JESUS BROKE RELIGIOUS LAWS TO HELP OUTCASTS
healed the blind man on the Sabbath and broke the laws against working
by making clay and by healing. The rest of John 9 after the first
5 verses is the stormy story of conflict over legalistic
religion. The issues in this story are amazingly contemporary:
incurable illness, family rejection, conflicts over religion, fear of
authority, ignorant and heartless religious leaders, misplaced
judgment, and the determination of Jesus to cut through all of the
confusion to accept and encourage the man when he was cast out as a
sinner! Jesus accepts us when religion doesn't.
parents of the one born blind avoided defending their own child for
fear of offending judgmental religious leaders. Sometimes the
greatest pain of AIDS is rejection and abandonment by family and
friends. Religious leaders rebuked the rebel and threw him
out. Jesus searched for the religious reject, found and
encouraged him. Rejected people need someone to care. All
of us need encouragement.
did not waste time trying to decide who is to blame for sickness and
pain. Jesus was motivated by compassion and love and calls us to
follow him and do the same. When we help people with AIDS by
giving our time, practical care, food, financial help, clothing,
shelter, transportation, friendship, love and encouragement, and the
simple gift of "being there," we truly are following Jesus.
Jesus cleansed the Temple
as a dramatic act of defiance against the abusive and oppressive
legalistic religion that left out marginal and undesirable
people. Mark 11:17: "Jesus began to teach and say to them, "Is it
not written (Isaiah 56:7), 'My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all the nations (Greek ethnos), But you have made it a robbers' den." The word ethnos is the New Testament word for "gentiles."
part of the Temple that Jesus cleansed was the part that was set aside
for the use of foreigners and non Jews. It had become a place of
commerce and greed. Jesus attacked the abusive use of religion in
the special place that was intended to make faith in God inclusive of
all people. This turned the politically powerful priests against
Jesus and led directly to his death.
the ministry of Jesus, his actions were consistently aimed at including
the people that religion had left out. Jesus included women,
children, foreigners, sinners, the "unclean", outcasts, the sick and
even outlaws and murderers (thief on the cross) at a time when the
basic thrust of religion was to divide people into "insiders" and
"outsiders", the clean and the unclean. Not much has changed.
Update added on April 26, 2003:
(See all of the other updates on this page for material
related to this one.)
I was a student pastor in Louisville, Kentucky, during my seminary
days, a single mother and her two children attended our church.
She talked with me after the service and asked if she could come to our
church even though she was divorced. She had been brought up
Catholic and felt that she did not belong in any church. Of
course I welcomed her and her family.
she attended my inquirers class in preparation for becoming a church
member, she followed my suggestion to read through the Gospel of Mark
in one sitting. Later I asked what she learned. She replied
that she learned that Jesus was just like her and got mad just like she
did! She added that she always saw Jesus before as a painting or a
statue, but now she realized that Jesus was human and was just like
her. I asked her what this said to her, and she replied that it
means that Jesus really understands her and can help her.
JESUS INCLUDED EVERYBODY
of the clearest features of the life and teachings of Jesus is the way
that Jesus included people that everybody else left out. Jesus
included criminals (the thief on the cross), the people that were
unclean (did not keep all of the cleanliness laws and rituals), and
people who were outcast (Samaritans, Gentiles, the poor, the sick,
lepers, women, and the list goes on).
Jesus always defined his mission on the basis of who is included, not on who
is left out.
BOGUS CHRISTIANITY TODAY
"Christian" churches claim to follow Jesus. But do they?
The Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 voted to leave out any churches
that accept openly gay and lesbian people. Today's news includes
a story in the Charlotte Observer about McGill Southern Baptist church
facing expulsion from the Cabarrus Baptist Association for baptizing
two gay men! Read the article in the April 25, 2003 issue of the
Charlotte Observer to see the ludicrous arguments some Baptist leaders
are making against baptizing GLBT people. Click here to see the Charlotte Observer article.
Roman Catholic Pope just a few days ago made a severe ruling that only
official priests can serve communion, Catholics can take communion only
in a Catholic church, non-Catholics cannot be served communion, and
divorced people cannot take communion. The church that contains
half of the "Christians" in the world once again has defined itself by
the people it leaves out.
and Roman Catholics, the two largest religious groups in the United
States, have both defined themselves by who they leave out, and
therefore they are not "Christian" and do not follow Jesus.
This raises the
urgent question of why so many GLBT people struggle and fight to be
accepted into these religious groups, which are not "Christian" and
obviously are not following Jesus? What is to be gained by
clamoring to get aboard the sinking ship of confused abusive religion
SHAKE THE DUST OFF YOUR FEET
taught his followers that when people do not accept you, shake the dust
off your feet and move on! "Whoever does not receive you, nor
heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off
the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more
tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment
than for that city."
that the terrible error of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality but
was the rejection of people who, like homosexuals, were different and
were "strangers". (See Six Bible Passages.)
THE CLOSET IS A PRISON
Yesterday I read the (
account in the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer about Troy
Page, who testified at the House committee hearing about legal
protection for GLBT people proposed in the North Carolina
Legislature. Since one of my best friends at seminary was Troy
Page, I called him. This was a different Troy Page!
told me more of the details of what happened. He is an employee
at the Administrative Office of the Courts. At the hearing he
learned that 11 of the gay and lesbian employees of the state had
declined to testify for fear of losing their jobs, which is exactly the
reason that the protection is needed. Troy sent a note to the
moderator offering to testify. He was called on and said that he
"fears that unless state workers win protection against discrimination
based on their sexual orientation, one day his homosexuality could cost
him his job." This was a bold move!
