Towards Peace & Conversation

 

The world is fraught with bad news. It has been since the beginning and will be until the end. Ironically, after however many thousands or millions of years (depending on your theology, or lack thereof) humans are still surprised wars continue to happen, that people die, and senselessly bad things happen to really good people. We don’t expect this reality. Maybe because God didn’t create the world or its inhabitants to experience the decay that has been unstoppable since Adam and Eve fell in the garden. Our expectations match what was to be our original perfect reality and not what became our actual reality post fall.

Andy Crouch, prolific author, speaker, and Executive Editor of Christianity Today, says it like this,

“We live in a bad news to bad news reality in the church. We start in Genesis 3 (the fall) and end with Revelations 20 (the lake of fire).”

Andy’s point is that even the Church, the entity Pastor Bill Hybels calls the hope of the world, has succumbed to this grim, joyless, and visionless existence. As Believers we live like the rest of humanity, in shame and defeat, with a poor image of God the Father, Redeemer, Creator, Author, and Finisher. And, we become a poor reflection of Him.

I think it is this posture that most fuels our desire to fight. Look around, listen to the news, conduct your own interviews of people on the streets; Christians are not known for our love. Nor are we often characterized by what we are for. We are known for being against. We are known for shooting our wounded and fencing the communion table so no one dirty will get in. We speak with the tongues of angels, we do this and we do that in Jesus’ name, but we have not love. At least not real love for people who fail to meet our ungodly high standards—the very standards we fail to meet. The least of these are aplenty and we treat them as the least, the last and the lost. We hope they ‘get saved’ only if they don’t bring their mess with them. And we rely on para-church organizations to deal with that mess.

As a lifelong evangelical Christian who grew up entrenched in church culture and church life and who has spent nearly every single day of my adult life deeply involved in a professional career of Christian service, I don’t know how God accomplishes much through us, His people. I say much because there are amazing examples of Jesus to be found in the Church. But, as a whole Body, we are struggling and in need of reformation: A grace reformation—one that reveals the heart of the Father and no longer the anxiety of the emotionally and spiritually asthmatic Older Brother, which has become the picture of the Church in the 21st century. As believers in one body, what one of us is says or does reflects the whole. Most of us are known for what none of us want to be.

Here’s the problem: we don’t live as though we have peace. We are anxious, hopeless, angry, and shocked. Our anxiety-ridden minds think the solution to finding peace requires us fighting to recreate hope, which will make us happy and put an end to all the shocking things in our world. We think we can create peace. The truth is, according to John 16:33, we are promised peace when we have Jesus, the Prince of Peace, as our Lord and Savior. We aren’t promised a world of peace, just an inward, never-ending, reality of it. The Church, the spiritual Body of Christ, does not operate from a spiritual position of absolute peace. We exist in fear—fear of God’s wrath, first and foremost, and fear of what will happen if we don’t “work” for Him. It’s sad, really. Exhausting. A treadmill of works and rules. It’s not the life in the Promise Land of peace and rest or the goodness we are promised in Psalm 27:13-14 where it says:

13 [a]I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

As an earthly father, the very last thing I want my children to feel or live in is fear of me. I don’t want them to operate in life out of a position of fear of anything. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a healthy respect for me and who I am for them, the dangers of life and their surroundings, or that they don’t need to be careful. Obviously, they do need to be careful and respect the boundaries our culture and environment have set up, whether in nature or elsewhere. But, they don’t need to fear me, Leslie or anything else. They don’t need to worry. I am speaking to myself as I type this, too. I am constantly learning not to live in fear of anything.

Fear motivates us to be self-focused, self-absorbed, and reactionary. Our solutions are not based on trusting God to be God, but rather on our human efforts and endeavors to save the world. But, as my friend Tyler Wigg-Stevenson recently wrote in his fabulous must-read book by the same name, The World is not Ours to Save. We must trust God to be God because we cannot be Him or do His job for Him no matter how hard we try or how much we want to.

To sum it up, we are cultural defeatists who live in constant religious turmoil overreacting to our surroundings fully expecting that through our human efforts we can save the world, please God, and experience man-made Utopia on planet earth; all by tomorrow. No wonder the world hates and/or pities us. We are delusional. Dictatorial. Lacking compassion.

So glad this doesn’t have to be the end of the story. There is another option. We need to, as 4Him so poignantly sang back in the 1990’s, get back to the basics of life. It’s actually a song full of appropriate words. The basics: love God and love people. Simple in all its complexity. It will mean shutting off FoxNews and the split screen debate mentality that permeates the evangelical church. It will mean refraining from the senseless Facebook tirades that so easily suck us in. It will mean shutting up for a change rather than pretending we know it all, including God’s every thought and opinion on, well, everything. It will mean listening to people whose sin you think you know and deep down love to hate (the sin, that is). It will mean learning to think, speak, and act from a posture and position of secure peace in Christ and His absolute love for all.

