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Why I believe God loves even me

By Nathan Decker

Then the thief hanging on the cross next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

– Luke 23:42-43

If Jesus can forgive a thief, then surely he loves me. If God can love a child molester, then I know I’m standing on solid ground. If I can find someone who I believe is worse than me, then I’ll be able to sing Blessed Assurance with greater zeal. But this is not how God sees us.

As broken human beings we like to see the world through the lenses of hierarchy and power. One sin is worse than other sins. One tribe of people is chosen while the rest of us are gentiles. One Nation under God and the rest are infidels.

When Jesus walked this earth, he saw things differently and challenged us to see one another differently. Jesus saw the outsiders who knew they didn’t belong, and he invited them in. Jesus saw the insiders who knew they had figured it all out, and he called them a brood of vipers and Pharisees. Jesus invited people to follow him even though they didn’t understand all the parables, couldn’t recite all the creeds, and no clue how to sing “Amazing Grace.”

God doesn’t love us because of who we are or what we’ve done. God loves us because of who God is and what God has done in Jesus Christ. You and I do not get to pick who God loves. And we don’t get off easy by saying “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Jesus challenges us instead to say “love the sinner, and deal with my own sin.” The word ‘repent’ means to change the way we see the world. Disciples see the world with the lens of compassion as law, forgiveness as accountability, and faith as a journey together even when we disagree.

God loves homosexuals. I know that if you don’t agree with this statement, I’m not going to convince you differently in 600 words or less. What I do hope to accomplish is to narrow your view to see living in God’s grace means living in a diverse community with people who believe differently. At High Street UMC, we have homosexual couples who worship God next to folks who believe that homosexuality is a sin next to some who don’t next to those who just don’t want to talk about it. We disagree in doctrine but agree in practicing love. We’re a church that is mature enough to understand not everyone has the same beliefs or is on the same path to God. We welcome and affirm all because that’s what Jesus would do.

I have a high view of God’s Word, especially the Gospels where we hear Jesus speak in the letters written in red. When you remove cases of rape and incest, which we all agree are wrong, homosexuality is condemned in three places in the Bible (Leviticus, Romans and 1 Corinthians). Often we only read one verse omitting what we don’t like or what doesn’t agree with our pallet. Leviticus also says we have to welcome the immigrants, stop wearing gold jewelry, and just say no to double bacon cheese burgers. Paul in Romans condemns with equal zest those who get angry, gossip or force people to believe what they believe. The words in 1 Corinthians can easily be translated as effeminate male and pedophile, which is something altogether different than two people of the same sex in a committed relationship. Jesus didn’t see this as important enough to comment, but he did tell us to love one another.

Sin is the brokenness of humanity. I am sinful. I will be when I die. I have hope that through Christ my sin will be forgiven. As a Christian I have been wrong in my belief more than once, and I am also sure that has carried over to my preaching in the pulpit. I am on a journey to continually discover more and more how God loves me and loves through me. God doesn’t let our sin get in the way of God’s grace.

I believe in God’s grace. Grace is a gift I didn’t purchase. Grace is a burden I gladly carry. Grace is God’s arms wrapping around me like a father saying he loves me, even me. As a dad, I can’t imagine ever not loving or welcoming one of my children to the dinner table. If sinful me can love like that, can you imagine how God who is perfect loves? Grace is God’s action in the world bringing the Kingdom of God into this world one heartbeat at a time. Grace is why I believe God loves even me.

Some of you will disagree with me. You may even say I don’t deserve to preach. That’s OK, I love you still, because after all, it’s what Jesus would do.

The Fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

– Vincent Van Gogh