Jesus is the key to spiritual self defense for Christian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The call of Jesus to “Follow Me” provides the path to victory in resisting our enemies and winning with truth and love.
When Billy Graham began his great New York Crusade in Madison Square Garden for three months in the summer of 1957, he was attacked for the first time by his fundamentalist supporters. John R. Rice, Dr. Bob Jones and many others launched unrelenting attacks on Graham because he had included liberals, Catholics, and other religious groups as sponsors of the crusade. After the tremendously successful crusade concluded with a full week of filling Yankee Stadium, Billy Graham revealed that just as the New York crusade began, he wrote the following in his diary:
“My own attitude toward opposition has been one of quiet commitment to Christ. There were a few times, when I would hear some of the lies, distortions of truth and slander, that I had a bit of resentment in my heart and was tempted once or twice to lash back. But then scores of Scriptures began to echo in my ears and penetrate my heart, such as I Peter 2:15, “For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
“I have thanked God a thousand times in the last few days that He gave me grace, during these months of severe attacks, never to answer back. I do not want to get my mind off Christ. We have been promised that if we keep our minds on Him the peace that passes understanding will prevail in our hearts. This has certainly been true.” (page 23 in “God in the Garden”)
This may be one of the main reasons that Billy Graham remains highly respected in the world after over 50 years of public ministry and media attention.
Whenever I have been under a lot of stress, the passage that has helped me most is “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
OUR WEAPONS ARE SPIRITUAL
Self defense against outside oppression is easy compared to defending ourselves against our own internal homophobia, self hate, low self esteem, and the exhausting fear of our own sexuality as gay people. Internal conflict can paralyze our relationships, erode our sense of self worth, sabotage our careers, and undermine our mental stability.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (human), but mighty before God for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Jesus rejected deceit and violence in favor of truth and love. At his arrest, when one of the followers of Jesus drew a sword to defend Jesus, the reply of Jesus was, “Put away your sword; for all who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Do you not realize that I can ask God for help and have at once at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” For Jesus, the cross was the weapon of offense and the angels were for defense. How about you and me? Do we trust God to protect us and use only the weapons of truth and love in our mission of representing Jesus in our own special world?
BE READY TO GIVE A REASON FOR HOPE
“Always be prepared to explain to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15. This verse is the key verse in my book on personal evangelism in the gay community, “Invitation to Freedom,” published by Chi Rho Press in 1993. “Gentleness and respect” are sometimes hard to detect in current debates over the Bible and homosexuality.
Learn to share with others your own personal experience with Christ. You are the world’s authority on your own experience! Write out your own experience of accepting Jesus in your life and what that has meant to you. Be able to share that personal experience briefly and effectively with others. When in doubt, talk about Jesus. You will be amazed at the change in people when you shift the conversation to Jesus and stick to your own experience of God’s love and acceptance in Jesus.
HOW JESUS HANDLED STRESS
How did Jesus defend himself when he was misunderstood, attacked and condemned? The Gospels are clear. Jesus fought and won against all of the forces against him with the weapons of truth and love. Look up and study how Jesus responded to the use of the Bible against him in:
- The Temptations in Matthew 4:1-11.
- Jesus’ reply to legalism in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
- Jesus came to do the will of God in John 4.
- The love of Jesus was inclusive and unconditional.
- Jesus reached out with a healing touch and healing words.
Explore the Gospels for yourself, especially Luke and John, and notice how consistently inclusive Jesus was in responding to stressful situations by extending love and help to all people.
How Jesus handled his own feelings of anger can help you and me to know how to deal with some of our greatest personal problems in relating to other people. This is not something we can learn to do by imitation only. Letting the Spirit of Jesus enter into your heart and life gives you the wisdom and strength to conquer the enemies within and without. Take a look with me at how Jesus handled anger.
FACE AND DEAL WITH YOUR ANGER
Anger toward people and toward God or yourself can delay your recovery. Resist seeing yourself as a victim.
“Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger: for human anger does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20.
Anger and insanity are both called mad. Anger can be a crazy making power in your life. In A. A. I learned about “stinking thinking.” Experiencing and observing many other forms of abuse and addiction have led me to realize that when a person is exceedingly angry about something truly insignificant, some form of addiction usually is involved. Addictions to co-dependency, alcohol, drugs, sex, religion, and a thousand other “unclean spirits” that try to control us can make us lose our “cool” and blow up. Anger is such a destructive force in our lives that we absolutely must master it or be unnecessarily limited in everything we do.
Jesus demonstrated how he dealt with his own anger. Mark 3:1-7 gives the account of Jesus going to a synagogue on the Sabbath: “and a man with a withered hand was there. They (the religious leaders) were watching Jesus to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse him.” Jesus told the man to stand up and come forward. Jesus said, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But the religious leaders did not answer. “And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man: stretch out your hand. He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” The religious leaders immediately went out and consulted with political leaders about how to destroy Jesus. “And Jesus withdrew to the sea with his disciples.” This is the only use of the word anger (Greek orge) to describe Jesus in the Gospels. This event is given in parallel accounts in Matthew 12:9-21 and Luke 6:6-19.
Jesus first recognized and admitted his own anger. He became angry when faced with flagrant religious abuse against a suffering individual, who was being used by religious leaders to try to trap Jesus into breaking their laws. The man with the withered arm ordinarily would not be allowed in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. People who had disfiguring conditions were considered to be unclean and were religious outcasts. The Pharisees taught that all sickness was caused by the sick person’s sins. Jesus challenged all of this in a moment of compassion and healing. But the anger was real. The reaction of the religious leaders was even more severe anger in Luke 6:11, where they were said to be “filled with rage.” The word “rage” means “madness” or “folly.”
Then Jesus withdrew. The Gospels picture Jesus practicing a healthy rhythm of involvement and withdrawal in his ministry to the crowds. Jesus did not stay involved all the time. He took regular time out for rest and prayer. Dealing with anger often requires taking some time to “cool off” and think through what your response should be. Anger can distort your perception. Anger can drain your energy and make you waste your time in negative thinking. Anger in your life can be a powerful destructive force in view of the fact that depression and suicide are anger turned inward.
Jesus did more than admit his anger and withdraw. He prayed all night (Luke 6:12), selected friends to be with him and to talk with him, turned to the Bible for a carefully selected passage that described his mission as peaceful, non-violent, inclusive, and effective (Matthew 12:17-21). Then he plunged back into the crowds to continue his work. He refused to let his enemies draw him into fighting them on their terms (Matthew 12:38-39). These techniques for handling anger are valid when you face any powerful emotional stress in your life. Admit the stress. Take time out to think it through. Pray. Use the Bible to give you a clear sense of your real mission and purpose in Christ. Choose the people you will let be close to you and share with you in your times of stress. The Gospels conclude the account of Jesus handling anger by showing how Jesus defined his family in new terms as those who were compatible with him (Matthew. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35).
SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE
Your greatest weapon of spiritual self defense is your own personal spiritual growth in Christ. Paul concluded his description of our spiritual calling in Ephesians 4 by saying in 4:12-16 that whatever form our ministry may take, it is “to equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature person, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human trickery, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all things into Christ, who is the head, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every part supplies, according to the effective working of every individual, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Truth that is not spoken in love is not seen as truth. For Jesus and for you and me, truth and love go hand in hand and cannot be separated and remain either truth or love. Love without truth is hypocrisy and truth without love is destructive. When truth and love are combined in us as they are in Jesus, then we can enter fully into the promise of Jesus that “the truth will set you free.”
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.