Just Another Trap

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I'll admit that when I first heard the news about the murder of Matthew Shepherd, I didn't pay much attention. After growing up in Oakland and then living for a time in south central Los Angeles and the projects in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I'm sad to say that news of murder doesn't shock me anymore. It bothers me; it saddens me; but it never shocks me. After all, I am convinced that human nature is evil at its core. I believe that if people could do better then we would have done so by now. As advanced as we are technologically, we are still enslaved by our nature. That's why crime, racism, abuse, rape, greed, hate, extreme poverty, extreme cruelty, and every possible addiction thrive among us. When the evil that is in us finds its way to the surface, I am seldom surprised.

I had learned from some friends that Matthew Shepherd was gay, but what I learned from subsequent news reports and articles was that he had been murdered because he was gay. That changed things. Murder all by itself is crazy enough, but this man had been singled out because his attackers didn't like his sexual orientation. Again, I wasn't shocked. It was just sad. I grieved for Matthew Shepherd, who would never grow old, have his own family, start a career, or see another sunrise. I grieved for his mom. As a new parent myself at the time, I couldn't even wrap my mind around ever having to bury my son. A parent should never have to bury a child. That just ain't right. I grieved also for the young men who committed the crime, so sure they were right that they never showed any remorse. I felt sorry for young men whose hearts were so hard that it seemed they couldn't acknowledge the extent of the damage they had done. From the news reports I saw on TV, it seemed like they had no remorse at all.

Then a few days later I saw the footage of the protests outside of the funeral home where Matthew Shepherd was being waked. I had been doing something in the house that day when my wife called me to the television. I ran to see what was up, but all she could do was to point to the television screen. We both bugged out as "Christians" who had assembled across the street from the funeral home chanted hate slogans and carried signs that read, matthew is in hell, and god hates fags. "Can you believe this, Mykel? He's dead! What the hell more do they want?" Sheeri screamed before tears exploded down her cheeks. She wondered aloud how they could protest in the name of Jesus. I, too, wondered how God could possibly get any glory from their activity that day. I wondered just how those people thought they were advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, I knew the answer: They weren't. But it worried me that non-Christians would see the footage and think that those people represented us all. The last thing I remember my wife saying through her sobs was, " 'Fags.' God doesn't even use that word."

The first time I had heard her make that statement was on a date long before we were married. Somehow our conversation had drifted onto the topic of a gay man that I knew. She asked me how I felt about homosexuals in general. It seemed an innocent enough question. I told her that I was pretty sure I had a cousin who was gay, but I didn't associate with him much. I told her that for the most part I just didn't get it. I could not understand how a man could look at another man and get sexually aroused. I explained that I just couldn't relate. At some point in the discussion, however, I made the mistake of referring to gays as fags. Sheeri cut me off quick. She blasted me for being an ignorant hypocrite, reminding me that if I trip when white people call us niggers, then I shouldn't call gays fags. She went on to say that God doesn't use that word and a bunch of other stuff that I don't remember too well, because my thoughts had drifted into "I don't hear you" mode. I'll be honest; Sheeri is kinda sexy to me when she's pissed off, and I got distracted with my own thoughts. Besides, I really didn't give a flip about gay people or their problems.

But God would change that. Within the course of a year, He would bring three men into my life who would become my very good friends. At one point or another, they all pulled me aside to share that they had been engaged in the homosexual lifestyle and were in the stages of overcoming it. Their confessions messed me up on so many levels. Each shattered any unfounded prejudices I may have harbored against gays. One guy is such a dude's dude. He's not hard like a thug, but he ain't nobody to mess with either. In addition, he's always been a favorite of the females. Women love his model good looks, his attentiveness, and his humble confidence. He just didn't fit the profile of the type of guy I thought would have been with another man. All three of these men went on to successfully abandon not only the gay lifestyle, but also the gay mind-set as well, which, given the enormity of their struggle, is a testament only to the power of the Holy Spirit. One of them, whom I can name, Kevin Giles, went on to write and self-publish a book about his experience called Gay but Not Happy. Kevin has always been painfully candid with me about his struggle to overcome what he and many Christians refer to as the "spirit" of homosexuality and about the rejection he experienced in the church while doing so. He and my two other friends helped me to understand something about homosexuality that I had not before: It's just one more trap of the enemy—no worse and no better than any other.

