This past weekend, we had our second annual Generous Spaciousness Retreat. We had several people offer sessions on engaging scripture. Shane Bauman, a member of New Direction’s board of directors gave this session talking about his journey with scripture beyond the 6-7 texts that are typically raised in conversations about homosexuality. While Shane comes from a particular perspective, his session was intended to catalyze conversation among the participants. The beauty of generous spaciousness is that it gives us the chance to have robust conversations, without argument or persuasion, where we seek to truly understand where the other person is coming from. I hope that sharing it here on the blog will launch a robust conversation right here in the comment section – and we’ll be sure to invite Shane to come and participate too.
I grew up in a denomination that strongly valued the Bible. From a very young age, it was impressed on me that the most important thing on any topic was to figure out what the Bible says about it. As a child I went to Sunday school and learned many Bible stories. Our church also had a kids program called AWANA where we memorized many, many verses. The more verses you memorized, the more badges you got. As a teenager I worked at a Bible camp where kids had chapel twice a day plus a Bible lesson. Then as a university student I was very involved with Inter-Varsity, which is a Christian student organization that strongly values Bible study. I went on to work for the organization for 7 years and I led many Bible studies, and taught students how to study the Bible and lead Bible studies. So you can see that a huge part of my life has been invested in studying the Bible.
Believe it or not, after all those years of studying the Bible, by force or by choice, I still enjoy learning from scripture. The Bible is probably the book that continues to have the biggest influence on my life. It continues to be a book that surprises me and encourages me. It is still a place I look to for comfort and for challenge and for guidance.
So as a gay man a huge part of my journey has been to come to terms with what the Bible says about homosexuality. I have wrestled a lot with the passages that gay people refer to as the clobber passages. We call them the clobber passages because Christians use them to clobber us over the head. They are generally seen to be 6 different passages: the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, two verses from Leviticus, Paul’s teaching in Romans 1 and two sin lists, one in 1 Corinthians 6 and the other in 1 Timothy 1. Over the years these verses have been quoted to me in letters from relatives and friends, often without much commentary. They are seen as self-evident. Look at any Internet discussion about faith and sexuality and you will usually see one of the clobber verses being lobbed like a grenade into the discussion, usually with the attitude that this verse should end the discussion once and for all.
Working through these passages was challenging for me. I did a lot of reading and study to try and understand them. Entire books have been written about them. Theologians debate back and forth as to what they mean. Understanding the clobber passages is very important, however, I believe there is much more in the Bible beyond these 6 passages that speaks to us and can influence our thoughts on homosexuality even though these other parts of Scripture do not directly speak about same-sex sexual activity. I want to share with you some of my musings on some of these other passages and general themes in the Bible.
I want to add a few qualifiers before I go any further. First, I am not a theologian. I don’t have a degree in theology. I never went to Bible school or seminary. By profession I’m a university math instructor. So I’m not a Bible expert. However, I’m guessing that most of you aren’t Biblical scholars either. Most Christians aren’t. So in that respect I really hope that this material will be accessible and applicable to your life.
Second, I’m not a very good at debating. If you came here to be convinced of a point of view I have a feeling I’m not going to be the one to win you over. My goal is simply to share a series of scriptures that I have found helpful on my journey as I sought to reconcile my faith and my sexuality. I will be honest and say up front that I have ended up in a place where I believe God blesses same-sex relationships. I am now married to a man and it is my desire to honour God with my marriage. Therefore most of the things I will share this morning will come from that point of view.
Third, I’m still on a journey and I’m still learning. I really hope that I will always be open to hear from God in new ways. I hope that I will never feel like I have arrived or that I have all the answers. I want to have a teachable spirit that is marked by openness and humility.
I know that New Direction seeks to include people with very different points of view. The whole point of their retreats is the idea of generous spaciousness where people with differing views can share their ideas in an atmosphere of grace and mutual respect. So as I share I would like you to be thinking about some passages of scripture that have been helpful to you on your journey as you wrestle with the questions about faith and sexuality.
As a starting passage I want to read part of Psalm 139.
