Before I actually review the book, Messy Grace, I want to share with you some backstory.
I recently signed up for an organization that gives free books to bloggers so that they can read and review the book on their blog. As I started to browse through the selection that was available for review, I decided to check out the Faith section. One of the first books that caught my eye was Messy Grace. Honestly, I liked the cover and I liked the title, so I clicked on it to find out more. Then I saw the subtitle, "How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction," and my first thought was, "Nope! Too controversial." I mean, I'm trying to gain a following on this blog. No matter what I believe or say about this book (or homosexuality), I'm going to offend someone, so I moved on.
I was looking at the cookbook selection and I still had this nagging voice in my head saying, "You need to read that book." To which I replied, "I'm scared. I don't want to hurt people and I don't know if I'm strong enough to deal with hateful comments that could possibly come after I post a review." But I couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to read this book. I just felt God saying, "You CANNOT gain a following on falseness and hiding. You have to share your belief in Me. I've given you this platform to share My love and the Gospel." So, with a nauseous stomach, I chose Messy Grace to read and review.
When you're criticized for the things Jesus was, you know you're doing something right. If you're not criticized, then maybe it's time to reexamine what you're doing.
Messy Grace pg. 48
For the most part, I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Kaltenbach, in that it is possible to love a person and not their actions or attitudes. Most of the book is about how, when dealing with people, any group of people, things will get messy. People are messy. As Christians, we have to live in a "tension between grace and truth." It is possible for us, as Christians and disciples of Christ, to love people that identify as LGBT, and to still believe that sexual relations are reserved for married men and women in the eyes of God. We don't find it hard to love an alcoholic or drug addict this way, so why do we find it so hard to do with the LGBT community? And, I think, after reading Pastor Kaltenbach's book I understand a little bit better. For many in the LGBT community, LGBT is that person's identity. It does not only dictate who they are attracted to but what groups they belong to and what media they take in, among other things. When we think that someone just shouldn't be gay, we (Christians) mean that they should stop sleeping with someone of the same sex, but what the LGBT person hears is "stop being who you are." That would be hard for any of us to hear. I'm grateful that Pastor Kaltenbach was able to share this point.
Certainly we should speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). But we should speak it. We don't have to water it down, compromise it, or apologize for it. We don't have the right to change it to make it more palatable according to the prevailing spirit of the age."
Messy Grace pg. 75
I'm also thankful for how much scripture Pastor Kaltenbach used. Honestly, I identified (and probably still do some) as "Lack of Biblical Understanding" Christian. I had always believed what I heard about the Bible saying that homosexuality was a sin, but I never wanted to get into a discussion (like this review) because I couldn't tell you exactly where in the Bible the scripture was found. I am trying to change that. I also liked that Pastor Kaltenbach didn't spoon-feed all of the verses to his readers. There are instances where he paraphrased and gave the verse in parentheses so I had to pull out my Bible and look up the verse myself.
Another section of the book that I found helpful was the "Dos and Don'ts" of how to handle someone coming out to you. I honestly had never thought about how I would react if a person I loved, or any person for that matter, came out to me. I will never know if I will react correctly until I'm put in that situation, but now I feel a little more confident that I won't drive someone out of my life or away from Christ if it happens.
The one thing that I wish Pastor Kaltenbach had included in the book were some actual practical ways Christians and the church can show the grace and truth he speaks of in the book. I have always agreed that you can love a person and not their actions, but I know that not everyone does and I know that many struggle with how this looks in real life. I had students who are gay. One in particular I still care about very much. He was hilarious and infuriating (he did not like to do schoolwork). I still follow him on Facebook and talk to him when I see him around town. I hope for the best for him. We never once had a conversation about his sexual orientation. To me, he was a student, a person, and I hoped and still hope that my example of just trying to live a Christian life somehow spoke to him.
People in the LGBT community aren't a faceless enemy. They are real people who need to know God Loves them.
Messy Grace, pg. 32
The book reaffirmed my views, and Messy Grace clarified some things about the LGBT community for me, and the book showed me some of the scriptural references that I had hoped for in order to be more confident in engaging in discussion. I would recommend this book to anyone that does believe that the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, but is not confident enough to engage in dialogue with people about those beliefs or to any person that is gay, but wants to know what it would look like to be a Christian. I would also recommend it to the Christian that doesn't believe there is a place for the LGBT in the church, because I think that there absolutely is. It may take some sacrificing and changing on their part (as it does any other non-believer) and grace on ours, but the church is wrong to not reach out.
Lastly, I want to apologize to the LGBT community on behalf of Christians. Just like many of us do not think that the "red cup" is an attack on our faith, most of us do not agree with those that spit on you and yell hateful things. I under no circumstances believe that at any point Jesus hates you! Jesus loves you!
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
For more information about the book please click here.
For more information about Caleb Kaltenbach please click here.
Disclaimer: I am a paid Amazon affiliate and this post contains affiliate links. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.