The Great Ruler’s Message – a short story

There once was a great ruler (The Ruler). The Ruler reigned over all the land, and there was none greater than he. He took the best of all he owned and freely gave it to his people. His love for them was steadfast – unrelenting; some say it was a reckless love.

The Great Ruler was unlike any other, in that his rule wasn’t enforced by demand. He was a quiet and gentle ruler. He desired his subjects to choose to love him as he loved them.

Most of his subjects were good and kind. Although The Ruler did not require their allegiance, they served him faithfully and feared him with a kingly reverence that was due him.

There were others, however, who did not honor The Ruler. Their hearts were selfish and filled with disdain toward others.

These unsubmissive subjects (The Unsubmissive) were thieves, murderers, and belligerent; they were judgmental, arrogant, and respecters of no one. They would take from the poor, and mercilessly kill those who didn’t conform to the “socially acceptable way.”

They were even abusive to their own wives and children. They wanted no ruler, and they sent that message to the him by allowing hate to reign supreme in their hearts.

The Ruler’s faithful subjects (The Faithful) were furious at The Unsubmissive for their thankless and treacherous ways. They fashioned their own swords and weapons of many kinds and set out to demand respect for The Great Ruler.

The Unsubmissive weren’t afraid at the revolt. It seemed the fight was a welcomed one, and it so it endured.

The Great Ruler’s love for those who dishonored him was unwavering. He sent messengers to the battlefields urging The Faithful to retreat. It was not his desire that any should perish.

Likewise, he begged those who hated him to reconsider. The Ruler knew that his request to The Unsubmissive would likely fall upon deaf ears.

He was proved right.

What greatly surprised The Ruler, however, was that The Faithful refused to lay down their swords as well.

Their allegiance was true, but their ability to listen to The Ruler’s plea was clouded by their judgments against The Unsubmissive. The Great Ruler’s heart was broken.

He didn’t know what to do.

The Great Ruler, lost in his grief, was visited by his son, a young prince (The Prince) who came to him with an idea. The Prince suggested that perhaps The Ruler’s people would respond to his love if he were to send The Prince out to model The Great Ruler’s love for them.

The Great Ruler hadn’t considered this because he desired to rule from his throne — not forcing any of his subjects to love him. The Prince knew this and he assured his father that he wouldn’t disobey his wishes.

He would live with the people, peaceably demonstrating The Ruler’s love for them, while also expressing to them how The Ruler genuinely desired to be loved in return.

Reluctantly, The Ruler allowed his Prince to go.

The Young Prince, having never been outside the palace walls, was surprised at what he found in the kingdom.

He learned that many of The Faithful had written rules and commands in the name of The Great Ruler. The Faithful knew that the heart of their Ruler was for them, so they established these laws to try to bring order to the chaos.

The Prince quickly learned that the authors and enforcers of these laws weren’t easily swayed.

They had convinced themselves, and others around them, that these rules were the way of The Great Ruler; and they were quick to judge those who wouldn’t abide by them. Many of those judged — Faithful and Unsubmissive alike — were put to death for treason against The Ruler and their laws.

To be one of the law-lovers was to be favored, elite, accepted.

The Young Prince realized that he couldn’t begin his mission by teaching these law givers. They didn’t even recognize The Prince as The Great Ruler’s son because their hearts had become more faithful to their laws than to The Great Ruler.

So The Prince set out to befriend those who everyone else despised because they were the only ones who might receive him and The Great Ruler’s message.

He entered the circle of the outcasts.

He chose fishermen and prostitutes. He chose thieves. He chose the poor and the homeless. He chose the sick and the maimed.

These subjects had nothing to offer The Prince, and he asked nothing from them. He simply desired their affection as freely he offered his own, and they gave it to him.

It wasn’t long before the outcasts began to recognize who The Young Prince was. News quickly spread that The Great Ruler’s son had come to live with his subjects.

Stories were shared throughout the kingdom — how he lived as a homeless man, how he joined their celebrations and provided wine, how he visited the sick, and dined with thieves!

From dining tables and street corners, from hillsides and mountain tops, everywhere he went The Prince told the subjects of The Great Ruler’s love.

As word spread, crowds of people were now rushing to hear his message.

His message never changed, but the subjects wanted to hear it over and over again. He gladly shared it, but occasionally changed his approach.

When they asked him who The Great Ruler was, his reply seemed foreign — they didn’t believe it could be so simple.

“My father, your Ruler, is Love,” The Prince said.

“But we’ve been told that in order to receive his love, we must follow the law!” The Prince replied, “I have come as the fulfillment of your laws. The Great Ruler requests only your love and for you to love your fellow subjects.”*

Encountering his love, many were persuaded by The Ruler’s message just as The Prince and The Great Ruler had hoped.

The authors and enforcers of the law were outraged when they heard his message. They said, “Who can make such claims? Only The Great Ruler can say these things! Are you The Great Ruler?”*

The Young Prince replied, “I and The Great Ruler are one — our love is for all mankind.”*

Sensing the hostility of those against The Great Ruler’s message, The Prince fled and hid from his persecutors.

He sent a message to The Great Ruler that said, “Father, I long for the time when these subjects can be with us and witness our rule of love, which comes from you. You have loved me from the beginning. Father, you are just; The Unsubmissive and the authors and endorsers of laws do not know you, but I do. As for the followers whom I love and have loved me, we speak of your love often; and I will continue to speak of your name (Love) — in order that your love, which you openly lavish on me, will be in them. And my love will also be in them. Together, Love will rule their hearts.”*

The Prince gathered his closest friends together for a meal.

Dining together he told them, “You and I are one. My body is yours, my blood is your blood. You are my hands and my feet. The message The Great Ruler has given me, I now give to you. Go and share it all whom you encounter. Tell them of my love for you, and your love for me. Tell them of The Great Ruler’s love for them! The desire of The Great Ruler is that none should perish. His love is above their laws; his love is greater than their disobedience. Love wins the hearts of The Unsubmissive. Go, and be unto others as I have been to the outcasts — as I have been to you.”*

That would be The Prince’s final meal with his friends.

