Even If

“God, if this relationship is truly wrong in your eyes and you really want me to let her go, please help us get out of our relationship.”

I prayed this half-hearted prayer in June 2011, and my life has since been forever changed.  The Lord answered my prayer three weeks after I prayed it. My girlfriend’s family found out about our secret relationship, and she retreated to them.  I didn’t chase after her as I knew that the exposure of our relationship was clearly God’s answer to my quiet plea.

After the breakup, my heart was broken beyond what I thought could be repaired.  I expected God to come at me with crushing truths such as, “I told you so,” and, “You deserve this pain for disobeying my commandments.”  He would have been absolutely righteous in doing so. I had always known the truth about homosexuality, that God’s Word forbids its practice.

Instead, however, the Lord comforted me in a supernatural way.  I could feel His distinct presence holding me close as snot and tears ran down my face each day that summer.  Instead of accusations, He whispered gently to me.  “I’m so sorry.  I’m sorry that you lost someone you loved, and I’m sorry that you struggle with same-sex attractions. I love you more than you can possibly imagine, and we will get through this together.”

After several months of simply mourning the loss of my girlfriend with the comfort of my Father and my family, Jesus nudged me back to Outpost Ministries.  I had been there in the past but with a chip on my shoulder and a hardened heart.  I finally gave in and made an appointment with Nate Oyloe.  I will never forget sitting in the prayer chapel with him and pouring out my pain and brokenness.  When I was done telling my tale, Nate asked me one simple question.  I thought he’d say, “What are you willing to do to become straight?”  Instead, he gently asked me, “What are you willing to do to get back your relationship with the Lord?”  After pondering this unexpected question, my heart answered for me as my lips said, “Anything.”

My answer launched me into an intense year-and-a-half of healing. I met with Nate each week, I endured and allowed myself to be remolded by the Living Waters program, and I spent hour after hour with the Lord, reading His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit speak life into me once again.

At the beginning of my healing journey, I still wasn’t sure if I really could be healed of my same-sex attractions, and I wasn’t sure that I would follow God if I couldn’t be healed. Soon enough, however, the Lord spoke to me through the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel.  These men were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace unless they bowed down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue.  These men’s response changed my faith.  They said,

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18, NLT). 

 This was it!  God was calling me to surrender my life in this same way.  That fall I declared, “Lord I believe that you will heal me of my same-sex attractions, but even if you don’t, I will never again bow down and worship the idol of homosexuality.”

Our Lord is a jealous God.  He desires our full affections and allegiance.  “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” Jesus declares in John 14:23.  From the point in which I declared my allegiance to Jesus Christ, my healing really began to take place.  I would follow Jesus into any fiery furnace because my love for Him from my youth had returned.  I now loved this God-Man with everything that I had.  He has never let me down.

Once my heart was with fully committed to the Lord, I began to trust and love Him in a new way.  As I began to relearn His character through time spent with Him as well as with Outpost’s life-changing help, He slowly began to restore my identity as a woman.  He began speaking truths to me such as, “You are my daughter.”  “You are my princess.”  “I have made you a woman and have said that it is good.”  For the first time in my life, I began agreeing with God.  Romans 12:2 became reality in my life as I allowed the Lord to transform the way that I thought.

Although I am still healing and transforming, the Lord conducted speedy recovery in my gender identity and sexuality in about a year-and-a-half.  In the fall of 2012, He called me to work for Outpost Ministries, the ministry that had quite literally saved my life.  I quickly refused as I declared, “God, I will NOT fundraise!”  After being denied application after application, month after month, for what I thought were “real jobs, I finally gave in to the Lord’s calling on my life.  I began to fundraise to help others impacted by homosexuality.  Just as God provided healing for my identity and sexual healing, He also provided for me financially.  I trained for nine months under Nate Oyloe as I sought to learn the work of Outpost.

For two years, I have been meeting with women to help them overcome what, at first, seems to them like impossible situations.  Alongside this responsibility, I have also worked as Outpost’s Office Manager.  At the beginning of this year, I was offered the position of Community Fundraiser since my individual fundraising efforts had been flourishing.  I smile as I think of the irony of the situation.  A once extremely stubborn, “non-fundraising” woman now raises funds for the ministry she holds dear to her heart.  I am excited to share the good news about the healing and restoration that Jesus Christ has to offer as I envision many to financially support the miracles that happen at Outpost on a daily basis.

Confronting “Gay Christian” Theology

I have been a part of Outpost Ministries for almost 20 years. During this time I have watched the cultural landscape shift radically in regards to the issue of homosexuality. Nowadays, the “gay lifestyle” is embraced, accepted and even celebrated in all spheres of life. It is normal to see gay couples get married or engaging in sexual behaviors on prime-time television. This was not the case all that long ago. The shift came quickly and took many in the Church by surprise.

