Life is filled with issues. What if? What if I am? What will people think about me? What will others say about me? What will I worry about the most? Whose opinions really matters? What is love? What is an orientation? Who determines what is right or wrong? Is there such a thing as truth in a “post-truth” world? Does the Bible answer any of these questions? Does interpretation of the Bible come down to your orientation? Can the Bible be interpreted however you want it to be interpreted? Does gender really matter? Does checking a box make me something? Where are all the answers to these maddening questions? Are there answers to any of these questions? Andrew Marin in his book, Love is an Orientation, attempts to raise questions and then pose answers to questions with an open-endedness that makes me think. He is attempting to “build bridges between the Christian community and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” He does this from an insiders perspective because he has immersed himself into their culture.
His personal journey began with him being a high school student athlete that used the slang term “fag” and “that’s so gay” in his normal everyday language. He couldn’t identify where this language or orientation came from but it was his normal language that defined his life as an athlete. After much thought, he places the blame for his behavior and language on the Christian culture: “I started believing that general anti-gay thoughts are naturally passed along within the broader Christian culture without us ever really realizing it is happening.” Later in his life, he was interrupted by three friends “coming out” to him about their sexual orientation. He declares himself to be “straight, white, conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical male.” He was raised in a Christian home in a conservative Chicago suburb. He states this “I don’t remember hearing anything explicitly defaming the LGBT community from either my church or my parents.” The context of his book, however, is pointed toward Christians, the Church and Christian culture and their treatment or mistreatment of the GLBT community.
What must Christians do?
In the book the author starts to challenge Christians to take actions and to make changes that are not common. Here is a quick but not simple list of actions that he felt should happen, to start to build a bridge:
- Christians must be the first to humble themselves.
- Christians must be the first to apologize and admit that they have wronged people who are gay lesbian bisexual and transgender.
- Christians must know how their belief system can be perceived by others. Christian community has only ever known one way to handle same sex sexual behavior: take a stand and keep a distance.
- Christians must be aware of how they project themselves and their beliefs. Christians tend to perceive themselves as morally superior to GLBT people, based on belief that the Bible allows only three options for connecting faith and sexuality: Be hetrosexual, be celibate or live in sin.
- Christians have to get past their own major issues regarding the GLBT community.
- Christians have to prepare ourselves to not be contrary to our intent to learn and serve.
- Christians should seek out those who do not fit in.
Building a bridge is not always easy and this is just a sampling of ideas for Christian to be able to start to have a relationship with another community. Many stories and illustrations supported these points. Challenging the norm is not easy and I respect the author for embracing this issue.
As we have read this year I continue to find within each book a section that addresses language and this book is no exception. The author wants to help the church and Christians with language that can be seen as a barrier and can be changed pretty simply.
One of the really offensive piece of language that the church or Christians use is the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This expression is not a Biblical phrase but it is used to justify actions by Christians toward others that they do not agree with. For those who use this language, it was pointed out that it brings great separation instead of reconciliation.
The second most offensive thing that the author points out is “Don’t use the word homosexuals.” He tells a story of a man who was apologized to by a believer for calling him this word. There was a very emotional response to this sensitivity. Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are much more preferred than this word for definition. Calling people what they call themselves is better.
One more point on language that I thought was really interesting was this quote from a pastor addressing his personal struggle for wholeness; “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality it is wholeness.” This was a very insightful thought and started to bring the conversation of the book to a spiritual point.
When Marin started to really bring the conversation to a clear spiritual conclusion he made a few points that I thought were clear, concise and comprehensive. These were very positive take-aways from his writing. First, “GLBT people are nothing more than sheep looking for their shepherd.”It is very clear that everyone needs the shepherd. Second, “The way forward with the GLBT community is not a debate on the Bible’s statements about same sex sexual behavior but a discussion of how to have an intimate, real, conversational relationship with the Father and Judge.”
These two points resonated with me. Can I do these things easily? No, but I can attempt to be a Christian and to bring understanding instead of judgement to the conversation.
First, I am convinced and have preached for years, it is my job to present the truth but I can’t change anyone. I can’t save anyone and I can’t make seeds grow that I have planted. The Holy Spirit is the only one that can draw another person toward changing their life or lifestyle. I don’t have the power to do that with my words. If I did, it could be viewed as manipulation. I can speak the words of truth from the Bible and if I do it in love, then I have represented Christ the best way that I know. And second I can go on the journey with you. Relational discipleship is the only productive way to introduce someone to being a disciple of Christ. If I walk with you, out of where you have been and into a new place in Christ, then I have been on the journey with you. True relationship and friendship doesn’t take off when it gets tough or difficult, instead it steps in. Steps in to go with.
I spoke this Wednesday night on the topic of sex with my students. After the service one of my young men needed to talk. His struggle? You know what it was. It is not the first time, it will not be the last. How I received him and his news was vital to his future. How I handle that information is crucial because it could crush or alienate him. So, when I read this quote from Billy Graham, it was a very confirming: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” True Biblical love does not come naturally to our human nature. So, I must choose to love the person, that has a name and a story, no matter what the sin because that is my part as a Christian.
 Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 22.
 Ibid., 92.
 Ibid., 16.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 37.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 62.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid., 47.
