Why I’m Pro-Refugee, Even if it Threatens My Safety

Friends, acquaintances, strangers, politicians, religious leaders and celebrities who are all against accepting refugees constantly claim that accepting refugees means accepting terrorists, which means putting the lives of American citizens at risk. I’ve often heard it said that the best way to optimize the safety of U.S. citizens is to prevent refugees from coming over until the government has a fool-proof system to screen potential refugees in order to ensure that no one seeking to do harm might take up residency in our country.

I can see where they are coming from; we are born with an innate desire for survival. However, I do not agree with them. I disagree for many reasons, on the grounds that if terrorists wanted to get into our country, they will do so another way (and have). But perhaps most fundamentally, I disagree with what the above argument implies: that our safety, the safety of American citizens, is more important and more valuable than the safety of the Syrian refugees. I disagree that it’s an “us” (American citizens)  versus “them” (Syrian refugees) thing.

It’s not.

In my mind, it always has and always will be a “we” thing. When I look at them I don’t see them as being “Syrians” or “refugees.” I don’t see them as “Muslims” or “Christians” (as those who do who argue for the acceptance of only Christian refugees).

While these characteristics are undoubtedly a part of who they are, they are first and foremost people: living, breathing, hurting human beings whose lives and safety are in grave danger. It is our mutual humanity that creates an outpouring of love in me. It’s our shared personhood that stirs my heart to compassionate, eager acceptance and my feet to intentional action.

My being an American citizen and their being a Syrian refugee does, by no means, dictate our worth. The countries we are born in do not determine the importance of our lives. The colors on our flags and the color of our skin do not decide our value.

How dare we shut ourselves, our country, our refuge off to them out of fear for our lives in some distant future when they fear for their lives today.

I would much rather die at the hands of terrorist who took advantage of our acceptance of refugees than live in an isolated bubble from the rest of humanity, turning our backs and shutting our ears to their desperate pleas for help.

I am pro-refugee for one simple reason: they are people, beloved by God, who matter.

Call me naive, idealistic or even ridiculous, but I hope to spend the rest of my life loving people for who they are: people…Apart from nationalities or races, religions or socio-economic status, languages spoken or eduction received.

If for no other reason, may our shared humanity, our shared personhood be what compassionately and intentionally stirs us to pour out mercy, lavish others with kindness,  act in love and invite those in danger into our countries, our churches, our schools, our workplaces and our homes.


I’m Boycotting Target, But Not for the Reasons You Think

In case you missed it, Target announced Tuesday that it will continue to allow “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

In response, the American Family Association started a petition urging people to boycott Target, a petition that has garnered the support of 944,000+ people as of today. The petition is based on the premise that Target’s policy “poses a danger to wives and daughters” and asks people to “pledge to boycott Target stores until it makes protecting women and children a priority.”

As of today, almost one million angry people have signed the petition, vowing to boycott Target.

I, too, am angry. I, too, am boycotting Target. But my anger and my protest have nothing to do with Target’s restroom policy or the transgender community. In fact, I was angry and protesting long before any of them were.

My protest started exactly three years ago today, sitting at my desk in my freshmen college dorm room. Tears tore down my face as my heart simultaneously swelled with anger and broke with anguish. Despondency settled over me like a cloud as I read article after article; Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Bangladesh, had collapsed three days prior, killing over 1,000 garment workers and leaving many more injured. The workers had noticed cracks in the building that very morning, but despite expressing concern to management, had been forced to work in the building. They made clothing for major Western retailers. They made my clothing.

The more I read and researched, the more I learned how truly horrific the garment industry is. The sickening reality is that nearly all of our clothing is made by mistreated, abused, and severely underpaid women and children in developing countries.

That day, for the very first time in my life, my eyes were opened to a devastating truth: major retailers (like Target, Walmart and nearly every other one you can think of) have decided that a t-shirt or a pair of jeans is worth more than a human life. Knowingly or unknowingly, in supporting these companies and purchasing their clothes, we, the customers, have decided that a t-shirt or a pair of jeans is worth more than a human life.

Let me say that again lest you miss it…

We have decided that a $5 t-shirt or a $30 pair of jeans is worth more than a human life.

