BLUE DONKEY PROJECT (MAYBE I SHOULD CALL IT "RAINBOW DONKEY"?)
- Note: This is still a work in progress. -
Let's Reach, in/with Love,
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community
I feel sad at times when hanging out with close acquaintances whose salvation I doubt (or am unaware of). I love them and want them to be saved, but my presenting the Good News of Jesus to them presents a major challenge, particularly if they are strong on politics and have taken a socially liberal stance. What such people easily tend to see in the Gospel is (to my lament) but a bunch of red elephants, angrily stomping on blue donkeys.
Many years back, I had an uphill battle in trying to lead Jewish people to Yeshua (that's Hebrew for "Jesus"), largely because many so-called Christians in the past have given Jesus a bad name in the eyes of the Jewish community. This has particularly happened with many in the Roman Catholic church persecuting Jews during the middle ages (some of my own Jewish ancestors reportedly being expelled from Spain as a result).
Today, I have found many religiously conservative Americans worrying about God's attitude towards the USA. I admit my falling too much myself in past years into the trap of being excessively concerned about my home land's moral values. More recently however, it dawned increasingly clearly on me that, as Christians, we are supposed to be mainly in the salvation business, as opposed to in the moral compliance business. That latter one, I felt, needed to take a lower priority seat (with an emphatic realization, sad but true, that if a person is not a Christian or "religious" enough, there is typically too little incentive for him/her to be morally compliant, at least in America).
This is not to say that I myself have become outright secularized when it comes to American politics. I personally wish that traditional references to God would be restored in the public realm. After all, our country was founded on traditional Judeo-Christian values (for some reason or another, even many "secularists" still enjoy Christmas carols). Even a moment of silence in schools would help. But this kind of wish that I have is pretty much a corporate thing, as opposed to individual.
Therefore my concerns or fears in regard to moral compliance politics, as far as imposing values on others go, have more to do with individual lifestyles. At this writing, these include (but are not limited to) homosexuality and other sex-related issues, abortion and "explicit" entertainment. Sadly, for me and many other Christians, in a quest to present the real love of God and Jesus to others, we have been facing increased difficulties in doing this. One big reason why is because too many politically-conservative people with a type of "God" image are perceived by many "outside the church" (especially those with liberal views) as placing excessive emphasis on a morally-compliant nation, particularly at a personal level (too often without placing enough emphasis on salvation, in many respects the only sufficient incentive to be morally compliant).
Some of this individual-level "moral compliance-ism" has been taken to disgusting extents, a vivid example being a church from Kansas protesting at (and displaying contempt against the dignity of) many funerals (with signs like "Thank God for dead soldiers").
C'mon now, Westboro Baptist! Is this really necessary? I have so many loving relatives and friends. I would love for them to spend eternity with me and God, not sadly separated. Yet the turmoil you bring out of Topeka is of no help to me in my quest to spread God's love. (Of course, it is important for me to share the Gospel with others as well, not just acquaintances.)
"Don't keep the Gospel to yourself! Share it with others! They may want it too (at least give them a fair opportunity)!"
This is the kind of message that I have faced from time to time. And yet my reaction is a big, perplexing "How???" I often find the answer to that one not to be an easy one.
I'd like to present this scripture from Revelation chapter 3, verses 1 and 2 (NIV):
"To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God."
Does the church in Sardis, as referred to in this passage, remind you of the "religious right" today?
There are those who reason that a person's sexual preference is changeable in this present earthly life. Just as one's tastes for various foods changes over the course of his/her life, it is possible for this person's sexual preference to change as well.
However, there have been others with the belief that it is impossible for one's sexual preference to change. For Christians, this can present a tougher challenge. I find it puzzling that many Americans have bought into what could perhaps be called the "doctrine of unchangeable sexual orientation", the teaching that it is absolutely impossible for a human's sexual preference to change (for example, from "gay" to "straight") throughout his/her entire earthly life. Instead of the reasoning being that sexual preference/orientation is about as changeable as one's religion ("easy enough"), the reasoning has instead been that sexual preference/orientation is about as changeable as one's skin color ("too hard"). "I was born this way, I will always be this way and I will die this way, no matter how hard I (or others around me) may try otherwise. It's my unchangeable identity."
Inasmuch as there have been plenty of examples reported of those who have succeeded in such changes in their sexual directions, many members of our society have clung to refusing to believe that such changes have truly occurred. It seems that the impossible-to-change doctrine has been strongly ingrained in such people rejecting these success stories.
What would it take for someone like that to give up this unable-to-change stance? The answer to that is perhaps not all that different from what it would take for a person to change his/her religion.
I may seem somewhat liberal on this one, but it needs to be stressed to Christians, particularly those who are very concerned in politics, that an individual's mere moral compliance does not save (bring to salvation, i.e., enable to enter Heaven) him/her.
Abstaining from homosexuality does not save a person.
Abstaining from sexual immorality does not save a person.
Abstaining from abortion does not save a person.
In fact, even performing acts of "religion" does not save a person either (does this one surprise you??)!
So then, what is it that saves a person? Relationship! To put it more specifically, that's a faith-oriented relationship of that individual with God through Jesus. More descriptively, this means the individual letting Jesus into one's life and letting Him take over, i.e., letting Jesus "fix things up" and make things right in his/her life.
