Pitchforks and Fruit Trees

So, another popular Christian committed the unforgivable sin. She publicly stepped left of center. Members of our community are tripping over themselves in her condemnation, so eager are they to distance themselves and wave a flag of their own righteousness. LifeWay pulled her books from their shelves. Blogger Matt Walsh was quick to use her sudden infamy for click bait.

If you’re not living in the bubble of Christendom (and I applaud you), I’m speaking of popular author and speaker, Jen Hatmaker. In an interview with Religion News Service, she answered the question, “Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?” with:

I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.

And Christian evangelicals lost their collective minds.

With a vengeance, she was denigrated in my newsfeed. I read the comments posted to her latest article (which had nothing to do with any of it) and was ashamed to be associated with the people who almost gleefully “straightened out” her theology.

I could almost see the pitchforks and hear the chants of “false teacher…burn, burn!”


But the thing I couldn’t…can’t wrap my brain around is the fruit I see. We are told in Scripture that we can know each other by our fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). Jen Hatmaker is a mom doing the holy work of loving kids, former orphans, from hard places. I know from experience that is not a one shot deal, but rather, an ongoing, intentional, sometimes grueling, daily choice. It is messy, exhausting, exhilarating, and painful, and it is holy.

She is also, one of the most instrumental racial bridge builders of our time. She has done more for racial unity in the church, than any of her peers this decade. By her authenticity, openness, and humility, she invites the rest of us to journey with her in a quest to understand the divide, to heal the hurt, and build unity. Repentance, redemption, and restoration follow her.

Love is the over-riding theme to her ministry. She loves big and has enlarged her circle to include homeless people, children of third world countries, Ethiopian mothers, the LGBTQ community, and others forgotten or ignored. Better, she encourages the rest of us to love, as well.

Here’s where it gets especially tricky for me. Some of those with the proverbial pitchforks are people I know in real life. People who posted sanctimonious things like: “We should never add anything to the Word of God!” or “I knew something wasn’t right about her. I guess I have the gift of discernment!”

There is a log in my eye when I say this, I realize, BUT, I look at the lives of those doing the judging of Jen Hatmaker, and the fruit, in comparison, is remarkably sparse. Their lives are are normal, very typical of any middle aged, nice, American parents. To that, I echo Francis Chan, “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” Those who are quick to jump on the bandwagon of condemnation would do well to compare fruit, starting with their own.


I’ve noticed something about people who open their hearts and their arms to love big. Their theology starts to alter and they are less dogged about doctrine. Peripheral truths that once seemed so solid begin to shift as the person of our never-changing Jesus grows bigger in their lives. They walk the narrow road of understanding that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and yet, they must keep in step with His Spirit (Galations 5:25) who is forever on the move.

Maybe, instead of eating our own when they deign to step off message, we should first look at their fruit, as Jesus instructs. If they are bearing good fruit, perhaps we should listen to them and find out why; quiet ourselves and seek to hear what they hear.

If nothing else, at least we could offer grace and then tend our own trees?





I Won’t Take a Stand on Gay Marriage

It smells like fear to me. And fear mongering. I try really hard not to make decisions based on fear.

I’m a follower of Christ. I know many of you are not who read my words and the term “Christian” has gotten all kinds of bad press, some of it well-deserved. So you may not grasp what Jesus means to me. He’s the reason that we felt compelled to travel across the world to get our Bo. He’s the reason that, even after two years of sleepless nights, I was determined to learn to love that little guy. He’s the reason, the only reason, I succeeded and feelings finally followed actions. He’s the reason my heart weeps for the unloved and the broken and why I so desire to love the least of these because that is what He taught me to do.

He’s the reason that I hope, when hope is in short supply; why I stand when my knees are quaking; why I say yes when common sense says no. Because He has shown me amazing grace, I am undone. I am not who I once was and I know redemption is sweet.

Because of Jesus, I have a soft spot for the marginalized, those thought to be unequal in our culture. Those with disabilities, racial minorities, those with mental illnesses, and those who are gay.

A few months ago, I read this post about gay marriage by Glennon on Momastery and it resonated with me. I particularly loved this quote, ” I think if people don’t believe in gay marriage, then mostly they should not get gay married.” It made me chuckle and want to put it on a t-shirt. Her ideas on grace were spot on, as well.

It’s like we Christians love the idea of grace, but we don’t want it distributed indiscriminately- we want make rules about it and dole it out carefully and strategically. It’s like we’re worried that if everybody knows that she’s loved and accepted by God – it will be Grace Anarchy! I want that. I want Grace Anarchy. I want people to be free to be who they are. It makes sense to me that the free-er people are, the BETTER people are. I believe in people because I believe in God. I think God knew what God was doing when God made each of us.

