Dear Finger Pointing Christians…and everyone else for that matter

On May 24th a discussion broke out on my Facebook wall that continues to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It stemmed from what I thought was a fairly safe question: “Is there any other issue besides homosexuality where Christians feel the need to clarify that we ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’? I mean, do you feel a need to make sure I know that while you love me you hate the way I spend my money? ‘Hey Bill, I want you to know that I love you but I absolutely hate your eating habits. It’s wrong, God hates it, and it’s important you hear this from me. I still love you, but your lifestyle utterly separates you from God. Sorry dude its important you’re aware I’m not condoning your lifestyle.'” Few actually ever addressed the question at hand and it eventually lead to me writing this blog that attempted to bring a different perspective to how we approach potential issues of right and wrong.

Today my mother shared with me a song that I found particularly poignant to the May 24th discussion.* I’ve posted the lyrics below:

Jesus, friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in Your name
But the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners
The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me

Always looking around but never looking up
I’m so double minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands
And a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

Jesus, friend of sinners
The One whose writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away
And the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember
We are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy
Bring Your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we’re for
Only what we’re against
When we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs
Crossed over the lines
And loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

You love every lost cause
You reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame
They’re the reason that You came
Lord, I was that lost cause
And I was the outcast
But You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

Cause You are good
You are good
And Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause
And I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me
A grateful leper at Your feet

I don’t necessarily like the “us” and “them” mentality that most Contemporary Christian songs speak out of–including this song. There is, however, a reality that a Christ-follower has made a specific type of commitment to a certain story (namely the Jesus-story from the Bible) that invites them into a certain way of living. A certain way of living that suggests a certain level of accountability.**


Dear Christian brothers and sisters my prayer is that you are moved by the words in this song. May all our hearts break for what breaks Jesus’, may we all be called out by our own pointed fingers, may all our hearts be lead by mercy, may we all be a “friend of sinners” not because they are so evil and different from us–no, for exactly the opposite reason–because they are exactly like us! Because we are all sinners, we’re all effed up, broken, and distorted images of our original created beings. We’re also, every single one of us, on a journey. So please, I beg you, don’t impede one persons journey because of your need to be right over and above being merciful–because in no way does that reflect our savior and the story that you have committed to live out.

If Jesus was willing to befriend you–and he has–then please be willing to befriend others regardless of their life choices, without demanding that they know whether you think they’re going to hell or not (your opinion does not matter!), and please please please extend the same gift Jesus has extended you: love, grace, and mercy regardless of your sinfulness and even…wait for it… preceding your repentance.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us” Romans 5:8

* If you would like to dig into my Facebook wall you can read the 103 comments. What was  hurtful to me was to see some Christians in this discussion and in a few others that sprouted on friends Facebook walls value proving themselves right over and above being people of grace and mercy. It was heartbreaking and I saw their need to be right hurt some that I care deeply about.

** Eww eww eww. I just used the word “accountability”. Please everybody take a moment and go throw up in a waste basket with me. That word has so lost valuable meaning for me as it’s come to denote a scene where everyone is miserable and feels like they should share their deepest darkest secrets in some sort of serious and grim fashion. The word just seems to fit here…so please forgive me for what I have done.

Sometimes it’s wrong to be right

In my opinion you can absolutely be right and yet completely in the wrong. Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be and is not the most important thing in many situations. In fact, I’d suggest that often times when we’re in pursuit of being right we often end up on the wrong side of that to which we originally were in search of. In other words I think that often times it’s wrong to be right.

There are moments when our compulsion to be right leads us down a dirty path. A path where we can be









If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that I help you find the path to rightness.

If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that you understand why you’re wrong so that you can be rescued from your wrongness.

If I am right and you are wrong then me helping you understand the error of your ways is the right thing to do.

If I am right and you are wrong then the most loving thing I can do is fight for what is right.

If I am right and you are wrong then I have the freedom, nay, the responsibility to speak into your life even if that word is unsolicited.

If I am right and you are wrong then my job is to speak not to listen.

If I am right and you are wrong then…

Oh, there are so many “if’s” that we could list! When we believe that we are right we so often believe that this gives us additional freedoms. But it does not. Being right (which is quite subjective in the first place) does not in any way give us a platform to speak into another’s life. It just doesn’t. We think that it does, we feel like it should, we genuinely (with good intentions I think) want to help. But being right does not equal doing right.