Now I am watching the landscape of the Church change in this regards as well. In the same way, the shift is coming quickly and is taking many by surprise. Most mainline denominations now more than tolerate—they ordain gay clergy, marry gay couples and encourage same-sex attracted youth to embrace their “gayness” as a gift from God and a blessing to others. What is even more shocking is now, once stalwart evangelical churches and organizations are falling prey to “gay Christian” theology—the thinking that it is okay to be a Christ-follower and embrace a gay identity. While there are different expressions of the “gay Christian” (some choose celibacy while others marry their partners), the bottom line is clear: to embrace the gay identity in any way is an affront to the image of God in men and women, and it is contrary to what God has commanded in His Word.

God’s creation is heterosexual (Genesis 1:26-27). Within God’s heterosexual creation, there are two genders: masculine and feminine. In God’s created order, there is always one and then the other. In the macro understanding of this principal, we have God who, in the masculine, initiated a love relationship with the Church, His Bride. We see the macro played out in the micro: married love between a man and a woman (Ephesians 5:31-32).

“Hetero” is different from the prefix “homo” which means “same.” There is, not two, but one. The good news for the same-sex attracted is that in God’s creation, there is no such thing as a homosexual, only heterosexuals, however broken he or she may have gotten in this world. We all have to live in the flow of the reality God has established, regardless of our feelings or attractions.

Gender is a way of categorizing characteristics. The historical meaning of gender is “things we treat differently because of their inherent differences.” Biblical gender is the compilation of characteristics that make up who God is and how He acts within relationships. It includes the distinction between God’s being and His activity.

Right away in Genesis 1:1, we see God as a gendered being—In the beginning God (being) created the heavens and the earth (activity). God continues to make distinctions as He creates: light and dark, day and night, land and sea, the heavens and the earth. God solidifies distinction within Himself—He IS and He DOES. He creates for six days (activity) and on the seventh day He rests (being). Distinction is important to God.

God continues to make distinction in Genesis 1:26-27:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In God’s creation, unity or union does not do away with distinction. There will always be a distinction between God and man, man and creation and male and female.

Paganism always tries to do away with distinction. The goal of paganism is that all would become one; God and man, man and creation, male and female, etc. are simply “one with the universe.” We see this lack of distinction being played out in human culture’s many sordid expressions of sexuality. It seems anything goes these days! Culture wants to do away with any gender distinction or the gender binary. Dr. Peter Jones, author of The God of Sex, says that when the primary binary (God and His creation) is eliminated, all other binaries crumble.

Homosexuality has its roots in paganism. This is why the movement to promote homosexuality is so powerful. It is not just about sex, or even whom you choose to love; it has a spiritual component. When the creature is worshiped rather than the Creator, demons are present.

To take on a gay identity is to step outside of God’s created order and out of the flow of reality. It is to reject one’s sense of belonging in God’s creation. Taking on a gay identity essentially shuts down the healing process and hinders receptivity of future blessings the Lord has in His heart for the struggler. It is letting the “old man” remain and refusing to walk in righteousness and holiness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24).

These words may seem bold or even harsh, but now is the time for boldness and courage, Church! I believe that “gay Christian” theology (in all its varied forms) is the greatest danger to the Western Church today. It threatens the very foundation of our understanding of God, His creation and our place within His creation. It is an assault on the image of God and the distinctions He has established between Himself and creation.

Let me conclude by clarifying a couple of issues. First, one’s temptations and life-dominating issues do not determine salvation. Most of the individuals who come to Outpost are born-again believers, yet they still struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions. We are saved by God’s grace available through Jesus Christ, not by our ability to keep His Law or to avoid temptation.

Second, God loves everyone within the “gay community”. His heart is burning to see His children return to Him.  Many individuals have been wounded and rejected by the Church’s poor response to their struggle with same-sex attractions.  A compassionate, biblical understanding of homosexuality within the Church has been needed for a very long time.

With that said, the current “gay Christian” conversation and shift that is now taking place within the Church is not based on a biblical understanding of homosexuality. The Church is sorely lacking a scriptural understanding of gender and the image of God.

We must be firm in our convictions in this hour. We must dig deeply into Genesis 1:26-27 and seek the Lord for wisdom and understanding of His image. We must stand for truth, for there is much at stake. As the kings of the earth cast off restraint, let us with even more resolve humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and bow our knees to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Transformation: Let it Change You

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed . . . (Romans 12:2, NIV)

It is interesting to me that while transformation is something that we all work hard to achieve, Paul in Romans commands us to “BE transformed.” In other words, let transformation happen to you. It is a passive imperative, in grammatical terms. It requires no action on our part. The action, empowered by another force, happens to us. This is a grace.