I realize this is a tall order. But, as I contemplate the end of the human story—however far or near it may be—the Bible says it culminates with a harvest of people. There is no qualification made on their political or social positions, economic background, race, age, or sexual orientation (there it is—wondering when I was going to mention that deal breaker were you?). Truly, anyone can know Jesus if they simply believe. A great harvest of believers in Christ and His finished work will come when we, current believers, are more compelling than we are today. When we represent Him better than we have before. When we speak like Him. When we love like Him.

If we have not love we are like a clanging cymbal! Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

 

Alan served as the final president of Exodus International from 2001 to 2013 when together with a core team of leaders and board of directors he closed the organization and began making great strides towards building relationships with the LGBTQIA community and encouraging the global Church to do the same. With a goal to reduce fear, establish trust, and inspire hope on both sides for the sake of the Gospel, Alan and his wife, Leslie, spend their time being available to anyone who desires to talk. He has been featured on every major media outlet across the globe. Alan and Leslie’s first book together, My Exodus: From Fear to Grace (Zondervan, 2015) releases on September 29.

The Chambers spend the best part of their lives with their 10 year olds, Molly and Isaac, and the rest having conversations about all things gay with anyone and everyone over lunch in Winter Park, Florida or in other locations throughout the world.
Follow Alan and Leslie on Twitter: @AlanMChambers and @LeslieMChambers

I value your honesty and critical review. Please refrain from attacking others.

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25 thoughts on “Towards Peace & Conversation

  1. Honestly, I have been waiting and waiting for someone with SOOO much Faith as you do in Christ our savior, to finally speak, or write, what the TRUTH of being a Christian means!! It’s not about I’m right and your wrong at all, that’s not what Jesus said or did…it’s about just being who we are with out fear of being told we are not enough….do more…pray harder….ect. So, thank you for this writing!!!

  2. I breathed such a sigh of Relief when I read this. Finally someone is daring to speak Love….Love! The Love that Jesus had for me- a messed up, still messy human. I am feeling God’s call to the Church to love, seek after, cherish and nourish those who for whatever reason have chosen are ‘unloveable and unsaveable’. I am very excited about Speak. Love. I am praying diligently every day for this ministry.

  3. Hi Alan,

    This project came to my attention recently and I think it could be huge in starting to shift culture towards a place of being able to engage in conversations across differences regarding Christianity and sexuality–with some of the same goals you have! Check it out! http://onlevelground.org

  4. Ironically, after however many thousands or millions of years (depending on your theology, or lack thereof)
    Really? Is it your opinion that those that believe the Earth is 57–yrs old, are the ONLY ones that retain a theology? Well, have you some growing up to do.

  5. This is so beautiful, LOVE! For God draws us with Love, and we are to Love. God pretty much gave us two commandment Love Him with all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbors. You would have thought that was an easy commandment! However thank the Lord, for His grace and His everlasting Love.! I love this post so much, Is it okay, if I can use this message for a youth Sunday teaching? I am really blessed by this post. Thank You brother for posting, may God continue to bless your ministry and your family.

    Marie
    Acts 20:24

  6. Believing God every day that our son will be free of the bondage of homosexuality; your testimony is encouraging to me and we are learning how to love just like you talk about. Thank-you for sharing!

    • Jen,
      I am sorry but there is no bonds of homosexuality. I suggest you search for Linda Robertson and her blog Just Because He Breathes. Linda lost her son and now helps parents accept their gay children just as they are.

  7. A wonderful explanation of our christian life, anxieties, fears, hopes and expectations. I have struggled with my faith and flesh do to my homosexual desires. I met another struggling Christian and indulged in that sin for the first time. I was confused by the difference between love and lust and as a result turned away from God to fulfill my fantasies. I herd about Exodus Int. and was exstreemly encouraged. Finally a group that I can open up to! Maybe they can help me. Maybe they can lead me to victory. There Is hope… Even for a wretched backsliding sinner as myself. And I live in Orlando!!! I was released from doing 7 years in prison, a struggling Christian, with very strong homosexual desires, to a very openly gay city. My first thought was to go to a gay club and find another boy, then NO!! I googled Exodus Int. And to my disappointment it has closed. Where do I go? Who can I talk to? Is there anyone who understands? I know, I know, I have Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and access to the throne of the Father. But its so hard! My flesh is so strong and mind so polluted. Please pray for me; Ryan H. God bless

  8. Alan, I first saw you at a Love Won Out conference several years back near St. Louis MO. Good conference. Great speakers. Of which you were one. I’ve recently made a number of life changes one of which being departing from evangelical, non-denominational, mega churches and joining an LGBTQ affirming Christian Church. When you made you famous speech apologizing to the LGBT community and disbanding Exodus International, I had the rare opportunity to reassure my gay and lesbian friends and family member that I fully believed not only the sincerity of your message but also the sincerity of your heart. A somewhat belated thanks for taking a courageous stand to undo the immense damage done “in the name of Christ”. Peace and reaffirming love to you & Leslie as you continue your journeys.