The following is the sixteenth installment of the “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” series. The series features members of The Reformation Project’s Inaugural Conference – a leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform.
I Have A Heart Condition
by Julie Kreiman (BEA guest writer)
Have you ever noticed that we are obsessed with judging other people based on their behavior?
At no time did I become more aware of this then when I became a parent. It had taken years for me and my husband to conceive and I was on a mission to be the best mom ever. Of course, I quickly realized that I judged how well I was achieving that status based on the way that my children behaved. Then I came across the following statement from the book, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys and it hit me upside the head like a ton of bricks, “The goal of discipline is character development not behavior modification.” What?!?! It was like an enormous epiphany that my focus was wrongly placed on my children’s behavior when it needed to be placed on their intentions and guiding them to develop righteous character.
Quickly it changed the way that I disciplined. I went from nitpicking at every action I didn’t approve of to questioning in my head what the intention was behind the behavior and asking them why they were doing something. It’s why when my boys get into a skirmish I take a moment to see if it’s just two boys horsing around, or perhaps one boy trying to implement his form of toddler justice on the other, or is it the “I’m selfish and don’t want to share” variety of skirmish. Each one I try to handle differently and address what I perceive to be the underlying internal issues. This got me thinking, if I have realized this concept as an earthly parent, how much more than does our loving Father in heaven strive to transform our character from within?
Jesus himself in John 7:24 states to, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” This revelation has also led me to make obedience my primary focus as a parent. More than anything else I strive to teach my children the importance of obedience. Not only is it the only commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:1-3); I also think it prepares them for a future of being obedient to God. In my own life a few months ago during a sermon from my pastor, David Harris, he said the following, “Kim Kardashian’s weight gain is none of your business.” God used his words and in that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me about the time I was spending each week at the gym reading gossip magazines. I realized that time could better be spent listening to podcasts and filling myself with more Jesus.
I bring this up for a couple of reasons. First of all, because I don’t know too many Christians who would walk by me at the gym and judge me for reading a People magazine during my cardio; yet if that had been my response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, my behavior absolutely would have been sinful. If I had selfishly said to God, “Sorry God you just can’t ask me to give up these precious moments to myself,” I would have been hardening my heart and distancing myself from God.
Fortunately, that is not how I responded. I gladly gave up my few hours a week reading magazines at the gym and started to listen to Peter Haas podcasts instead and that one minor adjustment in how I invested my time has led to some amazing spiritual growth. I heard absolute gems like this one, “The key to transformation rests in quick and impulsive obedience. If you do not know quick and impulsive obedience as a regular part of your Christian lifestyle, then you my friend are going to have a form of godliness, and yet deny its power.” Whoa!!!
And here’s the most important thing . . . God was not asking me to make this one minor change in the investment of my time because He needed me to, He led me to make this change because He cared for me deeply and knew I needed to. He knew the journey that lay ahead of me. He knew that in a few weeks time I would be selected as one of fifty people for The Reformation Project’s (TRP) inaugural conference where I would be learning how to best express my affirming support for my LGBT brothers and sisters. He knew that I needed a dose of maturity for the journey.
At times I still wonder how exactly I came to be one of the first 50 reformers. An odd fit for sure, as I have no personal stake in the result of this highly contested debate, but where God leads I have learned to be willing to follow. About a year ago, I came across the Matthew Vines video on You Tube where he articulates his views on the Bible and homosexuality following two years of extensive research. I then came across a blog post that referenced the 2007 Barna study that found the number one characteristic that young, non-Christian adults identified as describing Christians is that they are anti-gay. I found that statistic absolutely unacceptable and began a personal journey to search Scripture to find out what was so important about this particular issue.
The results I arrived at were far from what I expected. There was no doubt that there are six passages in the Bible that speak negatively of same-sex behavior. However, those six passages are in the cultural context of gang rape, pagan idolatry practices, and no one really knows for certain what Paul was referencing in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, but I certainly had a difficult time believing he was referencing a concept that wasn’t around for another 1800 years. The deeper I dug the more I was faced with the thinking that in large the church was acting out of fear and misinformation on this issue and causing enormous heartache and pain in the meantime. I had a hard time reconciling cliché statements like, “I believe in the biblical definition of marriage, one man and one woman for a lifetime,” with what the Bible actually included — eight different examples of marriage.
At the core of my discovery I found a huge discrepancy with how differently the Bible was interpreted for the LGBT community than it was for my straight self. I wondered why I had been raised in church all my life and received premarital counseling in church and never once been warned not to engage in intercourse during menstruation. This was perplexing since it was listed as sinful in the Levitical holiness code alongside verses used to condemn my LGBT brothers and sisters. In the New Testament, I saw Jesus’ words repeated in three gospels that to remarry after divorce is to commit adultery. How was it then that no loving, Christian friends cautioned my husband, who was divorced at the time we met, that the only way he would be worthy of Jesus was to remain celibate? Wouldn’t using the same logic applied to LGBT folks mean remarrying would be committing to a lifetime of adultery?
There is a word for this discrepancy, it is called favoritism. Favoritism is defined as the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another. And guess what? The Bible clearly has something to say about this treatment. James 2:9 states, “But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.”
During this preparation phase for TRP I have continued to pray out James 1:5-8 on a regular basis; taking God at His word and asking Him and Him alone for wisdom. The amazing thing I’ve come to comprehend though is that later in Chapter 3 of James the wisdom that comes from God is associated with humility and peacemaking. My journey as a reformer is only just beginning, but I strive to always be associated with those two terms. As human beings, none of us is able to bring to the table a faultless perspective as we strive for holiness and the search for truth when it comes to controversial issues. We are all influenced by our individual wiring, our experiences, and our relationships and to think that anyone of us has arrived on this side of eternity is extremely dangerous. Pride produces a desire to be correct, humility produces a desire to serve others for greater Kingdom purposes and no one modeled humility quite as extravagantly as Jesus Christ.
As I study the life and example of Jesus Christ, I believe with all of my being that He was who He claimed to be, which means that He was the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God of this universe when He walked the earth. He was aware of every controversial, cultural issue that would arise for mankind until the end of time and yet his teachings were not devoted to listing out what His followers’ position should be for each one. His teachings centered on being a good steward of all that He has provided, staying connected to Him so that our lives would produce fruit, taking care of His sheep, and loving Him with such a passion that all other relationships in life are by comparison dim. Those are the teachings that I strive to follow daily.
Recently I find myself reflecting regularly on Ecclesiastes 7:4, “A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” Typically this is not a verse that I would gravitate towards as it seems entirely too morbid for my liking. However, as I reflect on it more and more, I believe it is a great reminder of something incredibly significant.
I have a heart condition. You have a heart condition. Every person on this earth has a heart condition and ultimately that heart condition will determine where each one of us will spend eternity. The Bible states that each one of us will one day stand alone before God on judgment day. Some will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant,” but for others they will hear the words, “Away from me I never knew you.” The difference in which one is spoken to me has nothing to do with my works, theological knowledge, or political affiliation and everything to do with whether my heart is overflowing with the love, mercy and goodness of a gracious savior that laid down His life for me.
THANK YOU JESUS FOR HEALING MY HEART CONDITION!
Julie Kreiman is a high school math teacher from Phoenix, AZ. Her life verse is John 3:30: “He must become more, I must become less.” It reminds her that faith is a journey and that daily she must strive, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to become more like Jesus. She is thrilled to be a part of The Reformation Project and is excited to utilize what she learns to assure young people that Jesus loves them regardless of their sexual orientation. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org