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide meand the light become night around me,”12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
I could preach a whole sermon on this passage alone. There are a lot of beautiful ideas in this text. Two of the themes of this chapter are really important as we think about understanding our sexuality. The first idea is that God knows us completely. “You have searched me and know me.” “You are familiar with all of my ways.” “Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely.” Even in the womb, you knew me.You have always known me and you always will.
When we are wrestling with questions of sexuality or gender identity it can feel like we are unraveling. We start to feel like we don’t know ourselves at all. We become what feels like a ball of questions and doubts. It can be very overwhelming
But as we sit here together, God knows each one of us. There is nothing that you can say or think that will surprise God. He knows all of your questions and all of your ideas. And they do not threaten him either.
I personally find this thought very comforting and I think it’s a good foundation for our conversation. I don’t have to worry about hiding myself or my thoughts or my ideas from God. I don’t have to pretend with him. God knows everything about me. He knows me better than I know myself.
The second theme that I want to bring out from this passage is that we can’t get away from God. The psalmist lists many places that seem remote or far away. He refers to the heavens and the depths, the wings of the dawn and the far side of the sea. He talks about how the darkness cannot hide us because the darkness will become as light as day.
We can’t get away from God. We can’t be hidden from God. God sees us wherever we are. God is always with us.
There are times when you are wrestling with questions of sexuality that you feel very alone. You feel like you are hidden in a dark closet in a dark room in a dark house in a dark forest far away from anything. But even though we feel very alone, we are never alone. God is always right there. This passage makes this point very clear.
This was a huge encouragement for me when I was in the midst of the many questions I had about my sexuality and it continues to be an encouragement to me. God is always here. He will never leave me nor forsake me.
So as we think and discuss together this morning lets ask God to plant these two truths deep in our hearts. God knows us completely and he is always here with us.
The second passage I want to look at this morning is Genesis 2. The second account of creation. Although this story mentions nothing about homosexuality, it is one that anti- gay people love to throw in the faces of LGBT people along with the rhyme “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” So as I tried to reconcile my faith and sexuality, understanding this passage was very important to me.
First let me read the story. (I’m going to skip over a few verses that aren’t relevant to our discussion.)
“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
Skipping a few verses.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Again, I could give a whole sermon on this text alone (and I actually have taught on this passage at my own church) and there are a lot of challenging questions that we could talk about. We could talk about the factual differences between this story and the previous creation story in Genesis 1. Or we could discuss the use of the word “helper” to describe Eve or we could discuss whether this text is a literal or figurative account of creation and how we understand this story in the context of modern science. Those are some pretty big questions and unfortunately we don’t have time to answer them. So we’ll have to set them aside.
The first question I asked of this text that is relevant to our discussion was “Is this story descriptive or prescriptive?” By that I meant is this story simply a description of the creation of the first man and the first woman or is setting out some sort of prototype that all relationships must follow?
The second last verse seems to point to the text being prescriptive “24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The author of Genesis uses the creation story to explain something that is ongoing and continuing in his time. A man leave his parents and is joined to his wife and they become one flesh. And once again I can hear in the back of my mind that little rhyme “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
However if you are going to take this passage as prescriptive you can’t pick and choose which part you will take as prescriptive. God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” This whole story is centered around solving Adam’s problem of aloneness. So if we take this passage as prescriptive then one of the logical conclusions that follows is that it is wrong for us to be single. Everyone must get married. But most people won’t say that. We know that idea contradicts other passages in the Bible. Paul writes to the Corinthians “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.” Paul advocates for singleness and says it is a good thing. And the biggest challenge to the idea of Genesis 2 being prescriptive is the fact that Jesus himself was single. Jesus never married. If the mandate of this story is that every man must marry a woman, then Jesus himself went against this.
So when God says “It is not good for man to be alone” I don’t believe he is saying “It is bad for the man to be single” but rather I understand it as the plain understanding of the words, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Human beings were and are created to be in community with others. We are not created to be lone rangers. We are created to need others and to be interdependently connected with them.
We are created in the image of God who is himself a community. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, the Three-in-One. Therefore as God’s image bearers we are created to need other people. It is not good for us to live life completely separated from others. It is not good for us to be alone.
