The CNN Belief Blog recently published My Take: On fear, faith and being gay by Jennifer Knapp. So I thought I’d give my take.
As a young boy I learned to take risks. Climbing trees and jumping ramps on a bicycle will do that to a boy. Falling down from a tree or flying off the bicycle in the air ties the stomach in knots as the ground approaches to stop the fall. But I learned to rely on myself and try harder. Climbing 10 feet up and jumping from one tree to another or jumping a ramp stacked three tires high became normal. My life, ramps, climbs and abilities.
This went hand in hand with the faith I was baptized into at 8 years old. A sect of Mormonism, known by the acronym RLDS, who are now known as the Community of Christ. I grew up learning that I was a sinner, but I was a good sinner. So good that I could rely on my own righteous works to be right with God. Since both of my parents were ordained RLDS ministers there was much reinforcement of this religion of works. I was also taught that we were part of the one true church. I had a great time at RLDS summer camps singing songs and doing activities. I was a good RLDS “Christian” until I hit about 16.
In South Georgia it had always been a challenge to keep together the dwindling RLDS congregation members. Besides, I started losing my salvation by cussing and other various sins. I felt my works were no longer good enough. Although they were good enough in a way. They were good enough for my friends and for the world.
The “do’s and don’ts” of the world weren’t so much different at that time. There were still many things that you don’t do in public out of respect for others. The real difference was that now my good deeds were not working toward my salvation, but toward my satisfaction. Either way it was up to me.
This worked well in college for a student who served himself on worldly standards. I was very good at working toward my own satisfaction. Rent just about any college themed b-movie and you’ll find me somewhere in the script playing various roles. Being a heterosexual made most of my actions acceptable. Being a heterosexual actually encouraged many worldly forms of self-indulgence since they promoted as proper. I had friends who believed God existed. Some of them even considered themselves to be Christians. However, in experiencing life with them, their lives were no different than mine. We all had the same self-indulgence.
Even after college life was still about me. Yet, my satisfaction was waning. Joining a Masonic lodge did not fulfill me. You would think that taking blood oaths while half-dressed in front of others who had done the same would create some sort of fulfilling bond. Make no mistake, after going through all of the rituals and oaths a bond does form. It wasn’t really an experience that everyone could be invited into. The answer to the purpose of life was not found in keeping secret oaths secret for fear of being killed. How good are people at keeping secrets anyway?
Maybe more clubs and bars held the answer. Maybe studying more self-help books or reading more on Buddhism would help. Positive thinking? Daily affirmations? Well, morning after morning the emptiness grew despite how I filled myself. It was like tirelessly trying to fill a bucket full of holes with water attempting to put out a fire.
In my search for fulfillment I was really on a search for faith. As the adage goes – everyone has faith in something. This faith is often subjective and self-centered. What I experienced was years of misplaced faith. It was also a generic faith. It was a faith that was more about me and how it could fulfill my own desires on my own standards. A dog chases its tail, catches it and ends up with what it already had only now with bite marks.
I was that dog.
One good golfing day, however, that all started to change. A life long friend who once chased his tail too offered something different. His college life wasn’t much different than mine. Same late nights and early mornings. We were friends. His life had been transformed. Mine hadn’t. He offered me the gospel of Jesus Christ. He couldn’t answer all of my questions at the time. He just pointed me to the gospel. I related with him since we had grown up together and lived similar lives.
It seems easier when you can relate to someone. Yet, I realized we all have the same basic path. We have life and finally we die. The in-between may have some differences, but the sins are the same. The sins take shape in the worshiping of anything and everything in rebellion to God. It all made sense once I understood this. I now had an objective standard outside myself in the gospel of Jesus Christ to depend on.
I could rely on Jesus’ works, but would He have me?
Yes! If I turned from my sin and trusted that Jesus, in His death, has taken the punishment for my sins and given me new life in His resurrection. Even through my heterosexual immorality, lying, greed, evil thoughts, etc. Jesus would forgive me. Jesus has given me new life and freed me from those life defining sins. Although I still sin I do not count those sins as a defining part of my person. My identity is now found in Jesus Christ. He has freed me from self-indulgence and self-justification for my life. I do not have to seek what is sinful and rebellious against God. I can lay those temptations and sins on Christ.
As you walk that path from life to death it might look different from your neighbor’s walk. However, to God all of the sins along the walk are an offense to Him. There is only one way for your relationship, all relationships, with God to be made right and that is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you encouraged that you are not alone in this? Will you rejoice that the gospel of Jesus is for you and all those differing from you? Or will you simply ignore the gospel and stay in your sin?