Living in the Tension of Jesus’ Love

Last Monday night I was invited by the Marin Foundation to come and share my story at their Living in the Tension gathering.

For awhile now I’ve been asked to post my thoughts on Andrew Marin and the work he does.  I’ve refrained from giving too many thoughts, though, cause frankly, I’ve never met Andrew in person.  After all, you can’t accurately form an opinion of someone you’ve never talked face-to-face with, right?  This past Monday I had the opportunity to do so.  And I am pleased to call Andrew a friend and colleague.

While we may disagree with some scripture interpretations, we both agree on what it means to live out our faith in an orientation of love.  We both agree that to follow Jesus, we are called to love like Him, no matter the cost or risk involved.  Christians are to be intentional with who they love and how they love.  We are to live within the tension of Jesus’ love.  For me, at least, this tension is hard to live out faithfully; however, it’s a tension we are called to live within regardless.  What do I mean by living in the tension of Jesus’ love?  Let me explain.

A Gathering of Authenticity

The Monday night group I spoke with were all diverse in life situations, theological beliefs, orientations, race, and sex.  It was a group that was willing to learn from each other; a safe place to ask questions and wrestle with answers.  It was a group I wish I saw more of within Church communities actually.

As the night drew on, and the questions kept coming (we went from 7 to 10:30pm), and even after we left, I couldn’t help but think to myself: is this what it means to live in the tension of God’s love?  To talk, sensibly, with others about difficult issues without people storming out in disgust.  To wrestle with what it means to be an authentic Christian who is struggling to faithfully live out the call of Christ.  To humbly admit our wrongs, seek forgiveness, and, in this particular setting, find and stand upon common ground with gay Christians (or seekers).

I think this is exactly what it means to live within the tension of Jesus’ love.  To live within the tension of showing unconditional grace while also standing firm in unshakable truth.

Grace: Love Unconditional

All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus reaching out to the marginalized.  The religious leaders of the day were presenting a picture of God’s love that was extremely legalistic and status orientated.  Jesus came and knocked this picture off the wall on more than one occasion.  He constantly stood His ground, calling all of mankind to Himself, showing them unconditional love.  He healed the sick, raised the dead, casted out demons, fed the hungry, etc, and not because the people’s lives merited His grace.  Instead, it was His compassion for them that moved Jesus to act on their behalf (Matthew 9:36).

This type of love Jesus showed others offered them life – His Life.  From supernatural miracles to the Cross, Jesus constantly put others before Himself.  He was a servant to us, while also being the King of Kings.  In Philippians 2, Paul says that Jesus denied His power and place in Heaven, and came down to us, in our likeness, in order to reconcile us with God.  This is perfect love.  This is perfect unselfishness and servant hood.  And, yet, this is also the same love we are to show to others regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.

As we connect ourselves to God’s love, He pours out His love through us so that we can pour it onto others.  We don’t love others through our own efforts, but through Christ who enables us to live out such love.  As John says, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Therefore, a true mark of being a Christ follower is how we love one another:

20If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:20-21

Truth: Love Unshakable

Just as Jesus stood against the immoral ways that God’s love was being manifested, so He also stood against immoral teachings and lifestyles.  Jesus embodied Love and Truth, as John 1 teaches us.  For Jesus not to call out legalism and false teachings would be to deny His existence, since He is the very truth spoken through the ages from God to mankind.  As He bestowed unconditional love onto people, He also stood upon solid ground and told the truth of who He was and who they were created to be.

Jesus still does this today: through the Spirit, through His word, and through His Church.  And although the Church has sometimes abused her duty as an ambassador of Christ and His word , truth is still truth.  And until Christ comes to restore all things in the end, God’s truth will continue to stand as a standard to follow.  Jesus never called people to believe in anything less than what He was/is; instead, He constantly pushed people out of their comfort zones and self-focused lives.  He didn’t sugar coat the message, nor did He set aside the standard in order to appease someone’s situation (Matthew 19:16-30).  Jesus taught that there was one way to Him.  And that this one way was a narrow road.

