Learnings from Emily Chase’s book, “What do I say to a friend who’s gay?”

I have finished reading this book lately, although it was published in 2006. Although I may not agree with everything she said in this book, I have learned a lot from her about holding friendships in a Christian way, and now I like to share some of them with you:

  1. “Stay committed to each other. Love each other unconditionally. Be with each other through the rough (even very rough) times and see it through. Christ-centered relationships are supposed to last. Don’t turn your back on those who need you the most. You don’t have to understand homosexuality in order to love someone.”
  2. “Then this is still the person you’ve always known. You’re just learning a new dimension of who that person is.”
  3. “Just being the same sex as your gay friend does not mean that he or she will come on to you. Because a guy is gay, it doesn’t mean that every male turns him on.”
  4. “When a friend tells you he or she is gay, you’re at a ‘turning point’ in your relationship. Will you abandon ship or will you stay around?”
  5. “Gays need friends just as you and I need friends. They need people who’ll support them, pray for them, and help them sort through the tangle of their thoughts.”
  6. “Who were the people tossed aside by society when Jensu walked on earth? The tax collectors, the lame, the prostitutes, the lepers, the orphans, the widows. All were pushed to the margins of the social register. How did Jesus respond to these people? He reached out to them and drew them in.”
  7. “…when two people work through their differences, the final bond becomes stronger than ever. Those friends can be gay or straight.”
  8. “It hurts when people make assumptions about you without getting to know you.”
  9. “The more people who pass along a rumor, the more that rumor is likely to be believed…The simplest way to stop a rumor is to shut your mouth. Don’t pass it on. Let it die….”
  10. “A key warning sign of an unhealthy friendship is a ‘just us’ mentality…When a relationship becomes possessive, and your friend demands that you separate from other people, something is wrong…Another warning sign appears when one person becomes consumed with making the other feel happy…”
  11. “…In our world, society allows women greater degrees of physical intimacy than it allows men. Such allowances, though, instead of making life simpler for women, make it harder. A woman can slide into a lesbian relationship more easily than a man can slip unintentionally into a gay one…”
  12. “God’s first concern is not whether a person is attracted to males or females but whether that person is attracted to HIM! Physical purity is important, but spiritual purity is essential.”
  13. “Another thing you can do is allow your friend to talk. Don’t jump in with answers. Listen. When you do talk, remember that even if you don’t have same-sex desires, you have areas where you’re weak.”
  14. “If your friend has rejected his or her gender role for years, it probably will take years to rethink that identity. In the meantime, hand in there.”
  15. “I ache for the love of Christ and his gospel to be taken to the gay community. I want them to know, to truly feel and believe that no matter what, God loves them and died for them. They don’t have to change their orientation before God will love them and save them. They don’t have to change anything about themselves to earn love, or perform to get his approval. But before this message can be carried to the gay community and be in any way convincing, Christians must learn it themselves.”
  16. “…whether your friend is interested in change or not. You can offer friendship, foster a safe environment for communication, be trustworthy, learn about gay issues, and pray on your own – all without any effort at all on your friend’s part.”
  17. “Same-sex attraction is not contagious like the flu. You can’t catch it just by being around someone who’s gay.”
  18. “If it’s wrong to impose our culture’s interpretations on evens in Bible times, it’s equally wrong to assume that cultural behaviors in the period the Bible automatically remain the same in our times.”
  19. “Instead, point your friends toward Christ. Teach them to depend on God. Too many people speak only of God’s condemnation of sin. You can be the one to introduce them to Christ’s love, his forgiveness, and his power to help. Then, when a friend asks you a question and you don’t know what to say, your friend can turn to Someone bigger than you, to Someone who has a lot more experience than you. That Someone is God.”
  20. “Human friendships are always a gift from God, but never forget that your best friend is God himself”.

Even if you may not affirm their interpretations about sexuality, orientation, gender, and identity, you may relate and reach out to the LGBTQ+ community in the ways Emily has offered here. I also found that her insights can applied to other areas of our Christian living.

Where is God when it hurts?