Page, however, seemed to feel that this was the logical and appropriate
thing for him to do. He was already "out" at work and with all of
his family and friends. The closet is always a prison that limits
your capacity to be yourself and make a difference for freedom and
acceptance for yourself and for others.
THE CLOSET AND THE CHURCH
of GLBT people remain in the closet and secretly live the lives that
the churches they attend condemn and ridicule. They have not been
rejected. They have rejected themselves. Come out.
Tell your truth. If you are rejected for being who you really are
as a GLBT person, shake off the dust from your feet and move on.
Start your own spiritual recovery and growth group.
seriously the fact that any church that defines itself on the basis of
who is left out is not "Christian" and is not worthy of YOU. Walk
away. Let go and move on. God is with you whether you ever
attend a church or not.
WORK OUT WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
With God's help work out what works for you. I support and have participated in SoulForce
actions in the past and will continue in the future to be part of
whatever action is available to me to challenge the genocide of
religious groups whose teachings are killing God's Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual, and Transgender children! This many not be the path for
you. But what is your path? Let it not be the path of
retreat from reality and a mild acceptance of ferocious homophobic
had almost decided not to comment on the Roman Catholic Pope's recent
statements defining his church in terms of who is left out. Then
my conversation yesterday with Troy Page made me realize that all of
what I have said in this update needs to be said and said with
KIM IN TAIWAN
my web site and book in whatever way is available to you to begin small
group dialogue and study of spiritual recovery and growth.
Yesterday I received e-mail from Kim in Taiwan telling me of her
progress in leading group studies of my book, which she is translating
into Chinese. What an exciting and encouraging letter! Pray
for Kim and for the Chinese GLBT people she is reaching in her ministry.
out, get involved in the forces of change that are available to you,
and let God use you to make the crucial difference for somebody
else. You have a ministry of encouragement and hope waiting for
you at every turn in your life.
Read again my material on coming out in Step Nine in my web site and book.
JESUS BIBLE STUDIES
recent weeks, I have received many new messages about small group home
study activities in many parts of the world. Last Sunday, I
received a wonderful encouraging letter from Rev. Rodney Staples,
pastor of Aloha Metropolitan Community Church in Maui, asking me to
finish and publish my Jesus Bible Studies, which he needs in order to
be able to continue the Bible Study programs that he has already been
leading for his congregation.
A great deal of my material on Jesus is already in my web site in updates and in the section on "Jesus Bible Studies," but I am aware that there is a great need for systematic Bible study materials on the
"Real Jesus" and on why and how we can relate to and follow Jesus today.
was just the spark that I needed to get me working again on the Jesus
Studies. Adam DeBaugh, my publisher and editor at Chi Rho Press,
is eager to get the Jesus Studies going also. Pray for me as I
resume the detailed work of planning and writing the Jesus Bible
April 26, 2003
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." --Yogi
See a great new web site of encouragement:
"LET GO AND START OVER"
Update for November 16, 2004
cannot start over until you let go. Why is it so hard to let go
of people and actions that are destroying you? I wish I
knew! Letting go is that hardest thing I ever try to do. I
have great difficulty in letting go of people that are bad for me or
with whom I let myself become codependent.
I think that if I suddenly faced death, somebody else's life would flash before my eyes!
do I do the things that are hurting me? That's the question that
Paul asked himself in Romans 7:15-25 and that the prostitute in "Man of
La Mancha," both asked: "Why do I do the things that I do?
I do not know why I do these things!" "…to dream the impossible
dream. . .to reach the unreachable stars. . .to fight for what's right
without question or pause. That is my quest..." (from Man of La Mancha)
expresses the hope and dream that all of us share in trying to be and
become what God made us to be and to let go and start over every moment
letting go and starting over an "impossible dream"? It has been
for me most of the time. Why? I either don't know or don't
want to know! My own inner struggle goes on constantly.
What I don't want to do, I do, and what I want to do, I do not do, and
like Paul in Romans 7:24, I ask: "O wretched man that I am, who will
deliver me from the body of this death!" These are as strong as
any words that Paul used to describe his own "struggle of the soul."
BEING ME AIN'T EASY
Kermit said, "It isn't easy being green!" Being me and your being
yourself is never an easy task. Being true to yourself and being
what and who God made you to be is a moment by moment challenge and
opportunity. "To be or not to be" is still the question and
always will be.
choices you make determine how your see yourself. How you see
yourself also determines the choices that you make. This circular
thinking reminds me of the little slogan: "When in danger, when in
doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!" I think that comes from
my Daffy Duck collection of wisdom and proverbs.
KEEPING A JOURNAL
keep a daily journal account of what I do and what happens to and
around me. Reading back over my journal teaches me a lot about
myself and my own decisions. I keep making the same mistakes over
and over! When the great theologian and editor of "The
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible," George A. Buttrick, came to
speak at the seminary, he began by saying: "What I want to talk about
is what I have learned from my mistakes. That confession alone
was enough to make the students want to listen.
personal history is just like any other history: if you do not learn
from the history of your own mistakes, you are sure to repeat
RELATING TO NEEDY PEOPLE
of us are surrounded by needy people. This is especially true
great cities like San Francisco and Oakland. The city is a magnet
for needy people from all over the world. It is an accepting and
tolerant city. All communities, including yours, have homeless
people and needy people who challenge you to follow Jesus in ministry,
love and outreach. I have never fully learned the lessons of two
old proverbs: If you give a needy person enough rope, they will
hang themselves-- and you. If you give a needy person an inch,
they will take a mile!
over any control of your life to another person, especially a severely
needy person can be a disastrous mistake. Yet, on the other hand,
the call and example of Jesus consists primarily in loving and caring
for needy people by identifying with the outcasts and ministering to
them with compassion and strength. This is what Jesus did.
