Micah J. Murray
gospel

In Search of a Better Gospel

April 3, 2014 77 Comments

“I don’t know whether or not I’m an evangelical anymore. Is there a BuzzFeed quiz for that?”

I tweeted that a month ago, half-joking. As it turns out, there is no simple quiz.

Instead, there’s this bleeding disaster that has been throbbing for almost two weeks now — lines in the sand, farewells, angry words, and a lot of us walking away pretty sure that we’re not evangelicals anymore but not sure what that even means.

These conversations are difficult, because they dip into a current that runs deep and strong. Though these words tend to get to the very core of our identities, they’re terribly blurry words. But they’re all we have to work with here, so bear with me.

For a while, I’ve felt like there are two different gospels floating around in our churches. 

One says “Jesus was born to die so you can go to heaven instead of hell, so pray this prayer and follow these rules to show that you believe.” The other says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, so live as citizens of a Kingdom where Jesus is Lord.”

Look closely, or you might miss it. On the surface, they look similar. But as their implications ripple outward, you’ll see how very different they are.

One is very concerned with regulating morality (especially sexual behavior); the other is more concerned with justice and equality and healing. One anticipates Jesus’ return to slaughter his enemies and snatch the faithful few up to heaven; the other looks forward to the eventual restoration of all creation. One draws hard lines in the sand and farewells all those who disagree; the other welcomes those who have always lived as outsiders.

(These are generalizations, I know. Forgive me. I know most of us live between these generalizations. But I think if you look around you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

Last week was, I believe, a head-on collision between these two gospels. 

When given the choice between supporting the needy and perceived support of immorality, ten thousand Christians declared – with both their words and their money – that their dedication to morality trumps their dedication to those in need. Their abstract doctrines were more important than the real-life flesh-and-blood people standing right in front of them – both the LGBT people in the church and those children depending on their generous support.

Doubling down, some have explicitly stated that their strain of Christianity, even the gospel itself, lives or dies on the exclusion of gay couples from the church, that “heaven and hell hang in the balance“. They taken a few scattered verses from the Bible, a drop in the sea of Scripture, and declared that this is at “the core of the gospel“.

I am astonished.

Have we forgotten Jesus, what Love itself did when it walked barefoot on our dirty planet? 

Where religious systems want to draw tight circles around themselves and keep others out, Jesus wants to fling the doors open and welcome them all in.

The sick. The lost. The hurting. The widows and orphans. The exploited. The cheaters. The prostitutes. The racially excluded. The ceremonially unclean. And yes, the gay people that you can’t possibly believe really know Jesus. They all have a place to call “home” in the Kingdom of God.

And yet,

You stand there with your hand on your hip, wagging your finger at Jesus.

How dare you heal on the Sabbath; It’s not Biblical. How dare a Samaritan be the hero of the story; he’s unclean. How dare you let that woman touch you; don’t you know she’s a sinner? How dare you allow gay couples to serve in this ministry; don’t you know they’re assaulting traditional marriage? 

To all of this, Jesus shrugs and opens his arms to them anyway. 

This is the message strewn all throughout the Gospels:

Your moral codes do not trump the grace and mercy of Jesus.

Your rules for how people should live out their faith can’t limit where and how Jesus chooses to work.

And all your doctrine, your “Lord, Lord, did we not defend traditional marriage in your name?” isn’t worth a pile of straw when the Kingdom falls into the hands of the least of these, the very ones you kicked to the curb because you’d rather walk away than walk beside a Samaritan.

Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

In the middle of all this, the words of the Apostle Paul keep ringing in my ears:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Let me say this clear: If your rules about morality are at the heart of your gospel, it is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Friends, there’s really only one gospel. But there’s a hell of a lot of people troubling you, distorting the gospel of Christ.

And oh, how they trouble you!

With words like sticks and stones, they lay claim to our religion and declare themselves the sole arbiters of faithfulness, the only true interpreters of the Holy Words. They make their favorite rules prerequisites for the Kingdom of God. They force sincere, loving people to choose between a heart of generous compassion and an abstract threat against “marriage”.

They wield the “Gospel” like a threat until even the Apostle Peter denies his brothers and sisters in Christ like he once denied Jesus himself, because he fears those who declare that their way is the only way to be a Christian.

It’s as if they never even read the stories of Jesus, how over and over again he turned moralism and doctrine and Biblical rules upside-down just like those tables in the temple. It’s as if they never listened to the parables he told, how the outsiders and the rejects and the sinners are the rulers of Heaven. It’s as if they’ve never read the book of Acts, how the Spirit of God keeps drawing the circle bigger and bigger, inviting in all those who labeled “unclean”. 

But listen.

They don’t have a copyright on the Gospel.

It is free, and cannot be bound, bundled, bought, or sold. It can’t be bargained with or boycotted, held hostage to the whims of those whose pet prejudices want to leave you standing on the outside unless you conform to their interpretations of how you should live out your faith.

Listen, can you hear it?

Can you hear the whisper of grace beyond the walls that they built high to keep us in?

There’s a better Gospel.

I can feel it in my bones. I can remember it faintly etched on my heart.  I can see it glowing like the sunrise beyond distant mountains.

