Out Of The Closet--The Greatest Difference

A young friend and professed Christian publically declared on Facebook this week that he is “bi” or, as people categorize these things today, bi-sexual. This is not novel, and I expect such disclosures will continue in our culture. He also declared that those who will not support him in this new life with his “bf” should unfriend him. He put me in a quandary, to remain his Facebook friend I would be sending the message that I support all his disclosure entails. Which… I do not. I have not acted on his request to unfriend him yet, but plan to do so since he has requested it and has challenged me both publically and privately. I also have not responded until now to the broader conflict within Christianity, but I am constrained to do so for many reasons, not the least of which includes the public nature of social media and the frequency of these disclosures.

While I have friends and family (going back to the 60s) who are or were involved in relationships of this type I have never hidden the fact that I believe this behavior is included in a long list of sins that God Himself has disclosed in a myriad of ways not the least of which is the Bible. While being open about my beliefs and living with the accompanying tensions and boundaries I make every effort to not be perceived as rude or hateful and for the most part receive that kindness in return. The reason for my behavior is mostly found in my personal experience with God that I describe below.

Frankly, even though I do not struggle with an attraction to those of my gender the greatest difference between us is not found in the type of sin we produce but in the shame experienced over the production of sin. It is a horror to me… a nightmare… to imagine that I could be so far from God’s Mercy that my sins and failures would somehow be flaunted before my God and published to my fellow-companions in His Grace. When my own wretchedness becomes evident I slink into the shadows of shame. I beg God’s forgiveness and plead with my fellow sojourners who may know of it to forgive--not to accept--my wrong. Then I struggle with God to so change me that I will never be found here again. I do hate the cold grey iron walled cell of shame, but I know my periodic imprisonment there is necessary for me to understand and responsibly value the liberty I have in Jesus. I find no solace in giving a brighter name to such a cold dark place… it is shame and it is necessary. In my shame I find vital comfort because folded within shame’s dark layers is one of the tell-tale signs of a converted heart: a Spiritual conscience.

A woman, who was a church member, came to me for counsel years ago concerning her shame and fear. Her shame was so great she feared hell was to be her grave. She, with reddened face, disclosed that she “cussed” in the kitchen when something boiled over or didn’t go like she wanted it to go. I asked her if she thought an unconverted person would fear or even think of God’s displeasure over such language and the temper behind it. She thought for a second and replied, “no, probably not.” I explained to her that this shame, fear, and sensitivity to God, instead of being evidence that she isn’t converted, is one of the best evidences that she is converted. I didn’t spend any time trying to convince her that it was OK. Oh to have such sensitivity to God’s displeasure! I asked her if she thought Jesus died for this intemperance. She paused and gave a halting, teary, “yes!” I told her to confess this to Him and plead with Him to take this burden away, but always trust in the Gospel work of Jesus regardless of the outcome. Only in the Gospel do we sinners find forgiveness, peace, and assurance. Shame, even over things that others may consider small, is what brings us to victory’s gate.

When looking within myself I cannot easily find a separation between sin and the sinner since it is from within me that my sin is born. I am told to hate the sin but love the sinner as if that were a Bible verse, but I produced my sin… if it were not for me it would not have existed. How can I claim to hate the product that destroys and then claim to love the factory that produced it? How can I so easily hate the poison that killed the Lamb of God, but then almost flippantly love the poisonous heart from which the poison poured? I am not saying there should be no inclination to love in the face of failure, but anyone who confesses no problem or struggle on both sides of this cliché must be cut from a purer cloth than I. Some concerned friend may seek to comfort me now with God’s love so they tenderly say, “God Loves you”. This I do know and I sincerely thank you for your tenderness, but the more I learn about myself the more His love is the greatest mystery to me. It seems the closer I get to Him the further from His perfections I find myself to be. How… can… He… Love… me??? Yet He does and I am amazed by His love!

Grace never says sin is OK. It says the exact opposite, sin is so far from OK that Jesus had to die for it. And I am ashamed of that, but at the same time I will attempt in my feeble way to ensure that His death for my sin is not in vain. I will, by His grace, rise up and walk out of the shadows of shame with my sin forgiven and a commitment in my heart and prayer on my lips to keep me from sin and allow me to serve Him with my remaining days. Since I have been in this cell many times I know I shall be in those grey shadows again soon, but I also know that when I confess my sins He is faithful and just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me… and that His Gospel Grace also reaches into the cell with me. I am never alone. I have a sure tried and proven way out of shame and ultimately my sin… and I am overwhelmed and amazed by that fact. Praise His Holy Name for such Mercy and Love! I am of all people most undeserving.

A person may redefine sin as they wish… but they will never find true peace in such a redefinition. Such defensive struggles are as Jesus said: paint on the outside of a grave or washing the outside of a dirty cup. I will not argue over the color of the paint. The only freedom from the grave is in finding our sins forgiven by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If, because of my belief, I must be rejected by some… then so be it. If, because of my sin and failures, I must be rejected by some… believe me, I understand. But I cannot remain in the cold cell when the door has been opened by the one who holds the keys of eternal life. I am free and I must press on for my Savior!

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