And look what happened to him for doing it!
to help severely needy people requires the four great principles of
successful living: be logical, objective, realistic and
practical. Most religions have difficulty following these
principles. Jesus always followed them and calls you and me to do
the same. The Spirit of Jesus still teaches us to "be as wise as
serpents and as harmless as doves." (See Mathew 10:16. See all of
Matthew 10:1-30 as the clear teaching of Jesus regarding your mission
in the world. See links below.)
TEACHING AND LEARNING
are your own best teacher. Learn from your mistakes. You
can also be your own worst enemy if you do not learn from your
mistakes. A mature faith knows the difference between being
available and being used. You and I are to grow up to
maturity. Read all of Ephesians 4:1-32. (See links below)
final word in Ephesians 4:32 is "Be kind to one another,
tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has
forgiven you." Making another person inappropriately dependent
upon you is not kind and disturbs the "vital balance" of your life and
November 16, 2004
You can send contributions to support my Internet
and book ministry to me at
201 W. Washington St. #805
Greenville, SC 29601
Or to Chi Rho Press online at their website
PO Box 7864
Gaithersburg, MD 20898
See details in my "Appeal for Help" update:
See instructions for ordering my book from Chi Rho Press:
thanks to Adam DeBaugh, Director of Chi Rho Press, for his wonderful
support of my ministry and for his dedication to the ministry of
healing through my book and others. Adam is working on a Spanish
translation of my book.
You can see the progress of translating my book into Chinese at the website of Tongshin Church (in Chinese and English)/
This update added on July 22, 2002:
"SPIRIT AND BAPTISM"
friend Rev. Carolyn Mobley visited with me this past Thursday to
Saturday before she joined the rest of the faculty of the Metropolitan
Community Church orientation program for new MCC clergy being held at
Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Carolyn and I had the
opportunity to talk at length about how we can more adequately
communicate the Spirit of Jesus in our rapidly changing world.
we were discussing the fact that Jesus came to simplify and make
spirituality available even to a little child and to marginalized and
despised people, we talked about how Jesus often changed everything by
a simple event that demonstrated how to God every person has equal
value. Jesus changed how an outcast woman saw herself and her
world and how everyone else saw her and how we now see Jesus with the
simple request: "Give me a drink of water." From that startling
and unexpected request, the woman at the well went on to become the
first missionary to the Samaritans and the point of reference for all
truly Jesus based psychotherapy.
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS
discussed how the baptism of Jesus was not what John the Baptist
expected. When Jesus came to John and asked to be baptized, John
objected and replied that Jesus should baptize him! Jesus said
no. Jesus was not identifying with baptism or with John but with
the sinners and outcasts who came to John to be baptized. Jesus
did not reject John and even praised him as a truly great man, but
Jesus went on to say that the least in the realm of God is greater than
John. That has always puzzled me.
clue to what the baptism of Jesus really means is in the fact that
Jesus identified with the people, not with the prophet or with the
ritual. Jesus joined with and identified with the multitudes of
people from every walk of life who were strangers, sick people, unclean
people, rejected and outcast people, feeble and confused people, and
with the people who were hurting and wounded by the false abusive
religion that John came to challenge.
Jesus was baptized, the "voice from heaven" announced: "You are my
beloved son and in you I am well pleased." At the same time, the
Spirit of God came upon Jesus. Events and statements related to
this dramatic event are given in all four Gospels and in the Book of
Acts. What is the real significance of this famous "voice from
suddenly realized that the identity of Jesus as the child of God doing
what is pleasing to God is directly related to the decision of Jesus to
identify with "sinners" and the motley multitude of spiritual seekers
who came to John. To identify with people who suffer and who are
rejected and despised by abusive religion is to follow Jesus and to
identify with and be filled with the Spirit of Jesus.
demonstrate that you are a "child of God" like Jesus when you identify
with the wounded, oppressed, abused and outcast people in your world.
IDENTIFICATION VS TOLERATION
did not just tolerate the abused rejected people in his world. He
identified with them and had compassion for them as he felt their pain
and entered into their sorrows. To follow Jesus always goes far
beyond tolerance. To follow Jesus is to identify with the people
who most need help and who are most despised and rejected by
talked with and ate meals with the unacceptable religious outcasts with
whom he completely identified all the way through his life as told in
the Gospels. From baptism to crucifixion, Jesus identified with
the unclean and despised rejects of his world. On the cross,
Jesus identified with a confessed murderer and invited him to be with
him in "paradise."
did Jesus have only 12 disciples? He could have had
thousands! Why did Jesus give only one "new commandment" to love
one another just as Jesus loves you? He could have given volumes
of new rules and regulations! Why did Jesus promise to be where
two or three gather in his name? He could have encouraged vast
gatherings of thousands of people! Why did Jesus hold up a little
child as the ideal of spiritual power? He could have pointed to
the great prophets and spiritual giants of the past! Jesus was a
minimalist. Jesus focused on one person at a time. Jesus
identified with individuals. Jesus kept it simple, because God is
for everybody, not just the educated and brilliant. God is for
transform the call of Jesus into vast empires of millions of people or
churches or just one local church is to miss the point and miss the
plan and to miss God and the presence of God where it counts most: in
yourself and in the person next to you now.
religion has developed incredibly intricate separating walls to keep
people apart. Vestments, church architecture, religious art,
doctrines, rituals, liturgy, religious titles and rank along with a
thousand religious habits create difficulties for the followers of
Jesus in their attempt to identify with and accept even themselves,
much less each other!
