I’ll have to admit that when I first opened Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach, I trod very lightly around his arguments and stories, but about halfway through the book, I was nodding triumphantly and wondering who to share the book with once I’m finished. Caleb Kaltenbach grew up with a two mothers and a father who eventually also admitted to same-sex attractions. His childhood was full of people who had been hurt by Christians judging their lifestyle. As an teenager, Caleb began exploring church in order to pick holes in their arguments but ended up finding Christ. He said that when he read Jesus’s words in the Bible, “they ripped [him] apart”. He faced rocky roads as he admitted to his parents that he had a new faith which didn’t approve of their lifestyle.
I believe this book was written before the latest Supreme Court ruling about same-sex marriage. That decision shook many people in my community and scared them about the future. To be honest, it scared me a bit too because I wasn’t sure what it would mean for the future. Kaltenbach gave me some hope when he reminded his readers that no matter what happens in the world, God will be with us.That helped me breathe just a bit and realize that it was going to be okay.
The next subject to tackle was how to treat people whose lifestyle is different than mine and goes against some of my core beliefs. Kaltenbach definitely stands in the “sins are equal in God’s eyes” camp. He strongly makes the argument that even though the sin of a homosexual lifestyle is a huge part of someone’s life, God can still forgive it just like any other sin. Therefore, our us-versus-them mentality is costing opportunities to show Christ to people. When we exclude people from our lives because of differences, we aren’t treating people like Christ.
He doesn’t believe that God created some people to be gay. He does believe that the feelings are very real to people for one reason or another and that just like any sin, it would be very hard for them to give up the lifestyle when they choose to completely give their life to Christ. He also believes that it is very possible for a person experiencing same-sex feelings to live a life committed to Christ. His premise is that people can have these thoughts but if they rely on Christ to give them the strength to not act on the feelings. His experiences brought him to the conclusion that the best options are to practice celibacy or a heterosexual marriage based on honesty.
He says, “we should try to help people whose overriding identity is LGBT to become people whose overriding identity is disciple.” I think this means we should not treat people as simply sinners. Yes, everyone sins, but that doesn’t mean our identity has to remain “sinner”. Christ erases that identity and gives us a new identity. “As disciples, we need to let people know that God does not hate them but loves them. God is not mad at them. Rather, he is mad for them.”
His overarching message is that the gospel is messy because there is grace and tough truth. He encourages us to live in tension between grace and truth. Refrain from leaning too far to either side. Tell the truth about God’s words when it is time, but also show God’s love.
I would give this book a 5 out of 5 for combining personal experiences and being completely honest. He makes it very clear that this book is only his interpretation of the Bible so it’s okay for readers to find points of disagreement.
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I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
I just want to add a few reviews for the book for those who are still unsure.
“There is no shortage of books on how Christians can lovingly and meaningfully engage their gay family members and friends. Caleb Kaltenbach has an important message for everyone who shares a commitment to both grace and truth.” — Jim Daly, president, Focus on the Family
Caleb’s story is surprising and unique, and he weaves it together compellingly. He states his views clearly, leaves room for disagreement, and champions love no matter where you are in this conversation.” — Jud Wilhite, senior pastor, Central Christian Church
Some authors have inspirational stories to tell while others have insightful points to make, what makes Caleb’s writing so powerful is that God has given him both.” — Kyle Idleman, author of Not a Fan and teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY