There, I have done it. I have stooped to the tactic of tabloid newspapers by using a catchy title to draw you, the reader, in (please forgive me). While most tabloid stories are either about some celebrities’ misfortune or some wild conspiracy theory, this is about a very serious topic. Interestingly enough the topic is not about being gay, although I will use that subject matter to make a point about issues of faith that leave us confused or at least leave us questioning God’s desire or purpose in our lives. Today’s letteris about having questions of faith and deep questions of life itself. Said differently, today’s subject matter is Christian Conundrums.
The dictionary defines “conundrum” as: a problem that seems impossible to solve, a difficult problem that seems to have no solution. The Thesaurus gives us these words as alternatives for conundrum: puzzle, mystery, challenge or enigma.
Do you have questions of faith? Do you ever wonder about the afterlife or what God is really like? Do you sometimes have doubts? I suspect you do and it’s okay to have these questions so please read on.
4thdayletters has a very diverse Christian readership. Those of you making up this readership represent almost every mainstream Christian denomination and also many smaller or non-denominational independent Christian faiths. I have always attempted to write on topics we usually agree on. However, to make my point today, it is precisely the fact that sometimes we as Christians see things differently and have different views that can create confusion for us as believers, thereby setting up these conundrums of faith.
Oneof these conflictingpoints of viewis that the Bible is the definitive answer to all questions of faith. But, slow down a minute, we as Christians don’t fully agree on even how many books there are in the Bible! The Catholic version of the Bible has 73 books, the Protestant version has 66 and the Greek Orthodox Bible has 10 more books than Catholics do. Let’s face it even among Christian denominations that agree on the number of books, they don’t agree on the same interpretation of those books. No doubt these different interpretations may account for the fact there are over 33,000 Christian denominations.
Now let’s get back to the subject matter in today’s title. There may be no other subject more controversial or divisive within Christianity during our lifetime than homosexuality. No other 4thdayletter generated more email responses back to me than “Gay and the Good Samaritan” which I wrote nearly a year ago. Perhaps today’s email will spark many responses as well. Here are three divergent views written by those who responded to “Gay and the Good Samaritan“:
- “I strongly disagree with your message that somehow there is sin because someone is openly gay.I feel like being born homosexual is no more sinful than being born with red hair… or blue eyes. God created us in His own image. And yes, somewhere in that image is homosexuality.There may be sin in promiscuity… but I see no sin in two adults in a committed, loving relationship.”
- “What a thought provoking and compassionate post on this very important subject. It stands in contrast to the angry hate that some “Christians” show.”
- “Great letter. Can’t agree with you more. I’ve contended for a long time if Jesus was to retell the parable of the Good Samaritan in modern times I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the “Samaritan” was gay/ssa.”
You can clearly see from these responses that good and caring Christians see things differently.
In addition todivergent opinions from a Biblical perspective on this issue, experts also don’t agree on how someone becomes same sex attracted in the first place. Is it nature, nurture or some combination that causes someone to be attracted to the same rather than the opposite sex?
Let me attempt to bring this from the headier theological perspective to a single life quandary. Let’s examine this from inside the life of just one Christian. Can you set aside any prejudices and predetermined points of view that you have and try just for a minute to place yourself in the shoes of another Christian, one who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and yet finds himself with this same sex attraction?
So here you are with a strong belief in your heart that you were born same sex attracted. You have always, from a very young age, sensed that you were different from others who were attracted to the opposite sex. Let’s assume further that you were raised in a strong Christian family. You deeply love and accept Jesus as your savior. You have read the verses in the Bible that seem to speak against homosexuality, but you have also read articles from other Christian leaders who interpret the Bible in a more favorable way towards homosexuality. You have watched as many main stream Christian denominations changed their stance on this issue. You know innately who you are. Now you find yourself lost. In addition to feelings of confusion and being lost, you have experienced hurtful messages thrown at you by Christians who tell you that you are going to hell and that your actions and sexual desires are unforgivable.
