Monday, November 23, 2015

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

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I finished it. I have been talking about this book a lot lately and I even read from it in Sunday School yesterday. It is a really really good book. It totally stretched my thinking and has given me some food for thought. I'm still not sure if I agree completely with everything Caleb says, but he knows way more about this subject than I do.

The caption on the front of the book says this: "How a pastor with gay parents learned to love others without sacrificing conviction." Doesn't that make you raise your eyebrows and say, "I wonder what his views are?" In a day, when it seems like so many churches are accepting practicing homosexuals and modifying the Bible to fit their beliefs, it's refreshing to hear Caleb's take on this. He grew up in the LGBT community, he went to their parties, marched in their parades and became a Christian at the age of 16. He then had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out what the Bible says about homosexuality. His conclusion? It is a sin to have sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

This book is somewhat his journey, but it is also a call for individuals and churches to reach out to those in the LGBT community and I would broaden that to say reach out to all those people who are different from us.  So many Christians have been mean and rude to this group of people that it has turned them sour, but what would happen if we were to show them Christ's love, to love them as we love any other person, to treat them like a beloved child of God, to develop a relationship with them and then to speak truth into their life. Caleb defines this all as a tension between grace and truth.

There is so much I would like to quote from this book, but I will try to stick with one or two or three and say this "Read the book".

On the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus, Caleb says this: "When releasing the woman caught in adultery, he displayed both qualities [grace and truth]. Jesus had grace when he set the woman free. He along, being the true God, had every right to condemn this woman if he wanted to, but instead he chose the path of mercy and forgiveness. yet he also had truth. He did not condone her activity. As a matter of fact, he used strong language for it: sin.

"This story is a call for us to live in the tension of grace and truth. I've often wondered what the best word is to describe this tension. While thinking through this story, I finally figured it out: love is the tension of grace and truth.

"Here's what I mean. When you have a person in your life involved in activities or life choices that aren't healthy, you feel the tension. On the one hand, you feel extreme love for them, but on the other hand, you know that somehow you need to speak truth into their life. It's the same feeling when someone you love makes decisions outside the bounds of Scripture-- you have the desire to show them grace and help them understand the truth of the matter. If you have ever been in this circumstance before, then you understand.

"We see Jesus's loving action toward the woman throughout the story, and it's because he was living in that tension of grace and truth. Jesus loved her enough to tell her the truth and show her grace.

"Somehow, despite the messiness we encounter, we have to figure out how to be the bearers of grace and truth, because it always results in love."

One other thing that Caleb talked about that was a new thought to me is on the issue of identity. Being gay is a way bigger thing than just sex; it's an identity, a community, friends, etc. We all identify with something, but what is most important first and foremost our identity needs to be as a disciple of Jesus Christ. So can a gay person go to heaven? His response to that is this: "I think if we're going to ask that question, then we have to ask if someone can be an alcoholic and go to heaven. Can someone be addicted to drugs and go to heaven? Can someone be a gossip and got to heaven? Can someone be a worrier and go to heaven? Can someone be jealous of others and go to heaven? Can someone be an arrogant know-it-all Christian and go to heaven?" He does go on to make distinctions between someone who is tempted to sin and fails occasionally and someone who just blatantly sins without regard for what God's Word says.  It's a challenge for me to be reminded once again that sin is sin and there aren't levels of sin; it's way more about our hearts and if we are trying to live above sin or just ignoring the Bible and doing whatever we want.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for ways to reach out to the LGBT community or just reaching out to your neighbor who is different from you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

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