I read the article on Letting Go by Stacy Reynolds. She is an awesome writer and has obviously given this topic much thought. I enjoyed your magazine. Especially your poetry section.
Thank you so much for the article on your current understanding of who Jesus is. ( Daring to be a Heretical Follower of Jesus)
So many people struggle with this question and so many people end up leaving Christianity and religion altogether simply because the dogmas of the church become like barnacles which distract rather than a rudder to guide as we ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’
This is the message that I work on giving in my homilies. Read the Gospels, and try to understand what people experienced who told and retold the stories that finally got to us in these wonderful books. People experienced the wonder of God’s love and healing power in the ministry and presence of Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus simply means that we too can be experienced as a loving and healing presence in the world as he was.
Again, thanks so much.
Rev. Leland R. Somers
I’m a student at Nottingham University, England, and I came across ‘Whosoever’ when looking at a Christian Web site review.
I haven’t read the whole of your site, but I’ve looked at some of the main points. I appreciated your ‘FAQ’ section – it helpfully dealt with any objections to the work of ‘Whosoever’.
Without wanting to be trite and patronising, I want to affirm the underlying ‘ethos’ of the Web site. It is clear that your aim is to shout out from the rooftops about the wonderful GRACE of God. It is supremely liberating to know that the only thing that makes us acceptable to God is Christ’s righteousness!
But, yup, you guessed it, I also want to ask some questions about some points the site makes. As I mentioned earlier, those FAQs were helpful.
I came from a Christian family, and grew up with many treasured Bible attitudes. I knew Jesus came because God so LOVED the world, I knew he went and ate with sinners, I learnt that it was not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick!
As I grew up, I applied these Bible attitudes to situations I’d meet – social issues. God taught me I needed to love people as they were, as they came. Since I went to University, I studied the Bible for the first time – listening for God’s voice – trusting the Spirit to make the Word living and active, and it dug deep into my heart and took a root.
There were many things I discovered as I really read the Bible for the first time. Lots of things to think about, lots of selfish attitudes that had to change, God was bigger than I’d thought!
As I came to consider the issue of homosexual practice, I heard Christian authors tell me it was a sin. Although I wanted to agree with those wiser and older, I felt that this somehow was a violation of the Christian attitude of love and acceptance.
However, in all honesty, I couldn’t agree with the conclusion that homosexual practice is ok. In those FAQs, Questions 5 and 6 apply to me (ignoring ‘Steve’!). I’ve read my Bible, and it still says homosexual practice is wrong. I would affirm the statement ‘LOVE the sinner, hate the sin.’
My concern is with the answer to this objection. It says:
“Here we have the Christian that has not learned Jesus’ lesson of unconditional love. Those who love the sinner and hate the sin forget that Jesus calls us to love the people we see. The challenge then is to love people as they are, not as we would like them to be.”
That paragraph does not make good sense. The lesson we need to learn is Jesus’ unconditional love. The application of this is to love the sinner – the living, breathing person! By hating the sin – let’s say gossiping – we are not violating Jesus’ command to love. The gossiping is something that God has commanded us not to do, that he hates, for his own very good reasons. “love them in all their sin” and “hate their sin” are two attitudes that happen at the same time. The article suggests that they are mutually exclusive. This is not logical.
Would you consider reconsidering that part of your argument, and concede that it is reasonable to LOVE the sinner, but hate the sin, just as I conclude God does.
I hope you’ll find it in your heart to love me (a sinner!) and I’ll try my best to love you (also a sinner), not because we deserve it, but as a demonstration of the undeserved love shown to us at Calvary.
I would appreciate a response – even dialogue, if you have the time.
Editor Candace Chellew Responds:
As you might be able to guess, I don’t really have time for any type of extended dialogue. Being a full time worker and part time seminary student (with Whosoever as my second full time job), I have little time to engage in long, or extended conversations about points that are already well covered within the contents of Whosoever, should one take the time to read each issue.
That said, however, I do sometimes reply to letters, like yours, that are thoughtful, obviously grace-filled and kind.
Despite your kind tone and reasoned argument, though, I cannot comply with your plea to concede that the slogan “love the sinner and hate the sin” is in any way a reasonable way to live.
In my mind, such a slogan is not biblical and would not be a philosophy that Jesus would recognize. In every story I’ve studied where Jesus has dealt with sinners, his philosophy seems to be, “love the sinner, forgive the sin.” Now, I realize neither of us is Jesus and we don’t have the power to forgive sin. However, I believe that what we are supposed to do is clearly spelled out by Jesus. We are to love God with all our heart, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. When we deal with things about ourselves that we don’t like, we do it lovingly — and often by giving it up to God and seeking forgiveness. This is a model of how we are to treat others. We are to love others, yes, but whatever we may see as someone else’s shortcomings should be left up to God to correct — it’s not our job to point out faults to others. If we are attending to the board in our own eye, we will have not time to see the speck in someone else’s.
Besides, this argument over loving the sinner and hating the sin is really beside the point. You seem to believe that being a homosexual is a sin in and of itself. That is not true. Simply being gay is no sin. Simply being a heterosexual is no sin. It is how one uses one’s sexuality that tempts us into sinning. The Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior that uses or abuses another person sexually. It clearly condemns lust (both heterosexual and homosexual). It clearly condemns using someone for sexual gratification outside of a committed relationship (either gay or straight). When gays or straights act in such a manner sexually, then they sin. If a homosexual engages in sex with a partner to whom they have committed themselves, then they do not sin. Nowhere does the Bible condemn homosexual sex within a committed homosexual relationship. Every “anti-gay” passage in the Bible condemns either homosexual prostitution or acts committed within fertility cults known for their promiscuous homosexual (and heterosexual!) conduct.
