A famous British general once told John Wesley, “I never forgive!” To which Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, you had better never sin.”
The only comment that Jesus made about his own “model prayer’ in Matthew 6:14-15 concerned forgiveness: “If you forgive others of their transgressions, God will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, then God will not forgive your transgressions.”
This has explosive implications for evangelical church people who claim that they have a Bible basis for rejecting and judging homosexuals and that God and they cannot forgive GLBT people for being homosexual!
The biblical word for forgive means “to let go”. God forgives us by letting go of our disobedience and failures. We forgive others by letting go of our resentment and judgmental rejection of other people when they have hurt us.
We Have No Proof of Forgiveness
For many centuries, the churches have claimed to be the channel through which people are forgiven for their sins. An elaborate system of confessions, penance, penalties, offerings, prayers, repentance, and absolution has been developed to give structure and visible expression to the path to forgiveness. There is no evidence, however, that God has ever forgiven anyone for anything! Forgiveness from God is accepted and believed by faith.
Once multitudes of people were convinced that they are “born in sin” and are “lost” and doomed to burn in torment for eternity in hell without the church’s offer of forgiveness, the financial and political power of the church was guaranteed for 2,000 years. The use of guilt and the offer of forgiveness by the churches to build and maintain religious and financial empires is so alien to the spirit and teachings of Jesus that one stands amazed in the presence of the high hypocrisy and low theology that prevails in the religious world today.
Multitudes of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people have wept and prayed and cried out to God to forgive them of their sexual orientation and to save them from the unspeakable terrors that religious pretenders to the honor of God have convinced them are the clear teachings of the “word of God” against them. Jesus was not a religious terrorist. He did not take hostage the sexuality and spirituality of homosexual believers as the homophobic legalistic fundamentalists try to do today.
Jesus was a genius many centuries ahead of his time. Jesus certainly knew about sexual orientation and knew that ten percent of his followers and his enemies were homosexuals! Yet Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or raged against homosexuals as evil wicked sinners who deserved to fry in hell. Instead, Jesus raged against the evil wicked Scribes and Pharisees who rejected and judged others and were a “brood of snakes on their way to the fires of hell” (Matthew 23:33)! Read all of Matthew 23 for the rest of the story.
Also see my web site material on Legalism as Idolatry at my website, where you can click on the relevant Bible passages that give the teachings of Jesus on God’s love and forgiveness.
One of the incredibly abusive uses of religion in our time is the distortion of the Gospel of Jesus from a message of God’s unconditional love and acceptance of all people into the destructive abusive use of the Bible to undermine the self-esteem of GLBT people and to instill self-destructive attitudes of self-hate and suicidal lifestyle choices.
Forgiving Yourself and Others
Although there is no evidence that God has forgiven you, there is abundant evidence in your own life and heart when you forgive (let go of anger and resentment) others and when others forgive you. You also know it when you have forgiven yourself and accepted yourself as God’s child. Letting go of the low self-esteem and denial of your own value and worth to God that homophobia creates is a blessed relief that can lift your spirits and give you fresh meaning in life.
Think of all of the ways that Jesus expressed God’s inclusive love for you and all people. Make a list of the evidence in the Gospels that God loves you just as you are. Consider the reason for the name of this on-line GLBT Christian newsmagazine, “WHOSOEVER”: John 3:16-17: “God so loved you (the world) that God gave Jesus so that you (whosoever) might believe in Jesus and not throw your life away (perish), but have eternal (a full and meaningful) life; for God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn you but that you should be liberated through Jesus.”
“God is love.” Your love for yourself and your GLBT brothers and sisters and for your same-sex partner is a gift from God you. You do not need forgiveness for being a practicing homosexual, for that is how God made you. All of us need to be forgiven for waiting so long to challenge the religious lies and distortions of the Bible to abuse, oppress and destroy so much of our GLBT family.
Let go of abusive religion as a first step into spiritual health and wholeness. God has already forgiven you for all that you have done to “miss the mark” of God’s will for you as a GLBT person. Enjoy your friendship and companionship with God. You have had God with you all along, whether you knew it or not.
The author of Invitation To Freedom and Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, Rev. Rembert S. Truluck served in Metropolitan Community Churches in Atlanta, San Francisco and Nashville from 1988 to 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Furman University, serving from 1953 to 1973 as a Southern Baptist preacher. He resigned as a professor at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) and became an MCC pastor after being outed to the college’s board of trustees.