The message of love and acceptance The Young Prince gave angered the authors and enforcers of the law. They said he was “a heretic spreading blasphemy.”

They couldn’t accept that The Great Ruler could love and accept anyone freely. Afterall, how could any ruler desire unsubmissive subjects? Surely he required everyone to follow rules and regulations in order to be loved and accepted as members into his kingdom.

One beloved follower of The Prince had his heart deeply sown in a desire for wealth. He hadn’t understood the message that The Prince had come to give him.

This beloved follower left and went to tell the enforcers of righteous living where The Prince was hiding. In exchange for his information and leading them to The Prince, he was given a great sum of money.

The beloved follower proved his misunderstanding of the message that The Great Ruler gave by betraying The Prince with a kiss.

How deeply The Young Prince was hurt by betrayal in the act of love — a kiss.

Another beloved of The Prince was outraged by this act! He picked up a sword, and attacked one of the soldiers there to take The Prince away.

The Prince immediately scolded his beloved follower saying, “Have you not heard the message of The Great Ruler? Do you not understand who I’ve called you to be? Know this: there remains only one way in which I can share The Great Ruler’s message with every subject, and it must be this way. Let them take me.”*

The Young Prince was brought before the authorities, and they inquired of him, “Are you the ruler of these subjects?”*

The Prince replied, “This is not my kingdom. If it were, my subjects would be fighting now for my freedom. I have come to demonstrate the message of truth — the message of The Great Ruler.”*

Indeed The Prince was about to show all of The Great Ruler’s subjects exactly what that message was.

He had spoken of it once with his friends saying, As my father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you subjects, because a subject does not know The Ruler’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… This is my command: Love each other.”*

So it was that The Young Prince was sentenced to death. He would go to a sure and painful death to ensure that the message of The Great Ruler was known.

At the place of The Young Prince’s death were two other men also being put to death. Both were unsubmissive subjects of The Great Ruler.

One of them turned to The Young Prince and said, “I have disrespected The Great Ruler, and I am getting the punishment I deserve. Will Love’s kingdom remember me?” The Young Prince turned to him and replied, “You have understood The Great Ruler’s message, and you are in Love’s kingdom.”*

The Young Prince breathed his last breath shortly thereafter, yet the message he brought remains today.

The Great Ruler still has unsubmissive subjects, and there are even still some enforcers of the laws the authors penned those many years ago.

But there are new followers of The Prince who still earnestly share the message he gave.

The message from The Great Ruler and his Prince is this:

“I am the way — the path; My path is love. I am the truth; my message of truth is that I love all mankind. I am the life. No subject may approach my father, your Great Ruler, except by Love’s way; love The Great Ruler, and love your fellow man as your Ruler and I have loved you, and you will find life.”*

 

* All scriptures used were derived or paraphrased from: The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans – Part 3

Links: Part 1 and Part 2

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

Before I begin:
I’ve received lots of emails, comments, Facebook messages, etc. from both sides of these issues. The messages coming to me from complete strangers in the LGBTQ community, and stories from women who have had unwanted abortions have drowned out the noise from the negative messages I’ve received. I found myself so moved, so humbled, that I was moved to tears – asking God, “Who am I that you’ve given this mandate to write? Who am I that complete strangers are willing to share their stories with me?” – I’m honored by your encouragement, and your kindness, but even more so by your openness to share your stories with me. THANK YOU!

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans:

In Part 1 of this series, I gave my testimony in regard to the LGBTQ community. Part 2 contained my thoughts about abortions, my experience with widows, and my knowing I sweep the topic of orphans under the rug.

In this post, I’m going to give my opinions on all of them.

LGBTQ –

I stand with them, I support them, and I’ve chosen to love them. Why?

I’ve chosen this stance because I have LGBTQ friends now. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, finding an “out-of-the-closet” person wasn’t just rare, it was almost nonexistent. That’s progressively changed as more people have found the courage to be open about who they are. The way I was taught in church, coupled with the fact I’d never known an LGBTQ person made it easy for me to condemn that lifestyle.

I’ve also matured spiritually and in understanding to the point that I’m comfortable enough to ask the hard questions. Please note that I’m not accusing anyone else of not being at my level of spiritual maturity. I’m definitely not intending to convey that at all! Rather, I’m insisting that my own level of maturity was lacking.

I simply accepted what I was taught or what I heard others say on a given subject, especially if it sounded smart. The more confidently someone gave their opinion or interpretation, the more confident I was to repeat them verbatim.

I won’t go back through my testimony and my stance with the LGBTQ community. If you haven’t yet read it, I invite you to do so here.

Based on my own personal conclusions and interpretations of the Bible and of Jesus in regard to LGBTQ people, I couldn’t justify inequality towards them any longer. I’ve since come to be friends with many in the LGBTQ community, and I’m positive that I’ve made the right decision.

The alternative, in my opinion, is a stance that looks nothing like Jesus – or very little, at best.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is just an excuse not to fully love and accept the person that is accused of what the accuser considers “sin.”

My conclusion on the matter is that refusing equality isn’t any different than the way black people were treated (3/5 of a person?!). It’s not any different than justifying slavery. I see it as the same type of inequality that placed women as inferior to men (that’s still happening, by the way).

Christians were on the wrong side of history in those instances. 10, 20, 30 years from now, however long it takes, I’m convinced that we’ll look back at LGBTQ rights the same way we look at those examples of inequality in history.

A differing religious perspective than my own doesn’t justify treating any human wrongly by devaluing them. Just because something has been interpreted a certain way for an extended period of time, preached incessantly, and shouted loudly doesn’t mean it’s right. I am by no means saying that “my way is right, and only my views are correct.” On the contrary, my views, conclusions, and interpretations are my own. After much consideration, I’ve simply changed my mind from the views I previously toted.

There’s a shift taking place currently, and churches all over the world are beginning to recognize the error that’s been made concerning LGBTQ people. I, for one, stand unapologetically with them – just as I stand with minorities, against slavery, and for women’s rights.

Abortions, Widows, and Orphans –

In Part 2, I shared some of my thoughts on abortion – as of the writing of this post, that was yesterday.