You can be right and still be a jerk.

You can be right and still be unkind.

You can be right and still be undignified.

You can be right and still be completely lacking in grace.

You can be right and still be completely miserable.

You can be right…

I don’t believe it’s wrong to be in pursuit of being right. But I do think that sometimes (honestly…often times) I could care less if you’re right. For one, you’re never right as often as you think (you do know that right?). Secondly, I personally value people more than I value being right and I often find that those two values clash. Thirdly…I didn’t actually have a third point here…but if I were to have a third point I think I might say that when our goal is the pursuit of rightness (a goal that I do not think is inherently wrong) I think we run the risk of missing out living rightly along the way. We work so hard to BE right that we forget to do right by others. The worst part is that, speaking personally here, many of the things that I knew were absolutely right ten years ago I find to be absolutely laughable today! What I used to bank on as right I now understand completely differently!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we never suffer from doing good and we can never over-love. So…what if we spent our energies

Listening to people instead of telling them how we’re right

Extending dignity to people rather than telling them how their wrong

Being humble in our understanding of ourselves rather than taking an arrogant approach of assuming our own rightness

Being compassionate in our interaction with others instead of fighting for our own ends

Pursuing understanding over and above proving how our own ideas are correct

One might argue that being right and being kind are not in opposition to each other–which is absolutely true…sometimes…oftentimes…occasionally…in theory…In my experience, however, what  I often observe and am tempted to live into is that when faced with the opportunity to prove myself right over and above another person (or their opinion) I will sacrifice kindness or generosity to prove myself the winner. I’ll prioritize truthiness over and above grace or gentleness. Being right usually wins out and it often costs something–and that cost? More and more I’m discovering that it’s people’s feelings, it’s potential relationships, it’s the dignity of others. Beating you down with knowledge–even good knowledge–is still a beat down. And that’s not right.



The Great Homosexual Lover

This video is terrible for two reasons. Reason number one: the man is a very poor communicator. Reason number two: the man is absolutely filled with hate and misrepresents both what the church and Jesus is supposed to be about.

At one point he references Obama and says “I’m not going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!” Umm…I’m not sure if he realizes that Jesus was and and is a homosexual lover. No, I’m not going to write about whether or not I think Jesus is okay with a homosexual lifestyle because I think that this is arguable from both sides and from different angles…and that’s just not what this blog post is about. What IS NOT arguable is that Jesus loves all people, even and especially those who have been marginalized in society (which clearly includes the GLBTQ community). Those who have been forced to the fringes are those who early on were most drawn to the church, they were the ones who filled the crowds who followed Jesus, they felt drawn to Jesus and Jesus people.

I see no need to spend time calling out the people in this video because obviously the preacher and the backwards people who were cheering and clapping his hate-filled speech are not accurate representations of what Jesus people should be like. It would be like spending time and energy trying to argue against the Westboro Baptist folk–it’s both a waste of time and a waste of argument because there’s not really anyone in their right mind who needs to be swayed to disagree with them in the first place! So to spend time arguing against Pastor Charles Worley feels wasteful.

I do, however, think there’s reason to pause and remind us Jesus followers (and those who question what Jesus followers look like) that Jesus was and is a lover of all peoples regardless of race, sexual orientation, moral compass, sex, or economic status and that we are invited to do the same. It is so often easy write people off, to find reasons to be unkind, or–more likely–to find pretty sounding ways of treating people who are different from us with less dignity and respect. The whole “hate the sin love the sinner” phrase is one example of what I believe is a “pretty” way to treat people with less dignity. To look me in the eyes and tell me glibly that you hate what I do but are willing to still love me comes off patronizing and does not in any way feel like an act of love. I’m not suggesting you must like all people’s behaviors, but that phrase has an arrogant superiority to it that I believe is hurtful. It is especially hurtful because it usually emerges outside the context of relationship. Had Jesus’ first words to Zacchaeus been “Hey little man, I hate the way you live your life and your probably going to hell…but because I’m nice and loving I’m still willing to go out for coffee later with you. What do you say?” Zacc probably wouldn’t have hung out with him as he did. Instead Jesus not only treated him with respect and dignity but also showed and received hospitality from him. While Jesus did later invite Zacchaues into a new way of living, Jesus didn’t really live into that phrase “hate the sin love the sinner”. I just don’t see a reason to even use it. It feels arrogant, invasive, hurtful, assumptive, and just plain ol’ not nice. But I digress from the point…

