Letters for Sunday, October 2, 2011

• God only knows

God only knows

My parents were not the “church-going” type. But somehow, I started going myself. And to make matters worse, I joined and attended Southern Baptist churches. As a young boy who was becoming very much aware of my feelings of attraction towards other boys, my days as a Baptist certainly had their ups and downs. Things would be going great. The church members were warm and friendly. Everyone smiled and talked about God’s love. It kind of gave you that warm and fuzzy feeling — something I wasn’t getting outside the church.

But every once in a while would come the sermons about those “homosexual perverts.” Homosexuality was an abomination and the “evil homosexuals” were all going to burn in an eternal lake of fire and brimstone. All a homosexual had to do to get right with God was to ask for his forgiveness and ask him to take away this evil burden. Then all would be well. God would cure us!

My life as a Baptist was like a roller coaster with high peaks and low drops. I would pray to God to cure me. I would promise myself and God that from this point on it was the straight and narrow path for me. This would put me on an emotional high. I’m better, I’m cured. But then, those nasty homosexual feelings would come back and I would drop down into a self-loathing and dark place. But later I would pray it away again and now I’m up! But of course it wouldn’t last. Those feelings would come back. I seemed to be stuck in this emotional up and down loop.

At one point I attempted suicide but was not strong enough to do it properly. I survived.

The funny thing is, what awakened me and finally drove me away from the Southern Baptist Church had nothing to do with homosexuality. At that time I could understand their hate for homosexuals. I was believing their (preaching) myself. I hated myself and felt for sure that I was doomed to end up in the eternal lake of fire. So it wasn’t the anti-gay sermons that made me see the light. It was something that had nothing to do with my sexuality.

One day the pastor at Hamilton Acres Baptist Church in Fairbanks, Alaska preached a sermon that woke me up. Not at all in the way the pastor intended. The pastor said something to the effect of, “You know, there are people out there in the world who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior but are otherwise living perfectly good lives. They’re not harming anyone. They’re not criminals. They may even be doing good works and helping others. But I’m here to tell you that all those good works will not save them. Jesus said ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me’. Good works will not get you into heaven. If they have not accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior then they will burn in Hell for all eternity!”

I thought about that. Do you realize what he was saying? All Jewish people are going to Hell. All Buddhist people are going to Hell. All people who have never heard of Jesus are going to Hell. All people who just don’t believe in Jesus are going to Hell. This is coming from God the Father! We are the children of God and this is the message from our father. Wow! This just boggled my mind. It says in John 4:16, that we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

I started to apply some simple logic to what the pastor had just said. And I thought that if God is love, how much more strong and pure must his love be than mine. After all, he’s God. Compared to God’s pure love, what love I have must be like a grain of sand. And yet, even with this tiny amount of love I possess, if I were a father, I could not take my child and throw him into a lake of fire for all eternity just because he didn’t believe in me. It just is not logical. It is not the act of a loving God.

If there is a God and there is a Jesus, and I have lived a good life but just don’t believe in them, after I die, wouldn’t a loving God just bring me on up to Heaven and say, “See there, I told you so! But you didn’t believe me! But you were dead and now here you are alive standing here in front of me. And by the way, that’s my boy Jesus over there. So Mr. Smarty-Pants, what do you got to say for yourself now?” And I would say, “Wow, you were right! I’m sorry I ever doubted you.” And God would say, “No sweat, welcome to Heaven. Come on in!” He certainly would not throw me in to a lake of fire for all eternity. At the most, he might ground me for a week.

From this point on, I began to lose my feelings of guilt and self-loathing. And I guess I can thank the pastor at Hamilton Acres Baptist Church. He helped me in ways he never intended.

Loyd Clayton, Hanapepe

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