I’ve already received emails from women sharing their heartbreaking stories with me. These ladies haven’t been able to open up to many about some very hard choices they’ve made. I just can’t even begin to imagine…I don’t want to imagine.

I’ve expressed my position of a pro-life stance, and I stand by that. That’s as honest as I can be about it. Excluding something going terribly wrong with a pregnancy, rape, etc., I have a conviction that bars me from blatantly ending life “just because.”

I’ve explained that my definition of sin is “anything that would dehumanize a person.”

I believe that opens the umbrella wide enough to include sins of morality (murder, rape, abuse, etc.) and an individual’s personal convictions too.

It is my opinion that blatant disregard for life – born or unborn – is an act of dehumanization, and that is sin. Are there extenuating circumstances that can unexpectedly happen? Absolutely, and at that point, my opinions and convictions don’t matter. When it comes to that it’s the job of the mother, her doctor, and whomever she chooses to be involved to make a decision that I can’t fathom being faced with.

Call to action (please note the disclaimer at the beginning of each of these posts) –

I want to encourage you to think before you speak. If you get absolutely nothing from this series but that, I’ll call it a win.

You have no idea who you’re in the company of, including who your children may be (maybe you do know). Speaking hatefully, or using derogatory language is like a knife to the heart of those who may be in your presence and could be LGBTQ, or someone who’s had an abortion.

I know the language all to well because I’ve used it. “That’s gay” instead of “That’s stupid.” Saying “you’re such a fag” instead of “what a jerk.” 

Don’t do it. It’s no different than calling a black person a “nigger.” It’s shameful, it’s hurtful, it’s degrading, it’s wrong.

What if’s:
What if your kids grow up hearing you using that terminology, and they turn out to be an LGBTQ person? Are you going to be someone that they’ll trust to open up to? Do they know that you’ll love them, or are they living in fear of being kicked to the curb? Worse, are they terrified that they’ll be humiliated in front of your church by having the pastor “cast out the LGBTQ demons?” What if you are their pastor?

Gossipping about who you’ve heard may have had an abortion is just as dangerous. The person you’re speaking to may have had an abortion, and you don’t have a clue about it! In fact, what if your daughter is the person you’re sharing the gossip with, and she’s had an abortion? Do you think she’s ever going to be able to share her story with you now?

What if it’s your best friend, and they’re LGBTQ or have had an abortion? What if they’re gauging your relationship on knowing whether or not you’ll hurt them? If you make just one comment, you not only can close off that part of the person from ever being open to you, but you may just lose your best friend. In fact, I’d say you’ve just lost them. Your relationship may continue, but it won’t ever go any deeper than it already has.

Churches and Christian friends:
You’re so eager to speak out against LGBTQ as “sin.” It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that condemns those people of what you consider sin. It’s easy to get swept up in the truth parade and say “the truth is…” or “the Bible says…”.

Really what you’re saying is “my belief that I refuse to be teachable about is…” or “my interpretation of what the Bible says is…” — the “truth” we’re speaking of is subjective because it’s based on your personal convictions, it’s not objective truth based on moral absolutes; your interpretation of the Bible is just that – your interpretation, and it may be wrong. Mine can be wrong too, and in fact I believe the views and interpretations I had previously about LGBTQ people were wrong.

As for abortion, I’ve already said that I agree with the majority of Christians that ending life is wrong, even though it’s not as black and white as I feel we’ve made it out to be. Speaking up and bringing awareness about it is great. That’s what peaceful protests are for.

But let me ask you this: what are you doing to fix the problem otherwise?

If you’re able to persuade a woman in a healthy pregnancy to have the baby, or get a law passed making optional abortions illegal, are you just as passionate about adoption? What about foster care? As a church, are you willing to open a group home and provide those children with love and care?

If you are doing those things, I sincerely applaud you! You’re an AMAZING PERSON! Thank you! But these points I’m making aren’t for you. They’re for everyone else (including myself – I’m getting to that).

People are so quick to give the numbers of the millions of babies that have been aborted, but the silence is deafening when the number of millions of children to be adopted or fostered is mentioned.

Facebook is like an offering plate at church for everyone to place their favorite memes into concerning abortion, but adoption/fostering posts might (possibly, maybe) only get a “like.” It’s more likely that those posts are just quickly shuffled off the screen.

I can say all of these things because it’s who I’ve been.

I’ve already admitted that I don’t want to adopt – I don’t. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities in front of me to take care of widows and orphans.

Volunteering at the nursing home was a great option. Churches are usually pretty good about having a ministry that will look after widows. They’ll visit with them, make sure their house isn’t falling down around them, or give them rides to church functions. GREAT! Keep doing that! If you’ve never been involved in some type of widow(er) ministry, get involved! It’s worth doing, and if your church doesn’t have one, start one.

Fostering a child has been something Lindsey and I have talked about since we were first married. Between having kids of our own, and moving like every five seconds, it’s been something on our back burner. Recently, it’s a topic that we’ve brought back to the table, and one that we’re seriously considering.

It’s my belief that if you’re going to openly oppose abortion, you don’t have the right to sit back and do nothing about orphaned children. Get involved by becoming a mentor, help at a group home by volunteering your time, make donations to nonprofits whose sole purpose is to care for them, start your own nonprofit, have your church start a group home, consider adoption or fostering…

There are so many ways that you can be involved, but ignoring the millions of children that women have so generously born into this world isn’t an option.

I’ve said this in another post, and it’s become my anthem. So, I’ll say it until I quit breathing:
If love doesn’t win in everything, with everyone, every time, without conditions – even if it goes against your religious beliefs – then you’re doing it wrong.

Let’s get it right on these issues, friends. I haven’t been getting it right 100% of the time, but I’m certainly trying to correct my course.

1 Corinthians 13, ” What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing. I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.

