I woke up Monday morning with two interesting tweets staring at me.
First of all, let’s just ignore the fact that one of the first things I do after waking up is checking Twitter. I know I’m pathetic, I don’t need to discuss it here.
The first interesting tweet was somebody quoting Malcolm X. He said, “You can’t hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree.” In many regards, this is so very true. In so many other regards, it’s not at all. In saying something like that, Malcolm X spoke a great truth about identity, but a great lie about the nature of grace.
Everything about grace involves hating the roots and loving the tree. It involves hating the sinful, greedy nature of a person but still loving that person regardless. If we were even close to being honest with ourselves, we would have to note that we, as Christians, should hate our own roots more than we hate the roots of those we see around us. Then there can be as much tree loving as there needs to be.
Grace changes everything. It changes the way we view ourselves and others.
I had often wondered how I would feel about hating roots but loving trees. You know, the “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing that we debate all the time. After all, we preach love and relationships and all this stuff, but in the process want to ignore the roots altogether. It doesn’t matter if somebody is gay or a murderer or doesn’t even believe that Jesus was God or the Bible is important, just so long as we all get along, right? So in doing so, we severely downplay the significance of grace.
But the thing I had always wondered when it came to roots is how I would ever react to a friend of mine claiming to be gay but also a Christian. I hadn’t ever been in that situation before personally. Sure, I’ve seen other Christians talk about being gay and a believer, but it had been distant enough for me to put aside. In my head, it seemed like such a complicated issue, where somebody was doing something that was clearly outlined in Scripture as a sin (yes, I believe it’s clearly outlined. Sorry). I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I was saying to myself was basically “How can somebody admit that they are a sinner but still follow Christ?” Seems so stupid, right?
Then the second tweet came along, which was a link to this fantastic post by my friend Tom.
I’ve been working through Tom’s book Struggle Central, where he gives a list of “confessions” he’s picked up on through his 26 years of life, and it’s been great. In the book, he also opens up about being a gay Christian, which I think was his first time to discuss it openly to the blogging world and the people he’s connected with.
Through reading Struggle Central and more recently this blog post, my thought process went like this: “Oh, Tom’s gay?….well Tom is really cool. So that’s cool. Guess it doesn’t change my opinion of anyone after all.”
It was honestly that simple.
As I read through that particular blog post and thought on these issues, everything seemed so much simpler than I was trying to make it out to be. It came down to the truth of how Jesus interacted with his people when he was on the earth. We often point out how he interacted with sinners and shamed Pharisees but forget something very important: He never really excused anyones actions. He dined with tax collectors and told them that they needed salvation, and he rebuked religious leaders and told them that they needed salvation. One very very common theme, meant for ALL people.
Really, I think my understanding of the issue came down to realizing the truth about roots. Somebody’s roots could be grounded in their sexual orientation and I could disagree with it, but at the same time, I have to understand my own roots when it comes to sexual issues. The same message Jesus spoke applies to all people in all areas of their lives.
This one line Tom wrote particularly stood out so strongly to me: “I cannot mentally reconcile a homosexual relationship with also following Christ. Given the choice of one or the other — well, without Christ, I’m lost.”
How humbling is this? Because how often would I, as a straight male, just casually disregard thoughts of sexual impurity, writing it off as hormones or whatever and not considering the impact it has on my relationship with my Savior? Here is a man who we would probably label with terms like “confused” or say that his nature is weird and bizarre, and he has a better understanding of his own sexuality than I do of mine. “Without Christ, I’m lost.” Yet when cleavage enters the room, I’m inclined to disregard my faith for anatomy. How dare I excuse this sort of behavior?
I’m so thankful for Tom. I’m thankful for a guy who I’ve had discussions with about identity and blogging and all sorts of issues in which we have common ground. I’m thankful for a guy who doesn’t make excuses because he understands that common message from Christ. I’m thankful for the humbling reminder that ultimately, we all share the common ground. We all share the need of salvation.
I pray I can have the strength to not justify a lingering eye or lustful heart with an excuse of “God made me this way” simply because I’m straight. It’s like another friend, Sharideth, said so wonderfully in a blog post that caught her a lot of flack: men and women alike need to take responsibility for our actions. A shocking claim to make, isn’t it?
Somehow, we have decided that we shouldn’t have to take responsibility for anything we do. We have decided that we should be free to do whatever we like and not have repercussions from that. What kind of idiots have we turned into? We should never get away with excusing our actions or justifying our sins, especially in light of salvation, yet it’s something we do every single day. Our culture, even in the church, says that the most important thing is just smiling and getting along with people, and not listening to the common message about our identities and our need of something more.
Why do we think we have the right to stand in front of a loving God who gave up everything to save us and choose to spit in His face with our behavior? Yet we do it every day. We say how we should all just love each other and try to get along, and then go off complaining and arguing and hating each other and justifying our sin as much as we can. We are immature, yet redeemed.
We should take responsibility, because it gives us such a better understanding of how powerful grace is. But the story doesn’t end on the cross, with our sin causing pain and death.
And not only that, but it means our stories are all connected. Whether we are tax collectors or Pharisees, black or white, straight or gay, or whatever differences might exist, our identities still have that common line drawing us together. The important thing isn’t that Christ would come and eat with us regardless of who we are. The important thing is that when he does, he looks us in the eye and tells us ALL that he’s here to save us from ourselves.
You see, we are a walking contradiction. Our identities are worth hating, yet we are constantly loved. We are sinners who are viewed as sons and daughters. Through redeeming grace, we are healthy trees with disgusting roots.
Thank God the story doesn’t end with our roots.