As Christians, we need to put more emphasis on God's love and salvation, as opposed to focusing too much on a morally-compliant nation. Too many times we smile when moral rulings prevail, perhaps leading to an increase in moral behavior across our land, but we often "gloss over" the fact that many of these people, who are giving into our morality wishes, are still lost (i.e., unsaved)! How can you expect Jesus to smile about that?! While many feel that God will "bless America" for it becoming more moral again, I fear the Lord's displeasure for our negligence towards leading people to salvation, no matter how moral or immoral these people are.
Are we seeing a red flag when a court rules in favor of the LGBT community? Do we have the same reaction when Roe vs. Wade is upheld? Shouldn't we be seeing a much more severe red flag when many are lost??
Let's face it, the sad reality is this (I somehow alluded to this earlier, but I am stating this more extensively): There seems to be hardly any major incentive these days, outside of a saving relationship with God, to abstain from immorality. What this means is that unless a given person comes to salvation, he/she is hardly going to have sufficient desires to give up homosexuality, extra-marital sex, abortion, foul language or other forms of ungodliness. There may be exceptions to this Christian necessity, but they typically are not all that much regarded these days (at least in American politics).
Warning about hell (eternal lake of fire, brimstone, darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc.) may scare some people, but others will still react hard-heartedly. Remember Pharaoh (even one of the plagues in his land was fire-laden hail)! This ancient Egyptian ruler kept on refusing to truly surrender to God's message to let the Israelis leave, despite many plagues (yes, Pharaoh finally let them go, but he chased after them a few days later).
If hell warnings do not work, perhaps positive, "even more fun than this" enticement will. This can be somewhat more of a challenge. The idea here is to "entice" a sinner with something that is more fun than whatever sin(s) that he/she is enjoying, yet wholesome as well.
I was one time at a concert featuring Stryper (a pioneer in Christian heavy metal), at the end of which one of the band members said something like, "Accept Jesus in your heart, and you'll be able to party forever!" That was a great saying. An important thing implied here is being able to party with no bad side effects!
How and why is that possible? Because those saved by Jesus get new bodies in the "afterlife" (that is, after their earthly lives are over). With these glorified bodies come a number of differences in "tastes" and functions. Whatever such a person enjoyed in his/her earthly body, no matter how sinful it was, he/she is going to be enjoying heavenly things overwhelmingly more with a glorified body. "Indulgence" is but a mere understatement of how much he/she is going to enjoy Heaven, particularly with God's presence.
At this writing, we do not have standard equipment to measure one's fun or joy. I remember Six Flags, an amusement park chain, coming up with some kind of fictitious "fun-o-meter" or something like that in at least one of its commercials. Picture a non-Christian, in his/her human body, being hooked up to one of these devices while enjoying a sexually sinful activity. The meter is likely going to indicate a high reading (however, if he/she becomes a Christian, there's a good chance of this reading dropping while that person still has his/her earthly body, particularly as this individual matures in the faith). Now imagine this same person, this time as a Christian, being in heaven with a glorified body. Hook up that same meter to him/her there. For this meter to show an overwhelmingly higher reading upon that person being in God's heavenly presence, compared to that person's peak readout during his/her past sexual sin on earth, is but an understatement. Try instead to picture a "frying" or exploding "fun-o-meter" when this glorified person is before God's throne! Hopefully, you get the idea.
Let's not forget the other heavenly benefits: No more pain, recession, hatred, sorrow, homelessness, malnutrition, obesity, boredom, unemployment, or injuries! If you like(d) Disney World, you'll love (this is an understatement!) God's kingdom.
Let me illustrate this, but in a different (and more generalized) way, with a true story here. This is about a Rabbi, named Rich, at a Messianic congregation that I attended in the past. Long beforehand, when he was younger, he became interested in playing trombone. While this activity may have not been sinful, it appears that Rich became extremely attached to it. At some point, another person presented the Gospel of Jesus to him, and Rich became open to it. As he was about to accept Jesus, Rich asked if he would have to give up his trombone or his playing of this instrument in order to follow Jesus. The Gospel giver replied with something like this:
"Rich, I do not know what God will take out of your life, but whatever He takes out, He will replace it with something better."
And that "something better" phrase relaxed Rich's defensiveness on this issue, and he accepted Jesus.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, one can find passages about Jesus hanging out with tax collectors (and other sinners). This kind of company drew objections from conservatively-minded religious leaders of that time. But Jesus replied that it was the sick who needed the doctor, not those who were well. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.
If Jesus did this same kind of thing today, my strong guess is that He would probably be hanging out with lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.
Many of us, as Christians, have been perhaps acting too much like firefighters (hell, fire, brimstone) and/or politicians (prosperity in our land) and not enough like doctors ("I would strongly advise you to take this medicine, but I am not going to force you to do so").
If you live a lifestyle of bad eating habits, exercise avoidance and tobacco smoking (and even display "pride" in doing so), is the doctor going to persecute you? Hopefully not. But also keep in mind that you cannot expect the doctor to condone this lifestyle either. Still, he/she is not going to commit hateful acts against you. It is his/her wish that you switch to a healthy lifestyle, but the doctor is not going to force you to do so.
The bottom line is this. As Christians, we need to be a lot more loving in reaching out to others, whether they are liberal or not. This includes sharing the love of Jesus with lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders...and not dwelling too much on individual moral compliance. Should that one be brought up, however, by whoever we are trying to lead to Jesus, something like this may be helpful:
"Gilbert, I am not sure what God will take out of your life, but whatever He takes out, He will replace it with something better."
OF FURTHER INTEREST: An e-mail message to a an alumni group of one of my past schools