upon it later. What is the difference in losing our identity (not just desire, but community bonds) and gaining in Christ? In most ways whether we have our identity in the Church or elsewhere we are still working with the same elemental parts. Our histories, perspectives, likes, dislikes, bodies, etc, all these carry over in some aspect from the old life to the new life in Christ. Identity in Christ then cannot simply mean eliminating these, because after all what would we replace them with? This is the paradox to me about giving up aspects of our identity as one in Christ. I’m still trying to sort out what this means, especially as an ethnic minority (though this relates to sexual minorities as well).

    This conversation sends me back to Niebuhr’s contrast between the Sin of Pride and the Sin of Hiding in the Garden story. One is the sin of crowding out Christ with our own identity (Pride) the other relates to hiding, namely from God and ourselves, who we fully are.

    Again, not sure how to account for this, but I believe you are asking the right question to the American Church.

    April 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    • T

      J,

      Great thoughts. I know what you mean, I think. I remember a close friend of mine said to me about evangelism, that’s just not “me.” I thought then and I think now that we can’t hold those conclusions (who “we” are) very tightly with Jesus. Peter told Jesus to leave because he was a sinful man. True, but not true enough. Jesus says follow me and I’ll make you into something you’re not right now. But this doesn’t happen all at once. We’re in flux, or should be in many respects. I heard someone say that just like Jesus’ kingdom is “now and not yet” so are we.

      I think Western Christianity has focused too much, in its basic spirituality, on its static categories (like what we are in Christ, or what our legal status is with God, etc.) and not enough on its concepts that are in motion. Disciples, by definition, are people who are “becoming” something. They are in between what they were and who they are following, but they are in motion. And the NT describes us far more often as disciples than as “the justified” or with some other non-moving status. We, disciples of Jesus, are a people who are under construction. Some parts will remain or strengthen, no doubt, but I don’t know if it’s always best for us to decide which parts and when. I think we can’t help in many ways but be who we are right now, but I think being a disciple means we don’t hang on to this or that part of who we are as a matter of right.

      Does that make sense?

      April 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

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