By Mark A. Taylor
The Internet is buzzing with reactions to last week’s Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Advocates are adding the #LoveWins hashtag to every tweet, and Christian leaders are urging the church not to be discouraged in the face of what many view as a terrible loss.
Amid all the chatter, Caleb Kaltenbach’s perspective offers a voice as refreshing as it is calm.
“Some say this is the defining issue of the day,” he said when I interviewed him last week at the North American Christian Convention. “But I believe the church is getting it wrong.” We should focus on identity before we address behavior, Kaltenbach believes. “We must point people to define themselves by Jesus and not their sexuality,” he said.
Kaltenbach, whose new book, Messy Grace, will be released in October, writes from a unique perspective. His parents divorced when he was 2 years old, and each entered the gay lifestyle. Kaltenbach grew up surrounded by his mother’s friends and activities in the gay community and learned to believe what she repeatedly told him: “Christians hate gays.”
When he was 16 he began attending a Bible study to disprove Christianity, but instead became a Christian himself. Soon he had committed himself to a lifetime of vocational Christian service, but he’s never forgotten the pain, problems, and possibilities among the many gay people he has known.
Today, with his wife and two children, he serves as pastor with Discovery Church in Simi Valley, California. “We want to be known as a church that struggles with the tension between grace and truth,” he said. “We can stick to our theological convictions and still be loving.”
He quoted Andy Stanley, who says, “Some churches like to make points. It’s easier to make a point than to make a difference. It’s easier to take a firm stand than to have a conversation.”
Perhaps the Supreme Court decision will make more Christians willing to have conversations with gay people, embracing, as Kaltenbach says, the difference between acceptance and approval.
It’s not that the world is changing, he says. “The world has already changed.” We can’t go back, but we can go forward, convincing practicing homosexuals—and every other kind of sinner we meet in our workplaces and neighborhoods—that Christians do not hate them.
Our focus is not on any particular human failing. Kaltenbach reminds us that in our time, as in every age, Jesus is the issue of the day. But perhaps now, as never before in our lifetimes, we have new responsibility as well as opportunity to lift him up and demonstrate him well.
Watch the full interview with Caleb Kaltenbach by clicking here.