For those of you who seek to justify homosexuality or the gay and lesbian lifestyle, you gets no help over here. You have no ally in Mykel Mitchell. I fully accept the Bible's condemnation of homosexual activity. Scripture abounds with examples of God's rejection of the gay lifestyle. Given that I willfully accept the Holy Bible as the final authority in my life, I agree 100 percent with its assessment of all sin. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul explains that both lesbianism and homosexuality are shameful desires.

Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Romans 1:26-27).

Paul writes that once God abandoned these people, their lives then became full of every kind of wickedness. His list includes: "greed . . . depravity . . . envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice" (Romans 1:29). He goes on to characterize these people as back-stabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, boastful, inventing new ways of sinning, disobedient to parents, refusing to understand, breaking their promises, heartless, and unforgiving. These people know how God feels about their behavior, but they don't care. In fact, they encourage others to follow suit (Romans 1:30-32). These and other passages very clearly present the biblical view of homosexuality. Having said that, here's the part that I feel many Christians overlook: Contrary to what those nuts at Matthew Shepherd's funeral proclaimed, God does not hate homosexuals. Nor does He condone the murdering of gays or hatred against them. And anybody who says differently is not a follower of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:19-21).

What God hates is sin. All sin. I have searched and searched, and nowhere in the Bible have I found that some sins are more ac ceptable to God than others. God hates all sin, but He never hates the sinner. Over and over the Bible shows God to be a holy God.

He is free from all contamination. There is no shadow in Him. There is no deception or filth. Sin cannot exist in his presence. He despises sin. However, the book of John also reveals that God is love. He is the very essence or personification of love. God loves perfectly everything He created. In the words of my six-year-old son, "He created everything and everybody." So for God to hate His own creatures, His own creation—even though they sin—is inconsistent with His very nature. So one more time: God does not hate sinners. God hates sin. All sin. All sin stands in the way of our relationship to God. All sin keeps us from living out the lives for which God created us. All sin prevents us from becoming the people God intended for us to be.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church of Corinth, includes what I like to call the sin roll call. "Don't you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers—none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 New Living Translation). It's important to see that Paul not only condemns homosexual sex, but all sexual sin, along with other sins that many people who are not homosexuals commit all the time. He gives all of the listed sins the same weight. No one is any more or less offensive to God than the others. All disqualify those who indulge in them entrance into God's kingdom.

My personal problem with the Church at large is that it tends to treat homosexuality as some unforgivable sin, but winks at many of the others Paul mentions and that are detailed throughout the Bible. I wish that all Christians found their own sins as disgusting or repulsive as they find homosexual behavior.

I have been working on my relationship with Jesus Christ for a little over a decade now. What always gets me is how Christians often misrepresent Jesus to the world and to each other. It is true that Jesus will come back again to judge the living and the dead, but we who are alive now have ample opportunity to know Him as our loving servant-Messiah, who willingly gave up His life so that we could experience all that this life and the next has to offer. Yes, God does have standards. Any relationship does. Healthy people look for relationships where respect, honesty, and loyalty are reciprocated. Well, God's got at least as much sense as you do. He says, "If you want to get with Me, then I need you to at least attempt to live by My principles." He wants us to talk to Him (prayer). He wants us to listen to Him (reading the Bible). He wants us to encourage and walk with each other (fellowship). It really isn't all that complicated. He loves us, knows absolutely what's best for us, and wants us to experience it.

In the same way He desires to heal a burn victim, a man who is addicted to pornography, a woman who can't control her impulse to steal, God desires to heal the man or woman engaged in the gay or lesbian lifestyle. It's too bad that Christians seldom present this side of Jesus to the world. I apologize particularly to any gay man or lesbian who has met condemnation where there should have been grace, or who has encountered hatred where there should have been love. My hope is that you will give Christ the opportunity to show His love for you individually and that you will respond to this invitation to live a new and improved life.