I’m leaving to go find it.

Do you want to come with me?

________________________

After writing this post yesterday, I woke up this morning and saw this piece on Scot McKnight’s blog about the same polarization of Christianity. It describes the same “two gospels” I’ve laid out here, but in greater detail. I highly recommend it. 

  • Jane Halton

    Amen Micah. I’m with you.

  • This is beautiful and right on, Micah. Thank you for writing.

  • Im in

  • Huh. I wrote pretty similar words last night (possibly with more swearing and less grace). Good not to be alone, I guess. I’ll come with you, because if there’s a gospel born from a God who is love, I’d like to find it.

  • I’m coming with you!

  • Kimberly

    I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stand up and slow clap or sit down and weep after reading this. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that I want to come along in this search for a better gospel. Count me in.

  • Katie

    Yes I do! Keep all the wonderful thoughts coming. Learning how to navigate outside of traditional evangelicalism has been a new, exciting, and scary process, and your writing has helped make it easier, so thanks!

  • Let’s roll.

  • Nathaniel Norton

    in.

  • Matt

    Thank you, Micah.

  • Fred Uberseder

    Micah,
    Sounds to me like you’ve already found it in the second of “the gospels” you put forth in the post. …Much of which are at the heart of the faith of those who call themselves followers of “the way” and have also answered for the last 500 years to the name “anabaptist”. .. ; )

  • Herm

    Micah, only a month ago? God works in wondrous ways through sincere hearts and minds searching for His love and the Truth. Yours is on fire! The good news is we don’t have to leave but we do have to open our hearts and minds, as you are doing, and allow the Spirit of Truth to counsel. We, all responding in the positive, can unite to heal those who too many “christians” (as versus students of Jesus Christ) would leave suffering in the ditch (excluded from their and God’s love): some of those injured are us.

    I am with you brother as we share the only Teacher and Guide necessary for an eternity. Let’s do this!

  • Rick Mcmichael

    I’m there…someone of some authority once said to the self-proclaimed keepers of the truth, “you are greatly mistaken, not understanding my Father or His word” (paraphrase is mine). We need to lovingly but firmly challenge those who say they know, yet the fruit is not forthcoming. Jesus did happen to mention this as the way to really know.

  • Rod Wallace

    I am SO with you , Micah. There is something of a groundswell, a stirring amongst those that I have walked with over the past years that business as usual is over. We cannot go back. We cannot carry the name that associates us with a “gospel” that doesn’t seem to represent our Father’s heart. The road is somewhat unknown, but justice and mercy must triumph over legalism and judgement, and we will press in closer to the heartbeat of the One who has called us to be like Him. Thank you – again – for capturing so simply and eloquently, what is now forefront in our hearts and minds. Count me in, too.

  • Sue

    I hear you. However, while Jesus met and mingled and ate and drank with sinners, he also said “Go, and sin no more”. The tax collector paid back the money he had had stolen. The prostitute left her prostituting to follow Jesus. He meets us wherever we are, but he loves us too much to want us to stay there.

    • 2TrakMind

      True, but there’s no indication that He gave up and shunned, or condemned them if they didn’t “go and sin no more,” either and He certainly didnt indicate that caring for those in need should only be done by those who don’t sin. They would all starve if that was the expectation. There’s so much more at stake here than our false belief that morality needs to be protected and defended. It’s not ours to protect and defend, but God’s, as He chooses.

      • Chris

        If they choose to GO and SIN MORE…then their fate is clearly stated that it would be separation from God for eternity because they choose themselves and their own sin over their Creator..which He allows us to do but also leaves us the choice to miss out on all He wants for us. So while he loves us and meets us where we are if we choose our sin over Him and His grace and then die…..well I think the Bible is clear on what is going to happen. Don’t lie to yourself.

    • Sue, I think you’re absolutely right about this. What’s really important to see in the lesson of the adulterous woman is the message of liberation. Not only did Jesus refuse to condemn her, but he preached to her a message of liberation from a burden of sin. How many others in the world need that kind of liberation? We all do, at some point or another.

      One thing I have to say about the issue of homosexuality and how this particular message applies is that my most profound liberation experience has to do with coming out. When I was still in the closet, my relationship with God was stalled. And it was the Holy Spirit that encouraged me to allow the truth to set me free. That was the lifting of a great burden.

      So what I would encourage folks to realize about LGBT people and the Church, even if we disagree about marriage equality, is that in order to sin no more, there must be a safe space for gay people to come out of the closet and to fully live in the truth. How we conduct our romantic lives, etc., is something of a separate issue. It must start with the sort of loving environment that says unequivocally to a closeted LGBT person: “our Savior doesn’t condemn you, and we don’t condemn you. Come out and give up this burden.”

    • Liz

      He didn’t repent about healing on the sabbath though even though the exodus 35:2 says “Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.” He was breaking the legalistic reading of scripture, but not the heart of scripture. Gay Christians serving children aren’t any different.

  • Dave McCarthy

    Isaiah 61:1-4… “Yesterday” is fulfilled in Jesus.