Paul boils it all down for the believers in Corinth. Religious people often spend their time practicing rituals, projecting dogma, and going through routines that might look like Christianity on the outside but that lack the essential ingredient that brings all of it together—love! It is a loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. That same love must guide believers, so faith doesn’t appear to be meaningless noise.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.” – The Voice

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans – Part 2

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

Abortions:

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve never been faced with the decision of my wife having of an abortion. That’s something that I’ve had to think about when pondering this series of posts. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in the shoes of someone that is faced with that.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you that whenever the topic of abortion is brought up, I instinctively have a go-to thought process. It’s shameful and embarrassing for me to admit, but that usually consists of a slutty woman who can’t pay her bills and doesn’t want to have a kid.

How shallow is that? Why is that my go-to scenario?

I’m sure that’s how society has programmed me, or maybe it’s just that I’m really that shallow. I don’t know.

In reality, that’s only one of a million possibilities as to why someone would consider having an abortion. Perhaps that person was raped. Maybe she was told that having this baby would certainly kill her. It could be that this woman is a single and successful business woman, and the timing isn’t right.

Another confession…

I have to admit that no matter the scenario, I still thought that she should learn to either keep her legs closed or use protection.

I’m sure you can tell that this isn’t a prideful moment for me. These inner thoughts are truly humbling to admit.

How is it the woman’s fault for being raped? I mean, c’mon! Shallow.
How is it her fault if the baby were to have a serious congenital defect? Shallow.
Was she fully aware that having sex this time would cause her to conceive? Shallow.

People have sex, the sperm fertilizes the egg – TADA! She’s pregnant. It happens, and it’s not my place to judge the people involved. It’s my job to love them – unconditionally – regardless of whether or not they’ve had an abortion.

With that said, I will say that my convictions follow a pro-life stance. If a person is considering an abortion, that’s between them and whoever else they choose to be involved in making that decision. If they ask for my input, I’ll give it. That’s the only time I’ll give it. I don’t believe it’s the job of the government or anyone else to get in the way.

The reason I feel this way is because I’ve never had to make this decision. God forbid Lindsey were ever raped or her life threatened by an unborn child. I don’t know how I would react under those circumstances, and I hope I never have to find out. Therefore, I cannot judge someone else by a standard that I can’t measure for myself.

If you’re pregnant, and you’re unsure what to do, please visit with a licensed counselor and your doctor. Find a pregnancy assistance facility that can also give you information or provide you the proper counseling. Those people are hoping that you’ll come to them first.

WIDOWS AND ORPHANS:

“Abortion is murder!” just rolls off the tongue of many (not all) pro-lifers. The Bible just doesn’t really have much to say about abortion even though abortions predate biblical times (source, and here, and here, and here).

There were also widows and orphans in biblical times, and the Bible does mention them. “True religion…is taking care of widows and orphans…”

This is something else that I’ve had to consider when contemplating this series. In my past, it was easy to get swept up in the pro-life message that abortion is wrong. At the same time, caring for the children that would be otherwise orphaned is something that was swept under the rug.

Lindsey and I made it a priority to take our kids to a nursing home once a week last year. We intentionally chose to visit the older folks in the “mentally unstable” ward – folks suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the like. Although most of them didn’t remember us from one week to the next, we loved getting to know them. It was so funny to get to hear some of their stories.

That’s a practical and relatively painless way to care for widows.

But when it comes to orphans…

My default (again another humbling moment) is to disengage from the conversation as quickly as possible.

Years ago, Lindsey brought up her desire to adopt.

HELL NO. Just no, and no.

She was devastated by my response, and we even went to a counselor over the issue. I can’t say whether or not choosing not to adopt was the right decision for us, but I have to admit that it’s one that I don’t regret. Not even to this day. I regret how I responded, however, and I think I absolutely could have handled it more delicately. I think there are people that should adopt, and I’m in complete support of them. Each of my siblings has adopted, or are in the process of doing so.

There are people that medically haven’t been able to conceive, had miscarriages, and some that just want another baby. There are also my friends in the LGBTQ community that want kids of their own. That’s great! But to this day, I just haven’t been able to come to terms with it for myself and our family. Is it a heart issue for me? Fear? God’s plan?

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t negate the fact that I know there are other ways for me to care for orphans. But even those topics have been met with a broom head and a dustpan.

I’m going to intentionally end this post here regarding abortions, widows, and orphans. In my following post – Part 3 of this series – I will go into more detail, and into a “call to action,” so to speak, on all of these topics. I’ve put the “disclaimer” at the beginning of each of these posts not only for them individually, but also in preparation for Part 3.

THOUGHTS:

As I’ve been discovering the Jesus model to life, I’ve been challenged to my core on so many different things. Most of what I’m writing is the testimony of my personal convictions after I’ve been challenged in those areas. The purpose in my decision to go public with this testimony is multidimensional.

  1. I have been compelled to tell my story.
  2. I want those on their own journey to have someone to relate their experiences with.
  3. My hope is that those who have been affected, either negatively or positively, by others (or myself) in regard to the given topics, will know that people can change. I’m evidence of that.
  4. I yearn with the depths of my being that the perspective I provide will resonate with others who are like my former self, and inspire change. If not change, I hope it provides light to be shown on a facet that perhaps you haven’t seen before.

I pray that Love will be shown through to you in every post I write.

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows and Orphans – Part 1

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

LGBTQ:

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a converted ally and proponent of the LGBTQ community. I was “in the closet” on this issue for nearly two years, but I couldn’t withhold my convictions any longer. This was undoubtedly a shocking revelation to many of my friends and family. Heck, it may be a shock to some that are just now reading this about me!

I believed all of my life that anyone in the LGBTQ community were sinners and destined to spend an eternity in hell. I reluctantly watched a documentary on the subject after the persuasion to do so from Lindsey (my wife). She had watched it a few days before, and it really got her to thinking. Before watching it, she suggested we do so, and my reaction was anything but compliant.

I said, “Why in the hell would I watch something as stupid as that? Do you expect my mind to be even remotely swayed?”

Nevertheless, I relented.

The documentary titled “For The Bible Tells Me So” is available to watch on Netflix. It’s also available to watch at Youtube for $2.99.

When the documentary was over, I sat in silence staring at the screen for a solid minute. I turned to Lindsey and said, “hmm…”

The documentary was far from “stupid,” and it absolutely had my mind doing cartwheels.

