Letter to a Christian Lady

About two years ago I received an e-mail from an evangelical Christian woman who had read an article about me in her local paper where I talked about my ex-gay experience. She told me that God had put me on her heart to pray for me. We began to correspond about our faith and lives. She sent me lovely words of comfort when my mom passed away.

She questioned me several times about my theology. Who is Jesus? she wanted to know. I did not avoid the question, but wrote about my faith and what it looked like. She wanted more, she wanted to know if I believed that Jesus was the SON of God and that he is Divine.

I think I knew where she was coming from in asking that. As an born-again, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian for nearly two decades, I would insist that people have a “saving knowledge” of Jesus Christ and not just think of Jesus as a good man or prophet, but accept him as God himself in human form and the sacrifice for all of our sins. If not, I would pronounce (I believed lovingly) they were deceived and not real Christians.

When my concerned Christian friend recently asked me directly about the divinity of Christ I wrote:

I cannot give you an answer that will satisfy you. Even if I say the very words you expect a Christian to say, chances are you will distrust the sentiment or the words coming from my mouth. It is possible you will think that I am deceived, and therefore place me in a box labeled “unsaved,” ” misguided,” “prodigal,” or just “wrong.” But Jesus made it very clear, you shall know them by their fruits, not their doctrine, not their profession of faith, but by their fruits. Many will say in the day of judgment, “But I knew you Lord” and will have flawless theology, but Jesus may not recognize them.

The fruit of the Spirit is first Love. We are a people defined by the way we love.

I create a dilemma for some Christians. I love Jesus. I am filled with the Spirit. I love to worship God and be in God’s presence and hear God’s voice in the Word. And I am sexually and romantically attracted to other men. Something Jesus never condemns. There is such a thing as heterosexual sin and there is homosexual sin. There is such a thing as healthy heterosexual love and healthy homosexual love.

This may be a dilemma that you will have to sit with for a time, to go before God and bring it to Him, to hear what He has to say about it. I know that that is what I have spent years doing, not seeking what itching ears want to hear but asking and seeking and knocking to know God’s will for my life.

The way of this world insisted that I was deformed, sick, perverted, just as it has said that women were inferior and Blacks were property to own and abuse by whites. But Paul says, no longer conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Sadly too much of the World has gotten into the Church and Christian people have done atrocities in Jesus’ name.

I cannot give you an answer that will satisfy you because there may be too much at stake for you. Right now you need to accept me as a Christian on your terms, terms you will insist are the terms put forth in scriptures. Perhaps you will consider looking into the history of the church and the Bible and how the Bible has been used as a weapon to silence and oppress people as well as a tool to lead people to new life in Christ.

This post has 10 Comments

  1. Elliot on February 20, 2007 at 4:46 pm Reply

    Amen.

  2. Ally on February 20, 2007 at 7:52 pm Reply

    Wow, Peterson. Just…wow. Thank you for the way you give my theology feet. Or maybe wings.

    Do you imagine you’ll receive a reply from her? There seemed to be an air of finality to your message, at least to my ears…

  3. Joe Brummer on February 20, 2007 at 11:47 pm Reply

    WOW, that is all I can articulate after reading this is WOW. YOu have summed up most of the anti-gay right when you said you will know them by their fruits, not their doctrines. The fruit of their work is bitterness , not a beloved community. About the same as violence. The fruit of violence is bitterness.

    I will be thinking about this for awhile. I may even incorporate this wording in my work. THis is the best think I have read lately. My thought have been prevoked to think and blossom.

    Thank you!

  4. Anna HP on February 21, 2007 at 8:37 am Reply

    Amen indeed. I wish I had your wonderful talent of putting things down in words. It would be a big help.

  5. Liz Opp on February 21, 2007 at 5:57 pm Reply

    Like Ally and Joe say:

    WoW.

    Thank thee for being faithful. …and I am so glad we had the opportunity to talk this past weekend. All is well.

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  6. alex resare on February 21, 2007 at 7:04 pm Reply

    You have such a great way to balance integrity with honesty.

  7. Jim Burroway on February 21, 2007 at 7:57 pm Reply

    Beautifully put.

  8. Peterson Toscano on February 21, 2007 at 9:09 pm Reply

    ally, you are insightful, I can see how the air of finality to my letter. I knew that by writing what I did would push the envelope and after two years may end the exchange.

    She replied almost immediately with a lengthy e-mail.

    “Peterson, if you do not believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, who came to this earth to die and take on your sin, and if you do not follow him with your whole heart……..then your not a Christian friend. I’m not placing you in a box labeled “unsaved,” ” misguided,” “prodigal,” or just “wrong.” Jesus is.”

    She then quoted several scriptures with commentary she supplied–scriptures and commentary I know very well.

    But that is the response that I expected. When I stood in her shoes, I would have responded similarly. That is what is expected of a good solider of the cross and a Christian witness. And I have no doubt that she believes she is showing me love and helping to save a lost soul.

    I responded with a story that I will post as a blog entry.

    Jesus was often elusively when asked questions designed to trap him. He also knew the power of storytelling to impart messages that the hearer would normally filter out. In that way, and in many others, Jesus was subversive.

  9. Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) on February 22, 2007 at 4:25 am Reply

    Very nice, Peterson.

    I think the key word is “trust”. As you yourself said, “Even if I say the very words you expect a Christian to say, chances are you will distrust the sentiment or the words coming from my mouth.”

    Can there be such a thing as real Christianity without trust?

  10. Anonymous on February 23, 2007 at 5:01 am Reply

    Peterson,
    I love reading your postings. They are always so eloquent and insightful.
    I too was once like your evangelical pen-pal. I believed that you had to believe all the right things to be saved.
    But then a wise Christian professor had me look at Matthew 25:31-46. That is the passage where Jesus is talking about the final judgment and he praises one group of people for feeding him when he was hungry, clothing him when he was naked, visiting him in prison, etc. He welcomes them into Heaven. They ask when they did all these things for him and he replies that whatever you did to the least of these you did to me. He then condemns another group of people who didn’t do those things. The professor showed me that believing the right doctrine was not a factor in Jesus’ judgment. It was how people treated the poor and unloved that mattered.
    He also told me about the famous passage John 3:16–for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever shall believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
    Christians have used that as proof that Jesus is the ONLY way to Heaven. But the professor told me that in those times to “believe” in someone meant that you agreed with what they stood for and wanted to do likewise! That, he said, is the way to Heaven. To act like Jesus! I found that very liberating!
    So yes my friend, you are indeed a “true Christian”. 🙂

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