So what relationship, if any, does this have to hip-hop? It has been my experience that hip-hop, being dominated by and having grown out of African-American culture, has a similar view of homosexuality as that of the black Church. Hip-hop is slightly more progressive in that gays and lesbians who are authentic to the culture meet with slightly less antagonism than they do in the Church, but the underlying sentiment in many ways is the same. Gays and lesbians are not embraced or necessarily welcomed as part of the community. I find this interesting, however, because hip-hop so readily flaunts every other vice. A man who sleeps with multitudes of women is championed. People who flaunt their wealth through excess are applauded. Women who bare and grind their bodies are desired (if not necessarily respected). Gangstas who boast about murdering achieve icon status. Folks who get high draw sly smiles and even a few laughs. But gays and lesbians are often alienated, discriminated against, and even targeted for violence. Lesbianism is more fashionable, for lack of a better word, but only in as much as heterosexual men find it arousing. But on the whole, hip-hop and the Church seem to share the view that homosexuality is unacceptable, while seeming to tolerate every other sin.

If the Church and the hip-hop community are barely tolerant of gays and lesbians, then you know they outwardly reject the cross-gendered. The term unnatural never seems to get tossed around more than in reference to those who cross-dress or who have changed or are attempting to change genders. Now, talk about sticky territory. To my knowledge I have never met anyone who cross-dresses or who believes (s)he was born the wrong sex. I have no clinical or academic background in dealing with such individuals. I just know a li'l scripture. I know that God never makes mistakes. God creates people to be either male or female. I have heard of cases where people were born with both sets of genitalia, and in rare cases with both male and female chromosomes. In the case of the former, sometimes the person's genitals were altered in opposition to their chromosomes. Meaning sometimes the penis was removed despite the fact that the baby's chromosomes were XY, or the vaginal opening closed when the chromosomal signature was XX. I have nothing but compassion for any person who has experienced this. People who fall into the abovementioned categories are the only people who have legitimate grounds for gender confusion. Notice that I said gender confusion, not a choice in sexual orientation. Once gender is determined, the sexual orientation is to be heterosexual. The Bible offers no alternative. If you are a person who has been unable to determine his/her gender, I humbly submit that no one can truly help you but God almighty. He created you. He knows who He created you to be. Seek Him diligently in this area of your life until you have His peace. Settle for nothing less. Ask Him to lead you to people with experience and knowledge in this area, who embrace His standard, not the world's. Pursue Him until you get an answer to this very important question. Then depend on the Holy Spirit not only to embrace the answer He gives you, but also to live accordingly.

Just as I know that God never makes mistakes, I also know that the mission of our adversary is to kill us. Barring that, he seeks to confuse us in every area of our lives. He desires to twist the truth so that we cannot get to it or even recognize it when we see it. Confusion at such a basic level as sexual orientation in a person's life has the potential to cripple if not to destroy him or her.

God does not create us gay, transgendered, or in the wrong bodies. The Word does say that we can be born with inherent weaknesses, which the Bible calls iniquities. We are born into sin, but we are never born in error or by mistake. God has a perfect plan and mission for every single soul on this planet. He does not seek to frustrate His own efforts. For the man or woman who faces gender confusion, who questions his or her sexual orientation, the only definitive answer can be found in Christ. Just like you would go to the owner's manual if you were experiencing difficulties with your car, you should go to God if you are experiencing difficulties in your life. You may not enjoy what you hear, but it will be the Truth. And it will be real.

Most of the gay men I know tell me that they knew they were gay early on in life, many from the age of five or six. I have heard the same is true of the cross-gendered. I never argue this point because each person's experience is his or her own. However, I would challenge that recognizing that something about you is different is not confirmation that that difference is from God. We all are born with weak areas in our lives. Science is only just now catching up to confirm that sometimes people can be genetically predisposed to steal, to drink excessively, and to overeat. I know that there is research going on that seeks to confirm that homosexuality is also rooted in genetics. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that a person could be genetically predisposed to be gay. That would only line up with God's Word that we are all born in sin.

My problem with the argument that presupposes gay genes is that people use the predisposition as a validation of the gay/lesbian lifestyle. It's not okay to commit crimes, it's not okay to drink to excess, and it's not okay to be gay—no matter what genes you have. Remember my standard is God's Word, which says all of those things are sin. And just so you don't think I'm biased, heterosexuals don't get off scot-free. God created people to be heterosexual, but simply because we feel like having sex doesn't mean we have the Lord's permission. He set guidelines for this too. No sex apart from marriage!

