Location: Somewhere over the Atlantic … but Further East
On my way to Israel, I have a lot to be thankful for. God has given me, in every sense, far more than I deserve or need or even more than I knew to ask for. God has been very good to me. Shame on me for how often I feel deprived of whatever trivial thing I believed I had to have to be happy.
Well, among many other far more significant things, God blessed me today with a bulkhead row seat (thank you, Father!), so I have plenty of leg room. He also placed skinny folks on either side of me, so I didn’t have any issues being in a middle seat. Both are British women about my age returning home to the UK (we’re going to Tel Aviv through London Heathrow) after a business trip to the US. One, named George, has evidently been traveling to the US every two weeks on business for the last year. Ouch!
George opened the door early to spiritual conversation (my favorite subject), and what started as a few minutes of chit-chat quickly turned into a three-hour discussion about who God is, who Jesus is, what the Bible says about all manner of things, what my opinions are on a number of hot topics of the day, human nature, sin, the gospel, and of course British music (okay maybe not all spiritual conversation). The big hot topic of the day for her was homosexuality. George’s focus for much of the conversation was on how hard it is for her lesbian friend to not act on her homosexual tenancies. She described at some length her friend’s religious upbringing and how being gay creates severe guilt in her life. According to George, she can’t be happy because when she does what feels “right” to her, she is miserable because she’s deprived of her sexual expression. But when she does what feels “good” to her, she feels this overwhelming guilt.
I tried to help her understand that all rebellion against God is sin. Homosexuality, from the perspective of God’s holiness, is not some special kind of sin. I explained that the personal difficulty of making right choices doesn’t absolve us of our responsibilities in the decision-making … or of God’s right and readiness to stand in judgment of our decisions. She made the point a dozen times that her friend “has a heart of gold”, but just struggles with this one thing. How can God judge her for that? I tried to help her understand that A) it’s never just one thing – for anyone – that nobody has a “heart of gold”, and B) that God’s love for her, for me, for her friend, is not tied to our actions. No amount of sin is great enough to separate us from God if we throw ourselves on the mercy of the cross. But if we don’t come to God in humility and repentance through Jesus, then no number of righteous acts will make us worthy to approach God and even the smallest sin will separate us from Him … being a practicing lesbian included. I tried to contextualize the message by referring to a broad spectrum (humanly speaking) of sins: greed, selfishness, homosexuality, murder, and a few others. All are sin. All separate us from God. All create in us the desperate need for Jesus.
I also used alcoholism, drug addiction, and to a lesser degree my former tenancies to grossly over-eat, as examples of habits that control us, trap us, and make it hard (sometimes very very very hard) to choose the right instead of the wrong. No matter how much I might feel like “I was born this way” or “I can’t help myself” or “I need a fix to be happy” or “it’s too hard to change” … none of that changes the reality that we’ll be held responsible for our decisions before God. And that’s true whether we’re talking about greed, selfishness, adultry, homosexuality, murder, or whatever other hard thing we face. Life is hard. But that’s not God’s fault, it’s ours. We – with a built-in sin nature – choose the wrong hundreds of times a day, surround ourselves with distractions and bad influences, and then demand that God should make our lives easier. God is not responsible for my bad choices, or George’s, or George’s friend’s. But the God who made me and gave me the right to choose (so I could choose Him, by the way), has every right to hold me accountable for my choices when I do choose.
So, this trip is off to a great start. I’m thrilled to death to have had the chance to share the gospel with George. And I’m pumped to be hanging over the Atlantic, Bible in hand, on my way to explore and see in person the land God gave to His people. But more than that, I’m pumped because God does not live in temples built by man, but in the temple of my heart. I hope there are more George’s before this trip is over.
Next stop (in 3 hours), Heathrow. But for now, maybe a few minutes sleep.