I’m not sure what I think of her theology when it comes to homosexuality, though. Truthfully, I’ve been praying about and wrestling it through for months. My poor husband has certainly gotten an earful. I felt like I finally need to figure out what I believe about all of this. Now that SCOTUS issued their ruling, I feel like it’s time to take a stand, either way. I don’t believe that being gay is a sin. But gay sex? I really don’t know. An entire life of evangelicalism, years of Baptist primary school, a year of Bible college, and a childhood as a pastor’s daughter are not so easily shed. I know I’m not alone in my ambivalence and confusion. I want to rightly divide the Word of truth like it says in II Timothy 2:15. Freedom comes with truth. 

I then, as a seeker of truth, proceeded to read all 1,986 comments on the Momastery Facebook page about this post because I am also an idiot. I’ve also read numerous articles on both sides and the comments following since the decision was announced. It’s enough to make your head spin.

A few things jumped out at me. Those that oppose gay marriage, are the least loving in the comments. To be clear, I’m not talking about the trolls. I’m talking about those sincere in their beliefs who disagree. More than just disagreeing, though, they almost always take a slippery slope argument. If Christians support gay marriage then it won’t be long before pedophilia and bestiality will be the norm in the church. Or, they assume that, any Christian who agrees with certain Bible pastors that believe those passages that refer to homosexuality are speaking to non-consensual sex, has decided there is no such thing as sin…like, at all, and what did Jesus die for?!? I can’t tell you how many times I read, “The Bible clearly states…”

The fear is palpable.

And I wonder why. Why are we so afraid? Do we really think the world is going to go to hell in a hand-basket if we reason together? I don’t know.

In Glennon’s post, lots of people pointed out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, only Paul did in the New Testament. Those that brought up the Old Testament were rightly squashed as none of us follow Levitical law. It can very successfully be argued that Sodom and Gomorrah was more about gang rape and has no resemblance to our current conundrum of gay marriage.

Those that agreed with the post pointed out that we are all sinners…and were rebutted that most sins are events versus lifestyles. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness for lying when you’re not married to the lie.

So what did Jesus say about marriage?

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32

Divorce is very common. People divorce for lots of reasons beyond sexual immorality. Most people who consider divorce a sin believe it’s a one time event that God forgives. But what about that last part? According to that, remarriage is a sin, too. What’s up with that? That doesn’t sound like a one-time thing. That sounds like they are in an adulterous relationship. How come nobody ever talks about that?

So, if you’re divorced, are you supposed to remain single for, like, ever?!? What if it’s too late and you’re already in the adulterous relationship of a second marriage? Do you get another divorce? I Corinthians 6:18 tells us to Flee sexual immorality. Living in adultery seems pretty immoral, to me. But what if the new couple has children together? Obviously, they can be forgiven for entering the remarriage, but then do they need to have a celibate marriage to keep from being adulterous?

So many questions! Honestly, it’s difficult to fit these words of Jesus into our current culture, especially if you’re one who claims, “The Bible clearly states…”

Second marriages and blended families are the norm, even in the church. No one bats an eye. I know very godly people who have been married for almost fifty years the second time around. No one refused to bake a cake for them or photograph their wedding, even back then, by the way. How come?

I don’t know what to think about Jesus’s words regarding divorce, second marriages, and adultery. I chose to use them as an example, but I’ve never really studied them in depth or wrestled them through. I’m happily married to my first husband of twenty-two years. That passage doesn’t apply to my circumstance and I don’t feel the need to take a microscope to it to measure someone else’s life.

I’m sure there have been studies and someone will tell me what Jesus really meant in that passage. If we look hard enough, we may discover cultural context or Greek words with different meanings than the current translations. Wait, that sounds familiar. All things those same people are denying others regarding passages on homosexuality, because, you know, “the Bible clearly states…”

Here’s the thing. I worship with people who are in second marriages. Half the time, I have no idea. But even if I do, I don’t care or even ever think about it. I serve with them at church. I go out to dinner with them, watch their kids, pray for them, let them pray for me…do life with them, just like anyone else.

If it ever crossed my mind, I would assume they have wrestled that passage with Jesus and I would trust them to walk in whatever He showed them to do. Because I love them, I’ll let them work out their own faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and I will work out mine.

And you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to do the same with my gay brothers and sisters. The passages on homosexuality don’t apply to my circumstance. I’m not gay. So, I’m not taking a stand on gay marriage. I’m taking a knee. I will serve those around me. If they want me to bake a cake, I will bake for them two. (If they want me to photograph their wedding, they should reconsider, though. My sisters-in-law can tell you I’m not so good at that.)

So, I will gladly stand next to my gay brothers and sisters in worship or go out to dinner with them or watch their children. I will pray for them and let them pray for me…do life with them, just like anyone else. Because I love them, I’ll trust them to work out their own faith with fear and trembling and I will work out mine.

But I won’t take a stand on somebody else’s life. Because I believe there is grace for us all.