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To Live as an Expression of Christ’s Love: A Challenge and a Mandate

Written by: on March 22, 2018

I concentrate on a new goal: reclaiming the word love. My goal is to explore how Christ’s love manifests itself in believer’s lives, and in turn, how to best express that love to the rest.”[1] These are the words of author Andrew Marin in his book Love is an Orientation. Marin who identifies as a heterosexual, evangelical Christian has spent his time doing life with the GLBT community. His purpose evolved over time. One thing that remained at the core was that he remained open while sharing his faith in the only way he knew how. When he asked why people would come to his Bible Study the response was that “you treat us like children of God and not gays and lesbians who want to be Christians.”[2] When I read this statement my eyes welled up with tears. At first, I didn’t know what to think but my heart just began to feel sad. Whether people mean it intentionally or unintentionally it doesn’t take away from the fact that the actions of many believer’s cause others to feel pushed to the edge without feeling connected or a place of belonging. Despite a person’s individual perception or belief, as a believer our hearts should be broken for anyone who wants connection and relationship with God without forcing them to feel like an outsider. Growing up in church it was often said “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs”.  I would say for my life nothing can be closer to the truth! I am also not asserting that the stories of the individuals told in this book were about exposing faults what it did speak to is the multi dynamics and complexities of what it means to be human.  In our American context the discussion of homosexuality has more to do with sexual behavior and the polarity that exists between opinions within our culture today.

Marin asserts that “despite what many believe, true biblical love does not come naturally to our human nature. It is not natural for us to get hit on the right cheek and then turn to the abuser the other cheek as well. It is not natural for us to earnestly forgive those who continue to purposefully wrong us seventy times seven times.”[3]There is something often forgotten for those who profess Christ. It was His amazing love and kindness that drew us to Him. While we may have been introduced to Him through various methods (not saying all were healthy, biblical or even good) most of us were able to grow beyond our initial experience(s) and discover Him for ourselves.  Real genuine love provides safety and security allowing us to become vulnerable and open. We become open to connect, to feel, to express our vulnerabilities, fears, uncertainties, and challenges. It is through a healthy, safe place where we begin to take the steps to grow and allow transformation to happen. All of us can admit that we are on a faith journey. Seeking out the meaning of our lives and attempting to live out our purpose one day at a time. We will never get it right 100% but most of us know that it is not about the percent we get right but the transformation and fortitude that results in our earnest attempt to be who we were destined to become.

While reading this book was eye opening in some ways but known in others, I still wrestled with some of the points Marin conveyed in his book. In the sixth chapter he made a statement that I initially agreed with but was challenged by the rest of what he said “I strongly believe that whenever Jesus is involved, change is soon to follow. I’m not necessarily talking about sexual orientation; I’m talking about mind, soul and eternal understanding. Lives change with Jesus, and if a GLBT person says that God has indicated that it’s OK to be gay, the Christian community has to deeply trust and rely on the knowledge that we can never know the end to God’s best journey for someone else’s life.”[4]  When I first read this statement I was like HUH?!I know what the author was trying to convey but that could easily be misinterpreted. Yes, we have to trust the Holy Spirit to know the end to God’s journey in our lives but to say that if someone indicates that it is ok for them to be who they are then we should accept their indication is troublesome for me. I do believe we should all be accepted for who we are but I believe that it is indeed the power of God through his amazing love that transforms and changes our lives regardless of the place we find ourselves at in any season of our lives. Overall, I think Marin’s book spoke from a place that many otherwise would not have taken time to pause and listen too. I am reminded of our Cape Town advance when Michelle spoke to us about welcoming those on the edge as prophetic voices. While I am growing in my understanding with those in my life, holding in tandem what I was taught, experienced, and know to be true I do believe the word of the late Rev Billy Graham apply not only in this context but in the context of how we treat all humankind. As re-expressed by Marin  “it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and our job to love gays and lesbians in tangible and measurable ways through our unconditional behaviors as a flesh representation of Jesus Christ in their lives—no matter what the outcome.” This among other things is both a challenge and a mandate.