Fast forward to where I am today, and I’ve read, watched, listened, and discussed with others about this topic at length! I’ve read books about it, researched the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words used in the Bible, watched pastors deliver their sermons on the subject via Youtube, listened to lots of pastors, authors, and doctors talk about it, and I’ve had good conversations about it with others. NOTE: I’m not a person that likes to have someone “tickle my ears,” so I’ve sought out opposing arguments on the topic.

The only solid conclusion I could come up with is that there isn’t a solid conclusion to be drawn – at least biblically speaking.

You might be saying “How can you say that there’s not a solid conclusion when the Bible clearly states that ‘homosexuality is an abomination’ ? What about Sodom?” 

I can say that because I did the research. I looked at the terminology used in the respective languages in which it was written, looked at the context, looked at the time and place it was written, and I considered to whom it was written. At the end of the day, I can tell you that the muddy water is muddy. There are good arguments in both directions of what the biblical authors meant, and how the terminology could be translated.

As for Sodom…what about it? It’s not a story about homosexulality. My interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is that the cities were destroyed by God because they refused to be anything but abusive to strangers, outcasts, the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged.

There is that one part where dudes were crying out for Lot to release the angels to them so they could gang rape them – to which Lot’s reply was to offer his virgin daughters (a whole other conversation to be had!). Why would Lot offer his daughters to a group of homosexual men wanting to rape male angels? It doesn’t add up because it’s not a story about homosexuality. Rather, it’s a story about dehumanization.

After digging until I was satisfied, and still was left empty handed, I was left exactly how I began – staring blankly; dumbfounded.

Some may try to paint the picture of Jesus and his response to prostitutes and to the woman at the well, and compare those to how he would respond to homosexuals. That doesn’t work either. Jesus was telling them to “go and sin no more” because their actions were devaluing/objectifying of themselves (again, dehumanization).

LGBTQ people aren’t doing that. The majority of them are normal, everyday people just like you and I. They’re seeking committed, fulfilling, loving, long-term relationships. They’re not engaged in dehumanization; not even the “Ts.”

Transgender people are people. Their gender identity is irrelevant. Treating them as if they’re mentally unstable because they identify as the opposite sex than what they were born is sinful (dehumanizing) – just as it would be sinful (dehumanizing) for them not to be true to themselves by being someone they aren’t on the inside.

The argument can be made all day long that “God made LGBTQ people male and female, and for them to try to be – or be with – someone of the opposite sex is sin.” – You know, the whole “Adam and Steve” thing–but sin according to who? I’ve already pointed out that the terms used biblically can easily be argued in their interpretations, and at best it’s a longshot to try to pin it down with any certainty.

So as a Jesus follower, naturally I decided to line up how I should respond to the LGBTQ community in accordance to his example. When Jesus spent time with outcasts, did he condemn any of them to hell? What about the prostitutes? How about the tax collectors? The poor and homeless?

In every single case, the only response that Jesus gave was one of love – inclusion – acceptance – forgiveness – peace – healing – restoration. The only time he encouraged someone to change their lifestyle was when they were sinning against (dehumanizing) themselves or others, or against God (turning over tables).

As I said, I had to decide how my response to my LGBTQ friends would be – how I could best reflect Jesus.

Friends, may I encourage you to do the same?

Slandering anyone, using derogatory and hateful language, condemnation, abusive behavior, and pointing out what you think is “sin” goes 100% completely against who God is – Love. I’m deeply burdened by the way I practiced all of those things so regularly that it became a part of my daily life. I can only pray that anyone I knew when I acted in such a way will miraculously see this post and forgive me.

To my LGBTQ friends (and their families and friends):

I love you. I accept you for who you are – exactly as you are! Know that the love and complete acceptance of Jesus is yours. He would never ask you to be someone other than who God made you to be. Be true to yourself. Know that there are others like me that haven’t always looked at you as I do now, but there is hope! I’m a perfect example of that hope.

When you need someone to hear you, I’ll be here waiting. If you need someone to talk you off the ledge, call me. If you want my phone number so you can call me, it’s yours. Just ask.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made! God made you that way.

America, The Beautiful

I’ll begin by stating that I am apolitical. I certainly have my beliefs and convictions, but I don’t believe that it’s our job as Christians to “occupy our government.”

PREFACE:

I fear that we may have lost sight of our calling as Jesus followers. It’s the whole reason I started this blog to begin with. I told Lindsey (my wife) before creating this blog that I “feel compelled to write. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how big of an impact I can really make, but I have to try.” As I’ve composed these posts, the reasons become more and more clear.

The early posts were rough – for me and for you. I can assure you that my heart was/is for you, but I came across as a pretentious jerk. I still stand by the meat of those posts, and that’s why I haven’t taken them down or revised them; however, my goal now is to speak that message with a loving voice.

There will still be times I speak with righteous indignation, but it’s not because I’m right and you’re wrong. Rather, it’s because there are areas I see that we are missing the target. Of course it’s not always the collective whole, and that’s where I previously made my error. There are many Jesus followers getting it right.

I’ll do my best to point that out along the way, but I’m not going to stand by and not point out the places where we can make significant improvements. In my public apology, I made the comment, “Don’t opt for the liferaft when you can right the ship.” To that end, and to avoid jumping ship, posts like this one (and others to follow) will be written in an effort to call the Church back from the liferafts.

America, The Beautiful.

I’ll begin by stating that I am apolitical. I certainly have my beliefs and convictions, but I don’t believe that it’s our job as Christians to “occupy our government.” I’m not saying that Christians can’t be employed by the government. Certainly Christian influence should be a part of it, but so should opposing beliefs. Let me explain.

The reason the Founding Fathers established our government the way they did wasn’t for Christians to monopolize our country’s belief system. Quite frankly, it was the exact opposite of that. They knew that a government operating from a religious platform would be dangerous and capable of terrible things. They knew this better than most because they came from such a government.

When government makes decisions based on religious ideals, it ceases to work “for the people.” As much as it may pain you to hear this, President Obama was correct in his assessment of the U.S. Government when he said, “We are no longer a Christian nation – at least not only a Christian nation…” He’s absolutely right, and anyone trying to change that and monopolize our government with one set of religious beliefs or ideals would be going against everything our country was founded upon.