So how does God overcome Adam’s aloneness in this story? It’s a bit of a strange situation. God doesn’t immediately create Eve and bring her to Adam. The passage says that God first creates all the wild animals and birds and brings them to Adam. Adam names them all and the passage says that no suitable partner is found for him. Although the dog is man’s best friend, the passage emphasizes that a dog is not a suitable partner for Adam.
If I were creating a movie of this story, the music would get sadder and sadder as more and more animals are brought to Adam. Each time there is a twinge of hope that maybe this animal would be the one for Adam and each time there would be disappointment on Adam’s face as once more he realizes that this is not a suitable partner for him.
God then creates Eve from one of Adam’s ribs and brings her to him. In my movie, she would be accompanied by a warm glow and a flourish of majestic music as Adam responds, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Eve is unlike any of the animals that were brought to Adam because she is made from his flesh and bone. She is a compatible partner for him because they are of the same flesh. She is not an animal; she is another human being.
The emphasis in the story is on the similarity between Adam and Eve. We often hear the idea that men and women are different in such a way to complement to each other. It’s the idea that a man needs a woman because she is different than he is. However that is not the idea being stressed in this story. The animals were not of the same flesh as Adam and thus were not compatible for him. Eve however is of his flesh and in her similarity to Adam she is a suitable partner.
Why did God bother going through this whole process of bringing all the animals to Adam? He’s God and knows everything so I don’t think it was trial and error. I think he was preparing Adam to meet Eve. By bringing all these animals to Adam it helped him recognize Eve as a suitable partner for him when she was finally brought to him.
At the end of the story, the author of Genesis then makes the parenthetical comment that I made reference to earlier. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This story does explain something that continues on to this day. What does the word “therefore” refer to in the sentence “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh”? I believe the therefore refers to the fact that the couple becomes one flesh. What is being explained by the story is how it is possible for a couple to become one.
When an individual leaves their family unit and chooses to align themselves with a new family unit, that is, their spouse, it is possible for this new grouping to join as one flesh, because they are the same flesh. The couple is made of two humans. Sex unites people into one flesh because we were made for each other, as opposed to the animals, which are not compatible partners for us.
I don’t believe that the Eve’s otherness, her differences from Adam, that is her sex, is the emphasis here. Adam does not say “Oh look, here is someone who is different than me, who complements me.” Rather the emphasis is on the fact that “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
Now of course, Eve’s sex is not irrelevant. If Eve had been a man the history of humankind would have been very short. In the first creation story in Genesis 1 we read that God creates Adam and Eve and tells them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Of course to procreate, Adam and Eve needed to be man and woman.
However, the issue of procreation is not a part of the creation story in Genesis 2. The solution to Adam’s aloneness is a creature that is similar to him, one who is of his flesh and his bone.
I have experienced great companionship in my own marriage. I am an extrovert and being with people is very important to me. Marriage is not a cure for loneliness and I can attest to the fact that I still have moments of loneliness as a married man. However marriage has brought a lot of stability to my emotional health. I believe God has given me a great gift in my husband. My husband Dave is not the answer to all of my emotional needs and I still have a strong need for community, but Dave does provide companionship and ongoing relationship that I didn’t have in the same way before I was married.
I believe that many people, gay and straight alike, have a deep longing to share their life with someone in marriage. I believe that in part this desire is a God-given one and finds its roots in Genesis 2.
This leads us to a second aspect of marriage that also played a role in my journey of reconciliation. This aspect is the idea that marriage is a solution to our overwhelming passions and we find this idea in I Corinthians 7.
“Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Paul begins this section by quoting an idea that was being passed around the Corinthian church. “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” In the reading I’ve done about this phrase there seems to be three factors at play as to why the Corinthians wanted to avoid sex. The first was a desire for greater freedom. People wanted to be free of the entanglements of sex and marriage so they could have more control and authority over their own bodies. The second factor was that some individuals were married to unbelievers and they saw themselves as being defiled in their marriage to someone who didn’t share their faith. Paul addressed this issue later in the passage and encourages these individuals to remain married because their marriage will continue to be a good influence on their unbelieving spouse. The third factor was a longing to engage more deeply in prayer. We see that Paul endorses the idea of fasting from sex in this passage. In the same way that restraining ourselves from food can help us to focus on God, restricting ourselves from sex can also direct our attention to God. However, Paul gives a warning about this type of sexual fasting. First, it should be by mutual consent and secondly, it should only be for a limited time because Satan will use this situation as an opportunity for temptation. Paul indicates that abstaining from sex opens us up to temptation to sexual immorality.