    1″The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

    2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

    3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
    the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
    that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

    4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
    they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

    AND

    Matthew 4:23

    “And He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”

    • Dave McCarthy

      What’s Jesus’ Gospel? Is it good news? People get after you for demanding the good news be simply good.

      Matthew 23:13
      “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

  • Elizabeth Cazel

    I never was an evangelical, but I am feeling the pain of this false gospel among my brothers and sisters in Christ in my own church. I won’t leave them, but I can’t abide their “morality” gospel, either. Your writing encourages my withering soul.

  • Sarah

    Beautifully said! Let’s do it.

  • Deanna

    Come to the Presbyterian Church (USA). We want you!

  • “If your rules about morality are at the heart of your gospel, it is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    Amen!

    • Sandra lee

      If you exclude morality then you are ignoring Jesus words which obviously include them. To rebel and live however we want does not draw others to Christ, it draws others to rebel. That is sad if you wish to win people into the Kingdom of God.

      • Sandra, Jesus denounced the religious leaders of his day because they kept the letter of the law (rules) without embracing the spirit of it, which is love. He said the greatest commandment was to love God and the second was to love others.

        No-one is excluding morality, it is just not the HEART of the gospel. Love is.

        • Scott Ball

          To be clear, Jesus doesn’t condemn them for keeping the actual Law, only the halakhic laws which the religious elite invented themselves. Remember that Jesus is God, and that means that he’s the author of the Law. He is zealous for obeying the Law. KBH is right that Jesus is angry that the Pharisees are blind to their own sin. A prostitute knows she’s sinning, and therefore knows she needs a savior. Jesus doesn’t sanction her sin, but is able to save her because she sees that she needs saving. He can do nothing with the Pharisees because they’re too smart for God. Perhaps a better comparison for contemporary Pharisees would be the liberal elite who don’t see their sin and sin. Anyone, conservative or liberal, evangelical or not, who is blind to their sin is like a Pharisee.

          • Thanks Scott, but do you see the point of the quote, which is that LOVE is at the heart of the gospel, not sin.

            The point about the religious leaders is that they shoved sin down the people’s throats, not because they loved the people, but because they were legalistic and self-righteous. That attitude seemed to upset Jesus!

            It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Conviction is the job of the Spirit, not ours – those who follow Christ are called to love, which Jesus called the greatest commandment.

          • Scott Ball

            I agree with what you said 100%. The only problem seems to be–say around the World Vision issue–that liberal Christians want us to condone LGBTQ activity and say that it isn’t sin that needs to be repented of. I agree that the heart of the Gospel is a love that leads to repentance. But it must lead to repentance. Then lead to a renewing of the mind. Then a birthing of the fruit of the Spirit.

    • KBH

      No one at the gospel coalition believes morality is at the heart of the gospel. No one!

      • “Commending homosexuality involves the core of the gospel… Heaven and hell literally hang in the balance… It is not an overstatement to say solemnizing same-sex intercourse is in danger of leading people to hell.” – Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition

        http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/03/27/why-is-this-issue-different/

        • Scott Ball

          Moral legalism is not at the heart of the gospel, but repenting from sin that leads to holiness and the righteousness of Christ is. I’m not a huge DeYoung fan, but you should be fair regarding his meaning. He’s not advocating for legalism there, and you know that. Come on now, you know better.

  • Pastorkenrp

    The Gospel is “Faith in Christ Alone Saves”. The ROOT is “Faith in Christ”… The FRUIT is Morality, Love and Helping those in need. Morality is NOT a MEANS of Salvation, but it IS an Evidence. True Evangelicals care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. It’s possible to care about morality and the poor at the same time, not as a way to gain the cross, but because of the cross.

  • Rachel

    I am in this place of walking away from Church, the institution in search for God in the wildernesz, and feel like you, and Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessay are just right there with me. And my personal journey has been so unrelated to the tipping points being spoken of yet here we all stand. On the edge of abyss. Utterly alone. Every one. But I am beginning to realize I’m not alone in this scattering. And God is found in the wilderness far more than the temple courts. And so I go. Alone. Perhaps. But no longer afraid. Thank you.

  • KBH

    I’ve read my people bewildered and indignant at the idea that one sin or any sin is a “gospel issue”.
    All sin is a “gospel issue” to the extent that awareness to sin reveals our need for Christ and our appreciation for Christ.
    In Luke 7 the woman was at Christ’s feet, not because Christ told her she wasn’t a sinner, but because she knew that Christ receives sinners. Christ’s little parable to the sneering pharisees is noteworthy to this discussion. Jesus basically said, “two people had debts to a moneylender. one persons debt was 10 times larger than the other persons. Both were forgiven.” He asked the pharisee which one will love him more?

    The pharisee said, “the one with the greater debt”

    Jesus tells the woman at his feet her sins are “many”, but also that she is “forgiven”.
    So Jesus doesn’t demonstrate love by telling sinners they aren’t sinners. He demonstrates his love by giving his life for sinners. It’s not loving to tell people their debt isn’t that big, because you rob people of fully grasping the work of Christ.

    Related. Jesus said, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” The Pharisees didn’t love Christ because they didn’t see themselves as sinners.

