DMINLGP

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

Standing on the Mercies of God

Written by: on March 6, 2015

What I love about all of the books we are reading, is that we are exposed to and learning about the other sides of conversations that too often homogeneous Christians have only had with themselves, either choosing to ignore or simply being ignorant that there even is another side. It seems that we continue to revert back to book on the scandal of the Evangelical mind. Between Andrew Marin’s book and Adrian Thatcher’s book we are truly getting exposed to the another side of a very controversial subject regarding sexual orientation and the gay community. Allow me to enter into this weighty subject with a story. I love stories and I hope you do also.

I have a wonderful brother in the Lord who has been my mentor and friend for many years. He was a sanity, ministry, and life savior to me as I pastored in Wichita Kansas for 11 ½ years. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing him and preaching in a church this Sunday where he is currently serving as interim pastor. We will be returning to the artic cold to do some much-needed itinerate and partnership development.

Pastor Joe, as he is affectionately known throughout the community, helped me in my naïve logic of trying to figure out my new role of pastor and even more my role as child of God. I recall many breakfast meetings where he would, from his vantage point of being across the table and 15 years my elder, would ask questions that would challenge me in new ways. One day in particular I was rattling on about a person’s faulty theology. Of course having gone to graduate school and obtaining a Master of Divinity degree from Regent University, I certainly knew what correct theology should be. Pastor Joe allowed me to rattle off my educated yet unwise conclusions as he quietly drank his coffee and ate his oatmeal. Like an experienced fishermen he allowed me to run with the line before he “set the hook.”

Once I was completely assured that I had extrapolated all of the exegetical truths of the theological premise that I was currently defending I concluded and I began to eat my, now cold, omelet. I envisioned Pastor Joe, sitting in amazement at my intellectual prowess and congratulating me on being able to wade through all the delicate intricacies of the argument and coming out on top with truly the best theological explanation of how this person was wrong and I was right.

Pastor Joe, having patiently listened to me, put his cup down, and with that fatherly look that I have come to love so much, he asked me one question that has forever changed my theological perspective. “Mitch, how much wrong theology can a person have and still make it into heaven?” Needless to say my omelet continued cooling.

How much wrong theology can an individual have and still get into heaven? And truly can anyone have the perfect right theology? Can there even be such as thing on this side of the darkened glass. To ask a slightly different question, but one along the same lines, “How much sin can a person have in their lives and yet still get into heaven?” As Marin shares throughout his book, love ought to be our orientation, not just to the gay community but to all people. Perhaps in Jesus’s day it was tax collectors and the general label of “sinners” that were placed upon people, who would be disenfranchised by those who consider themselves to have the right theology. It is through Thatcher’s book that much theology of the quintessential homogeneous Christian argumentation is put under a greater microscope. Though we have been given the mind of Christ we are still bound in this terrestrial nature of our current existence. Yet we work with what we have. Christ came to free us from the curse of the law and do away with the sin that separates us from the God who loves us enough to die in our place. Can God through Christ accept a person who struggles with same sex attraction? Let me ask a perhaps easier question, “Can God accept you who struggle with anger issues, lust issues, and your own private sin issues that only you and God know all to well?” Of course the answer is yes He can, and yes He does.

In this understanding then, God loves the LGTB community just as much as He loves the murder, rapist, and disobedient to parents community. In essence Christ came to save sinners, and if we identify ourselves like Paul did, “of which I am the chief,” we get to the beginning of where our love must emanate from. Yet the struggle is whether the category of same sex sexual relations are to be classified as sin in today’s modern age.

If homosexuality is not a sin then there are still other sins that we must continue to free ourselves from till mortality is swallowed up into immortality and we all grow up into Christ who is the head. As Marin states in his book, if we are straight then “right from the gate, you can’t relate.” We, let me say, I, do not understand, but that does not give me license to judge and excommunicate. Rather it is an opportunity to welcome, embrace, and walk the same journey as we each discover God.

Each of us can relate to being separated from God and coming with all our incorrect theology and messed up lives to a God who loves us just as we are straight, confused, proclaimed, or inflamed. So, I conclude with the acknowledgement that I do not have the final say on the correct theological perspective regarding LGTB, but I am confident in that I have just enough theology that I can love them as I have been loved. It is here I stand on the mercy of my fellow travelers and Christ.

_______________________________

Marin, Andrew. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Marin, Andrew, and Ginny Olson. Love Is an Orientation: Practical Ways to Build Bridges with the Gay Community 6 Sessions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Thatcher, Adrian. God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction. Chichester, West Sussex England: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

About the Author

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Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

7 responses to “Standing on the Mercies of God”

  1. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Mitch, I love your story. How many times have we been strongly on one side of an argument, sure that we are right, just to have the rug pulled out from under us with wise words and thoughtful queries? Only a trusted mentor can be so honest and caring to ask such questions of us. Reading your post made me miss my mentor…the one who pushed my theology with his pithy questions and conjured critical thinking that I never knew I had. We had such a great relationship, an intimate, trust-worthy friendship that allowed us to question and wonder with ease and without judgment. It makes me think that we should be intentional about creating just that type of community and relationship with the LGBT community, or any group with whom we have differences…to allow ourselves to grow and learn without fear. … Love our talks, Mitch! Great story this week.

    • Thanks Ashley. Your words of affirmation are always welcomed. That is my love language. Mentoring relationships is one topic I wish we would cover in our program here. I desire to develop mentoring relationship and give back all that I received but so many young ministers that I have come in contact with are not willing to receive. Have you been able to develop mentoring relationships? If so, how have you been able to successfully establish them?

  2. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Mitch, I agree, it is not having the right or wrong theology that gets us into heaven but believing in the Son of God and his redeeming work on the cross. And God’s love is for everyone and He accepts us with our struggles and asks us to sin no more. I agree with you, it is not our role to judge people but the Bible encourages us to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Thank you.

  3. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Mitch! Such a good question “How much wrong theology can you have and still get into heaven?” – man! I have to think through this for a bit.
    The other thing… it seems to me from the reading that homosexuality is different than the other sins you described (murder, gossip). All those sins are things we do… being gay is an identity issue for many in the the community. So does the “doing” outside of ourselves and the “being” which is internal change the way we should deal with homosexualty?

  4. Michael Badriaki says:

    Mitch, thank you for the reflection. I appreciate the issue you raise about theological correctness- (TC). It is an easy temptation to fall into especially for new bible school, seminary graduates and the church. But you remind us to focus on the main point of Marin’s book is encourages us to take the “… opportunity to welcome, embrace, and walk the same journey as we each discover God.”

    Thank you!

  5. mm Deve Persad says:

    Mitch,

    You are so blessed to have had a mentor relationship like that – thanks for giving us a breakfast window into it.

    Like Michael, I really appreciate this statement: “Rather it is an opportunity to welcome, embrace, and walk the same journey as we each discover God.” The question then becomes how can we put ourselves in a position to enter into relationships where we are mutually learning about God with those who are categorically different than we are? Enjoy tomorrow’s omelet.

  6. Mitch,

    Your question is a great one, “Can God accept you who struggle with anger issues, lust issues, and your own private sin issues that only you and God know all to well?” Your answer to is also great.

    I personally believe that we all struggle with something. We all have a secret life somehow, some way. Paul did. I do. We all do. Why is this? Probably to keep us human, which is a good thing to be. The human condition was made OK by the incarnation of Christ. And even He struggled with temptation, just like we do — but, unlike us, He was without sin. Amazing! The rest of us? We are all “recovering sinners” who still sin. None of us in immune from this reality.

    God help us to be merciful to all others as God has been (is) merciful to us.

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