I want you to really ingest that. Let it wreck you. May it bring you to tears. May you feel the same brokenheartedness, shame, despondency and despair that overwhelmed me at 2:32pm on April 27th, 2013.

When it comes to the ethicality of their clothes, Target receives a D. That means their clothing is made in sweatshops where living, breathing, valuable human beings are verbally, physically and sexually abused, where they are forced to work long days (up to 20 hours), in hazardous conditions and for incredibly small amounts of money.

Target has a beautiful code of conduct on their website stating that they support labor and human rights and that their products are responsibly sourced.

Yet when the bill The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was submitted to Congress to make it illegal to import, export and sell goods made with sweatshop labor, the major retailers with their beautifully crafted codes of conduct vehemently opposed it. Because so long as it remains legal to sell items made in sweatshops, they are able to take advantage of countries like Bangladesh who have little to no labor laws in order to increase their profit margins.

The result? Garment workers are left with voluntary “codes of conduct” that are ultimately no more than empty words on page. They are left to put their lives at risk day in and day out in order to make our clothing.

This, friends, is why I have been protesting. Target, along with Limited, Express, Lands End, JC Penny, and Victoria’s Secret receive a D for ethicality. Wal-mart, Macy’s, Disney, Dilliards, and TJ Maxx receive an F. And that’s just to name a few. The appalling reality is that 98% of all clothing is made in sweatshops (Source).

That is truly something to be angry about.

Because guess what? Using a restroom in a public place is not your right. Target could decide not to offer any restrooms in their stores and that would be okay, because, let me say it again, the ability to use a restroom in a public place is not your right. It is a privilege.

But according to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

  • “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights (Article 1)”
  • “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5)”
  • “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work (Article 23 – 2) “
  • “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his/her interests (Article 23 – 4) ”
  • “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay (Article 24) ”

Those are human rights, and right now, Target along with nearly every other major retailer is violating those rights of the 3 million people who work in the garment industry.

In turning a blind eye and continuing to purchase clothing being made in sweatshops, we are saying that a $5 shirt or a $30 pair of jeans are worth more than 3 million people’s rights, that it’s worth more than 3 million people’s lives.

Target boycotters, you signed the petition vowing to protest until Target “makes protecting women and children a priority.” I challenge you to really care about protecting women and children, not just American women and children, but the women and children who are making your clothes.

I challenge you to join me in protesting not only Target, but every clothing retailer who has decided that clothing and profit margins are more valuable than people. Join me and refuse to purchase unethically made clothing.

Make the pledge here.

To see ethicality ratings of other brands, click here
To learn more, watch this
Want to talk more about ethicality? I’d love to chat!


A Letter to the World on Behalf of Syrian Refugees | From a 21 year old American

Dear World,

My name is Kaitlin Ebeling. I am a lover of bread, people, 2am and F#m. I am a frequenter of coffee shops and other countries. I am a follower of Jesus. I am not a genius or a scholar. I am not the governor of a state or the president of a country; come to think about it, I’ve never been elected for anything! I probably don’t know you, and our paths may never cross, but it is with a heavy and burdened heart that I write you this letter.

I write you on behalf of all the Syrian refugees. Granted, I am neither from Syria nor am I refugee. They have not elected me to do so (see previous paragraph!). I am just 21 years old. I do not have a grand plan to end the catastrophe in Syria. My political knowledge is limited, and my political influence even more so. Perhaps there are plenty of reasons why I should not write this. No doubt, I am under qualified. But I write nonetheless because those 4 million Syrian refugees matter. They matter in my eyes, and they matter in the eyes of my God. They are living, breathing, laughing, crying, feeling, existing, human beings and because of that, they matter.

Dear World, I write you this to remind you that the countries we are born in do not dictate the importance of our lives. The colors on our flags and the color of our skin do not decide our value or worth. Their being from Syria should not determine whether they live or whether they die, so long as we can help it. I fear we have forgotten that our safety is no more important than theirs.