Just as adamantly as Christians remain true to their beliefs, others follow their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in kind. There is no way that I can logically explain that the way I believe is right, and their way is wrong (nor would I anyway). People have tried for thousands of years, and it’s why war exists today.

War isn’t about the struggle for land, oil, or the expansion of empires – at least not entirely. Generally speaking, wars are fought because one side believes their way to God is correct, while the other side believes they’ve got it all figured out –  the disagreement can’t be settled amicably, so fighting ensues. The refusal to respect fellow human life over a belief system leads to dehumanization (sin) – to death.

The Crusades were based on this belief, as were the Roman rule, the Holocaust, the never-ending war between Israel and their enemies, and even ISIS/IS/ISIL/SIC/Da’ish. Those are just a handful of examples of a history littered with war in the name of God. Let me again point out that they all completely believe(d) that God is/was on their side. There’s no talking them out of it, just as there’s no talking you out of your personal beliefs. I don’t mean that to be taken negatively. Rather, my intention is to point out just how strongly everyone – no matter which side of the aisle they stand – believes the way they do.

I will happily argue against any Christian or other religious group wanting to “take this country (back?) for God” — jumping on liferafts. I understand that what they mean by that isn’t that they want a war; instead they want their idea of morality to reign supreme. I get it. But separation of church and state was instated for a reason.

Peaceable protests are also legal for this reason. If you don’t agree with a decision the government is making, let them know! Call your congress leaders and tell them, start a petition, hold respectful rallies, but don’t do it in the name of God. God can take care of himself. He is Love, and any display parading him otherwise only causes hurt, bullying, fights, hate, and discord. That’s a rather powerless and antagonistic representation of Love.

America simply cannot be a Christian-only nation, and I hope it never is. The day America caves on the issue of separation of church and state is the day we become exactly what we had been liberated from.

The multiculturalism – the melting pot that is America – is what makes it beautiful. It’s the very thing that the Founding Fathers thought of when they spoke of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s what provides us the opportunity to disagree with one another while still allowing for a reciprocating love and respect for the life of each person or group of people to be expressed.

It’s a beautiful thing to honor and respect each person and the beliefs they’ve spent a lifetime cultivating. We all have those liberties. Let’s keep America beautiful.

Love Thy Neighbor

Refugees…there are tens of thousands of them – like right now, desperately trying to escape the grip of war. These are people – men, women, boys, girls, young, and old. They’ve been peddling along trying to live their lives as normally as possible. When all of a sudden, a bunch of extremists get together and decide it’s time for a new genocide. #refugees #hereticallove

In this photo provided by UNHCR officials and taken on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Syrian refugees cross the border toward Iraq at Peshkhabour border point at Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has set up an emergency transit camp in Irbil, where around 2,000 refugees are camping out and UNHCR officials say some thousands of refugees have been streaming into northern Iraq, many coming across a newly-constructed pontoon bridge over the Tigris River at Peshkhabour. (AP Photo/HO)
(AP Photo/HO)

Refugees…there are tens of thousands of them – like right now, desperately trying to escape the grip of war. These are people – men, women, boys, girls, young, and old. They’ve been peddling along trying to live their lives as normally as possible, when all of a sudden, a bunch of extremists get together and decide it’s time for a new genocide.

We’ve seen this before, and sadly, Christians have been the cause of most – not all – of them. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, break out an Encyclopedia (or read here), and look up what happened in the Crusades, the Holocaust, heck even the extermination of Native Americans.

It’s not a pretty history for any of the culprits involved, but it’s happening again at the hands of the radicalists that are known as ISIS.

If these refugees met the stereotypical qualifications – you know: white, and European people – Americans would be singing a different tune. Unfortunately, they’re not any of those things.

These folks happen to be Muslims. Because of that, a solid portion of the American population – Christians no less – are completely resolved to letting them rot in the streets of Europe. Helping Muslims is simply out of the question.

They could be terrorists disguised as normal people! They’re all probably suicide bombers just trying to sneak in our borders to murder us in our sleep.

Right, that’s one way to avoid being a person. That’s not the only garbage excuses I’ve heard either.

Case in point, one of the many pictures I’ve seen floating around on fellow “Christian” Facebook pages in recent days:

borders

 

This kind of thinking absolutely disgusts me! It’s wrong on so many different levels. It’s incredible to hear the same people spouting off about being pro-life screaming even louder, “Death to Muslims!”

The hypocrisy and double-mindedness is thick, and it stinks! It smells like shit, and it shows the rest of the world just what they already knew about the Jesus these hypocrites represent.

The American version is a gun-toting asshole that could care less about others; especially others that believe differently than what the American church allows. Let that sink in a minute…

Can you actually see Jesus decked out in camouflage, AK-47 slung over his shoulder ready to fire at any refugee/Muslim that may try to cross a border for safety?

Nope. You can’t. That’s the answer you’re looking for. At least that’s the answer staring back at me when I look at Jesus.

Jesus never once instructed anyone to hate their neighbor. He never said to leave those in need hungry, thirsty, and without shelter. He never said to build a bigger wall around your borders to keep the less fortunate out [*ahem* Republican candidates].

Rather, Jesus was really good about loving others. Before the automatic picture of Jesus loving someone that looks like you pops in your head,

Jesus-Christ-Wallpapers
let me stop you. Instead, let me paint the picture of Jesus that is far less common.

Jesus, who spent a good portion of his time homeless, smelled. He was dirty, sweaty, and probably reeked of fish. The company that Jesus kept also replicated this. He and his disciples didn’t go to work every day inside of a mega-church preparing the weekend’s sermon, music, and video announcements for consumers/spectators that were just like them. They slept in the dirt (or mud when it rained), fished for their food, befriended prostitutes and tax collectors, and hid from the mega-church leadership (they were called Pharisees back then).

Jesus also defended the sexually promiscuous, the divorced, and even helped a Roman soldier’s daughter. Jesus, the one that was supposed to be the king to liberate the Jews from Rome’s grip, was showing love and mercy to their greatest enemy; the enemy the Jews feared and despised hated the most.

