I’ve been circling around writing this for a while. Some of you may be like, didn’t everyone get mad at Jen and Glennon like months ago???
Yes. Like you, I watched the storm rage around them and when the world moved on, I quietly watched the aftermath.
Now, it’s Eugene Peterson’s turn. The sharks are circling and here we go again.
But, before I go any further, please note: this post isn’t about whether I support their beliefs. Instead, this is focused on our response to these leaders who are now facing a hail storm of stones.
If you missed some of the news, here’s a quick run down:
Late last year Jen Hatmaker (NY Times best-selling author, pastor’s wife and Christian speaker) announced her support of same sex marriage.
She was abruptly met with fierce opposition from her fans. Fellow bloggers took the opportunity to publicly scorn her for her beliefs. Lifeway quickly jumped on the bandwagon and yanked her books from their shelves.
In a moving Good Friday blog post (one of my favorites of hers) she painfully shared how she became the focus of a gossip train inside her personal circle of friends. Even still, she was met with limited compassion and a slew of less-than-kind comments.
Then we have Glennon Doyle. Good Lord did she freak Evangelical America out. Glennon (NY Times bestselling author, Christian mommy blogger, speaker, philanthropist and activist) went through a divorce and months later announced her relationship with Abby Wambach, Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. She and Abby married in May 2017.
People lost their minds over this one. Opinions went wild and she was quickly booted from the Christian club (in a response post, Glennon claims to have never been inside the Christian club. Just claimed to be a Jesus lover. Even still, many want to remind her that she is no longer “in”)
Now it’s a boy’s turn in the hot seat. Eugene Peterson (author of The Message translation of the Bible) recently said in an interview that he would perform a same sex marriage if asked. However, later retracted his statement and now says he supports traditional marriage.
Eugene managed to anger both sides of the argument. Those who loved him for saying it, now hate him for changing his answer. And those who hated his first answer, feel like he can’t be trusted in his second answer. But, because of his retracted statement, The Message Bible will still grace the shelves at Lifeway.
The collective works of these three leaders dramatically impacted a vast number of lives (myself included). That servant work matters. It deeply matters.
As I’ve watched these stories unfold around two of my favorite authors and one who penned one of my favorite translations of the Bible, my heart broke right along with theirs. Because I know a thing or two about being pushed out for thinking differently. I know what it’s like to be rejected for not fitting the part I am expected to play.
It hurts like hell.
One of my pastors believes everyone’s story is in the Bible (I love that). And as I watched all of this unfold, one story jumped out at me:
Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.
If this sounds weird, hang with me.
*I promise this is so so good*
Abraham slept with his wife Sarah’s maidservant because Sarah was having difficultly getting pregnant. Hagar gave birth to Abraham’s first son. Sarah, later had a son also.
But, Sarah was threatened by Hagar and her son. Out of fear, Sarah demanded Abraham send Hagar and the boy away.
This was equivalent to a death sentence.
His own son.
And his son’s mother.
I’ve read this story many times. And every time I’m always like, WHAT. IS. THIS. HOLY. HELL.
Now, the church loves Abraham. The lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is deeply honored and Abraham is praised as the “father of our faith”.
I also love the legacy of Abraham. I’ve taught his stories from the pulpit too. But, what about the other son???
There is a beautiful piece in scripture where we see Hagar and her son in the desert after they were thrown out. Hagar was out of water and her son was crying. Scripture says, she laid there sobbing. SOBBING BECAUSE SHE WAS WATCHING HER SON DIE.
I can’t even.
But, the story gets better.
God heard them crying.
And he spoke.
He said that she didn’t need to be afraid. That he would make her son into a great nation too. He then led her to water and gave her strength to raise her son alone.
Which she did.
Like a rock star.
There is so much packed into this story, but this is where I will leave you in response to what the church is doing to those who they disagree with:
Many in the church see unconventional people like Jen, Glennon and Eugene (and anyone else who may think differently) as a threat. A threat to their fundamental beliefs and a threat to the way they operate.
Sarah felt the same way towards Hagar and her son. She pushed them out. To their death. But they didn’t die. God had a different ending…a much, much better one.
God saw Hagar and God saw Sarah.
In his ending there isn’t a winner or a loser.
Because THERE IS ENOUGH GRACE AND BLESSING FOR BOTH.
The hidden gem is this:
We do not need to be afraid of people wrecking our perfectly ordered system. Because the only perfectly ordered system is one where no matter our theological differences, there are enough seats for everyone at the table. Because the perfectly ordered system never includes fear or exclusion – it only includes love.
What this story tells me about God’s character is that we are all his little, chubby, beautiful babies.
He loves the people at Lifeway just as much as he loves Jen Hatmaker. He loves all the haters on Glennon’s Fb page just as much as he loves Glennon. He loves all the pastors refusing to use The Message Bible just as much as he loves Eugene. God can (and is big enough to) equally bless and love both.
No matter what side you are on, this picture should stretch us. It should challenge us.
And, I believe that’s exactly what we are supposed to gain from stories in scripture: a calling to a higher standard of love and a more radical view of grace.
In closing I offer an open letter to both sides,
We are not created to live by fear. We do not need to be grace hogs hoarding grace; fearing if we give some away, there might not be enough left for the rest of us. The very love that provided for Sarah inside the club is the very same love that comforted Hagar after being kicked out of the club. GOD RECKLESSLY LOVED AND BLESSED BOTH.
(Side note, be careful who you throw out. Outcasts tend to encounter God in crazy intense ways while in the desert. They don’t die outside your walls. They rise. And typically with a stronger, louder, more violent voice for the oppressed and unwanted)
We don’t need to be terrified of a group of people who we feel hold all of the power. Because they don’t hold any power at all. In the words of Anne Lamott, bring it on. We know how this ends: grace bats last.
Grace and peace,
PS: if this challenges you to get to know someone on the other side of your argument, YAY. We’re all learning and growing here. I share a personal experience of this in a recent post about my evening with a Muslim.
PSS: If you’re particularly curious about the topic of homosexuality inside of Christianity, check out my recent interview with Brett Trapp.