They stand at our borders, barred from entry, in the cold, the wet, the empty and the dark. Meanwhile, we remain content to relax in our warm homes, with walls made of fear and roofs constructed from apprehension. In closing our borders until we can absolutely guarantee the safety of all of our citizens, we have decided that the very lives of our neighbors are worth less. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating for a careless open border policy in which we invite anyone and everyone in to our respective countries. Like you, I do not wish to be the subject of the next terrorist attack. However, I believe in the technology and resources we possess. Each year, millions of different people travel through airports all across the world where systems are in place to properly screen people and decrease the likelihood of terrorist attacks. For years we have been content to check our bags, go through security and board our planes never fearing for our safety or our lives. Why, all of a sudden, do we believe we lack the ability to properly screen a couple million refugees? (But even if you feel that we do not have systems in place to guarantee the proper approval of refugees, I believe that together, we have the resources, the knowledge and the man power to quickly develop them.)

It is impossible to absolutely guarantee the complete safety of our selves, our citizens, and our countries. Even if we could prevent all outside threats (which we can’t), we would still be a threat to ourselves. And in the impossible event that that threat were eliminated as well, there would forever remain threats from nature. You and I both know that to shut our borders until “our safety is certain” is nothing more than a political facade constructed to mask our fear, our ignorance and our apathy. We must not be content to hide behind it, with eyes squeezed closed in desperate hope of debating the problem so long that it eventually disappears.

Dear World, I recognize we may be afraid of what could come if bad men take advantage of the refugee crisis to further execute terror. But I am calling on you to look  fear in the eyes and demand that it move aside, declaring that our choices will reflect the reality we long for rather than that which we’re afraid of.

May we wash our hands not only of terrorism and terrorists, but also of terror. Terror caused by what ifs and maybes; terror caused by others; terror we instill in ourselves; and the terror the Syrian refugees currently live in, as they remain trapped in the in-between.

World, I am inviting you to stand up and vow to consider the lives and the safety of the Syrian refugees as important as our own. In doing so, I believe that we will come to see that the Syrian refugees not only depend on our help, but deserve it.

I invite you to stand alongside me and announce that ignorance, prejudice and fear will no longer influence our behavior. While ignorance, prejudice and fear will lead us to spit out hateful remarks that grossly stereotype all Muslims as terrorists seeking to commit atrocities, love, courage and empathy will prompt us to invite innocent refugees into our homes, our countries and our lives until they can safely return home.

Church, I am calling on you to be the Church. Love the foreigner residing among you as yourself (Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19).
Mothers and Fathers, I’m asking you to view the 2+ million Syrian refugees that are children as your own and to react in the same way you would so desperately wish someone else to react in if those were your children.
Presidents, Governors, Kings and Queens, Emperors, Grand Dukes, Councils, and Prime Ministers I am requesting that you rally together under the shared responsibility to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable.

Bygone are the days when Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan do this alone.

When Syrian refugees flee their country, travel under dangerous circumstances and risk their lives to escape, may they no longer be met by unwelcoming peoples. Instead, may they feel welcomed, cared for and cherished by us, people enshrouded in love and magnanimity.

World, I am challenging you to join me, to shout with our actions that we have resolved not to be reduced by fear.

With hope,


Why I Won’t Tell You That You’re Beautiful

I was on cloud nine after having just returned from exploring South Sudan: the future site for my start-up company’s first production facility. While there I witnessed what it means to be a refugee. I laughed with precious kids who drank water from the Nile and had no clue when their next meal would be. I ate with men who lost numerous loved ones to war, corruption and poverty. I talked with women who were bright eyed and hopeful for their future; who spent their days helping others less fortunate than them with what little they themselves had. I was simultaneously heartbroken and elated; filled with passion, motivation and sheer excitement at the opportunity to be a small part in empowering these incredible people.

I shared all of that and more in a caption of a photo I posted on instagram, a photo that I was hardly in. A well meaning friend read that, they read my passion, my hopes and dreams, I shared what makes me cry and what makes me get out of bed in the morning, and then they commented saying, “you’re so pretty!”

As I ingested those three little words my heart very quickly descended from cloud nine. When did we become so focused on beauty?

I was not disappointed at the comment, I appreciate being told I’m beautiful just as much as the next girl. I was disappointed at the fact that in light of my hard work, ambition, determination and passion, she felt the most important thing to compliment was my appearance. The appearance that will fade away with the coming of age and of lines.

