There’s is no denying the hurtful, deplorable words recently communicated by Franklin Graham to the LGBT community.
His timing, message, and condemning posture are extremely disappointing and disturbing at best. The hateful march of many of his supporters rallying around their captain has left ditches full of casualties, shot at point-blank range with fiery darts of condemnation, hate, and judgment.
Yet Franklin Graham and his supporters are a symptom and product of a much deeper cancer in our Christian culture, the Evangelical highjacking of the Gospel, God, and what it means to follow Jesus. Until this spiritual disease in our nation is healed and the heart of Christ reclaimed, this religious spirit will continue to spread and spew its vomit. Hurting, harming, misleading, and destroying the lives of many in its path.
For those of us who are of the LGBT community or allies thereof, these are difficult times requiring great courage, honesty, togetherness, patience, faith, and Grace. Now more than ever, it’s time to be brave.
There is real hurt, pain, and hardship caused by those who would use Jesus to spiritually justify their bigotry, hate, and the pimping of a Gospel that is no Gospel at all. Never apologize nor shrink back from your cries being cried and your voices being heard. We must never become the evil done against us. We are a people of love because God is love. But that does not mean for us to be silent, or perfectly varnished in our feelings or even in our expressing. Jesus confronted the religious spirit of His day openly and honestly, and we are no less Jesus in our doing so.
In fact, in two instances, Jesus is specifically recorded as becoming angry. Not violent, but angry. Both times, at people who interestingly enough, were withholding Grace.
It is indeed right and salutary that we should be emotional, even carefully confrontational where we see Grace withheld, and condemnation and judgment its replacement. Opening wide the floodgates, with honesty in our sails. Yet, all a river leading us to become servants, lovers of our enemies, compassion overflowing. A stream that cannot be stopped, because love is unstoppable. For that is the gift of an enemy, that we learn to love anyway. Furiously and fearlessly.
Even as we hurt, even as we cry, even as we confront, even as we defend, even as we are crucified, we love anyway. Washing the very feet of those who would stomp on ours.
Please understand, Franklin Graham’s voice and those of his supporters, do not represent the Gospel nor Jesus. That is my opinion. His words, their words, are nothing like Him, nor the Gospel He brings. For God is love, Jesus is Grace, and His message is peace. Love, unconditionally without conditions. All affirmed, all included, all delightfully delighted in Him and by Him.
Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. Immersed in a religious system at such a level that few ever have the discernment or courage of heart from which to break free. Constantly placing the footings of his faith, life, relationship with God and self on his performance. Forever being preoccupied with sin management, rule-following, and closeness-keeping with God. Imagine, the daily spiritual struggle and unrest in his life. Always having to live up to spiritual expectations, sleeping with one eye open, justifying and medicating shame with self-righteousness. Believing in a Gospel where God loves you… but. If you don’t do this, or you do that, all could be as nothing. A God whose justice, holiness, and love look like the eternal torture of billions of people who simply didn’t follow certain prescribed religious steps and expectations. Where there is no room for incongruent thinking, spiritual exploration beyond the tracks. Where you never get to fully love without restraint. There is always a governor affixed to the pedal of your heart. I love you… but. Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham.
I, and others, have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. And I can tell you it’s a living hell that you’re fooled to believe is heaven.
The more Franklin Graham and his supporters speak, the more our hearts should be filled with deep sadness, even compassion. If it hurts so much for us to hear him, imagine what it feels like to be him. For the language he speaks out, is first the language he echoes to himself, believing God first decreed it. And perhaps there is not greater hell then self-condemnation, growing full term into religion, all the while believing its the best of heaven. Imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. We are getting a mere taste of his reality.
Be doubly assured, God is working in Franklin Graham’s life just as He is with you and me. Not through punishment, fear, guilt-trips, manipulation, rules, or condemnation. All through Grace.
In the same way, we can be, we must be… a manifestation and message of Grace to him.
Especially as it hurts, even as it hurts. Where life is a cross, not a couch. This is when Grace is most convincing.
To hurt and to give Grace at the same time, is to be fully human, fully Jesus. On the cross, blood flowing down, agony upon agony, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Grace upon Grace.
For Grace is the only thing that changes anything and anyone. Grace wins where everything else does not and cannot.
At the heart of Grace is… forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what Franklin Graham has said is now somehow true or acceptable. It doesn’t mean what he has done, is somehow now approvable. It doesn’t mean the hurt should somehow now be instantly removable; the anger subsided, and the injustice now somehow justified. It doesn’t mean any of that. For him or anyone else beside him.
It does mean, however, we emotionally release the false-accusers in our lives of the debt they owe that they cannot or will not repay.
Franklin Graham and those among him, they owe, and they owe big time. An apology, innocence returned, sleepless nights re-slept, tears removed, depressions lifted, tragedies averted. They owe big time. We all have our list.
Yet chances are, they cannot or will not repay. That apology is not coming. The affirmation is not coming. The compassion is not coming. The change of heart and mind… not coming.
Forgiveness means we no longer live with the bitterness, longing, and emptiness that comes from the expecting, even the demanding of a return. It gives us the power to be free, to never let the lack of integrity in another become the lack of integrity in us. To sing choruses crying, “It is well with my soul” not because it is necessarily all well with them, but forgiveness has necessarily made it all well in us. They no longer rent space in our heads, nor can their words unravel what God has knit together. Forgiveness has developed our immunity from the false-accusers within our faith. For we know who we are, and Whose we are. Beautifully and wonderfully made, the divine artistry of our Maker.
Forgiveness is releasing our offender only to realize we were the prisoner.
Franklin Graham, to all who gather around him, we love you as is. There is no condemnation for you, not from God, not from me, not from us. You are unconditionally loved without conditions. None of us are better, only different. We consider you, and all among you, cherished members of the family, completely included and affirmed.
To those who have been hurt by Franklin Graham and his supporters, walk with confidence today, that you are loved, affirmed and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Your LGBT child is loved, affirmed, and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Nothing to change, nothing to be rearranged. No sin, no darkness within. None.
You are secure in His arms of approval and pride. You are the joy set before Him, His affections are ever upon you. Unmovable and undeniable.
Lift up your head, lift up your head I say! You are the revival God is bringing to the world.
For such a time as this, you were born.
Love furiously and fearlessly.