Jesus is presented to us as totally different and distant from us, we
abandon the true biblical perspective that makes it clear that Jesus is
with and within us in every practical way. How can you identify
with Jesus unless you also can identify with other people and with
yourself? Whenever religion creates barriers and separating walls
between people, it creates walls that separate us from the real Jesus
of the Gospels and Pentecost, where the Spirit of God came upon all
people. Read Acts chapter two and notice the constant use of
"all" and "every" in the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon
THE GREAT MYTH OF "KEEP OUT"
has characteristically set boundaries around God. God is here; so
keep out! God is holy and altogether "other," and you are not
permitted to walk on the "holy ground" where God is. Jesus
shattered all such notions by demonstrating that God is present in all
people and in all places. There is no place or person where God
is not. Jesus lived, walked, ate, laughed, wept, and identified
with every person his life touched. To Jesus, every individual
included the presence of God and the Spirit of God. Every person
is "holy ground" and should not be stepped on or abused in any way!
You and every person you meet are created in the image of God and have been given the Spirit of Jesus without your having to
do anything to earn or deserve it.
from God is gift. The claims of churches and religious wizards
that you have to do it their way or burn in hell are absurd and are a
direct rejection and denial of the inclusive Jesus who identified with
the most outcast and anti-religious people of his own world. With
whom do you identify: the priests or the sinners, the pastors or the
prisoners, the "saved" or the "lost", the righteous or the unrighteous,
the fools or the scholars, the children or the rulers? Jesus
identifies with them all! And Jesus identifies with you.
Aren't you glad that you were not left out! Why do you insist on
leaving out anyone?
THE MIND OF JESUS
spelled out what it means to have the mind of Jesus. Read
Philippians 2 now and remember where your point of view about God and
other people originates if you follow Jesus. Jesus never
identified with religion or with religious leaders. Jesus
identified with little children, social rejects and outcasts.
Jesus identified with "the least of these" and called all people to
follow Jesus. You don't have to understand it all or figure out
all of it or organize it into dogma or build buildings and institutions
to insure its progress and perfection. All you are called to do
is to follow Jesus and identify with the people in your world in the
same way and for the same purpose that Jesus did.
could possibly be gained by making something so simple and direct into
a complicated system of doctrines, requirements, legalistic demands,
political and ecclesiastical structures, and the monumental mess of
modern religion? Nothing! How can the headlong plunge of
contemporary religion into oblivion be diverted and returned to Jesus?
changed his world by identifying with powerless unacceptable people who
had no status in the world and who were oppressed and abused by the
very religion that claimed to love and save them. You can stop,
turn around, and start over. You have everything to loose and
everything to gain.
let go of a false Jesus is gain in itself and sets the stage for you to
move on into the light of love and truth that already surrounds
you. Every person your life touches is a messenger from God and a
ray of hope. Listen, look, care, be open, learn, and rejoice in
hope that new life and spiritual power are already within you and
working through you.
July 22, 2002
"THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS"
Update added January 27, 2002:
is Sunday, January 27, and the last Sunday in the first month of
2002. Sunday is a good time to think about Jesus. Sunday,
the first day of the week, has been recognized as a special day of
remembering Jesus on the day of resurrection from the very earliest
information that we have about the followers of Jesus.
"WILL THE REAL JESUS PLEASE STAND UP!"
other historical person has been as misrepresented, misunderstood and
misused, as has Jesus of Nazareth. The future of Christianity
depends on a radical restoration of the Jesus of the Gospels.
Traditional images of the pitiful weak victim Jesus writhing in agony
on a cross must be challenged and replaced by the realism of the
strong, assertive, successful, positive, inclusive, brilliant teacher
Jesus in the Four Gospels. You cannot follow the pitiful victim
Jesus. You can follow the real human Jesus.
does all of this matter? The only invitation of Jesus was:
"Follow me." Knowing what that means is essential to any realistic
future for you and me as Christians. We are not called to follow
an institution, a set of rules, an ideal, a dream or a pathway to
freedom. We are called to follow a person, and that person is the
man Jesus, who is carefully and fully described in the Gospels.
SOURCES OF JESUS INFORMATION
of the printed and traditional information about Jesus come from
extremely prejudiced sources. Church teachers and leaders have
worked hard to shape and interpret the sources in order to present
Jesus as the possession of the church and the source of all of the
abusive teachings, fund raising, and other manipulative practices of
the "Christian" religion. The Church has reduced the personality
and life of Jesus into doctrines and demands that obscure and smother
the real human Jesus of the Gospels.
is the remedy? Simple! Go back to an objective, logical,
realistic, practical fresh reading and study of the Four Gospels and
pay attention to the humanity of Jesus as a pattern for living in the
will and power of God. Jesus did not say, "Follow me" while
hanging on the cross! Jesus said, "Follow me" while he walked
among the people in love, compassion, outreach, healing and full
acceptance for everybody.
A TEACHER, NOT A VICTIM
the Gospels, Jesus is seen primarily as a loving, brilliant, effective
teacher. Jesus always confounded his enemies with his logic and
realistic answers. Jesus demonstrated the authority of a
well-informed and compassionate teacher who listened to people and
always fit his teachings to the individual.
idea that following Jesus means denying and rejecting your own humanity
and your real self as God has created you is probably the ultimate
heresy that has destroyed the truth of Jesus in the historic churches
for centuries. Nobody wants to follow a teacher who is a pitiful
helpless victim of circumstances and who has been humiliated and
rejected as the abomination of God! Get real! If you ever
make a difference in this world, as a follower of Jesus it will be
because you have decided to follow the real human Jesus and not the
simpering suffering victim pictured in religious crucifixes, art and
YOUR MENTAL IMAGE OF JESUS
is your mental image of Jesus? What do you see in your mind's eye
when you think of Jesus? Do you see a strong assertive brilliant
well-informed person who moves with great confidence among the people
and listens and lifts up and encourages everybody he meets? Or do
you see only the agonized painful face of a victim of religious and
political violence dying a wretched death nailed to a wooden cross?
THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS
stories of the death and resurrection of Jesus are the concluding
message in the Gospels. These "Passion Narratives" are
important. The Gospel of John, for instance, gives 10 chapters to
the life and teachings of Jesus and 11 chapters to the final week of
the life of Jesus. In all four Gospels, however, the meaning of
the death and resurrection of Jesus depends on knowing the normal human
life and personality of Jesus that gives us a realistic basis for
following Jesus ourselves. We are not called to die for the sins
of the world. Jesus already did that.
are called, however, to follow the human Jesus in listening to others,
having compassion and feeling the pain of others, reaching out to lift
up and heal others, and accept and include the most rejected and
outcast of all people, just as Jesus did.
GIVE YOURSELF A PRACTICAL ASSIGNMENT
Be your own
teacher. Plan an assignment for yourself to read through one of
the Gospels each week until you finish all four. I often suggest
that you take about two hours and sit quietly and read all the way
through the Gospel of Mark in one sitting. Things about Jesus you
never noticed before will impress you.
the real human Jesus sink fully into your mind. Notice how you
can do the things that Jesus did if you really want to. You can
listen to people and take them seriously whether you agree with them or
not. You can give your own personal answers when they might be
helpful. You can pray, take time for yourself to rest, accept and
affirm hurting and troubled people, recognize and affirm your own
humanity and dependence on God, and keep going when you are tempted to
quit, just as Jesus did.
can take the initiative to reach out to others without waiting from
them to come to you, just as Jesus did. Jesus never said that you
could "walk on water," but Jesus clearly said that you are called to
love one another just as Jesus has loved you (John 13:34-35).
his temptations in the wilderness, Jesus refused to compromise his
humanity by performing magic and turning stones into bread and refused
to deny his humanity by leaping from the pinnacle of the Temple and
"tempt" God to save him. Jesus gave great emphasis to his own
humanity and his identification with all people when he was baptized
and when he ate with "sinners" and "unclean" outcast people.
HOW JESUS WAS NEW AND DIFFERENT
religious leaders had performed miracles, healed people and taught
people how to live. Jesus, however, was new and different in
demonstrating and teaching that God really does love and accept all
people equally. Jesus made it clear that all people have equally
value to God. Jesus never left anybody out because of who they
were, their race, religion, lifestyle or anything else.
"Whosoever" was willing to follow Jesus was welcome.
that Jesus did was new and inclusive. In feeding the 5,000, which
is recorded in all four Gospels, Jesus performed an extraordinary new
inclusive act. He invited people of many races, religions, and
social classes, both "clean" and "unclean," to sit ("recline") together
in one place and eat a meal. This had never before been
done. Religion had always divided people into the accepted and
the rejected. Eating together was the great dividing line between
people in the ancient world.
night, Amir and I met with Rev. Carolyn Mobley in San Francisco for a
brief visit. Carolyn was here for a special leadership conference
led by my friend Justin Tanis in preparation for leading training
programs in the new organization of UFMCC this summer. Amir is
Filipino, Carolyn is African American, and I am European
American. We had tea and raisins as we talked. I just
realized this morning how that event reflected what Jesus did in eating
with people and teaching others to do the same as an expression of our
love and acceptance for each other.
This also made me think of the great importance of lunch counter
demonstrations in the Civil Rights movement under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
you read through the Gospels, make note of the things that Jesus did on
a regular basis that you can do also. You can do a lot more of
the things that Jesus did than you might think. You can listen
and ask questions. You can face and deal constructively with your
own anger, as Jesus did in Mark 3:1-7 (See Step 4). You can
identify with people in need and reach out to lift them up. You
can accept and encourage troubled people. You can begin by
following Jesus in accepting yourself as having equal value before God
with every other person and having the powerful guiding Spirit of God
with all of the problems of translations, revisions and editing, and
historical development of the gospel material, the Four Gospels remain
your best resource for restructuring for yourself a viable and relevant
image of the real Jesus. Jesus was human and so are you.
Look within your own mind and image of yourself. You will find
clues to what Jesus was like also.
Jesus from centuries of church mistakes and misinformed entombment of
Jesus in medieval concepts and misunderstandings is possible!
Work on it. You can figure it out for yourself. The only
view of Jesus that will change your life is the view of Jesus that you
work out for yourself.
If you discover something that you
want to share with me, please send e-mail and tell me.
JESUS AND FAMILY VALUES
WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT FAMILY VALUES
Family Values" has become a powerful political slogan and an anti gay
weapon that cannot be ignored. Did Jesus talk about family
values? How can Jesus lead us into a Christian gay and lesbian
understanding of family values? Jesus expressed great
respect for family values. Luke 2:39-52 tells how Jesus as a
child respected his parents and remained subject to them. Even
then, however, Jesus recognized that God was a higher authority in his
revealed to his parents that he was different and that he had a special
mission in life that they did not understand. When his parents
found Jesus in the Temple, they were surprised and said exactly what a
lot of parents say to gay children when they come out to them: "How
could you do this to us! We have been looking for you sorrowing (lit.
"in great pain")." Jesus did not apologize to his parents for
"coming out" and acting on who he really was. He simply said that
he had to be his true self and left it at that. His mother was
loving and accepting even when she did not understand. We need
more mothers like Mary!
rebuked his mother for telling him what to do and then did it anyway in
John 2:3-11. Later, Jesus provided for his mother by telling his
beloved disciple to take care of her. Yet Jesus also taught that
following him was more important than usual family obligations in
Matthew 8:21-22: "Another of the disciples said to Jesus, Sovereign,
let me first go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow
me; and let the dead bury the dead."
JESUS CHALLENGED ALL TRADITIONS.