Because it is a grace, the world has no concept of how transformation is achieved. In fact, the world has no concept that transformation of a person happens at all. Several years ago, before Jesse Ventura was governor of Minnesota, I heard him on his morning talk radio show say, regarding Chuck Colson, “He hasn’t changed! He’s still the same crook he was back in his ‘hatchet days.’ People can’t change! Can a leopard change it’s spots?” I rather doubt he knew he was quoting a biblical text, lest he appear “weak-minded.” But this text does appear in the Old Testament scriptures. Jeremiah 13:22-27 is the passage and reads in part,

And if you ask yourself, “Why has this happened to me?”—it is because of your many sins that your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jer.13:22f.)

 But Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to give life abundantly and to heal the sick. These are all examples of transformation. That it happens in regards to one’s sexuality is just plain miraculous, and reveals the power of God’s grace.

But I want to land more squarely on the imperative part of that passive imperative. The word imperative means command or obligation. This is something that must be done. There is no excuse, no way of getting out of it.

We could look at this imperative in a couple of different ways. First, we could say that the passivity of the change is the imperative, and secondly, that the transformation itself is imperative. I believe both are key aspects to be discovered and lived out.

Let’s look at them each separately. The passive voice is not one of the more masculine aspects of human life. Actually, it is a very feminine way of responding to what is happening around oneself. C.S. Lewis once wrote that “compared to God, we are all feminine.” That is, we can only receive from him, we cannot give to him. He is completely lacking nothing and in want of nothing. So in relationship with God, we must come to him in a passive, receptive sort of way. This is our stance toward God. The virgin Mary embodied this posture in her response to Gabriel at the announcement that she would bear the son of God, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NRSV)

Our culture balks at feminine ways of responding within relationship. We see it as weak and ineffective. We abhor the “door mat” syndrome we witness in the way some people relate. And we hate being the door mat ourselves. But I submit to you, that is false femininity. That is not a reflection of the “image of God he created them . . . female,” according to Genesis 1:27. However, it does require humility, chief of the feminine virtues.

And when you think of it, that is how we all must come to God in relationship—open to receiving his gifts of life.

Let’s move on to the requirement of the transformation itself. Paul seems to be saying that being transformed is not an option. The Christian doesn’t get to choose if he should be transformed or not.

The world knows this in an intuitive way when they say, “I can’t become a Christian, because I don’t want to give up X, Y or Z.” Yet, some Christians balk at this out of a superficial desire to live in “freedom” under grace. (I see this insubordination to the will of the Father, and therefore, sinful in its rebellious attitude.)

But look at it this way. All the  language in scripture about salvation reveals a profoundly transformational effect on the life of the Christian:

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt. 4:17) Jesus uses the word repent which is a word about changing one’s mind and one’s ways.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God.” (Rom. 6:11)

Neither . . . male prostitutes nor homosexuals . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified . . .” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.” (Matt. 13:31f. ) The transformation of the mustard seed illustrates what happens in the kingdom of God. Though the essence of the tree is potential within the seed, one must start with the seed in order to get to the plant or tree. When it comes to kingdom life, change is of the essence and in the essence.

Jesus’ parable of the yeast yields a similar kingdom reality: everything that is “infected” by the yeast changes and grows.

Paul is not PRE-scribing change or transformation to becoming a Christian, he’s DE-scribing the Christian life in reference to the changes that must have had to have taken place. I believe that this is the way it is. Paul, in effect, is saying that when new life comes to you in connection with your relationship with Christ you will change. It’s what happens. It is evidence that new life is really, truly there. If A, then most definitely B! If not B, then it’s fair for folks to question A.

When some come along and demand not B (“We don’t have to change!”), I question the validity of A (their new life). While some may condemn this as “judging others,” I see it merely as discerning the fruit.

Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them . . . Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:15, 20f.)

Now we don’t pursue change. Nor do we make it our goal. Nor do we demand it of others. Transformation, however, is not a without effort. We pursue and we encourage the imitation of Christ, encourage the imitation of Christ, humility. We want to become like Jesus in every way. The change comes, therefore, in connection to Christ. No one can get too close or be too connected to Christ. Instead, the closer he gets to him, the more he becomes like him. And that affects us to the core of our being. Even our sexual identity.

Now change is a threat to the secular world. They become uncomfortable around changes. They’re thrown off-kilter. And who can blame them? We’re the same way. We resist change. We love sameness. We can predict it, we can bank on it, we can get used to it. With change, none of these conveniences are affordable. And this simply illustrates one of the great differences between kingdom life and principles, and the kingdoms of this world. In the kingdom of heaven, change is valued. In the world, change is to be avoided.

This seems ironic, doesn’t it? Especially with current language pitting conservative against liberal, condemning evangelical Christians as right-wing extremist “conservatives.” In light of this, a Christian ought to be the most liberal of them all —loving and promoting change in his own life and in the lives of  those around him. We’re bucking the trend here, people! And that’s bound to illicit opposition.