The point is, our feelings do not dictate what's right. The Bible is really clear on the subject. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Time and time again I have heard homosexuals and the transgendered cite their feelings as grounds for their choices. But feelings are fallen. Anybody who has ever taken high school psychology knows that emotions are the most primitive part of the human animal and often the least developed part of any personality. Feelings can fool you. They are useful, but ultimately they are to be dominated by our wills. Sometimes late at night, my feelings often urge me to indulge in a box of hot Krispy Kremes and milk. But that's a bad idea for so many reasons. First off, doughnuts at a late hour work in opposition to the body I spend time tryin' to tone. Second, I'm severely lactose intolerant. But there are nights when I am certain that because my desires are so strong (they be callin' me, man), almost to the point of being overwhelming, they must be right. Except they're not. They're just real strong. There are men who earnestly feel as though they should beat their wives and girlfriends, but their feelings are wrong. Prisons are full of people who felt like committing murder. They were wrong to follow their feelings. I hear that doing heroin makes you feel great, but at what cost?

You may be in the same place with your desires. You may strongly desire to have sex with people of the same gender. You may strongly desire to change your gender because you are certain that you were born the wrong sex. I don't discount your desires, nor do I discount how early you first became aware of them. I am simply saying that just because they are strong doesn't mean they are right. It's very possible that you are deceived. In fact, I'd count on it.

God is consistent. He never gives us desires only to mock them. He would never make you a man when He really meant for you to be a woman and then condemn you for your desire to become a woman. He isn't sadistic like that. He places His desires in us so that He can fulfill them (Psalm 37:4). He fills us up with good things (Psalms 103:5) so that we can experience the abundant life He promises through Christ. But He won't do it if you don't ask. He stands at the door knocking, but He will never force His way in. He waits for your invite. So know that if your desires (whatever they may be) contradict God's character, then they don't come from Him. Let me rephrase that: If your desires do not line up with God's character or His Word, then they don't come from Him.

If you experience confusion anywhere on any level in your life, go to Him directly. Ask Him to send you folks who will be sensitive to your situation or struggle, not gawkers who will ostracize you or gossip about you. It may take a while, but be encouraged and don't give up. He is intimately acquainted with every detail of your life and waits for you to call on Him. Even if it doesn't feel like He's with you, doesn't see you, or can't hear you, He is, does, and can. The Bible promises that if you ask, seek, knock, God stands ready to answer, be found, open the door. If you draw close to Him, He will come close to you. This is good news for those of us who feel that we are all alone with any of our issues. The Word says that Je sus was tempted in every way when He walked among us on earth (Hebrews 4:15). So even if no other human being alive right now can identify with your struggle, He can. Will you go to Him? Will you go to Him on behalf of that person in your life who won't or can't?

If you are someone who is engaged in homosexuality or lesbianism, know that God does not hate you. He hates what you do, no doubt, the same way He hates thievery or prostitution, but loves the thief and the prostitute. He loves you. If you could guess how much, you would be embarrassed for Him. He knows you intimately, better than you know yourself. He knows what paths led you to be where you are right now and He understands. More important, He has provided for you a way out of that lifestyle if you'll take hold of it (1 Corinthians 10:13). If you are happy where you are and don't care about what God thinks or what the Bible says about how to live your life, then there's nothing I can say to you. But if you do care about the eternal consequences of homosexuality, or are concerned about someone who is engaged in that sin, then know that homosexuality is no different to God than heterosexual sex outside of marriage. God does not differentiate between greed, hate, gossip, scheming, swindling, lying, or any other sin you can come up with. We're all in the same boat. We have all sinned and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). So we all need Jesus. If you reach out to Christ, He will equip you to fight the battle against the sin that hinders you—whatever that sin is. And the best part is that you don't have to lie to kick it with God. He already knows your heart and your struggles anyway. And remember He is love (1 John 4:8). His love for you is better than anything you have yet to experience. Come to Him; He won't reject you. He will embrace you and love you "as is." He will love you into a better version of yourself, if you will trust Him enough to give Him a shot.

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