Parents selected children's mates. Women were property and had no
freedom in choosing their partners. Jesus elevated women from
property to persons to partners in ministry and respected and honored
little children, all of which was new. Jesus set into motion many
freedoms we assume today.
YOUR UNION WITH CHRIST
word "forsake" used by Jesus to tell his followers that they should
forsake everything else in order to be his disciples is the same word
used for forsaking father and mother in order for the human partners to
"become one" in marriage. In Matthew 19:29, Jesus set loyalty to
him in contrast to traditional family values:
"Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or wife or children or farms for
my name's sake, shall receive many times as much,
and shall inherit eternal life."
sex committed couples who are bound to each other by their love can
joyfully look to Jesus for guidance and strength for living.
Their love for each other, their service to Christ in their personal
lives and their ministry of acceptance and encouragement to others can
help everyone redefine family values more in keeping with the example
and teachings of Jesus. Gay couples can challenge the rest of the
world to put Jesus at the center of marriage instead of focusing on
law, custom, procreation and social pressure.
GOING BEYOND TRADITION
that Jesus did was new. His new understanding of family was
revolutionary. The traditional family ties of the time of Jesus
were challenged and replaced by ties to Jesus and to doing the will of
the mother and brothers of Jesus came to get Jesus, the crowd told
Jesus that his mother and brothers were looking for him. Jesus
answered by asking, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And
looking about on those who were sitting around him Jesus said,
"Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does
the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:31-35)
do not choose your biological family. Jesus sets you free to
chose who will be closest to you and who will most influence your
life. What kind of choices have you made in selecting people to
be in your life? Your freedom in Christ includes your freedom to
decide who your circle of closest friends will be. Freedom to
chose your "family" implies your obligation to chose wisely. You
can destroy your freedom by making bad choices. Have you ever
Jesus carefully selected his closest friends. God will help you do the same.
JESUS MAKES ALL THINGS NEW
gave a "new" commandment that his followers should love one another
just as Jesus loved them. The only way that you can follow that
commandment is to have Jesus in your heart and mind. Whenever the
Spirit of Jesus comes into your life, the first evidence is your love
for people. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." (Gal. 5:22).
one another includes loving your biological family also. Jesus did not
reject traditional family values of his time. He went beyond them
to define all values in relation to himself. Jesus calls you to a
radical letting go of everything in order to follow only Jesus.
The bottom line in everything for Jesus was, "FOLLOW ME."
Have you experienced Jesus in your life?
how ignorant and prejudiced the radical homophobic fundamentalists are
about family values is not enough. We agree that "hate is not a
family value." Jesus invites us to define everything in the
light of God's inclusive and accepting love demonstrated for all people
in the life and work of Jesus. The first step in your successful
challenge to the Traditional Family Values Coalition is to connect with
Jesus in whatever way best fits you and to follow Jesus.
The Following Update was added December 3, 1998
"CHALLENGING RELIGIOUS EXPLOITATION"
advocates for fairness and respect for homosexuals responded to the
murder of Matthew Shepard by pointing out the role of homophobic
religious rhetoric and the anti-gay "ex-gay" ads last summer in
creating and sustaining the attitudes of fear and hate that resulted in
what happened to Matthew. The reaction of many homophobic
fundamentalist religious leaders was to deny any blame and to accuse
the gay community of trying to use Matthew's death to advance the "gay
the churches never seem to realize that in condemning gay and lesbian
people for using the murder of Matthew as a basis for pointing out the
need of all homosexuals for acceptance and protection, the churches are
condemning themselves. Churches for centuries have used the
murder of Jesus of Nazareth as a basis for claiming unearned spiritual
authority over millions of people and using vivid imaginary pictures of
the torture and suffering of Jesus to extract financial support for
massive building programs and for religious, political, and financial
has the church done with its great wealth? Recently the Mormon
Church gave over a million dollars of their wealth to fight against the
recognition of gay and lesbian loving committed relationships in Alaska
and Hawaii. D. James Kennedy and other leaders of the great
spiritual ignorance movement raised and spent a fortune to advertise
the misguided "toxic" religion of the "ex-gay" movement.
churches, however, could be solving the needs of the poor and homeless
to demonstrate their sincerity in following Jesus, who said, "Inasmuch
as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers and
sisters, you have done it to me." Soren Kierkegaard asked over
150 years ago: Is it really the same thing when Jesus said "Sell what
you have and give to the poor" and when the priest says "Sell
what you have and give it to me"?
would have a solution to the plight of the homeless in every city in
America if the churches would open their doors to the homeless to
provide a place to sleep in the unused space that every church has
every night of every week in every city. Jesus made it perfectly
clear that the most important thing in God's eyes is people, not
things! Why have not the churches already provided space for the
homeless? If they did, the "homeless problem" would be over.
is Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco the rare church that actually
ministers to human needs at every level? Where are the hundreds
of other churches? When Rev. Cecil Williams became pastor of
Glide, the church had 300 members in a very depressed area of the city.
It is still at the same location but with a rapidly growing membership
approaching 10,000 and a practical ministry of love and
compassion to hungry and homeless people. Glide is also a church that
openly accepts and sustains gay and lesbian people as God's children,
celebrates their committed relationships, and encourages their
spiritual growth and active leadership in the church.
Why is Glide Memorial Church the rare exception rather than an example of what all churches are doing?
will it take for the churches of all traditions to recognize their own
hypocrisy and blatant denial of the clear example of Jesus'
unconditional and inclusive love and to repent and turn from their
anti-Jesus judgmental legalism and let God's healing love save them
from self destruction?
and I can be part of the new beginning of Christianity in the coming
century if we simply let the Spirit of Jesus enter and guide and
empower us to "follow Jesus". Let Jesus love you and love the
people around you through you. Try giving yourself away.