 Ibid., 60.
 Ibid., 85.
 Ibid., 90.
 Ibid., 108.
 Ibid., 109.
11 responses to “What?”
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Kevin it is really encouraging to me to know that teens have a person like you to come and talk to about their very personal issues. I have a feeling your students tell you things that they probably don’t even tell their parents.
Were you able to apply any of the bullet points you listed?
I have applied the one of not keeping a distance with students. Walking through choices about sexuality is better when there is an environment where a conversation is possible. This has not always been who I am but thankfully I have grown over my time of doing this ministry.
One of my phrases is this “it is incredibly important how you receive someone back when they have blown it or they have may poor choices.” Are they coming to visit the judge or are they coming to be received back as a person? I can give pivotal moments when I finally learned this principle. Two young men and a young lady stuck their head in my office door after a complete mess of poor choices. I can vividly remember making a mental choice of how this moment would play out if it ever came about.
All three of them are in the ministry today, I know I am not that significant a person but at that moment I represented the church and God. What I spoke and how I acted right them was them testing the “prodigal son” story to see if it could possibly be true in this modern day. Thank God he helped me on that day to represent him well.
Kevin, I pray the Lord will use you to bring clarity and direction in the life of this teenage heart. Reading the book made me realize that for many youth that have grown up hearing that “homosexuality is a sin” begin to think that having homosexual feelings is a sin in itself. I now realize that it is important to clarify to our children that having sexual feelings that do not match God’s design for sexuality is not a sin; acting on them is (at least that is my biblical stand).
Did you read the last testimony in the additional section of the book? It was written from the perspective of a Christian who struggles with same-sex desires. It was very well written and theologically sound. I think it is a good material to use when helping Christians gain a mature perspective in this area.
Teenagers take so many things to heart and any time another teen says something about their sexual preference or their tendencies that is not always easily dismissed. Think about being a thirteen year old and all the racing thoughts in your head. What if someone puts words to question you and you let that loop play over and over again. It might even be someone that you don’t even know well. How I try and help students is to put these issues in perspective. Who you allow to speak into your life is your choice. Not everyone has the right to speak into your life. What you dwell on is your choice. You can’t change your past but you can change you future. Letting Christ and his word be the compass for your choices is a strong foundation.
All of those things are to help students. I have learned most of those things over the years of being in ministry. Helping students to navigate these years of their life is what God has allowed me to do.
Yes, I am always looking for stories that will help me as a communicator and these were good stories.
You seem to have covered the book quite well. I will focus on this statement “GLBT people are nothing more than sheep looking for their shepherd.”It is very clear that everyone needs the shepherd”. That is so true, Love Is an Orientation, we should start changing the conversation about sexuality and spirituality, and building bridges from the GLBT community to the Christian community and, more importantly, to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Great blog, you invested lots of time in this writing, we appreciate it !
Enjoy Spring Break! Rose Maria
The connection to Jesus is the vital thing. On some part of this book, I thought the author had disconnected from that fact but as he came to a conclusion of his book he came back to faith as being the foundation.
Thanks for your comments. God Bless
Great balanced approach to a challenging subject….one that we are facing more and more. We have consistently said that our DMin program is to make us practitioners. The term implies that there will be action and assessment.
Propagating truth does not give us the ability to pick and choose what we like or dislike. Our choice is in the presentation. In working with students, do you feel that they would rather here the truth in love or just appease them in their present position? I ask this question in sincerity.
Do you feel this generation has been inundated with sexuality to the place that they will or want to listen to truth? If so, what do you feel are two or three principles that you can share?
When I am invested in students lives they are willing to listen to the truth. It does not mean they will act on it till they believe it to be a good truth. Appeasing them gives my stamp of approval on their actions and I can’t do that. I can’t embrace their sin, I can embrace them. There is a huge difference between those two things.
Some principles that I share with them.
1. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. (Often students hold on to casual things that people they barely know say to them or about them.)
2. Show me your friends and I will show you your future. ( I know they hate this thought but when they start wondering off I ask them who they are hanging out with and who is influencing their choices.)
3. The most powerful position of influence that you hold is with your younger siblings that are following behind you. If you decide that you are going to not live for God they are the very first ones that will follow your example. It also erases you ability to ever say anything to them about their choice. Be aware of this right up front. Lead your family well especially if your environment is not Christian.
Some of the things that I communicate.
The last one is not original with me but one of my best friends says this all the time, “you can’t change your past but you can change your future.” Hope is the strongest message that I can present to any student or adult for that matter. Hope that helps.
I love reading your blogs and this one on Marin is especially telling regarding God’s calling and anointing on your life for the work He has commissioned for you to do. I gleaned a lot of nuggets of truth from you that are applicable for daily Christian living. What stands out is TRUTH, LOVE, AND DISCIPLESHIP—the key components in this whole conversation, interaction, and immersion process with anyone that is walking contrary to God’s ways. You rightly stated, “I can speak the words of truth from the Bible, and if I do it in love, then I have represented Christ the best way I know how.” “RELATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP is the only productive way to introduce someone to being a disciple for Christ.” Thanks for this, Kevin.
Brilliant read. Very rare nowadays as most people just write a quick article just to get more views. This one is different! Both informative and helpful. Thank you!