Fractured Faith, Broken Body Part 2
Diotrephes was a member of the early church. He was hungry for power and he loved the spotlight. He is only mentioned once in the bible, but the deeper I dig into the reasons why people stray away from the Body of Christ, the more I see Diotrephes. He could be compared to the Pharisees of Jesus' time. He stirred up trouble among believers and would not accept any teaching sent in the disciple John's name. He loved to have preeminence and he had a need to look good in front of people. He didn't welcome any of the brothers that came in the name of John. Whereas the Pharisees didn't accept anything Jesus said or did, and John came on behalf of Jesus. So when Diotrephes rejected John, he was really rejecting Jesus.
"I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church." 3 John 1:9-10
When I asked my friends what about the Body of believers is a turn off, I got a lot of similar answers. Most of them seemed to point back to the Pharisees. To the Diotrephes. To the ones who think they had power because of their title. To the ones who made people feel smaller and not worthy because they knew more intellectually or had a PhD. Ones who exercise power and authority for their own sake and not for the sake of the brothers. The ones who love the spot light and love being called by their titles. They do what they can to draw attention to themselves and in turn they are rejecting the very teachings of Jesus.
A Pharisee can be defined as a member of the Jewish sect of the intertestamental period noted for strict observance of rites and ceremonies of the written law and for insistence on the validity of their own oral traditions concerning the law. A Sadducee's had different beliefs than Pharisees but none the less were still just as strict when it came to the Law. The Law is the 10 commandments given to Moses and that was made up of 611 commands and the first two of the Ten commandments which adds up to 613. Jesus spent a lot of time rebuking or correcting these men who considered themselves "set apart" for self-righteous purposes.
To understand Jesus and the path He has for each of us regardless of what nationality, age, sex, righteous or sinner, we must understand the whole Bible. It is a beautiful love letter from God to all His creation. When we understand that, we can clearly see that Jesus didn't come to make sin ok, he came to save us from it. Let me share with you what Jesus says to these people who think they have it all together because they know the scriptures, and they have held up the laws and they have become teachers, and men of great stature. Men who point to themselves rather than God. To the ones who made you feel less than because they were a pastor, or a priest, or a righteous man by their own doing.
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers." Matthew 23:4-8
Just so I don't lose anyone, not all preachers or priests are like this. They're so many shepherds that carry their cross, watch over their flock and live the Word of God daily. I praise the Lord that I can serve along side one of them. So, with that being said, a phylactery is a small leather box containing Hebrew texts on vellum, worn by the Pharisees to remind them to keep the law. It was the same with the fringe. The fringe was on all four corners of the prayer shawl that Jews would wear under their garments. Jesus used those in his saying not because he disapproved of the act but because the ones wearing them were wearing them in vain.
Jesus goes on to give seven "woes" to the Pharisee in this chapter. He says, "The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would go in."Matthew 11:11-13
This verse holds so true even today, because was it not the people who made you feel unworthy because of your sin or because of what you wear, or because of your outward appearance that made you not want to go back to church or be in church to begin with? Did they not put burdens on your shoulders that you were not meant to bear? Did they tell you that because you are gay you don't belong, or because you live with a boyfriend outside of marriage you can't be welcomed in their church? I'm here to tell the truth. Not some but all.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
When I gave my life to Jesus I was in jail. I had just spent the last 6 almost 7 years abusing drugs and stealing and selling my body. I was addicted to pornography and I was attracted to other women secretly. My first sexual experience when I was about 10 years old was with another girl. I was exposed to pornography at 12. I didn't understand why I was attracted to other women, I just was. I was raised in the church and from as early as I can remember I was told it was an abomination. It was one of the sins that were just highlighted more than any other sin in the Bible, according to people.
So after my first sexual encounter I was so guilty of my sin that I couldn't bear the weight of it. I was condemned by the thought that it was an unforgivable sin, one that was so unbearable to God that I could murder someone and be alright as long as I wasn't gay. I started to run to the things this world had to offer so I wouldn't feel so bad about being attracted to women. I started drinking and smoking and I was in secret about my attractions. I still was attracted to men, so I got pregnant very young. I tried everything to make me feel better. I was still so empty.
By the time I got out of jail and found a really amazing church who never blinked twice at my past, I still found myself in sin. I was still attracted to women. I was still addicted to lesbian pornography. I was still hiding in secret from God because of the initial shame I felt when I was 10. I was hurt because I just knew that if I ever told anyone how I felt I would be judged or told I have a demon, or I could be cast out from the Body of believers.
So I did something totally crazy. I went to Jesus. The same guy who just said that certain people put burdens on my shoulders that were too heavy for me to carry. Like, just stop being attracted to women. Or pray it away. Or stop sinning. I couldn't bear that weight. I couldn't just stop feeling what I was feeling. I couldn't just stop being attracted to what I was attracted to. Don't tell this fat girl to stop being attracted to cake, cause honey let me tell you. It was something I could not do on my own.
Then I read that other verse that those who are heavy laden, come to me and I'll give you rest. From my early childhood, I was laden with burdens of not being good enough, never measuring up, never worthy. Until I met Jesus. I spent three years in the church as a believer but still secretly attracted to other women.
"The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?' This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go,and from now on sin no more.'" John 8:3-11
I can't tell you that the act of homosexuality isn't wrong is God's eyes. I can tell you however, that so is lying, and stealing, and sex before marriage and adultery. I can tell you that Jesus has not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. See John 3:17. I can tell you that someone holding up a sign on the street corner telling me what I was attracted to was an abomination is not what helped me. What helped me was Jesus. His love for me. His unfailing, unconditional grace and mercy.
I cried out to God and His Word washed over me. His mind renewing, heart changing Word by His Holy Spirit changed my life. I refuse to just be the ex drug addict. I am also the woman who was attracted to the same sex for most of my life. I can't say that it doesn't still linger in my body, because it does. The same way wanting to get high, and wanting to to smoke cigarettes does. What I can say is that I made a decision to serve Jesus. His goodness brought me to my knees, where I cried out and I said, "Anything that lives in me that is hindering us from having a relationship, take it away! I can't do this on my own, I am weak, and God you know what I struggle with. You know what is in me, and you have the power to take it away."
Jesus is changing me from the inside out. He isn't afraid of my issues, or my problems, or my failures or my short comings. The sad part is people are. They don't understand so they are scared. They push away what they can't relate to, and in turn it is hurting people who are already hurting. The Body of believers is full of people who are complete mess up's but by the grace of God are being renewed daily. Although I don't agree with people's tactics, I agree with Jesus'. He knows how to handle us and He isn't offended.
To the gay or lesbian that has been cast out of church, or let down by people, I urge you to call on Jesus. He isn't afraid of you, He loves you and He wants to take the burdens that people have placed on you.
To the Christian that is afraid of what they don't understand, go to Jesus. He can give you are heart that is easy to shape and be molded. People's failures come in all shapes and sizes. Love covers a multitude of sins. That isn't watering down the truth, it is watering them with the truth until an experience with God happens.
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
"Now the tax collectors and sinners where all drawing near to him. And the Pharisees and scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So he told a parable: 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:1-7
Righteous people, don't shut the kingdom of God in people's faces because they sin differently than you. In doing so, their blood will be on your hands. It's time to change the way we look at this sin as if the others aren't just as bad. They need Jesus the same way we all do.
"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:20
"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28
"...Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you." Matthew 21:31
"For the scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name if the Lord will be saved.'" Romans 10:11-13