Plain and simply: Jesus loves people. If you don’t vote for “homosexual lovers” then you’d find yourself not voting for Jesus. If you’re someone who wants to lock people up and drop food off via an airplane you’d probably not be in the same voting block as Jesus. If you’re someone who uses a stage, microphone, or pulpit to invite people into hateful living then I’m certain you’d be worshiping at a different church than Jesus. Jesus loves all people…

…now if only I were able to master doing the same…


Listening to Mo…Again

A few days ago I posted some words that my friend Mo wrote years ago. I hope you read them (if you didn’t, go back and read them right now!) They’re important words and her voice is an important one to listen to. Below is a more extended piece that she wrote for me that goes into greater detail about feeling like an outsider in the faith dialog. Read it. Print it. Send it to a friend. It’s worth it. It’s important.

I recently came upon a question posed on an online forum that provoked me. The question, essentially was: If outsiders have visited church services and found it wanting and don’t want to go back…what then? A number of people were uncomfortable with the use of the word “outsiders”. Including the person who originally posted the question for discussion. I‘m not. I think it is entirely appropriate. Especially in this context. I am myself an outsider. I was an insider before too.

I was not brought up in a church attending family. In high school I was drawn to a church youth group and fell in love with the church and it’s congregation. I went all the time. Really. For some reason they gave me a key to the church and I would go at midnight after school football games. I attended every service. I was there for most official church events as well as random off hours. When I felt weird and like I didn’t fit in at school because I was the only Asian kid in a sea of Caucasian faces, I felt safe, accepted and loved at church. I knew the lingo and the secret handshake! I eventually even went to seminary. I had definitely made the conversion from outsider to insider.

Then…I figured out that I am gay. And my church body decided I was an outsider. It was incredibly painful to be disaffected by my spiritual family. It was also frustrating to try to dialogue about my experience and be told I had nothing of value to add to the discussion until I “got right” with god and got rid of “the gay“. In other words, I was still allowed in the building as long as I kept my mouth shut. I was met with rigid legalism and much…MUCH finger shaking. I was NOT met with love. Or compassion. Or a desire to help me talk through this real challenge in my life. Nor was I met with an honest humility that we are all sinners and all sin is repugnant to God’s eyes. I don’t think being gay is a sin, but was never allowed to articulate my convictions. My experience is mirrored nationally. The church community I loved has declared war on my gay brothers and sisters. And me. So I left.

Now here I am, an outsider again. I went to other churches for awhile. It’s funny. If you attend services there is always a break for folks to greet each other and welcome newcomers. There is a new attendee (outsider) form you are encouraged to fill out so the church can follow up with you. I can attest from personal experience, of the 37 different churches I went to and filled out their form. (I did mention I was gay and not conflicted about it.) Exactly zero ever followed up with me. Periodically I get a longing to attend services and be part of a spiritual family that is working to build stronger communities through practical demonstration of God’s love. Mostly I squelch it. So we are back to the original question. If outsiders have visited church services and found it wanting and don’t want to go back…what then? This is me. I don’t want to keep bruising myself against the un-Christ-like inflexibility of an organized church. I don’t want to be the object lesson of how sanctified (read sanctimonious) YOU are because your sins aren’t political hot buttons. Hello….glass house…stones. I

I don’t know if I can ever believe in God again. I do know that if I am ever likely to, it won’t be from attending a church service. Tried that. Found it wanting. Don’t want to go back. End of story, right? Until I met an unusual Christian who doesn’t judge me or preach to me. Simply shares the stories of his life with me and is interested in the stories of my life. I don’t feel he has an agenda with me. Like some spiritual salesperson earning his eternal commission. (You know you’ve met them) I am extremely sensitive to “fake” concern over my spiritual wellbeing and threats of damnation if I don’t correct my behavior. Yet this Christian man never triggers my alarms. When I am around him or his wife I periodically think I may catch glimpses of Christ out of the corners of my eyes. I feel welcomed back into the discussion. I may or may not find my way back to the church again. But for the first time in many years I am engaged in an internal AND external dialogue about it that feels productive. Christians are called to go into the world (great commission stuff). I personally have only met two who are doing that. It renews my hope if not yet my faith to know that there are Christians willing to. It is scary to leave your comfortable church and your comfortable assumptions and meet “outsiders” where they are. It’s scary. It’s also what you are called to do.

– Mo