Jesus did, and it worked for him.
"Sell what you have and give it to the poor." --Jesus
"Sell what you have and give it to the building fund." --Satan
This material added December 14, 2000:
"CHANGE THE WORLD"
changed the world forever simply by sharing his ideas and questions in
dialogue with a small group of people. One of his students was
Plato, who also changed the world in the same way. Plato went a
step further and wrote his ideas down. Then Aristotle organized
everything and elaborated on Plato and Socrates. Small group
dialogue has laid the foundation for most of the great positive changes
that have moved the human race forward.
"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, that
is all that ever has." (Margaret Mead)
BEGIN WITH YOURSELF
objective, open minded and realistic are you now? Do you really
listen to others and try to encourage them to think and share with
you? If you do, you are becoming prepared to attract others into
a small group for mutual learning, growing, healing and recovery.
world often has been changed by a small group of dedicated
people. One man gathered friends and associates together to help
him discover new and better ways of doing things. The group tried
over 2,000 materials to make one invention, but all failed. One
of the associates said, we have failed 2,000 times. The leader
said, "No. We have not failed. We have succeeded in
learning 2,000 things that don't work!" They continued to explore
and ask questions until they discovered a working electric light
bulb. Thomas A. Edison changed the world by first learning to ask
questions, share dialogue with others, work tirelessly and never give
VICTIMS DON'T CHANGE THE WORLD
of the most important decisions you can make is to decide not to be a
victim. GLBT people are not the only ones who are tempted to get
depressed and accept negative attitudes about themselves from other
people. Refuse to be a victim. Have you ever wanted to be
accepted by someone so much that you let that person run all over you
and treat you like dirt? I have. It is hard to admit that
you have been victimized and used by somebody that you love and that
you thought loved you. Why do you think so many people remain in
abusive demeaning relationships?
in the closet is to accept yourself as a victim. Resist the
temptation to let other people decide who you are and control your
life. Freedom to accept yourself and to affirm yourself is
freedom from being a victim. A dialogue and study group can help
you to escape from victim mentality and break the self-imposed chains
of codependency and low self-esteem.
You have to feel good about yourself before you can change anybody else. The more you grow in
self-acceptance and confidence, the better equipped you are to change the world.
ENCOURAGE SOMEBODY TODAY
begin changing the world by helping other people in your life accept
and affirm themselves. Jesus accepted and affirmed the woman at
the well (John 4) by asking her to do something for him: give him a
drink of water. Sometimes simple things can help another person
feel good and gain self-respect and confidence. You know how bad
it feels to be put down by someone. Work hard not to put down
other people around you. Instead, lift up others so that they can
see themselves in a different light and feel good about themselves.
you have never read it or have forgotten it, spend time learning from
Dale Carnegie "How to Win Friends and influence People". Or take
a trip on "The Road Less Traveled" with M. Scott Peck, M.D. Your
first step in changing the world is changing how you see
yourself. Then share with others and learn from them in
life-giving dialogue. It's worth the trouble.
My partner and I recently watched some of the great 1977 film classic about "Jesus of Nazareth"
by Franco Zeffirelli. The entire film is six hours long. I
was very impressed again by the relationship of Jesus with the
disciples and the setting of small group interaction that formed the
environment for the life and teachings of the one person who probably
has most changed the world. Jesus wrote nothing, organized no
institutions and built no buildings. Yet through the method of
small group learning and dialogue Jesus changed people who continue to
change the world today.
BIG RELIGION RESISTS CHANGE
religion often protects and defends the past long after the past has
become a source of prejudice and a distortion of the present.
Jesus constantly confronted entrenched abusive religion and exposed its
damage to people and its distraction from God. Jesus did not just
point out the flaws in current religion, however, he offered a better
way: himself. Jesus changed the world by first accepting and
being himself. When Jesus says, "Follow me," he is inviting you
first of all to accept and be yourself just as he did.
follow Jesus is to become fully human by accepting yourself and other
people around you. Jesus listened to people; so can you.
Jesus felt the pain of others; so can you. Jesus saw the
potential for good in every person; and so can you. Jesus set an
example for you when he took care of himself by pacing himself with
exercise, rest, food, sleep and a fully balanced life. Following
Jesus does not mean becoming a religious nuisance to others. It
means taking yourself and others seriously as children of God and
taking time to be available and show compassion in practical help.
Religion draws a line and forbids you to cross it. Jesus teaches you to think for yourself,
respect yourself and draw your own lines that fit you.
is the role of love in how you are changing yourself and changing your
world? In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes spiritual gifts and
the kind of small groups that develop in the Spirit of Jesus.
Then he concludes by saying, "Earnestly desire the greater spiritual
gifts, but I show a still more excellent way." Then follows the great
declaration of the meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Stop now
and read these two chapters and ask how they can help you to find
better ways to change your world.
(My web site and book are given not to think
for you but to equip and encourage you to think for yourself. My book is intended as a Guide
for small groups and individual study. Invest in other people by
giving them my book and using it to start your own small group
revolution to change the world.)
Special thanks to Lawrence A. Reh of "First Light"
for telling us about the following web sites by the American Psychology
Association that give current medical and scientific information about
Gay, Lesbian Bisexual issues such as "ex-gay reparative therapy".
Take the time to look at these sites and become better informed with
APA "Just the Facts"
APA "Guidelines for Psychotherapy"
"EATING WITH SINNERS"
Rembert Truluck. Update for October 28, 1999
White and the GLBT Christians who traveled to Lynchburg to demonstrate
their love and faith accomplished their mission. They went, they
listened, and they told personal stories of their experiences with God.
