In your world, you are the most important person you know. What happens to you and how you feel about yourself determine everything for you. What is happening to other people in other places might be interesting and even inspiring, but what is happening in your life is what matters to you.
Many churches are accepting and affirming gay people, but has that made you more confident in your own spiritual life? At the same time that our society is experiencing a surge of religious acceptance of GLBT people, we are also seeing the growing impact of the “ex-gay” industry in “Exodus,” “Love Won Out” and other discredited homophobic religious ministries.
How the world, homophobic fundamentalists, religious ignorance and various mildly accepting religious denominations see you does not determine your value to God or your own self-esteem. Your self-acceptance of yourself as a child of God in the image of God with equal value to every other person in the eyes of God and in your own eyes is determined within your own mind. You think for yourself because you have to. Nobody else can really decide who you are for you.
Too much information
Sometimes I tell my best friend too much about something, and his response is: “too much information!” We can absorb and use only so much information from outside ourselves. We are bombarded with news, reports, articles, research projects, reliable and unreliable facts, opinions and propaganda. The Internet now offers contradictory opinions and detailed information on every subject imaginable and some that are unimaginable in literally hundreds of millions of web sites! Travel the search engine “yellow brick road” at your own risk!
I am convinced that your truth and your best source for your own self-acceptance and self-esteem are already within you as God,s gift to you in your basic humanity. The old saying that: “God don,t make no junk” is really true! You are not a mistake. You are not a problem that somebody needs to fix. You are not trash or spiritual garbage. You are already God’s beloved accepted and affirmed child. You are “the child of the King,” so act like it.
Religion wants to change you
Religion wants to tell you who you are and change you into what culture and society have decided you should be. God has other plans. God in Jesus makes clear the fact that you already have eternal value to God. You are important and have a unique mission in life that fits only you. Discovering the real you and acting on God’s mission for you is the most exciting and affirming experience available to you. Being yourself and realizing your potential as a child of God should be fun. Religion usually is not, unless you are the one in charge and enjoy ordering other people around!
The churches have failed to communicate the self-affirming inclusive unconditional love of God in Jesus for all people. “Miserable sinners” continue to plod wearily to the altar for one more religious fix that is as addictive as it is spiritually futile and unhealthy. The churches do not own God. They do not even know what God is really like because they base their whole sense of mission on a flawed view of what people are like and what creation in the image of God means in the first place.
Everything in church is still built on medieval images of “The Fall,” “Heaven” and “Hell.” Remove misinformation about the fall, heaven, and hell and the entire ecclesiastical system collapses into oblivion, where it belongs. When this happens, what will take the place of traditional churches? Jesus, I hope!
Jesus plus nothing
Jesus still calls you to follow him. No elaborate confused religious system of dogma, clergy, polity, political pecking order or anything else can separate you from the love of God which has been revealed and demonstrated in the Jesus of the Four Gospels and the Spirit of Jesus already within you. Knowing and following the will of God in your life has never been as obscure and complicated as the churches have tried to make it.
Jesus stood a little child in their midst and said: “Here is ultimate greatness in the will of God.” How scandalous! Yet how profoundly true! Religion is always the enemy of objective truth and honest objective logical realism. The emperor and the church are both naked. Only one with childlike vision can see the truth about either.
Jesus is your real leader. Abandon everything else but Jesus, and Jesus will never abandon you. If you follow Jesus, you have the promise that nothing can demean, control or destroy you. Following Jesus sets you free from becoming the prey of misinformed religious abusers, who presently control the ecclesiastical systems of our world.
Freedom in Christ
Freedom in Christ is freedom from religion. How far along the road to real freedom have you come so far? What really matters to you is your own sense of self-worth and your confidence that God accepts and sustains you in every moment of your life. You don’t have to know anything in particular about God, who dwells in unapproachable light and mystery. You can, however, know and follow Jesus.
Jesus is simple, plain, and real. Jesus is like you. Jesus struggled, was misunderstood, abused by religion, and rejected by his own people. Make the clear separation between religion and Jesus that will allow you the freedom that Jesus enjoyed and celebrated in a life that did great good, led to the crucifixion and concluded in the resurrection. Jesus lives today in you because Jesus was not willing to be bound by religion. You too can soar above the confusion and contradictions of religion if you follow Jesus.
Above all, Jesus teaches and demonstrates how to love. Love costs everything. Love also gives everything. Love really is “the greatest thing in the world.” Because God loves you, you also ought to love yourself and others. Love is painful, joyful, hopeful, faithful, satisfying, and reflects the presence of the Spirit of Jesus within you. Love is life.
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.