A few weeks ago, my barber and I had a meaningful question on the question of “where God is when it hurts”. Since he’s too skillful, we did not have enough time for a deep discussion. Therefore, I recommended Philip Yancey’s book, “The Question That Neven Goes Away”, for him to read.

What I have learned the most from this book is Yancey’s reminder about the way God’s presence and redemption in the midst of our suffering:

“From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way. On a small scale, person-to-person, Jesus encountered the kinds of suffering common to all of us…We go through suffering not alone, but with God at our side…Jesus did not eliminate evil; he revealed a God willing, at immense cost, to forgive it and to heal its damage.”

In addition, Yancey reminded and challenged Christian that:

“…And because God shared our suffering in the person of Jesus, we his followers have a model for redeeming it, a way to wrest Good out of what at first seems irredeemably bad…Where is God when it hurts? God is now in the church, God’s delegated presence on earth. The question might even be rephrased, ‘Where is the church when it hurts?’…Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.”

Yancey’s reminders have led me to reflect on what I have been being/doing in the midst of suffering, mine and my neighbor’s.

Cause and effect, for you, what’s the Bible?

The way we read the Bible affects the way we see the world. In his book, “The Bible Tells Me So”, Peter Enns tells us

“The Bible isn’t a cookbook…not an owner’s manual…not a legal contract…not a manual of assembly…When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey. That journey was recorded over a thousand-year span of time, by different writers, with different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons. In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in languages and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. But they were also ancient – and that explains why the Bible behaves the way it does. This kind of Bible – the Bible we have – just doesn’t work well as point-by-point exhaustive and timelessly binding list of instructions about God and the life of faith. But it does work as a model for our own spiritual journey. An inspired model, in fact.”

If we read the Bible as a cookbook, manual, and legal contract, then we may insist: 1) the earth is young, and human history is about 6000 years; 2) genocide is God’s command; 3) God is fine with slavery, and discrimination against different genders & races; and …

If we read the Bible as our model, then we will continue the spiritual journey and “recognize something of ourselves in the struggles, joys, triumphs, confusions, and despairs expressed by the biblical writers”.

The meaning of “To believe”

In his book, “A well-build faith: a Catholic’s guide to knowing and sharing what we believe”, Joe Paprocki writes:

“To believe is to enter into a relationship with another and to place our trust in that person. Until that happens, what we have is not a belief, but an idea. An idea evolves into a belief when it makes the leap from the head to the heart. Belief or faith is not blind. It is grounded in reason. We do not intimately love another person unless we have good reason (and some degree of evidence) to think that this person can be trusted. In the same way, we place our faith in God, not blindly, but based on good reason and some degree of evidence that God can be trusted. What is that evidence? Namely, the story of salvation history and the living witness of other followers of Christ. The Sacred Scriptures tell us the story of how God has been faithful to his people since the dawn of creation. The living witness of the saints – those canonized and those quietly leading lives of faith – provides us with credible evidence of the trustworthiness of God. Our own experience can also lead us to believe that God can be trusted. And yet, in the end, we have no proof, no guarantee – only an invitation to trust. And so, when we say in the Creed, ‘We believe in one God,’ we do so at our own risk. “

To help people to believe in Christ, we are to help them to trust God. The three main works for us are: 1) helping people to understand the meaning of the Scripture; 2) living out a faithful life; and 3) inviting people to experience God in their own life.

I learn about prayer from this Buddhist monk

When I read Haemin Sunim’s reflection on the Christian faith, I feel that this Koren Buddhist monk’s faith is deeper and more profound than some of the Christian authors and pastors. In his book, “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down”, Haemin Sunim writes about prayer:

“We don’t receive more love from God by asking for it. Rather, we awaken to the truth that God has always loved us unconditionally…In the beginning, our prayer takes the shape of, ‘Please grant me this, please grant me that,’ and then develops into, ‘Thank you for everything,’ and then matures into, ‘I want to resemble you.’ Eventually it transcends language, and we pray with our whole being in sacred silence. As my prayer deepens, I hear more of His voice than my words. As my humility grows, I feel more of His love overflowing in my heart. As my mind quiets down, I sense more of His presence in every moment.”

I appreciate that Haemin Sunim has clearly shown us the different stages of our spirituality as we continue to seek and grow in prayer.