Special thanks to Steve Schalchlin, Lawrence Reh, and other friends who
have written and shared their experiences in Lynchburg with the rest of
us. The response of Jerry Falwell and his associates was not all that
we had hoped might happen, but their response was itself very important
Falwell said that much of his extreme anti-gay rhetoric was developed
by his advertising agency in his promotional and financial
campaigns. This is shocking to me. If Jesus had hired the
political/religious consultant firm of Caiaphas, Judas, and Associates
to design his ministry, the Gospels would have been completely
different, and, in fact, we probably would never have heard of them.
extreme importance of our mission of information and truth about the
Bible and homosexuality as set forth in my web site and book on "Steps
to Recovery from Bible Abuse" was obvious from much of the response to
Mel White and those who shared in his mission of outreach, love, and
JESUS WAS NEW AND INCLUSIVE
own conclusion at this point in my studies and ministry is that the
Gospels clearly demonstrate two consistent facts about Jesus. The
first is that Jesus was always creative, new, and different.
Jesus was revolutionary and challenged all of the ancient traditions
and "made all things new". The main teachings and actions of
Jesus in the Gospels are presented as something new that had never
happened before in the forms and with the effects manifested in
Jesus. The second is that Jesus was always consistently inclusive
and accepting of all people, which itself was also brand new and
unexpected. Looking for these two features of "new" and
"inclusive" has led me to appreciate the underlying meaning of a lot of
the stories about Jesus that did not seem clear before.
FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND
four Gospels tell the story of the feeding of the multitude (Matt.
14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13), giving basically
the same account in each Gospel. This the only miracle in Jesus'
ministry that is included in all four Gospels. Many scholars have
debated the question of how the food was multiplied and whether or not
everyone shared what they had when the young boy shared his food.
This preoccupation with how the food was multiplied misses the two
obvious features of this story that tells about a brand new and
extraordinarily inclusive event.
before Jesus had provided unexpected food in the wilderness.
Moses provided the manna, and Elijah and Elisha miraculously fed the
hungry. What was new about Jesus feeding the multitude? We miss
the impact of the story if we neglect the details.
years ago I was preparing a study of this event as recorded in The
Gospel of John and was struck by the statement that these things took
place near Tiberias. I visited Tiberias in 1958 on a study trip
with Dr. William Morton of Southern Baptist Seminary. Tiberias
was the capitol of the Roman Province of Galilee, but since it was
built on a site that contained tombs, the Jews would not live in the
city. I had never put these things together before. The
multitude that Jesus faced on that day was a mixed multitude of people
from many races, religions, cultural traditions, beliefs, and
situations in life.
crowd included Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Romans, lepers, cripples,
children, men, women, outcasts, "sinners," the "unclean", soldiers,
Pharisees, priests, and a cross section of humanity. Jesus told
them to recline on the grass. The term "recline" was used in
describing the Last Supper and was the posture that one assumed when
dining in the home of a friend. To "recline" was to become
vulnerable to an enemy. The rigidly observed custom at the time
was that you did not eat with anyone of a different rank, race,
religion, or other social or cultural distinction from yourself.
examples of this custom are found throughout the Bible. See Galatians
2:11-21, where Paul condemned Peter, "for prior to the coming of
certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they
came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing those of the
circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with
the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy."
challenged the legally enforced separation of people from one another
and invited the whole multitude to share food with him. He
blessed the food and gave it to the disciples to distribute. The
recovery of 12 baskets full of food is highly symbolic in saying that
the multitude is the new people of God, the new 12 tribes of Israel,
based not on law or race but based upon Jesus and the one whom Jesus
represents. Nobody was left out. All were filled.
Jesus represented both God and all humanity, as he did in his baptism,
his life, and his death and resurrection.
in the Gospels for what is truly new and radically inclusive. The
truth about Jesus is not hard to find in the Gospels. The truth
is everywhere. Don't be distracted by traditional interpretations
that ignore what is truly new and what clearly teaches and demonstrates
the unconditional inclusive love of God for all. To follow Jesus
is to celebrate human diversity.
was condemned for "eating with sinners" and for associating with
outcast and "unclean" people. Whatever Paul might have said about
problems related to issues that divided early believers in certain
often uncertain situations in 1 Corinthians and elsewhere, nothing Paul
had to say can negate the clear teachings and actions of Jesus that all
people have equal value before God and the obvious fact that Jesus
demonstrated his acceptance and identification of himself with all
people by eating with them and inviting them to share a meal together.
It all depends on whether we follow Jesus or somebody else.
use of out-of-context selected Bible verses to avoid "eating with
sinners" as a sign of rejection and judgment against homosexuals is
just like the selected use of a few incorrectly translated and
misunderstood verses to condemn and reject homosexuals in the first
underestimate the destructive power of ignorance. Misinformation
about the Bible and the true meaning of following Jesus is of
incredible and inexcusable danger to GLBT believers. A recent
news item pointed out that 28 gay men have been murdered since the
vicious killing of Matthew Shepard a year ago.
information is sobering in itself, however, it is pale when you realize
that in the past year, thousands of GLBT people have committed suicide
because of the relentless religious, family, and social pressure
against them. Many thousands more have given up on life and
engaged in self-destructive attitudes and actions that have effectively
destroyed their self-esteem and their will to live. "The truth
will set you free," but the truth has to be seen as true.
errors in biblical interpretation and religious teachings about
homosexuals and homosexuality along with a blatant denial of the clear
findings of the medical and psychiatric professions about homosexuality
has poisoned the air that millions of people are forced to breathe in
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. You can give bigots the truth, but you can't make
have no choice but to keep praying, keep sharing our personal
testimony, keep loving, keep dialogue going, and keep following Jesus
in all things.
Thank you, Mel and Gary.
You and all of our
"Soulforce" friends who went with you have our love and appreciation.