Another instance I think about is when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, and the Roman soldiers went to take Jesus into custody. Peter grabbed a sword and cut off the guard’s ear. Jesus could have easily put up a fight and possibly escaped, provided his disciples could hold them off, but he didn’t. In fact, he called Peter off and scolded him for fighting.

Then, Jesus did the unthinkable! He showed kindness and love to the arresting (now earless) soldier!

He. Was. Love. To. The. Freaking. E-N-E-M-Y! 

I know national security is important, but at the cost of likely innocent lives trying desperately to escape an enemy? I have a hard time with that. Also, it’s difficult for me to consider the refugees as our potential enemies when they’re obviously being slaughtered by ISIS.

I don’t see them looking at ISIS with a smile and a wink. I see sheer horror on their faces.

homeless-jesus

If we are truly Jesus followers, how can we possibly consider taking a stance that differs from his?

Let me help you again. We can’t.

It cannot be a part of who we claim to be, and if it is, then please quit referring to yourself as a Jesus follower when you’re not.

Love requires sacrifice. Love requires selflessness. Love requires kindness. Love will never be the wrong choice even if you get hurt in the process. Love will never be filled with regret. Loving people – even if they don’t look, think, or believe like you do – will “never fail.”

Love will sleep in the dirt, defend the persecuted, and show mercy to its greatest enemy.

Also, just because someone labels him/herself as “Muslim” doesn’t make them your enemy. That’s just another bad excuse to not be who you claim to be.

Be like Jesus – be filled with Love – show it to your neighbors around the world. Go “love thy neighbor.”

Humanity at Home

The Pope is coming to the “City of Brotherly Love.” It’s a really big deal for a lot of Americans, and a particularly big deal for the homeless community. Wait…what? The homeless community? That’s right, the homeless folks. Why is this such a big deal for the homeless? I’m glad you’ve asked! I’ll elaborate.

Most Americans are able to stroll through their mundane lives every day without having to give much thought or attention to anyone else outside of their circle. They wake up, shower, maybe eat a little breakfast, pick up their $5 coffee on their way to work, punch in and out, and head home. Granted, there may be some variety in there somewhere, but the storyline is predictable.

There’s another side to America that many prefer not to think about. On the other side of the tracks, these folks wake up in their cardboard box (or tent if they’re lucky), gather what little belongings they have, and head toward their most profitable street corner to lay down their dignity and pride to beg for food, money, or a ride somewhere. These are the homeless people. The vast majority of these people don’t have the comforts of taking a hot shower much less eating a meal or being so frivolous as to spend $5 on a cup of coffee. Somewhere along the way, life threw them a curveball, and they struck out. Sadly, we’re not as far removed from their lifestyle as we think we are.

Life could very well throw any of us that same curveball, and one way or another we could end up warming ourselves by a fire-in-a-barrel under the bridge with them. I know right now you think it’s frustrating to have to sit and wait 20 minutes for a table to come available at your favorite restaurant, but imagine waiting for hours in the wind, rain, snow, or ice to eat a meal at a soup kitchen. Imagine having to stand in line for hours hoping for a one night stay in a shelter with a bed and pillow under your head, only to be the next person in line to be let in but the first person turned away because they’re “at capacity.” Imagine the smell radiating from your body because you can’t remember the last time you had a shower. Men, imagine not being able to shave your face – ladies, your legs and armpits – for months, even years! Imagine lice, bed bugs, flies and pests relentlessly bombarding you and you having no way to find relief. Imagine having to drink dirty rain water from the side of a street curb just to quench your thirst.

Now, imagine doing all of that with your children by your side.

That’s the reality of the American homeless community. They’re scattered all over the United States, and some cities are better to their homeless people than others. The reality of their condition remains the same for most, however. I’m sure some of what I’ve described may sound like a stretch, but I can assure you it’s not. I’ve worked full-time at a homeless mission, and I know first hand how very real all of what I’ve told you really is.

I have a bone to pick with you, Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot). If you think it’s okay to ignore the person holding the piece of cardboard with something scribbled on it, you’re wrong; it isn’t (don’t worry, I have my hand raised too. I’ve been guilty of this). I know how it goes. You see the homeless person standing at the corner, and the light turns yellow, then red too quickly, and you’re stuck at the light. Now it’s the task of trying not to make eye contact with this person. Otherwise, they may approach you and ask you for money. They probably want it for booze and cigarettes (0r worse), and I’m not going to give anyone any of my paycheck-to-paycheck income. I have bills to pay and kids to feed too, you know… Yep, I know. You can see how easily that scenario was typed on to this page. I completely understand, and you’re absolutely wrong.

My wife – Lindsey – and I were talking with our (then 6 and 7 year old) kids one day about God meeting needs. They had been memorizing Philippians 4:19. When my wife asked them how God meets the needs of others, we received a reply from our 7 year old son that we didn’t anticipate. You see, Lindsey and I are now in our 30’s. We’ve been around the Spiritual Block a few times. We know all of the “right” answers to give on any given topic. In this case, we would have said that God meets the needs through faith, prayer, miracles, hard work, etc. These are all of the “right” answers. My kids aren’t polluted with all of that yet, so Ryan gave a more honest (and correct in my opinion) answer to that question. When we asked, Ryan replied, “God uses people.”

Us: …

Us 5 seconds later – staring at eachother: …

Us when it registered: Uh, yes!

God uses people to meet the needs of others. Do we pray, have faith, work hard, hope for a miracle? Absolutely, but in the end, it’s people that help in our time of need. We may have that miraculous check appear in our mailbox when we need it most, food may show up on our table, or our electric bill may get paid in full at just the right moment, but God didn’t hack the system and fudge the numbers to make any of that happen; people did it out of their own good will.

I’m rallying behind the homeless mothers with their children living in the parks of Philly awaiting the Pope’s arrival. I’m figuratively standing alongside my hairy/unbathed brothers crying out for humanity. Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot), it’s time to show Love to these people. It’s time to quit shirking your responsibilities to be Jesus to the least onto the shoulders of the government. It’s ridiculous that the government has to take a stand to be humanitarians at home because The Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot) refuses to do anything but ignore Her brothers and sisters. I don’t buy the stories anymore. I can’t sit back and listen to one more person say, “I can’t afford it” when they’re blowing $400/month on a car lease, $5/day on coffee, $100/month on TV service, and whatever other luxuries our paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle provides.