Now you find yourself sitting quietly in your room, talking to God. You beg God for answers. “Lord why am I this way?” “Do you love me Lord?” “Do I still have a chance for eternal salvation?” “Are my sins forgivable?” “Is my homosexuality even a sin in your eyes Lord?” “Am I the worst of all sinners?” You struggle. You doubt. You cry. You pray. In the end, you do the best you can, to be the person who you think God is calling you to be. You know there are no factual answers. In the end there is only FAITH!
As I stated earlier, today’s message is not about being gay. It is not about justthis one of life’s many questions. It is about doubts and questions of faith. Getting caught up in or stuck on the “hot item” questions of faith often results from starting in the wrong place. What I mean is that to start one’s faith journey by addressing the subjects like homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, birth control, the role of woman in the church, or even the deeper issues like “does God really exist” or “is there really an afterlife” are the wrong places to start.
In order to find the answers to life’s big questions we must come to know the one, and only one, who has all of the answers, God himself. How do we do that? We do that through prayer, scripture study, involvement in church community, deep discussions of life with friends who are firmly rooted in their love of Jesus Christ, Church teachings, fasting, and times of silent contemplation. We must ask God to “help my unbelief.”
We must strive to see that God is love, and that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. We must grow to fully understand that we are saved from our sins by the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. We must find our place in the mystical body of the church. We must strive to practice the corporal works of mercy as we strive to imitate the life of Jesus. If we begin by spending our time trying to understand these more fundamental questions of faith and life, we then can gain a deeper and better perspective to try to understand the “hot item” questions of our faith. These topicsmust be viewed only through a deep understanding of the fundamental items of faith first.
Now let’s go back to our example of someone wrestling with same sex attraction. Someone might point out to this personthe followingverse from Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman;such a thing is an abomination.“Then the person who is same sex attracted might point out Leviticus 11:12 “Every water creature that lacks fins or scales is loathsome for you.” They might question why we pick and choose which laws of the Old Testament are applicable and which ones are not. Surely many Christians eat shrimp, clams and lobster and don’t consider it sinful.
Can we all agree that if reading and interpreting God’s message in the Bible was easy there would not be so many divergent views? In the story of Philip and the Eunuch in Acts 8:35is this statement: “Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him“. For the Eunuch it took someone with knowledge of scripture to open up its meaning. The problem for us with so many churches and so many Bible scholars who have differing opinions who should we trust?
Discerning God’s will for us can be challenging. At times even believing in God can be challenging. The bottom line is that sometimes even after a lifetime of discernment we may still be lost, and still have questions. We want facts to clear things up for us and often those facts just don’t exist. That’s why we are called to have faith. One definition of faith says this: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof“. In John 20:29 we read this: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
You will have missed my point today if you are myopically focused on the homosexuality example. It is only one issue. What deep questions do you have? Maybe your questions include some of these:
- Was the world made in 7 days or billions of years?
- What will heaven and hell be like?
- Why does God allow certain things to happen?
- Did we evolve from other creatures?
- Does God really care about me?
- Do only Christian’s get into heaven?
- Will my children who don’t practice their faith get into heaven?
- Is it sinful to supporta pro-choice candidate if I am a Christian?
- Is it sinful to support the death penalty?
- Is artificial birth control truly a sin?
Write to me and share with me what your deep questions are. Maybe I can write about those issues sometime. Just remember this, if it is okay for us to have questions and doubts, then it should be okay for others to have doubts, questions and confusion about faith issues too. Until we have all of the answers to our questions let’s not be too quick to condemn others who have drawn different answers and understandings to their questions. One cautionary note is that on our quest for answers, we must be careful to always pursue the Truth. We must avoid the inclination to seek out only answers that support our preconceived point of view, lest we become the “church of me”!
Heavenly Father in my human condition there are so many things I cannot understand. Sometimes Lord I even struggle with my belief in you. Guide me Lord and help me in my unbelief. Teach me what I need to know to share in eternal life, amen.