DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Orientating one’s way with love

Written by: on March 5, 2015

“All God needs are willing hearts to extend his unconditional love for all of his children – gay and straight. This is our blessing. This is our bold calling. This is our orientation.” [i]

I have to admit, when I picked up Marin’s book, Love Is An Orientation, I did not have high expectations. What I mean by that is I did not expect to enjoy it, and certainly did not expect to be helped or informed by it. But thankfully, I was wrong. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and deeply appreciate his work.

Marin is a conservative, evangelical Christian man who looks beyond sexual orientation and lifestyle, and who reaches past typical Christian stereotypical thinking, treating individuals within the GLBT community with the love and respect God calls each of us to do. Marin offers very practical advice for Christians who believe God loves this community as much as He loves any one of us, and who wish to show them so. He writes, “It’s not the job of Christians to convict the GLBT community. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. It’s not the job of Christians to judge the GLBT community. That’s God’s job. It’s the job of Christians to love the GLBT community in a way that is tangible, measurable and unconditional – whether we see our version of ‘change’ happening or not!” [ii]

He approaches this subject of sexuality not so much with the desire to provide answers to those all-important theological questions, but rather he focuses more on the relational side of things: our relationship as Christians with this community, and secondly, their potential relationships with God. Thatcher, on the other hand, focuses more on providing those answers to questions about sexual activity and behaviour. For example, he believes that the Bible does not fairly condemn homosexuality and goes into great detail why (chapter nine). While Thatcher’s work is certainly needed, I found Marin’s emphasis far more helpful in knowing how to overcome prejudices and preconceived ideas, and relate to these precious individuals within the GLBT community.

I have always wondered why many Christians consider homosexuality a greater sin than anything else. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that we’re all sinners in need of God’s grace? Doesn’t the Bible teach that Jesus came to die for the whole world? However, I do admit I feel uncomfortable talking about this issue. After focussing on it for my Master’s Degree dissertation, I read a lot of books on the subject, which took me far beyond my comfort zone. But Marin’s approach is completely different. His method is refreshing and thoroughly loving. You feel his love for this community as you work through his writing, and appreciate his sincere desire that each individual finds God for themselves, whatever their sexual orientation.

A few months ago one individual, whom I’ll call Steve, met with me and told me that he was gay. At the same time, he also talked about his desire to really walk with God and be accepted by God. I don’t know why he decided to tell me this, and honestly, I didn’t have sufficient answers to his theological questions. However, I told him he was most welcome at our church and I love it whenever he visits. To me, he is as loved by God as anyone else. Thankfully, after reading Marin, I really feel better equipped to reach out and help Steve and other individuals who are gay in a more meaningful way. And not feel so afraid of doing so.

I may not have all the answers, but I firmly believe that churches need to be safe places for people to visit, whatever their pasts and presents. As Marin asks, “Do our churches really give the impression that GLBT people have to be fixed before they are allowed to attend? Can we give love to (and be loved by) those without pretty pasts? Can we allow for God’s redemptive cycle to work in people’s lives without every knowing the ending? Or is his assessment right?” [iii] I truly desire that our church can be one such place. A community of God’s children who know they are loved and who are on their personal journeys to discovering Who He is and what He really thinks about them. Thanks to Marin, I feel more confident of becoming that.

[i] Andrew Marin, “Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community” (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009) 189

[ii] Marin, 108

[iii] Marin, 58

About the Author

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Liz Linssen

8 responses to “Orientating one’s way with love”

  1. mm Julie Dodge says:

    Hi Liz –
    Like you, I was drawn more to Marin’s work than Thatcher. I read a lot of text books. But It was oh so refreshing to read an evangelical Christian author who focused on what was important, and practical. As he recounted Jesus’ conversation with Peter (Do you love Me? Feed My Sheep.) I was struck by the truth of our call. I was struck by the many stories I have heard and continue to hear from people who identify as gay or lesbian, as well as helping Christians muddle through their own fears and discomfort in talking about anything having to do with sexuality. I love that you found it practical, and helpful. And I will continue to lift you up in your ministry, and in your conversations with “Steve” and the others who will surely come.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Thank you Julie.
      I know this topic is close to your heart, and after reading your blog, I better understand why.
      How God’s heart must break when he sees how these precious individuals are being treated by some Christians. Who are we to think that we’ve got it all right and are better than others? I think Marin has got it just right. A good book to have on the shelf!

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Thanks for sharing this story Liz. I also appreciated Marin’s writing for the same reasons that you mention. Additionally, I liked the practical advice given with how to reframe questions in order to cultivate relationships of mutual discovery. While I couldn’t agree with very much of Thatcher’s work, there is definitely merit to understanding how this theological understanding is developed. Hopefully, it will help us gain in empathy and loosen some judgment. Knowing what you know now, based on your Master’s work, this reading and your interaction with Steve – how can you more intentionally equip the church in which you serve to interact with those who are different?

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Thank you for your feedback Deve.
      Well honestly, our church is pretty much different already! We seem to attract people from broken backgrounds, so I don’t think someone who is gay will cause anyone offence. Which is good.
      I just personally feel better equipped to know how to respond to these precious individuals, and hopefully I can convey that to the church too.

  3. Liz…
    After reading the “teaser” paragraph before the post gremlin struck I am so glad your post is up and functioning, because you stand in the river (or maybe it is a stream?) so to speak. You feel the current (tension), yet it is your perspective of listening and learning that are providing solid ground. What caught my attention in your post is your desire and commitment to provide a safe place in among your congregation. It begins in your personal approach with others outside the worship space, in your listening and observing. You are fostering a safe place by being you. A safe place is all any of us desire. We are both saint and sinner. If you were to write another sentence (or even paragraph) how do you sense we might respond to Marin’s questions (the ones in your post)? What is lacking? What is developing?

    Thank you Liz for your insights …

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Thank you so much Carol for your feedback.
      You ask some good questions. Yes, indeed, how to answer Marin’s questions. Well, I guess the person in the pulpit has a big responsibility in conveying God’s grace to the church. I know I certainly don’t want our church to be a place where only the ‘fixed’ feel safe. To me, the church is like a hospital. If you’re broken, then come! It’s the perfect place to find God’s grace and healing. May God grant the wisdom to be faithful to His message!

  4. Liz,

    Excellent post. Thank you for your good thoughts.

    I too am often uncomfortable talking about this issue. In fact, I have at times wished the issue would just go away. But it won’t go away. At least in the American church, it is perhaps the biggest, most decisive issue in the 21st century.

    In the school where I work, Marin’s book has been circulating for the past couple of years. In fact, our college president is so committed to the principles in that book that we are becoming known as a Christian college that is accepting of the LGBT community. However, our school is affiliated with a Christian denomination that is not all that excited about the direction the president is taking the school. This will probably cost the school some problems with funding from the denomination and even more than that perhaps. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

    As for me, I am still processing all of this. Like you, I appreciated Marin’s book very much. I thought it was a balanced approach to the situation. I admire this man for being obedient to his calling despite what other evangelicals think. I also think that Marin’s book would be a good place to start some deeply needed conversations in our churches. We will see what happens.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Bill
      Thank you so much for your feedback.
      Yes, I totally agree with you. It must have taken a lot of courage to step into this ministry, especially after his own previous prejudice. His obedience to his God-given call is to be admired.
      It’s interesting to hear what is going on in your own college. What a shame that when we step up and obey God’s call, we’re at risk of losing support from fellow brothers and sisters. May God give us the same courage and love for this community as Marin!

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