We live in a world where people get paid because they’re pretty; a world where people become famous because they’re attractive; a world that uses ads to subtly tell little girls that the only way they will ever amount to something truly great is if they’re beautiful. There are multi-billion dollar industries that make their success selling products that will seemingly make us prettier. Smart, intelligent, overqualified people do not get hired because they don’t look a certain way. We are told that the most important thing we have to offer is our appearance.

Because all that really matters is that our facial features are symmetrical, that our skin tone is even, that our eyes are big but not too big; what matters is that we’re curvy and still thin, but not too thin and fit, but not bulky; that we’re not too tall and not too short, that we’re naturally tan in December and that our hair lies perfectly according to whatever is perfect that year. Right?

But most of us would read that and say, well no, that’s not all that matters; after all, true beauty is on the inside.

And perhaps that statement best represents our world’s pathetic obsession with beauty. Don’t you see? The idea that true beauty comes from within is still focused on beauty.

Some people are funny and others aren’t, but those lacking wit don’t lose sleep over it. They don’t take comedy classes or buy certain creams and clothes in hopes of becoming funnier. There are no poetic quotes devoted to reminding us all that hilarity comes from within.

Yet we willingly continue to spends thousands of dollars a year on clothes, creams and programs in hopes of becoming prettier.

Quite frankly, I’ve had enough.

I refuse to allow my appearance to affect my self-perception and I will no longer encourage you to do so. Our value and worth isn’t based on what we look like. Our value and worth is based on who Jesus is and what He did on the cross.

Dear friends, acquaintances, strangers, future children and cherished relatives, I will not tell you that you’re beautiful.

I will tell you that you are passionate. You know, the world is far too full of pretty, yet half-hearted people, infirm of purpose, perfunctorily living, working and existing. I will encourage you to not allow your passion to dwindle, day by irreplaceable day in the dismal haze of the almost but not-yet. Our world needs your fearless pursuit of that which inspires you.

I will tell you that you are kind, praising your ability to speak thoughtful words into the lives of those around you.

I will appreciate your hard-working spirit; your fearless pursuit to accomplish whatever lies before you.

I will applaud your humility; your kind and gentle spirit that willingly and eagerly serves without any thought of praise or reward, so selflessly loving others who have nothing to offer.

I will tell you that you are able; able to speak out for what you believe in, even if that means yours is the only voice. When you feel under qualified, I will remind you that the Lord is in the business of taking stutters and using them to address Pharaohs; He takes shepherd boys and uses them to save nations; He takes dead guys and brings them back to life. He’s a God who calls under-qualified people and qualifies them. Not only is He more than capable of using even you, He delights in it.

I will acknowledge your intelligence, highlighting your drive to learn, your constant wonder, your continual fascination.

I will tell you that you are confident; that you do not allow others to dictate your morale, but instead are aware of who you are and Who’s you are.

I will admire your hopeful spirit; your ability to see the good in every situation and remain optimistic when the horrors of the world crush your heart.

I will esteem your love; how freely you give it out without any regard to a person’s ability to likewise return it. Your ability to love a person, a friend, a spouse, a stranger not in absence of their flaws, but in spite of them.

I will speak of your trustworthiness; admiring your commitment to upholding promises, keeping secrets and avoiding gossip.

I will tell you that you are generous; complimenting your willingness to give freely of yourself, your time and your money.

These characteristics will not disappear when you grow old, when your skin sags and your fitness fades. I will tell you all of this and so much more, but I will not tell you that you’re beautiful.

When we truly value such characteristics as these as much, or even more, than we value beauty, our world may be a happier, richer, fuller, more interesting place. We might even see racism evaporate, discrimination perish and shallowness cease.

My Journey Through A Refugee Camp

You could have walked faster than we drove, winding our way around bushes and piles of trash, climbing through hole after hole filled with yesterday’s rain and today’s sewage. I knew what to expect. I knew what I was about to experience. And yet nothing could have prepared me for what was right around the next pile of garbage.
“Welcome,” our national friend says, “to a South Sudanese refugee camp.”

We park next to a temporary tent — the hospital — if it can even be called that. Inside half a dozen patients lined the walls waiting to be treated. Shuffling past them we enter into a small room, furnished with nothing more than a wheelbarrow and tiny plastic table. The wheelbarrow housed what little medicine there was, all of which had been sent over from an outside organization. The doctor sat on a plastic chair at the table, his white coat in stark contrast to his ebony skin. He was a refugee himself, forced to flee his home when war broke out. Having very little formal training, he clung to a small medical book, gleaning information from it as unfamiliar conditions arise. What he lacked in knowledge he made up for in heart.