Along with this warning, Paul expresses a desire that people would be single and celibate as he is. He says it is good to remain unmarried and he encourages people to pursue this path. However he acknowledges that this way of life is not for everyone. “But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” Not everyone has the gift of celibacy. And more than that, not everyone has the capacity to pursue a celibate life. Paul writes, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” If your passion and sexual desires are too much for you then you should get married. Marriage is a better option than a life of burning with passion.
This last verse echoed in my brain a lot when I was trying to reconcile my faith and sexuality. It was clear to me that God recognizes that we don’t all have the capacity to be single forever. Our sexual desires are very strong and overwhelming at times. And so God has provided us a healthy focus for those passions. We should have a spouse who is the focus of our desires.
But the answer I got from most of my conservative Christian friends was that marriage was not an option for me. Marrying a man was wrong. The only option left to me was to burn with passion. Burn, baby, burn!
It’s interesting to note that in both the idea of abstaining from sex within marriage and the idea of celibacy that Paul indicates that this should be something of your own choice. The abstaining from sex should be by mutual consent. One spouse cannot decide for the other that they will fast from sex. Similarly, with celibacy, Paul acknowledges that not everyone has the gift of celibacy.
But yet the church’s response to gay people is often one of forced celibacy. If you are gay you must be celibate. There is no right way for you to express your desires. You are left with the only one option, that of endless burning.
Now I want to make clear that I’m not advocating that the purpose of marriage is sex. A marriage that is entered into just so you can have sex will most likely fail. However, having sex does play a role in marriage. God recognizes the strength of our sexual desires and he has provided us with a way to rightfully express our passion. If you are not someone with the gift of celibacy then I believe it is right for you to seek to be married. Marriage is a healthy way for our desires to be fulfilled.
Again I have seen the fruit of this in my own life. Before I accepted the possibility of marriage to a man I had no other option than to try to crush my desires for intimacy with a man. I prayed and prayed that my desires would go away. I tried counseling both Christian and secular. I had demons cast out of me. I did everything I could to make those passions go away. And when I tried to suppress my desires they just bubbled up in dangerous ways. I had many addictive cycles with pornography. I came close to meeting a stranger for sex in a bathroom. I came close to having sex with a younger guy who I was discipling.
However when I finally was open to a relationship with a man and realized that one day I might be married, a lot of these pressures went away. I went years without looking at pornography. I had the hope that one day my passions would have a healthy place where they could be expressed. In marriage now, I am much more at peace with my desires than I was when I was trying to quash them. I am not perfect now, but I know I have a place to turn where my desires should be focused. God has given me a wonderful husband who is the focus of my passion.
The next idea I want to consider is how we think about the commandments given to us in the Bible. Let me read some verses that I am sure you are familiar with.
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus makes a very similar statement. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Not only are these the greatest commandments, but also all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. The commandments to love God and to love your neighbor summed up the entire Old Testament. Love is the basis of the law.
Paul makes a similar argument in Romans 13. 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. I think Paul sums up this idea quite well. Love is the fulfillment of the law.
Ultimately it was these verses that finally opened me up to the possibility of marrying a man. As I contemplated this possibility I didn’t understand how my marriage would violate the two greatest commandments. Here is a direct quote from some of my writing at that time, “Why is God against sexual intimate love between people of the same gender? Most of the laws in the Bible make sense to me. They break the greatest commandments of loving God and your neighbour. You can’t love someone and steal from them. You can’t love God and worship money. You can’t love someone and be jealous of him or her. However to me it seems that an intimate sexual relationship between two men could have all the “smell” of God. It could be marked by love, faithfulness, respect, honour, and selflessness but yet God says it’s not OK. Why is that?”