    The people who flocked to Christ did so not because he was telling people they were “OK”. They knew they weren’t, they knew they were broken, they knew Christ could help. So again, when we say sin isn’t sin, we rob people of the urgency of pursuing The Great Physician.

    Jesus said, “the time has come, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” #redletters
    Downplaying sin (any sin) derails the gospel from the get go. Without the knowledge of sin, there is no need of repentance, and no need for Jesus.

    • Sandra lee

      I so much agree with KBH! The Lord asks when He returns, will He find faith on the earth? The kind that changes you from hell-bound to heaven-bound because of what Jesus did on the cross, not any other beliefs we have – comfortable or not. The true gospel has been in existence since the beginning of time. In the old-testament, the saints looked forward this blessed event with faith and in the new-testament believers look behind to what Jesus Christ did on the cross. “He who knew no sin, became sin for us.” Are you looking for the gospel? Then look only to Christ. His Word of God will guide you. I believe the King James Bible being the best translation as it is the only bible without a copyright!

    • I agree with your core arguments here, and I struggle with sin as much as any Christian. I think, however, that sometimes we make some fundamental mistakes about sin and how we as fallible human beings should approach it.

      One is viewing sin solely as a matter of rules to be broken. What we had under the Law was a series of rules meant to instill within Israel a regime of justice and goodness. What happened was that people fixated on the rules but let their hearts stray far from God. The Prophets are filled with His lamentations about this – His dismay that the Israelites had missed the point entirely.

      So Jesus came and told us the purpose of the Law and Prophets – total love for God and for other people. That righteousness and sin are not about the specific rules and commandments; those rules and commandments were made to be expressions of love for God and fellow humans.

      If we enforce those rules without love, then they are effectively meaningless.

      As a gay Christian, I am disheartened by a lack of willingness among many of my fellows to think critically about what the Bible is really saying about homosexuality. Because I think that the surface-level Scriptural picture is incomplete, as a result of conceptions of human sexuality that have been perpetuated for thousands of years but have recently begun to change in a positive way. It’s not that the Word is wrong; I don’t believe that – it’s that people aren’t willing to dig deep enough to find the Word at work in these Scriptures and look at the outcomes of different teachings based on those verses.

      To me, it’s not that I want someone to accept or embrace sin. It’s that I recognize that I was made gay from birth, and that I want the same opportunity to fall in love and get married as anyone else. The Bible teaches me about the good and wholesome nature of love and commitment, and I am not convinced that Scripture forbids that for me even though I’m gay. I am certain that it condemns the kind of promiscuity and loveless sex that leads to objectification and unfulfilling relationships, but marriage is a different situation, and it is my faith that leads me to desire such a relationship instead of the easy hookup culture that many people in my generation, of all orientations, take part in.

      So, the hurt to me is when Christians slam the door shut on this issue even though there is a lot of critical thinking and Scriptural examination to do in order to discern exactly how the Bible’s teachings should be applied on this issue. Some people are so certain that homosexuality is completely abominable and nothing but sin – but I can’t go along with that theology when I have seen and experienced so much to the contrary, such as the wonderful LGBT couples and families in my church that are just as God-honoring and faithful as any other Christians.

      • Guest

        Just watched this video on YouTube – the young boy has Jesus’s message down perfectly – “so you love each other”. Simple as that.

  • KBH

    Here is an idea: Everyone reply with your definition of the gospel. Including scriptures to support your answer.

  • Every time I read the Gospel Coalition’s posts about this issue, or similar posts channeling the same view of Scripture, I feel the flames of Hell licking at my soul. Because I am gay, and there is no other place for me in that view of reality. They say that I can repent and accept that I am against the natural order of Creation and therefore an aberration.

    But that is hell on Earth, to believe that you are a freak whose physiology condemns them. To deny yourself all opportunities for romance, love, marriage, family, and all the joys and lessons that come with them on account of religious control.

    So, to the GC and others, I have a choice between two hells. One in this life, or one after I die.

    Frankly, I’d rather go to Hell than accept their gospel.

    When I pray, when I read the Bible (which I love like a dear friend), when I go to church, when I participate in any expression of my faith, I don’t feel those flames of Hell. I feel God’s love on me and the assurance that repentance is a life-long process with twists and turns that I won’t always anticipate or understand. Never in the presence of God do I sense that I am condemned because I’m a homosexual who wants to love and be loved in a relationship.

    I know gay refugees of the GC’s theology. Some of them are still Christians and have accepted their place in the Body, albeit in more loving and accepting churches. Others have left the faith entirely because of the bitter taste of soul-crushing religion.

    Micah, you are right that there are two gospels at war in the Body of Christ right now. One of them crushes my spirit and poisons my joy, telling me that people like me are not worthy of true life or love. The other liberates me to drink from the wellspring of living waters within me and to be confident in God’s love. I choose the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • jj1954

      Christian, I am straight and a Christian and I believe that God doesn’t differentiate between LGBT’s and straight people with His love. I also don’t believe He sees homosexuality as a sin. I think the humans that wrote the Old Testament showed their biases as well as the fact that science had not developed far enough to show that sexual preference is not a choice. I didn’t choose to be straight and I’m pretty sure you didn’t choose to be gay. In the New Testament, Jesus Himself NEVER spoke about sexual preference. And those who actually wrote it lived long after Jesus was resurrected and His apostles had also died. The writers were third parties simply reporting stories they’d heard via hearsay. I have to think that if Jesus’s main message was one of love and non-judgement, then He would have no concerns about a loving LGBT relationship, or marriage, especially involving 2 people wanting to be the best they can be for their saviour Jesus Christ. If He would find them a sin, then I don’t know Who I’ve been talking to all these years or Who has been guiding me, but it definitely isn’t the God I’ve known and loved for over 47 years. And I don’t believe I would have been blessed as I have without the love of Jesus.