He treats 40+ people each day, and nearly all of them have one thing in common: preventable diseases….their sicknesses due to a lack of clean water or proper sanitation. But even that sounds too nice a way to put it. Snot falls from noses in an ever steady stream of white slime. A murky haze covers clear, bright eyes. Feces resembles water in consistency. Coughing is as common as laughter. People are suffering. They are sick, despite the doctor’s best efforts. People drink water straight from the Nile, a murky mixture of mud and bacteria. It was either that, or wait for the next government delivery, an unreliable, ever-changing process that could take two weeks or longer. The three existing toilets meant to serve 8,000 people overflow with sewage, mixing with the mud children play in and the ground families sleep on.

Proper holes need to be dug for toilets and wells drilled for drinking. Yet lacking money and resources, the doctor is destined to treating preventable disease after preventable disease with whatever medicine is on hand.

Leaving the hospital we make our way towards the birthing tent, an overcrowded structure formed from PVC pipes and tarps, filled with women and their newborn babies. Entering the shelter, I step over a stick, the “tool” used for severing the umbilical cord. A midwife tends a fire at the front of the tent while mothers line the walls, nursing and cradling their little ones. Having no desire to make these tired mamas a spectacle we quickly leave.

As we loop around the rest of the camp, giggling children trail behind. With each dark, beautiful face that I pass, I begin to notice another thing they all have in common — joy. Each person meets my smile with a genuine grin, quite the opposite of what I expected from people who have left everything behind fleeing for their lives, whose bed is the ground and future uncertain.

Having lingered behind long enough, a dozen children now intermingle with our group. Each child puts up a tiny hand, cultural and language barriers crashing down with each shy wave. One by one little hands extend in my direction, unsure of what they want I reach out mine. A fit of laughter explodes as hands cling on, small fingers wrapping around my hand, then my arm, now both arms. Previous warnings of germ filled, bacteria covered hands quickly dissipate. I look down at their sweet faces, tucking away memories of what each tiny hand feels like entangled with mine, mud gently exfoliating our skin and laughter all around. I have nothing to give them. I can’t speak their language to tell them I love them, or that there is a Heavenly Father that knows each one by name and cherishes them far more than any person ever could. I can only hold these little hands, so hold them I do.

The dark clouds that once loomed in the distance are now atop us. One by one little hands slide away as they seek shelter in one of the many tents. I, for one, am thankful for the storm. As rain drops mix with salty tears, I slide into a tent to wait for the return of the sun.

It’s not the poor living conditions or the sacrifices made, neither the preventable diseases or the overwhelming amount of need that brings me to tears. The thought that wrecks my heart as I stand here in a refugee camp in war torn, politically unstable South Sudan is a thought of home; I think of a group of people in South Carolina who have actively protested the arrival of refugees. I remember the meetings they’ve held, the blogposts they’ve written and the social media posts they’ve published all conveying one message; that refugees aren’t welcome.

Maybe if they could just see this, just be here and experience this, their attitudes toward refugees might change, I think.

But truthfully, I doubt it.

If the golden rule, kindness, compassion, or empathy, if wealth, abundance, education, freedom and safety, if a commandment from the Creator of the universe and Savior of our souls isn’t enough for every last one of us to welcome refugees with open arms and caring hearts, then I doubt being here, standing here in this camp would actually change minds.

That, friends, is what moves me to tears.

As wealthy believers, may we build longer tables and bigger houses, not to put up fences but to invite others in. May we live humbly and give graciously. May we use our money, our resources, our things, to love God and to love His people. And may we never once think we are the only ones with something to give. Those 8,000 refugees showed me what it looks like to have joy dependent on Christ and Christ alone, to still laugh and play despite adversity and to be ever thankful for what I have.

Allow them to teach you the same.

How Christians Should Respond to the Ashley Madison Scandal

Ashley Madison.

Up until a few weeks ago I had never heard of the company, nor did I know things so bold existed. Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there were companies out there making millions of dollars encouraging married, committed people to have an affair.

