Review of “Messy Grace” by Caleb Kaltenbach

Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing ConvictionMessy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction by Caleb Kaltenbach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a challenging book for me as a conservative pastor. I appreciate Caleb’s story, and I am thankful for his testimony. And it isn’t that I have a problem with loving members of the LGBT community without sacrificing conviction. It’s that I haven’t figured out how to do it yet in a way that they will believe I am actually loving them.

I know all about “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Let’s not go there, because most of my gay friends have a hard time believing I love them if I call who they are a sin. Sexuality is so wrapped up in identity that they literally cannot hear me say, “I love you, but I don’t love what you are doing.” Caleb does a better job with this than anyone I’ve read who takes the Bible at face value (without trying to make the argument that the Bible doesn’t really mean what we’ve translated it to mean when it condemns same sex behavior). In fairness to the author, that is beyond the scope of his book. He is simply telling his story, and its a story conservatives need to hear. But we have to figure out how to engage in compassionate dialogue when we disagree on whether or not something is a sin. For me, it’s like trying to have a conversation with someone who is absolutely convinced their gossiping is really just sharing prayer requests, or that their bigotry is really just a desire to preserve their southern heritage. I can love them, I can accept them, I can plead with them to change their minds, but if they don’t see as sinful what I believe the Bible calls sinful, we get to the end of our conversation very quickly.

And when we are talking about someone’s sexuality, it becomes an attack on a whole different level. Calling out gossiping or bigotry is calling out behavior. Calling out homosexuality, from the perspective of the gay or lesbian, is calling out identity.

The most helpful line in Caleb’s book is that “God doesn’t call us to make gay people straight. He calls us to help lost people be found by Jesus.” Everything else is up to the sanctifying work of Christ. My prayer is that our churches will give all sinners a refuge and a haven for that sanctifying work to be done. And I fear the door won’t be open (or even if it is, that members of the LGBT community will never walk through it) if we don’t agree on what is sin and what isn’t.

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