 

[1] Andrew P. Marin, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009),99.

[2] Ibid, 106.

[3] Ibid, 109.

[4]Ibid,110.

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

8 responses to “To Live as an Expression of Christ’s Love: A Challenge and a Mandate”

  1. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful post-Christal. I appreciated your soul-searching responses to the book. It was moving reading the book and realizing, gay issue aside, we really need to grow as a church in learning how to love and accept people.

  2. Jim Sabella says:

    Christal, thank you for your thoughtful and balanced post. I too struggle with the way Christians often treat people. You’re right, sometimes we don’t even know it’s happening. That’s why a book like Marin’s is so important. Not only does it initiate an conversation, it gives Christians another view of how people may see them. That alone is a great gift. Enjoyed your post, Christal.

  3. Mary says:

    Marin did ask us to pause and reconsider the questions. Thank you for your insights into the questions, Christal. I agree that Christians need to try and imitate Jesus more. He preached truth, but He met people where they were and ministered to their needs. Marin made a point out of just getting people to have the conversation. What do you think? Is this one of those books that we should recommend to our churches?

    • Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

      Mary I do believe that this book is worth sharing with others. Marin brings an interesting relational point of view. If anything it will be a way to engage further in this discussion within our communities.

  4. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “Lives change with Jesus, and if a GLBT person says that God has indicated that it’s OK to be gay, the Christian community has to deeply trust and rely on the knowledge that we can never know the end to God’s best journey for someone else’s life.”

    I also found this to be problematic. For example, in a different contexts…

    Lives change with Jesus, and if a COUPLE says that God has indicated that it’s OK to be LIVE TOGETHER WITHOUT BEING MARRIED, the Christian community has to deeply trust…

    Lives change with Jesus, and if a 30 YEAR OLD MAN says that God has indicated that it’s OK TO DATE A TEENAGER, the Christian community has to deeply trust…

    Lives change with Jesus, and if a WOMAN says that God has indicated that it’s OK FOR HER TO SEEK OTHER SEXUAL PARTNERS BECAUSE HER HUSBAND IS PHYSICALLY UNINTERESTED, the Christian community has to deeply trust…

    What about Christians in South Africa during Apartheid, should their sanctified racism been ignored?

    Can we be willing to love people unconditionally, knowing that we are all imperfect, and we are all broken, while letting people know that living for Jesus us hard? Sometimes it is countercultural. It means making personal sacrifices that do not make sense to everyone.

  5. Chrystal,
    Thanks so much for this post. You have really wrestled with some good and difficult stuff here.
    I so loved that you pulled out the idea that real – deep, true, abiding love doesn’t just come naturally to us. It is something we have to work at an need the Holy Spirit to help us with.
    So often we confuse how we are predisposed to feel with how we are called to feel – a critical difference.
    Thanks again.

  6. Lynda Gittens says:

    I appreciate your post and transparency. Marin’s book is good to begin a conversation. You highlighted his statement, “why people would come to his Bible Study the response was that “you treat us like children of God and not gays and lesbians who want to be Christians.” The church should be a safe haven for all people, yet we as Christians who believe they own the church often forget and only allow what is acceptable to them and not Jesus.
    When our reality faces our teaching it does cause one to reason, review, retaliate, etc. Thanks for sharing

  7. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Christal, I appreciate the way you wrestle with the topic here. I have always love the hymn with those words, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs,” because it just oozes grace and the reminder that God can see things we can’t. We have to trust the Spirit.
    All that being said, I really believe that Marin is still speaking as an outsider and that no one can speak to the heart of LGBTQ Christian ideals like an LGBTQ Christian. I recommend that you read “Torn” by Justin Lee or “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vine to hear from gay Christians about their struggle with faith and scripture.

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