As a believer, I’ve struggled with how to respond in a way that honors the Lord and brings glory to His name. I’ve cycled through feelings of astonishment, dismay, anger, sadness and even heartbrokenness as I’ve read countless articles from several different viewpoints highlighting numerous sides of the story. What I haven’t seen much of is how believers should respond, especially to other believers whose names appeared on the site. The heartbreaking reality is that there were many who claim Christ that were found to have their emails on the list of members. 400 Church leaders resigned this past Sunday due to their names surfacing in conjunction with Ashley Madison. Josh Duggar, reality tv star and self-proclaimed conservative christian along with christian vlogger Sam Rader and countless other christian figures have been the source of plenty of conversations and controversy. And so it’s with that in mind that I’d like to share several ways that we, as fellow believers, should respond to our brothers and sisters in Christ in the midst of this mess.

I will be the first to shout that I do not have all the answers – this post is as much for me as it is for you. However, the below list comes from time spent in prayer seeking the Lord and from reading His word. I pray that it rings full of the same truth, mercy and grace that Christ would show. Again, I’d like to highlight that this specifically deals with how believers should respond to other believers who are found to be in the middle of this scandal.

In my quiet time recently, I’ve been reading and studying Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the King Artaxerxes I of Persia (now modern Iran). As cupbearer, Nehemiah’s job was to taste and eat everything meant for the king prior to the king doing so; that way, if any of the food or drink was poisoned the king would discover so when Nehemiah fell over ill or even dead. Although it sounds like a terrible job, it was a job of high trust, honor and profit. Nehemiah’s job would have also placed him in the perfect position to speak with and even request favors of the king, something that would prove instrumental in his story later on. With that in mind, here’s three ways Christians should respond to believers outed in the Ashley Madison scandal centered around Nehemiah 1.

  1. We should care
    Apathy is one of my pet peeves and I’ve yet to encounter a situation where I believe it to be the answer. What we should not do is show a lack of interest or concern. Rather, we need to care about the situation and about our fellow brethren who are tangled up in this mess. In Nehemiah 1:2 we see Nehemiah inquire about his fellow Jews and their well being. Despite his high status and wealth, Nehemiah does not allow his distance (in miles and status) to alienate his affections. He remembers that he too is a Jew, and though they be out of sight, they are not out of his mind. In the same way, we should inquire about the state of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need not allow our status on this issue (of being innocent when it comes to the AM scandal) to alienate our concern and affection from those who are guilty. We too must remember our shared heritage. In the same way that Nehemiah shared the Jewish heritage, we should remember that any believer found on that site has the same heritage as you and I: namely, that we are both sinners, once dead in our sins and following the way of the world, but because of the Lord’s great love and mercy, now made alive in Christ Jesus.
  2. We should mourn
    When we inquire about our brothers and sisters in Christ, and find them to be in trouble and even ruin it should bring us to tears. Headlines like “400 Church Leaders Will Resign This Sunday Because Names Surfaced in Ashley Madison Hack” ought to stop you in your tracks and cause you to mourn. As we see in Nehemiah’s response (v. 4) when he discovers the Jews are very much in ruin (v. 3), the desolations and destructions of the church ought to be the matter of our grief.
  3. We should seek the Lord
    After inquiring about the Jews and mourning their state, Nehemiah fasted and prayed and sought the Lord. In the same way, we should…