That’s not Jesus. Allow me to remind you who Jesus was. He “had no place to lie his head.” He said, “true religion is caring for the widows and the orphans.” He told the rich man to, “…go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Jesus wasn’t telling the rich man that money was bad. He was telling him that he cared more about his money than he did about others. Jesus wanted him to learn what it truly looked like to love someone more than himself, so he extended an invitation to the rich man; give your money to the least, and I’ll show a life filled with love. The rich man decided to stare at the red light waiting anxiously for it to turn green so he could drive away.

Pope Francis

Since the majority of Americans identify with the Catholic faith, the Pope’s visit is a momentous occasion. The homeless community see it that way too, but they’re crying out for Pope Francis to use his voice to rebuke the Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot). They’re believing God to meet their needs through faith, prayer, miracles, hard work, etc., but the reality is – to say it as my son did – “God uses people.” Go be Love to them.

Truth vs. Love

Truth vs. Love
I’ve often wondered why people find me approachable. What is it about me that allows people to open themselves up, ask hard questions, and trust that I’ll be able to help them? Let me explain. Even in childhood, I can recall having friends and acquaintances come and ask for my advice or opinion about something. Sometimes it’s part of an on-going discussion we’ve had, but a lot of times it’s completely random. The questions come in a variety of different packages too. They’ll come in a text message, a phone call, an email, or through a Facebook message (sometimes public but usually private), or even face-to-face.

I believe I uncovered the reason why I get approached, and I’ll explain it toward the end of this post.

— Truth in love —

Growing up as a Christian you’ll often hear the phrase, “speak the truth in love…” thrown around. It’s pulled out of the passage in Ephesians 4 (verse 15), but what the heck does that even mean? I’ve heard it explained like this:

If you love someone, you’ll speak truth to them.
-or-
If you’re going to speak truth to someone, do so lovingly.

Until recently, I believed that either one of those answers was sufficient and likely correct. They’re certainly not wrong, but I feel as if they need to be expounded.

— Here’s my predicament —

Without getting into the apologetics of it all, truth is just that. It’s truth. It’s black and white, clear as day, plain and straightforward. There are, however, a couple of issues that I have with truth. It can be subjective and/or objective. What do I mean by that?

Well, truth being subjective is when a person takes their opinions, convictions, even their attitude, and they place those values as being true to him/herself or others around them. For example, a large part of the Christian community believes it to be wrong to consume alcohol. They’ve cherry-picked the Bible to formulate their doctrinal belief system; their *truth* that drinking is a sin.

Objective truth is impartial and impersonal to a purpose or goal. It is based on facts. For instance, if you’re in debt, and you continue to spend more than you make, you’ll remain in debt. The *truth* is that if you mismanage your finances, you’ll never know financial freedom.

The problem that I see is that neither subjective truth nor objective truth can express love. So neither of the statements that I mentioned before (If you love someone, you’ll speak truth to them -and- If you’re going to speak truth to someone, do so lovingly) really carry much merit. In the very least, they don’t give us anything to go off of.

Truth is void of love.

— So now what? —

Well, I think we have to establish what it means to, “speak the truth *in* love…”. To establish this, it might be easier to start by removing love from the equation. Just speaking the truth, or speaking truth *outside* of love can and likely will be hurtful. Unless you’re a counselor that has random people coming in to hear what you have to say on a topic, you probably shouldn’t open your mouth unless the person has approached you on the matter asking for your input. That person will probably feel judged, stupid, and humiliated. They won’t receive any love from your words of truth. In fact, they will likely perceive your *truth* as an attack.

Then how do you inject love, and when is it ok to speak the truth? I’m so glad you asked. One word – RELATIONSHIP. If you have a better relationship with your plumber than you do with this person, I can assure you that they don’t know that you love them. If you see this person sporadically, it’s possible that a loving relationship hasn’t yet been established. The absence of a relationship in which you can openly express your love for a person (telling the person you love them, showing them you love them, spending quality time with them) means you don’t have the ability to speak the truth *in* love to him/her.

I’m perfectly able to go to my wife and speak truth *in* love with her, and she can receive all of what I have to say. That doesn’t mean that the truth spoken is now rid of hurt. Remember, truth is void of love. Truth has never been equated to love. So, “…doing so lovingly” applies here. Your presentation is key. If you come across as a jerk, you are (at least perceivably).

I’m not able to approach a stranger or an acquaintance and give them my 2 cents without coming across as being judgmental or hurtful, so I won’t (writing my thoughts/observations here aren’t, and likely never will be, targeted at an individual). Nor should you. That relationship and standard of my love for that person haven’t been established (food-for-thought: knowing someone for any length of time does not equal relationship). What does that mean then? It means I need to think before I speak, and bridle my tongue. If you want to decimate any credibility you’ve established with someone, then open your mouth and tell the truth with your “tongue full of deadly poison” -or- truth *outside* of love. I can assure you that the poison will run its course and kill any relationship built to that point. Otherwise, refrain from expressing your thoughts until you both know you have a reciprocating love for one another.

— Why I’m approached —

I believe this is why I’m an approachable person: I refuse to judge individuals or the choices that they make. I’m eager, with every fiber of my being, to love someone where they are and for who they are. In fact, I desire to love and be loved in return! I also refuse to uncover a person’s flaws (real or perceived) unless that person purposefully does so him/herself. I’m confident that anyone I’ve had in my “inner circle” will speak of my loyalty and love. Unless that’s established in a relationship, you won’t find me going too deeply with a particular person. Why? Because I believe love trumps truth. I know a relationship is established when they ask the questions inviting me in. Then, and only in the confines of that established loving relationship, will I gingerly speak the truth that they’re longing to hear.

When contemplating truth vs. love, certainly seek the truth. But allow others to seek their truth for themselves, too. Perhaps we can lay our truths down for a while and focus instead on loving each other.