One last blog generated by Maryam and Marziyeh's story about being imprisoned in Iran and then, for my next blog, I'll move onto a different topic. (After I deal with this subject, I think it's possible that I might still have a few readers left...)
In Evin prison, as in so many prisons, lesbian romances were everywhere, creating tension among so many women crowded into such a horrible place, romances which frequently led to hair-pulling, fist fights as one lover betrayed another.
Marziyeh and Maryam valued each and every woman whom they met in Evin and they told anyone who was suffering that Jesus loved them and that He could help them.They encouraged the other women to ask Jesus for help but they didn't stop there. They bought snacks from the prison store for women who had no money and they watched after the small children who had the misfortune of being locked up with their moms in dark, overcrowded cells. They sometimes risked their own safety to shield children when a particularly violent fight erupted.
At one point while talking to a lesbian woman, they told her how much God loved her and cared about her distress. But they went on to gently ask her to consider how lesbian behavior would look in God's eyes.
What I'm saying is that they reached out to anyone and everyone in the cell, communicating the reality of God's love, showing that love through their own acts of kindness, and, at the same time, gently standing on the truth of Scripture.
Right after I finished this book, a caption on the internet caught my eye - it was a link to an article about Rob Bell. I clicked on it and read the whole article in which pastor Bell said that God was leading the church to catch up with the cultural view of homosexuality and lesbianism. When asked if he believed in homosexual relationships, he said that he believed in marriage, in fidelity, in monogamy - whether it was between a man and a woman, two men, or two women. He went on to say that some people have natural needs that are different from others and they should be able to fulfill them.
First, let me say two things. The topic of homosexuality has never been high on my list of things to write about, argue about, etc. Second, I have seen some of Rob Bell's videos and I believe he is a truly compassionate human being.
Having said that, I was again struck by the contrast between two young women, living out God's love without compromising His truth as juxtaposed against an American pastor who has led a mega church into the belief that what comes naturally and is culturally acceptable is what matters most to God.
And so what I want to ask is this: when did what comes naturally become the standard of society, let alone the standard of God? It's not natural to remain sexually pure for those who never marry, is it? Yet the Bible tells us that is God's standard. It's not natural to resist all sexual temptation through, say, a decades- long marriage, is it? Yet the Bible tells us this is God's standard. It's not natural to refrain from hitting someone who insults you and hurts you, is it? Yet the Bible tells us to turn the other cheek when being wronged.
When it comes down to it, there is very little in the Bible, if anything, that uses man's natural desires as the tape measure for God's standard of righteousness.
And although this may come as a shock, there was very little in man's laws back in my parent's day that was based on what comes naturally either. Perhaps that was because people just a generation ago understood that if God exists, He does not exist for us. Instead, we exist because of Him and for Him. But it could also be, for those a generation ago who did not believe in God, that they simply understood that "natural behavior" is not necessarily synonymous with "best" or even "right".
Two examples of how Christians should approach homosexuals: one lived out in the dark prison of Evin; the other lived out in the enlightenment of modern America... Both advocate sharing God's love through word and deed and, to me, that is a given. But only one involves sharing the truth - in love - as well. One approach expects God to conform to man; the other expects God to transform man.