What is a Living Letter?

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,  who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (2 Corinthians 3:2-6)

     In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul is appealing to the Corinthian Church to examine their own changed lives as the confirming evidence of Christ’s ministry through him, confirming that they are, in fact, a living letter from Christ.  It is a profound thought.  We, the redeemed of The Lord, are living, breathing letters, written by the Spirit of God, “to be known and read by all.” We as believers may very well be the first “testament” that many in the world will encounter. Ignatius wrote, “Give unbelievers the chance of believing through you. Consider yourselves employed by God; your lives the form of language in which He addresses them.”

     In March of 2001, I found myself sitting in a very uncomfortable chair on the stage of “The Sally Show”. For those who may not remember, it was the talk show of Sally Jesse Raphael. I was a guest on a show titled “Gay to Straight”. I was only about six months into the discipleship program at Portland Fellowship (the ministry in Portland, OR that God used to powerfully transform my life) and I was sitting alongside my mentor Jason Thompson as we were mocked and judged and minimized for our belief that Christ can, and was redeeming our lives out of a same-sex attraction struggle. (Don’t google it… it was awful and they edited the bejeebus out of it so Jason and I look like silent fools)  I vividly remember the faces of most in the audience, distorted and severe with hate and contempt.  I experienced a holy moment in that chair. The Lord spoke gently to my heart saying something along the lines of “If you choose to be public and open about my work in your life, you are going to get a lot more of this…”  It was a very important point of demarcation for me.  I remember being puzzled that by simply stating that God’s love and grace were transforming me, I was stirring up a hornet’s nest of animosity. God was gracious in that moment to give me a choice. I did not have to be open and public about this journey He was taking me on. I could choose to leave that studio and He would not hold it against me. God would still be my Father, my Healer, and my friend.  He would still be proud of me. He would still have a good plan for my life. It did not have to include all of “this”.  I had a choice.

Jason Thompson, the Director of Portland Fellowship and I after filming The Sally Show in March of 2001. We both look considerably different now... Me older and heavier, and Jason somehow younger and thinner.... Tell me where the justice is in that!!

     In that moment, I counted the costs. Others were going to misunderstand, hate, reject, and despise me, simply for what God was doing in me, and for the audacity I had to want to share the comfort and healing that I was receiving.  It would have been easy to choose a more discreet life after that experience. No one, including God, would have blamed me. But as I sat there, a nagging thought pushed past my elevated blood pressure and feelings of vulnerability. “What if I had never heard a similar testimony? Would I still feel alone, isolated, hopeless, condemned to porn addiction and my own defiled imagination? Would I still be broken and confused?  I didn’t know the answer, but what I did know was that I didn’t have to face that possibility.  Others who had walked the same journey before me had chosen to be Living Letters… open “to be known and read by all.” I had read their letters, and it gave me hope. In that moment, on that stage, surrounded by hate and contempt, I decided it was worth the cost.

     My conviction is that Christ has called me to let my life and testimony of transformation be an open letter to the Church and to the world as a living example of His power to redeem and transform. Since that day, on that uncomfortable stage, I have spent my life determined to be open and available to those who might read this Living Letter and be encouraged just like I had by others before me.  For the last 10 years, I had the privilege of being on staff at Portland Fellowship, offering personal discipleship to those struggling like I have.  It was an amazing privilege to spend those years walking with those men and women.  In that decade, I watched as many of these brave men and women struggled to experience support and community outside the walls of our ministry. I saw how the church had in many ways become an unsafe and unwelcoming place for those trying sincerely to walk in obedience to Christ through this struggle.  It broke my heart. It breaks my heart…  

     In this new season of life and ministry, I have felt the leading of the Lord to help the Body of Christ know how to respond with the heart of Christ to those around them struggling with issues of sexual brokenness.  I am deeply concerned for the Church.  The Body of Christ is facing a great crisis. The issue of sexuality has fractured the Church, and everyday more and more faithful believers are being left confused, conflicted, or deceived, and therefore having no ability to effectively minister to the broken and hurting around them. Consequently, they are drawn in to different levels of deception, ranging from disbelief that God can transform the sexually broken, to seeing absolutely no need to call people to repentance. The Body of Christ needs to recapture a Gospel perspective of God’s power to redeem, transform, and sanctify the lives of believers who will submit faithfully to His Lordship. 

     I will be the first to admit, I am no scholar. I have no aspiration to be.  Many of the arguments that the Church is struggling with, I decided on years ago in simplicity and surrender.  I have no intention of avoiding the dialog, but just intend to remain authentic to who I am and the personality God placed in me as I speak about these issues.  So, please don’t be disappointed by the relative simplicity of my posts. I am a simple guy whose life has been transformed by Christ, and I want to share with you about it. This blog is not intended for any other purpose than this… to be an open letter “known and read by all” for the purpose of encouraging the church to remember that God is still active and powerful. 

     There are a lot of voices speaking to these issues today.  My hope and prayer is that as I add mine, you will hear the heart of someone transformed by God.  I love the poem “The Convert” by G.K. Chesterton.  The poem ends with these words…

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

     I can relate to this… I know that through God’s grace I have been brought from death to life. I pray that through my “Living Letter” you will be able to put flesh and blood on your understanding of these struggles. I pray that you would be able to see those around you with more empathy, compassion, and respect. I pray that you would be encouraged to believe in a Holy God that calls specific things sin…yet has every ability to rescue, redeem, and heal those caught in sin.  That is my prayer.