Saturday, June 6, 2015

My Response to J.D. Hall

J.D.,

I am writing, as you likely assume, because you included a screenshot of my tweet regarding Bruce Jenner in a recent post of yours on the same topic.  My tweet simply stated, “Grace won’t let me treat Bruce Jenner like a freak.  Truth won’t let me treat him like a girl.”

I stand by every word of that tweet.  Every one of them.

While you seem most bothered by the word “freak” and my refusal to treat Mr. Jenner like a “freak,” you must see the word “freak” in light of the other words in the tweet.

GRACE

As a fellow pastor and Bible student, I know you don’t need an explanation about the unmerited favor of God.

I would simply point out for the sake of my readers that grace and truth are not opposing forces that need to be balanced.  Too many in this debate seem to think so.  Our Master was filled with grace and truth (John 1:14).

All grace is truthful.  All truth is full of grace.

I do not believe there is any such thing as truthless grace or graceless truth although I know how those phrases are commonly used.  If it's not the truth, it's not gracious.  If it's not overflowing with the grace of the gospel, it's not Biblical truth even if it's factually accurate.  For myself, I've been guilty of sharing a lot of graceless facts through the years.

On this subject, it's important to note, we don't ultimately show grace to Bruce Jenner (or anyone else in the LGBT life) by withholding truth.

WON’T LET

When I’m walking in grace, there is an inner compulsion that simply will not allow me to act certain ways, at least not without conviction.  As a fellow believer I know you’ve experienced those times of brokenness and repentance where the indwelling Spirit made His displeasure known.

It’s not that we are incapable of sinful actions but rather we are incapable of acting in an ungodly way without conviction and chastisement.  As much as the chastisement hurts at the time, I appreciate the fruits of peace and righteousness that it yields in the end.

ME

I can’t speak for everyone.  That’s obvious.

I can’t speak for the lost church member who quotes Scripture all the while putting a black eye on the gospel.  But grace won’t let ME…

I can’t speak for the political conservative whose moral deism is leading him straight to hell.  But grace won’t let ME…

I can’t speak for a fellow believer whose hasty use of social media does more harm than good.  I’ve been guilty of that myself more times than I’d like to admit.  But when I get alone with the Master, His grace won’t let ME….

TREAT

The Christ that lavished grace on me did not treat me as I deserved to be treated.  The very nature of my sins might not have looked “freakish” to an on-looking world but they were every bit as repulsive to our holy God.  I deserved damnation and eternal punishment.  I get forgiveness and eternal life instead.

Now He calls me to a life of paradox.  A life of grace.  A life that treats my enemies with love.  That blesses those who curse me.  That prays for those who spitefully use me.  A life that doesn’t treat people the way I believe they deserve to be treated.

That doesn’t mean I roll over dead and ignore their behavior.  I just love their person.  I am to love the child molester but I’ll never let them within reach of my kids.  I am even to love the false teacher although I’d never ask him to lead silent prayer at the church I oversee.

I wish I were better at this grace-life than I am.  My tongue has wounded both friendly critic and sworn enemy alike over the years.  I request your prayers in that regard.

God will one day treat sinners as they deserve.  In His righteousness, He will do so.  But even on that great and horrible day, treating sinners as they deserve to be treated will be His place and His place alone.

BRUCE JENNER

I join you in exhorting Bible-believers to not call Bruce, “Caitlyn.”  Far different from a more typical legal name change, such as “Fred” to “Bill,” the name change from a male name to a female name in this case is inextricably linked to the transgender behavior itself.  I believe to embrace the former is to normalize the latter, even if unintentionally so.

I am grieved beyond measure that leading voices in my denomination seem to lack enough Biblical discernment to make this simple distinction.  I even wrote a lengthy satirical post to address this troubling trend.

Truth restrains me from calling a man a woman.  It’s just not true.  And therefore, it's not gracious.  Hence, my second sentence.  But that’s not the line that troubled you.

LIKE A FREAK

You make your case that you believe Jenner is a freak.  For the record, I firmly believe his behavior is sinful, strange, odd, unusual, and even freakish.  I agree with you on that point.  I didn’t say his behavior wasn’t freakish.

But grace doesn’t treat freaks like freaks. It doesn't treat jerks like jerks.  His common grace even presently treats the unrepentant far better than they deserve.  Thankfully, God’s grace didn’t treat His people like the sinners we were before His grace came.

Far from treating us like we deserved, He pressed His way up a blood-spattered path to a skull-shaped hill.  There He took my sin upon Himself and suffered under God's wrath for me.  In that moment of holy justice, God treated the Sinless One like I deserved that He might treat me as the Sinless One deserved.

The essence of the gospel involves God treating people like they do not deserve to be treated.  Should God save Bruce Jenner, it won’t be because God treated him like he deserves to be treated.  That grace, like the grace given to Mike Stone and J.D. Hall, will be unmerited to its core.

And when God’s grace is at work in me, His grace won’t let me treat Bruce Jenner like a freak any more than His truth will let me treat him like a girl.