But, your question revolves around the preposterous idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin when it comes to homosexuality, so we shall address that. The reason the idea is ridiculous is that you cannot separate me from some in-born characteristic (my sexual orientation) you think is wrong. It’s like telling me that you love me but you hate the fact that I am right handed, or green-eyed, or five-foot-two. I am all these things. (Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that people believed left-handed people were possessed by the devil and were forced to write with their right hand!) You cannot separate me from these innate things. My sexual orientation is innate — it cannot be changed, no matter what the ex-gay ministries promise. (Consult the multitude of ex-ex-gays who have tried and failed to change their innate sexual orientation.)
But what about real sin? Can we truly love the sinner and hate the sin when they are murderers, liars, thieves and such? Maybe. These certainly are behaviors that harm society and put all our lives at risk. These people do need compassion and love and need to shown the error of their ways. Society has in place a system to judge them and help them to change, or at least remove them from the general population. I do hate that someone has committed a murder, but I would also be hard-pressed to really love such a person. Can you genuinely say that you would love someone who murdered someone close to you? Jesus has charged us with a hard task when he told us to love EVERYONE as ourselves. Even the filthy, low-down murderer.
However, let us be clear about the distinction. We know, without any doubt, that it is a sin to kill someone. We know, without any doubt, that it is a sin to lie, to cheat, to steal … these are not innate behaviors, however. They are learned behaviors — they may stem from a bad childhood or other terrible situations that people find themselves in. They have nothing in common with homosexuality, which is an innate, unchangeable, sexual orientation that God has granted to a minority of his creation.
I still agree with Kierkegaard, however, that we are loved to call the people that we see and not the people that we’d like to see. It’s a hard task, yes. But, I think we are called to love the sinner that we see and leave any sin we might THINK we see up to God to handle. My relationship with God is MY relationship with God. Your relationship with God is YOUR relationship with God. I have no say in yours and vice versa. Your sin is between you and God. I trust God to handle it.
Then again, I may be wrong and call something sin that is not. Can you see your way clear to think that maybe it’s wrong to call homosexuality a sin? Sin is something that separates us from God. My homosexuality has actually brought me closer to God. That cannot be called a sin.
Bottom line, Sam: I am not a defective heterosexual in need of healing or redemption. I am a lesbian, made that way from birth by a God who has continued to bless me abundantly as I move forward in love and grace. There is no sin in my sexual orientation, and I have done my best to see that there is no sin in my behavior as Christian lesbian. There is no “sin” to hate here — only a sinner to love.
Finally, let me leave you with this thought from Rev. Melanie Morrison (from “The Grace of Coming Home), when she was posed this question:
“I was speaking to a college class about my experiences as a lesbian and a pastor, and one of the women in the class said, ‘Well, I have to tell you that even though I find you a likeable person, I can’t condone what you are doing. I think it’s a sin. But, I can still love you. It’s possible to love the sinner and hate the sin.’
‘How can you say that you love me,’ I responded, ‘when you don’t want to know either my pain or my joy? No, I don’t think you can say that you love me, because what you call “sin” (the love I share with my partner), I call a grace-filled relationship. And what you call the inability to condone, I call the sin of heterosexism. There’s a serious rupture between us, and we can’t gloss it over with easy talk about loving the sinner while hating the sin. For you to call the most intimate and cherished relationship in my life “sinful” is a very serious charge. It’s a violent thing to say. Furthermore, you can’t offer me love with one hand while denying me justice with the other, because love and justice are inseparable. No, I’m sorry, I won’t grant you your wish to think that you can love me anyway.'”
Thank you for you online magazine. We all have our own unique and individual stories and experiences and I appreciate very much your Web site. My past has its own odd and unique personality. I was a former Jehovah’s Witness, who in leaving in 1996, began writing for therapeutic reasons. As a straight male who loves true justice, inclusiveness and agape towards humanity, I would like to leave you the following link, perhaps you may wish to link it to your site. Apparently my floundering back and forth from fundamental churches has aroused indignation towards the hatred and prejudices I encountered and still confront to this day.
[Editor’s note: The author of this letter was the publisher of a website called “Escape from Watchtower” that no longer exists.]
Thank you again for your magazine.
Very truly yours,
I just wanted to thank you for your inclusion and faith in all people. I have read some of the past articles and almost all of the current issue and am so happy you are out there.
I really loved the 7 things articles, both of them. I have thought the exact same way on many of the same issues. I don’t want to live free of heterosexuality. I’m rather grateful for it. If it were not for heterosexuality, I wouldn’t be here today.
I’m so happy this site is here, I have referred many people to your site, both gays and heterosexuals alike. I feel that if just one heterosexual who tells me I am bad for being honest can see the love that God has for all of us, this world can live as one.
I wasn’t raised to be a doormat, but I found myself in that position when I was married to my husband. I though that my being married is what everyone expected of me. All it did was alienate me from my family and friends and made me and my own family miserable. It took me several more years to come to terms with myself, my beliefs and my sexuality. When I did, I found a love I didn’t think was possible in my life. My partner and I will have been together for five years this summer. We are more devoted to each other than some heterosexual couples. We are completely monogamous and committed to one another. Our relationship is a marriage, whether sanctioned by a church or not. Our lives are one.
Keep up the great work!
Blessings to you all,
A sincere and deeply felt thank you to you and all your staff who make “Whosever” available online. It is not only a resource but an inspiration and encouragement to me.
I am a gay priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, and am blessed with a supportive and understanding Bishop and congregation; nevertheless I often feel alone and isolated from the Christian community because of my sexuality and from the gay community because of my spirituality. Integrating them and holding them together as vital to my identity and health is not always easy, but Whosoever serves to remind me, time after time, that I am not alone in the Church, and not alone in my – our – struggle.
Name Withheld by Request