      So please have faith; you are following the right gospel. I pray God continues to bless and guide you in your life and relationship. You could teach us all about what love is really all about.

      • Nan

        What Gospel did Jesus preach?

        • jj1954

          Did you read the comment I was replying to? Obviously Jesus didn’t preach FROM any Gospel. He is the subject of the Gospels. I didn’t say anything related to your question so am unsure of the point you are trying to make. Perhaps you could clarify?

  • Kenny Pierce

    Amen Micah. This is your best, most heartfelt piece yet. I know your heart here, share your sentiments wholeheartedly. We, and so many others, are so tired of all that have detracted us from The Way, and have been flung at us. We are sick of what has been done over the millenia in his name. In our own time, we are Girard’s scapegoats, but there have been many who came before. The Pharisees will have their ammunition ready as usual (and do), but like the Gentiles, we look forward and follow The Light. Many of us have always walked away from the comments, the lies, but we’ll wait for you to find us in another place beyond the hanging tree. It’s much more beautiful there.

    Thank you, bless you, for being one of our prominent voices.

  • Amanda

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (M23:13)

    I think it’s time to start getting out of the way. This has been on my mind this week too. We can’t be the gatekeepers- we wouldn’t have been allowed in that way ourselves.

  • Nneka

    Beautiful! amen and amen.

  • Lori Tintes Hartmann

    Yes I want to go with you! Bravo! I needed your words as they have encouraged what is already inside of me.

  • Sarah

    Anybody ever read Andrew Farley’s books — “The Naked Gospel: The truth you will never hear at church” and “God without Religion” The gospel is amazingly MORE than we could have EVER imagined! ‘The Gospel is too true to be just ‘good’, it is scandalous and delightful, better than we knew and a shock to even the angels.’ Also great is “The Gospel in Ten Words” God is taking me on this journey also. . and HE is far better than I could have ever imagined!

  • Mindy

    I am coming to think that our generation (I’m 30 years old), sometimes misses things in our calls to revolution and change. First and most important, if with a clean heart, motivations and understanding, we believe we are called to call for a change, then to hesitate or not act would be sin. Very often though, I think God gives us passions and convictions, and then teaches us discernment and patience as we live those things out. When we act rashly we come up as being “whining millinials” or idealists instead of revolutionaries. I don’t say this as judgment on you because I certainly don’t know your heart, more as caution from one whose trying to learn how to receive my credibility from the Lord, not myself or anyone else.

  • Heather Huston

    Yet again, Micah, I am encouraged, humbled and my heart is full at your words. You so eloquently put forth the stirrings of my heart, the brokeness of my soul over the pull of these two gospels. May you be encouraged and strengthened by the support of this community, knowing that you are voicing for many of us what we are still struggling to understand.

  • Doug

    Neither the morality watchdogs nor what you’ve described here as a “better” Gospel is the Gospel. “Christ died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” That’s the “better” Gospel. When someone submits to Christ and receives God’s forgiveness, Biblical “morality” (holiness?) will become increasingly important to them as the indwelling Holy Spirit works in them. A believer with the Holy Spirit will naturally care and grieve when others (and they themselves) are not living a Christ-like existence. So one “evangelical” might point at others’ sin in self-righteous indignation, which is wrong. The “non-evangelical” might make light of others’ sin in the name of love and mercy, which is also wrong.

    As I’ve mentioned before, Micah, I think the hard generalizations and labels you give to people groups doesn’t help us get to the truth. The fringes of those people groups don’t usually represent the whole. When you make it sound like they do, you end up burning down straw men. Labeling many who are self-righteous as “evangelicals” may thrill the choir, but it won’t change hearts.

    • Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” – Mark 1:14-15

      • Nicholas

        Yes. and repent means to “turn around and go a different way”. In this case he was saying that people should start living a life that beings goodness, love and mercy to others.

        • Chris

          Ehh Nicholas…what does that even mean though…bring goodness, love, and mercy to others? That can be interpreted in so many ways by so many people and thus makes that statement almost worthless. You need to be much more specific.

        • nan

          When Jesus says repent he means to turn toward Him. There are really only two ways to walk. Toward Him or away from Him. He said you are either are for me or against me. so it is not just go a different way but make a 180 degree turn and come to me. When you turn toward Jesus as your only love you will of necessity turn from sin. Trying to live a life of goodness love and mercy is just just going to be walking in the flesh and not in the power of the spirit.What you mentioned above i.e. goodness, love and mercy these are the fruits of repentance not repentance itself.

