It’s not achieved, It’s given!
It’s the core message of our faith. Salvation by faith, not of works – so that none of us can boast. I heard a great bible teacher once define “faith” as “confidence in the goodness of God”. I'm sure there are much more elaborate definitions that scholars have come up with but when I’m in the valley of decision and following God doesn’t seem as attractive as it did yesterday, I fall back on this simple definition which helps me clear away the clutter and cuts through my excuses when I want to do things my way.
Not only does the definition of faith need clarity & simplicity, but so does “salvation”. We often talk about people being “saved” when they accept Jesus and “receiving salvation” when they pass from this life to the next. I don’t think this is wrong, but I think it misses a massive piece of what it means to receive salvation on the long journey home. Biblically, it seems that salvation of our souls is less of a one-time event and more of an ongoing process of following God into greater and greater measures of what it means to truly live. I see this in Christ’s invitation to follow him and the resulting promise of abundant life.
I talk often about why we shouldn’t expect people to give up their current life and identity if they have not found something better. If I could sum up God’s invitation to humanity, it would be, “Leave the life you’ve known where you’re responsible to get your needs met and follow me – I have a better way.” I contrast this with the message I had to unlearn, which was “Repent of your disgusting, evil behavior or I’ll send you to hell. I’m God and you’ll do things my way.” One is the invitation from a Father who has your best in mind and knows this world makes it hard to trust someone you can’t see. The other is a demand from a dictatorial control freak that shows mercy only when you’re in compliance.
So how does this relate to LGBT people? I guess I’ve noticed that we respond to unbelieving gay people, with the “dictatorial demand” and the posture of “get your act together – the bible is really clear about this”. No wonder this “invitation” hasn’t been received by LGBT people…. It didn’t come from God. God empowers the invitation HE has sent, not the frustrated, demanding one we’ve conjured up.
So in relationships with LGBT people, I keep in mind that in order for someone to give up the primary way they’ve come to experience relational intimacy, they MUST FIRST have an experience where they believe God to be a better source for it. Sometimes this happens in a person’s soul very quickly, and sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it never does. There are no formulas. I’m thankful that God has made the goal for all of our journeys to trust him more deeply than yesterday, rather than always doing things perfectly at every turn.
On my journey I feel I have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that despite my orientation, a same sex relationship is not God’s best for me and that despite my leanings, stewardship of my sexuality His way leads to greater life and joy even when it involves suffering. Without this “convincing”, without this confidence in a person’s soul, without this faith, adherence to a sexual ethic is just white knuckled obedience at best – which I don’t believe is what God is after for us. So with this in mind, how will you compassionately engage LGBT people? Will you demand adherence to a sexual ethic they haven’t bought into? Or will you invite them to know Jesus as the truest fulfillment & salvation of their souls?
This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people. Find the condensed list HERE. These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues. These blogs have been expounded upon with permission.
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available HERE.