In this understanding, then, Jesus’ unconditional love offered recipients but one way – His way.  This is simply expressed through two of my favorite stories in John 4 and 8.  Jesus’ love drew these women to Him, and His truth set them free to live in Him.  We, being His followers, are to share the same to those around us – friend and enemy, straight and gay, Christian and non-Christian.  We aren’t given a choice; it’s a mandate.

His unconditional love gives us life, and His unshakable truth gives us freedom.  In this, we are found wholly in Him.  This is the way He offers us, and this is the way we are to offer others.

We live in this tension of His love, not because we understand it, but because we don’t.  And we don’t fear this tension, because His love is perfect and drives out all fear.  It calms the storm around us, yet overturns the tables of self-righteousness; it heals thousands, yet rebukes double-mindedness.  This tension of His love is risky and messy, yet rewarding and all-sufficient.  It doesn’t polarize one side from another, but calls each side to live in between.

How will you live within the tension of Jesus’ love?

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6 responses to “Living in the Tension of Jesus’ Love

  1. It just occurred to me that for Catholics the tension may be even greater, since our Church has not only has its interpretation on homosexuality, but has the weight of authority behind (or on top of) it.

    I mean, you can go into an evening like that and tell of your life and of your understanding of the scriptures which guides your walk. But if someone doesn’t see the scripture as meaning what you believe, you can agree to disagree on a particular point while you also agree that you both need to follow the teaching of scripture according to your honest understanding.

    I could go into a similar meeting and say the same thing and be accused of failing to accept or to uphold the teaching of the Church. And I don’t want to deny my belief that the Church has the authority to present the correct interpretation of scripture. I don’t want to deny that Catholics should accept the Church’s Bible-based, traditional teaching that homosexual activity is wrong. At the same time, I don’t want to drive people away if they honestly disagree with that teaching, which is, after all, not so central as the resurrection and lordship of Jesus. Ultimately, we are all called to try to form our consciences according to the word of God and live our lives conscientiously.

    Beyond whatever tension there might be for me, there is a much greater one for a Catholic homosexual who believes homosexual activity is not sinful, because he realizes that in living that way, not only is he in disagreement with other believers, he is in dissent from the official teaching authority of the Church to which he professes allegiance. Some would say, “Well, just leave it,” but he can’t if he believes that it is God-given.

  2. What a nifty play on words–living with intention and living in tension! And we do both (though not always effectively) with Andrew.

    It was a pleasure to meet you at Andrew’s gathering and to hear your remarkable story; thank you so much for being there, and for sharing yourself with us!

    I am unable to attend as many of Andrew’s Living in the Tension meetings as I’d like, but I always enjoy them and get a lot out of them (well, except for one meeting last year, which I found very difficult–details some other time). I routinely receive more than I contribute at these gatherings. I attend them mostly because they are rare opportunities to just be myself.

    The poet e.e. cummings said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

    Like you, I tend to resist labels, because most of them don’t fit. Some of my GLBT friends have a hard time understanding how I could possibly love God in the context of the evangelical church, which often treats us so poorly. Similarly, my Christian family and church friends can hardly fathom the idea that I am a gay believer. It’s a recipe for tension! Andrew’s meetings are one place where I can be myself and remain welcome, which is truly a gift from God.

    Nevertheless, I believe that tension is needed for growth. As you pointed out, we need to be stretched by difficult questions and rendered uncomfortable by the answers that become apparent. I think this was Jesus’ M-O, too.

    Is there tension between being gay and following Jesus? You bet. Following Jesus always involves tension. So does being authentic in a world that tends to reinforce the opposite. I am so glad that Andrew Marin offers a place to do both–thanks be to God!

  3. Pingback: Scripture and Homosexuality: Now What? « Six:11 Ministries·

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  5. Pingback: When you talk to your gay friends, remember these tips. « Six:11 Ministries·

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