It just didn’t make sense to me at the time. And then along with these ideas I thought of Jesus’ words in Luke 6. 43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Good things bring about good fruit. Evil things bring about bad fruit. Not only did I not see how same-sex relationships violated the two greatest commandments, I saw the good fruit they produced. Over the years I have met same-sex couples whose relationships are marked by good fruit. They produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. I have met gay Christians who are in relationships or seeking to be in relationships who have the smell of Jesus about them.
As someone who has now been married almost 4 years I can see the good fruit that my own marriage is producing in my life. I have made reference to that good fruit already in what I have shared. I have been challenged to confront my selfishness and to give myself completely to another person. I have experienced wonderful love and support and have been challenged to graciously give that support back. I have been challenged to forgive and to ask forgiveness. I have stability in my life that wasn’t there before and out of that stability I am able to serve others better.
I know there is the possibility that I am self-deceived. Humans are very capable of self-deception. When I was in the years of trying to reconcile my faith and sexuality I asked people to pray a simple prayer for me. I asked them to pray that my heart would be soft, my ears would be open and that I would have the courage to follow God no matter how he would lead. That is still my prayer today. I want to be open to hearing God’s voice and willing to follow his leading.
During the year when my questions of sexuality were raging the strongest I participated in a week-long retreat where we studied intensively the first half of the gospel of Mark. We were doing Bible study for about 10 hours/day so it was rather intense. However out of that intensive study emerged a theme that influenced my journey and continues to influence my life. It is connected to the prayer for courage that I just mentioned. This theme is the contrast between fear and faith. Usually we think of doubt as the opposite of faith. However through this study of the first half of Mark I started seeing fear as the opposite of faith. Let me read one of the passages that impacted me. This story takes place in Mark 4.
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The storm that comes up in the story must have been a very large storm since a few of the disciples were fishermen and were used to managing a boat. This storm was more than even they could handle. It was beyond their control. The disciples were terrified and when they woke Jesus they made a strong accusation against him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” They accused Jesus of being insensitive and uncaring. Their fear was so strong that they started blaming Jesus.
I know that at the time I was studying this passage that I felt like my life was spinning out of control. The questions in my head were raging so loud. I was bailing and bailing and I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. My boat was going down. I felt like I was drowning. And there were moments when fear was so strong and I would yell at God “Don’t you care? Don’t you see what’s happening inside of me?”
In the story Jesus awakened from his sleep, calmed the storm and then he turned to his disciples and asked the heart piercing questions “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples at this point have seen Jesus perform many miracles. He has healed the sick and the lame and he has cast out demons. They have seen Jesus’ authority as he taught and challenged the religious leaders. They know what kind of a man he is. And so I imagine his questions cut them to their core.
Where is their faith? Why are they being so controlled by fear? Those questions haunted me as well. So much of my angst at the time was caused by fear. At the time I was wrestling with all of this, I was working for a Christian organization and I was afraid that dealing with my sexuality meant that I would lose my job. I was also very involved with my church and I was afraid I would lose my church. I was also afraid my family and friends would reject me. And ultimately I was so afraid of letting God down and getting the answers wrong.
I was one huge ball of fear. I had sleepless nights where I would lay with a heavy weight in the pit of my stomach as I contemplated what to do with my life. Fear and anxiety pushed in on my chest until I felt like I was going to collapse.
As I studied Mark I was really challenged by this idea of living a life by faith and not fear. I started to look at the decisions that I was trying to make and I started to evaluate whether my thoughts were driven by faith or if they were driven by fear. I started to see how many of my decisions and thought processes were driven by fear. As I looked around me I saw how others were driven by fear rather than faith.
The interesting thing as I look back at my life now is that many of my fears did come true. I did lose my job, but God provided me with another one. I did lose my church but God gave me another great community in return. My father was very upset with me for some time but in later years he changed his mind. I lost some friends but I gained many new friends.
So I want to leave you with this challenge. As you wrestle with questions of faith and sexuality what is your motivation? Is it faith or is it fear? Are you afraid to challenge others in your life? Are you afraid to challenge yourself? Are you crying out to God “Don’t you even care?”
Or are you living by faith? Are you trusting that God will provide for you? Are you trusting that his love and care for you are bigger that any questions you might have? Do you believe that he really does want the best for you?