  • Scott Ball

    Jesus welcomes and is open to and loves and cares for ALL sinners, true. But he says, “go and sin no more.” He says, “I know you love me when you obey my commandments.” Don’t distort Jesus to make him a moral relativist. His ultimate goal is not your happiness, it’s your holiness. I would have to agree with you that we’ve lost the gospel when it’s based on rules and not on Christ’s freedom. But remember that the freedom we find is not one to do what we want, but a freedom to do what we OUGHT. Without Christ, we are slaves to sin. We don’t need Jesus to go on sinning. But we do need Jesus to go and stop sinning. This freedom, the one where we have the ability to do what we ought, is the true kind of freedom. A freedom that finds us BOTH doing the good works that he predestined for us to do AND being holy and blameless as he predestined us to be (Eph 1:4, 2:10). All too often today, Christians go on a search for a gospel where God doesn’t care how you live, so long as you do nice things. That God does not exist. There also is no God that cares only about the rules and not about justice and people. The gospel I hope you find on your journey is one that holds both of these issues–holiness and justice equally.

    • Ken Steckert

      If “doing nice things” is denying yourself by caring for others, even your enemies, then I think the “fruit the person is bearing” looks like the love Jesus gave and left as the command to the disciples to “love as I have loved you.” This kind of love looks to me like some truly believes God does care how a person lives. The person who “flees sexual immorality” but only loves when it is easy is welcomed in almost all, if not all, evangelical churches. After all, sexual immorality is considered easier to identify than loving our enemies. Yet it seems to me that Jesus message is continually along the lines of what Micah wrote in this blog where the true measure is how we love than how ” sexually moral” we are, and the pictures Jesus gives of love in the parables is caring for people regardless of how inconvenient it is.

      It seems very judgmental, beyond what Jesus judges, to claim to know the heart of the homosexual and say they are living as if “God doesn’t care how you exist.” I can imagine that if Jesus gave the story of the Good Samaritan today it might be the story of the Good Homosexual who cared for the hurting person while “evangelicals” walked by.

      • Scott Ball

        Certainly God cares more about how closely we follow the greatest commandment than he cares about our adherence to one specific law. But they aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact (which is DeYoung’s point), they’re related. When I love Jesus, I flee sexual immorality. When I love Jesus, I stop lying. When I love Jesus, I don’t steal. Loving Jesus and others leads to obeying Jesus. To say that Jesus doesn’t care about the transformation of our character is to reject the core of the gospel. I point again to Ephesians 1-2, which focuses on both the holiness AND the good works that God predestines for us through salvation. Of course we should love our enemies, AND we should flee sexual immorality, AND we should seek to save our marriages, AND we should be generous, AND we should fight injustice and slavery, etc. And it should be noted, I cannot and would not judge an LGBTQ person’s heart (Matthew 7:1) as to why they choose their lifestyle, but we can and should judge fruit (Matthew 7:20).

        And as for equating the Good Samaritan with the Good Homosexual, who’s to say what Jesus would use in today’s society? Certainly I don’t know. But it seems a stretch for me because being a Samaritan is an ethnicity and being LGBTQ is a behavior. Being a Samaritan is not a sin. Choosing a homosexual lifestyle, according to Scripture, is. Perhaps a better comparison would be the Good Illegal Immigrant. There’s more similarity there–an ethnic people group who have a lesser status than societal elite.

        • Ken Steckert

          From what I have read of your comments here, I believe we have much more in common that we have differences and that God’s amazing grace is such that God is at work in both of us through our frailties to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you are like me, you do not love as often as you should, but are also able to look back and find that God is at work as you have loved your neighbor as yourself in many situations. May God’s grace work mightily through each of us!

        • jj1954

          Christian, I am straight and a Christian and I believe that God doesn’t differentiate between LGBT’s and straight people with His love. I also don’t believe He sees homosexuality as a sin. I think the humans that wrote the Old Testament showed their biases as well as the fact that science had not developed far enough to show that sexual preference is not a choice. I didn’t choose to be straight and I’m pretty sure you didn’t choose to be gay. In the New Testament, Jesus Himself NEVER spoke about sexual preference. And those who actually wrote it lived long after Jesus was resurrected and His apostles had also died. The writers were third parties simply reporting stories they’d heard via hearsay. I have to think that if Jesus’s main message was one of love and non-judgement, then He would have no concerns about a loving LGBT relationship, or marriage, especially involving 2 people wanting to be the best they can be for their saviour Jesus Christ. If He would find them a sin, then I don’t know Who I’ve been talking to all these years or Who has been guiding me, but it definitely isn’t the God I’ve known and loved for over 47 years. And I don’t believe I would have been blessed as I have without the love of Jesus.

          So please have faith; you are following the right gospel. I pray God continues to bless and guide you in your life and relationship. You could teach us all about what love is really all about

  • Christina Wilson

    YES! I do want to come with you!

    FINALLY someone who sees what I see and feels what I feel… Hope is not lost :o)

    Thank you!

  • Tim Gilleand

    I certainly don’t advocate any Christians shoving THEIR morality down anyone’s throat, but at the same time it’s not OUR morality if it comes from the scriptures.

