In my pursuit of a messy church I have recently been befuddled by a church leadership that embraced and loved me as I am. Their recent contradictory behavior, the resolute fear and loathing I sensed this past Sunday, has me doubting the sincerity of their desire to welcome sinners, people different from themselves and those that fit no one's mold of what a human is.
It took me awhile to process what happened Sunday at the congregational meeting that I am not supposed to talk about. There is a desire by my brethren, those that would shepherd and lead me and other church members, to "protect us" from men that think they are women. More specifically, they are concerned that these transgendered people will want to enter the women's restrooms.
I think the real concern here is the Iowa Human Rights Commission and their interpretation of recent executive orders from Washington that requires all restroom and locker room facilities be made available to everyone. If you are a man that believes he is a woman, you should be able to use the women's restroom or locker room or shower. Likewise for the women that think they are men. There is currently no regulation about people that think they are giraffes, but I sure there will be something forthcoming.
There is no regulation that specifies whether the transgendered person is pre-op, post op or non-op. In fact, a man could surreptitiously claim to be transgendered so that he might enter premises previously reserved for women only. The nefarious intent of such an individual I will leave to your imagination, but I think as this plays out, more people on every side of the situation will begin to object to implementation of this policy. Indeed, 11 states have already filed suit against the federal government over theses executive orders.
My opinion is that these executive orders represent an overreach on the part of the White House and the Iowa Human Rights Commission and that implementation of these orders should be fought. But who should be responsible for doing this?
Increasingly, there is a desire within certain evangelical and conservative churches to take on this fight themselves in the courts out of the fear that if we give up this ground, they will soon also be regulating speech in church and even the promotion of the gospel message.
Let me suggest another way.
Let them come. Instead of fighting, why don't we bring in some transgendered people, give them the full use of our facilities - all of them. Let them see who we are. We could even love them and welcome them, all the while sharing the Truth with them.
Going with legal remedies says two things.
1) We are afraid. We cannot handle what the dark prince throws at us as we pursue Christ. We are faithless and loveless and fearful. And so we build our middle class fortresses to keep the sinners out in our efforts to protect ourselves and the Truth.
2) We are law keepers and rule keepers bent on controlling others, forcing them to submit to the way we live, all the while refusing to tell them why they should do so. There are obviously some sinners that are too sinful for salvation.
I ask you, are these the crosses we took up in our pursuit of our salvation? Jesus said, "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." Did we really sign up to fight bathroom rules, gay rights, placement of the 10 commandments in public places, abortion or prayer in public schools?
My answer is a categorical "NO". Our mission is to seek and save the lost - all of them. We cannot exclude cross dressers and trangendered people when they want to use the "wrong restroom". It is not our place in the kingdom to deny access to anyone that has an interest, even wrong headed interest, in what we do.
There was once a pharisee among the Jews in the time of the apostles that was feared far and wide for his persecution of Christians. Christ Himself changed the man and made him the greatest missionary of all time. His name was Paul. You might recognize the name. He wrote a large chunk of your New Testament. If the gospel turned him, I'm sure a man in a dress will pose no problem. Just sayin...
So let's reorder our priorities. We preach the gospel. As we face the prospect of persecution by the state, we preach the gospel. As they fine and arrest us, we preach the gospel. As we die for the sake of the lost as our King did, we preach the gospel.
No other issue is more important. No other issue should take precedence. All such distractions must be ignored. A messy church will have messy people. Only a few will be transgendered or gay or bisexual or desire to use the wrong bathroom. Some, probably many more, will be self righteous pharisees. We all need God's love and grace for our sins against Him as we all become one in the Body of Christ.
A church with no mercy and no love is a different kind of mess. A church that excludes and engages in court battles is using the tools of the enemy. We have done this for too long and to no avail. We need to change our tactics, change our attitudes, love those that Christ loves and offer His salvation to those that want it.
So what do you want my brethren? Do you want to attract every legalist for miles around or do you want to be a place about which outsiders say, "see how they love one another"?
We need to be building a hospital to welcome the spiritually sick and not a fort to keep them out.
Lord, please open the eyes of our hearts. Teach us to submit to you and take the gospel to the world. Please Lord, crush those that would lead us down the path of the enemy, using his tools in a fight that does NOTHING to promote your Kingdom. Please put mercy and grace and vast amounts of courage in the hearts of those that would lead us and show them how reckless the path is that they are embarking on. Make sure they know that You will NOT be going with them. Please destroy organizations outside the church that detract from and obstruct Your work to save. Lord, I think their intentions may be good, but their methods are simply wrong and wrong headed. They confuse their citizenship here with their true citizenship in Your kingdom. Remind them again of where they belong and whose they are.
Help us to open our hearts and minds toward other sinners as we pursue our life with You. Help us to embrace what might seem like a mess to us in the same way that you daily embrace our messes and our junk. Give us a heart for your kingdom. Create is us an awareness that we may not always be comfortable here as we seek to bring others into Your house. Lord, it's going to be a long strange trip if we do it right, but it will be worth it and I hope, worth the blood of Your precious Son and our King.
It is in His Name I pray...
Amen and Amen