    Let me use your words as an example, you say: “How dare you heal on the Sabbath; It’s not Biblical. How dare a Samaritan be the hero of the story; he’s unclean. How dare you let that woman touch you; don’t you know she’s a sinner? How dare you allow gay couples to serve in this ministry; don’t you know they’re assaulting traditional marriage?”

    There is nothing in scripture about not healing on the Sabbath, nothing in scripture about Samaritans being unclean, nothing in scripture that makes women more sinful than men (these were human cultural perversion and sins themselves)… BUT there is things in scripture about homosexuality. Do you see the difference?

    Again, you are right on about the gospel actually being about love and acceptance vs. rules. Those who are focusing solely on the rules are probably just trying to feel better about their own sinfulness. The truth is we are all on the same plain – all sinful, all in need of a savior. And that’s it – period.

    BUT we need a source by which we can gauge how to be more in line with Christ, and without a strong stance on the Bible, we’re left to make up what WE think is best – and that just fails. That is why it is so important to know what is Biblical teaching and what is not.

  • Nicholas

    Game over. Everyone can go home now. Micah hit this one out if the park.

  • Welcome to the wilderness, brother.

  • It is theologically shallow not to see the connection between marriage and the gospel itself. As if the definition of marriage were just an abstract Christian ethical issue. It is actually very “christocentric.” Paul declared in Romans that the knowledge of God is clearly demonstrated in all of creation. Marriage is part of that creation. Paul also says the marriage relationship teaches us about the mystical union that exists between Christ and His church. It is no accident that the bride/groom man/woman imagery is consistently used in the Scriptures when talking about God’s relationship to the redeemed. In the marriage union, the gospel is proclaimed through general revelation throughout the world, and shows the world the intimate relationship that is possible between God and His creation. Sexual immorality, divorce, remarriage, and “redefinitions” of marriage distort the knowledge of God made through general revelation.

  • Ken Myers

    “There’s a better Gospel…I’m leaving to go find it.”

    You can search as long as you would like, but you will find no other Gospel. The Gospel doesn’t change. People decide to hate other people, but the Gospel doesn’t change. The Word will always say that being gay is a sin, but the Gospel says to love all people and to not cast any judgement.

    There is a clear line, my friend, between loving others and compromising your beliefs. Because you see, when we profess faith in Christ, we profess that the Bible is true and the inspired Word of God. We must include gays in our church and love them. But to put them in leadership knowing of their habitual sin? The adulterous pastor should step down as well until he can be gently restored. The Bible talks about having people in leadership who will not cause others to stumble or preach another gospel (say, one that says being gay is acceptable in God’s eyes). If we have gay leaders, they must be willing to admit their homosexuality is a sin. If they can do that, but still struggle with homosexuality, they are fit for leadership as no one is perfect.

    BUT – its’ s when you say “being gay is acceptable in God’s eyes.” It’s when you take it a step further. This is crossing the line and should be avoided as we should hold to what the Bible says is true.

    Jesus would be hanging around the gay people today if He was physically here on Earth. But He wouldn’t say “You can be gay. It’s ok.” Rather, He would say, “You are gay, but I forgive you. Believe in me. Turn from your sin.” And if that person really believed in Christ, they would confess their sin and need for Him. Without confession of sinfulness, we cannot be forgiven as our hearts would be conceited.

    So I poise these questions to you: “Is being gay wrong? Is it a sin? Is it acceptable in God’s eyes?”

    • chris

      Ken you articulated EXACTLY what I believe perfectly….Everyone needs to read what you said because it is SPOT on!

  • Phil

    Nice to read this when I feel like a weirdo in my church sometimes. Unlike many members of my chuch, I just *don’t care* very much about people’s sexuality. Yes, I know that there are some Bible verses that come down pretty hard on people who are gay. I can offer some explanations or alternative interpretations, but really, I think reaching out to as many people as possible is more important. Get people in the rescue boat and then let God sort them out.

    I probably keep my head down after the kerfuffle when I mentioned that I might not believe the world was created 6000 years ago, that perhaps it was 4 billion years old and maybe there was something in this evolution stuff. Cue funny looks & ‘concerned’ conversations.

  • Jim

    Am I going to Hell now?

    While I personally can not cast stones on any individual sins, only God can discern the thoughts, struggles and intentions of anyone’s heart. Certainly Christ communicated and showed compassion to the multitudes. But only a select few became disciples and it cost them much more than being kind and giving out of their abundance. All but one apostle died for his preaching of the gospel and we are comparing a sexual struggle with that?
    My goodness to claim that God or any deity has no moral concerns about marriage, gender, or sexuality is a straw man or woman. Would you argue that Jesus is in favor of orgies? Fathering children intentionally with multiple women? Should such people walk into a church or a religion that loving accepts them as well as then APPROVES AND ENCOURAGES their life choices. We are all made in God’s image. We all also suffer from moral corruption that we need to deal with until Christ comes.
    While there are some salient points made in the article above, the direction and rhetoric are disingenuous. While I feel for those who experience homosexual tendencies at a core level, don’t create another narcissistic religion to assuage the guilt and stress. It won’t go away by false arguments. The article is written to cast MORAL disapproval of those who have a Biblical and historic standard of sexuality. Jesus commented that we corrupted marriage and had to once again define morality for a broken people:

    Matthew 19: 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE (sic.), 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH ‘? 6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”…

    Faith in Jesus and Christianity cannot ignore His teaching or morality. So either embrace Jesus fully or walk away and recognize there is no religion or “faith” in a real Jesus offered in the above article. Either Jesus exists as God and moral arbiter or its all nonsense. My father who is an agnostic would give the same advice I have given. I’d rather talk to and befriend an honest homosexual than play word games. Oh, I have befriended drug addicts, homeless, and homosexuals. But then does my belief in Christ’s words make me a non-Christian and Hell bound now?

  • Nicah Santos

    I’m sitting here crying right now, because I’m finding out for the first time that I’m not alone.

    For months now I’ve been struggling with the realization that I don’t fit the mold of a “Christian” by the standards of my church. I constantly find myself questioning and disagreeing with the lessons taught by our church’s pastors; I’ve started formulating my own beliefs that are not in line with what my pastor says but are in line with the image of Jesus that I hold in my heart.

    Micah, I think you and I believe in the same Gospel – the Gospel of love. The Gospel of embracing arms, accepting hearts, and open minds; the Gospel of the Jesus who rebuked those who were legalistic in their interpretation of the Law. Unfortunately, the church I am a part of does not seem to see this same Gospel.

    I feel so very secure in the Gospel I now believe in. I did not need to read my Bible everyday to find it, instead I looked at Jesus and saw how a single theme was consistent throughout his life and his teachings: LOVE. Living my life in LOVE is simple, and in it, I find that I am living a life more fulfilled. At the same time, It pains me to realize that if I share this “new” faith I have with my Christian family and church community, they will probably think I’ve been led astray from God’s Word.

    The truth is, by focusing less on the God’s Word and more on God’s Heart, I believe I’m closer to Him than ever. How can I open up to my family about this without alarming them? I want to be honest with them about who I am and what I believe, but I fear that they will try to “re-evangelize” me.

  • Daniel Unekis

    While I find the writing compelling, I would unfortunately say it is just a capitulation to the “other side” of the pendulum.

    On one side, we want a Jesus that either lays out strict laws for us to follow so we can gauge how good of a Christian we are being (and therefore, how pleased God must be with us). We want a God that looks through our life like flipping the pages of a book until he finds that spot at which we prayed “the prayer” that guarantees us salvation. We want to know that our good words and sufferings are not missed–that God sees us standing up for him and will reward us (and punish them [whoever they are] that caused the suffering).

    On the other side, we want a Jesus who tells us that all that matters is love and peace. We want a God who isn’t concerned with “morality” as a true standard outside of ourselves that governs our lives, but a God who says as long as you are nice to people, it’s all good. We want a Jesus who overturns tables and goes against established religion. We want a God who allows us all to be our own arbiter of truth and morality without getting in the way. We want a God who gives us the freedom that the Bible speaks of without the responsibility that is just as clearly given in the same pages.

    Maybe instead of a “new gospel”, or a “new way”, we need to find the original way. Not one side of the pendulum swing or the other, but the Jesus who dwells in both sides. The Jesus who saves a woman caught in adultery from the religious zealots, but also tells her to go and sin no more. The Jesus who both makes arguments against the religious institution, but also seems more interested in correcting it than overthrowing it.

    I yearn to believe in a triune God who says both, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” AND that the most important commandment of all the law and the prophets is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”

    I want to believe that God is big enough to both forgive me of my many sins, and expect me to strive to live a holy life through the presence and work of the Holy spirit setting me free from my bondage to sin.

    I want to believe that God can say “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” AND “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”.

    Is it possible that we are just looking for the picture of Jesus that suits us best? If you are looking for black and white rules and guidance, turn to morality focused Jesus and keep things tidy. If you don’t like all the rules and stuff and want to focus on justice and love, then block out all the many times when the Bible speaks to us of God’s law and expectation and just say you are the one who ultimately decides what is fair, true, and moral.

    God is big enough to hold these supposedly “opposing” aspects of Jesus together. Are we?

  • Curious

    Question: when Jesus metaphorically embraces the Samaritan woman at the well, what did he tell her? Did he say: go and live as if the kingdom of heaven were at hand, moral codes are arbitrary and meaningless? Or did he say “go and sin no more” (presumably meaning stop living with the man who is not your husband).
    Do you believe in sin? Do you believe that Jesus counseled against it? Do you believe that it is loving to embrace sin if God does not embrace sin? Do you believe that earthly justice comes anywhere but from God’s perfect law?

    You speak of the gospel, the good news, but the news is only good if there were bad news. What is the bad news in your picture if the gospel?

  • Joel Penner

    I keep coming back to John 13:35, Acts 2, James 1:27, and Matthew 25:36 on this topic. “By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].” I don’t think the “church” knows the gospel anymore.

  • Jasper Dale

    nope, i do NOT want to come with you, sir. how dare you twist Jesus’ words? Jesus said that He did NOT come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. you are just another member of the false church Jesus warned us about. yeah, our SEX LIVES DO MATTER. Jesus said so. get over yourself.

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