    1. …unburden our spirit by pouring out our heart’s to our Heavenly Father, leaving our hurt, frustration and complaints at his feet.
    2. …humbly address God with the respect and awe due to him (v. 5).
    3. …not approach God with doubt, but rather we approach with a holy confidence in his grace and truth, because we know that He “keeps his covenant of love for those who love Him” (v. 5).
    4. …acknowledge sin as a sin (v. 6). I’ve read several articles from believers that relay a message of grace, grace, grace, but no truth. Yes, God is full of mercy and grace, and that’s what sets Christianity apart from so many other religions, but our God is also a God of truth. Let me be very clear, grace without truth is not the gospel. As such, we do need to recognize that being married and looking for an affair via AM is a sin. Josh Duggar sinned. Those 400 church pastors and leaders sinned. As much as it sucks, that’s the truth.
    5. …we should humble ourselves and acknowledge our own sin (v. 6). I love how Nehemiah confesses not just the sins of the Israelites but those of himself and his family. In doing so, he’s reminding himself that he is no better than the Israelites; rather than judgmentally condemning them, he humbly acknowledges that he sins too. In the same way, when we approach God with our frustration and anger over this scandal, we must also confess our sin. We must remember that on our own, we are no better. It is only by the grace of God and Jesus’ work on the cross that we are adopted into sonship. Let us not fool ourselves for even a second into believing we are holier, better or more righteous than thou.
    6. …lastly, our prayers and requests should rest on the promises of God (v. 8). When Nehemiah presents his pleas for the Israelites, it’s founded on the covenant God made them. In the same way, as we kneel before God and lift up the pastors, famous Christians, maybe even your spouse, parent or friend, let our requests to God be founded on his promises to us. Truthfully, we cannot ask God to restore everything back to normal. We can’t ask him to sweep it under the rug or deal with it quickly. Well, we can technically, but it’s likely to result in frustration if and when those prayers go answered. However, we can ask Him to lift our burdens and give us rest (Matt. 11:28-29). We can ask Him to give those believers involved in the scandal strength and power (Isa. 40:29-31). We can beg him to fulfill all of their needs (Phil 4:19). We can request peace in the midst of this chaos (John 14:27). We can rest in the comfort knowing that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He is as well (Matt. 18:18-20). And above all, we can rejoice knowing that victory is ours because of Christ…and that, for whoever is in Christ, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:37-39).

Whatever category you fall into, be it someone guilty of having or looking for an affair, be it a relative or friend of someone caught up in the scandal, or be it a believer removed from the situation…regardless, inquire, show concern, and above all else seek the Lord.

Take heart friends, Christ has already overcome sin, death and the world.

Dear Homosexual America, I’m sorry | An open letter from a Christian

America, in light of the SCOTUS ruling yesterday legalizing gay marriage, I wrote you a letter.

Before I begin, I want to share a little bit about myself so you know exactly who it is writing this letter. My name is Kaitlin. I am a 20 year old college grad with a degree in Business. I am a social entrepreneur. I am a fighter for ethical clothing. I am a braker for birds, thrift store aficionado, travel junkie, and outdoor enthusiast. I am a twin. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am a people lover. But even that doesn’t tell you much about me.

My core, my very identity is this: I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am the daughter of the King of kings, Lord of the nations, Creator of the earth and Lover of souls. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God’s hands and I am precious in His eyes. In Him I’m made perfect and complete, and through Him I am a vessel of mercy and grace. In Him I find purpose, love, guidance and peace. I have laid down my life at the feet of Jesus and surrendered all I am for all of Him. I am His. His servant, His slave, His daughter, His beloved. Any good thing in me comes from Him.

Lastly, before I get started I would like to clearly explain my view on homosexuality so there is no confusion and you aren’t left to wonder. But promise me this, if you have read this far, don’t stop now. Don’t stop if my view differs from yours. Just hear me out.

I believe that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-28, Mark 10:6-9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Corinthians 6:17-20). As I already stated earlier, I believe in the Bible, and I believe it in it’s entirety. There are many things the Bible does not take a clear stance on, but homosexuality is not one of them. One cannot read the Bible and yet walk away thinking it supports gay marriage. I will not argue with or try to persuade you into believing the same thing. That is not the purpose of this post. (However, if you do have questions or would like to have a pleasant, civil conversation regarding this topic, feel free to get in touch — I’ll even buy the coffee!)

So now that you know exactly who is writing this letter and what I believe, let me get started…

Dear LGBT community,

I am so sorry. After scrolling through social media feeds and talking to different people, I am completely and totally heartbroken, I sit here having shed plenty of tears. But not for the reason you might think. I am heartbroken because I cannot get on Facebook or Twitter without reading posts by self-identifying Christians initiating gross arguments with your community or disgustingly apathetic posts regarding how “we win” in the end.
I am so disappointed. These reactions are not Christ-like and they are a very, very poor representation of what it is we believe. I am begging God that you do not judge Christ and His church based on the way some “Christians” have so badly handled this situation.

They have forgotten that they, we, are sinners too. Our nature is wicked disobedience. On our own we followed the ways of this world, worshipping the ruler of the kingdom of the air. We gratified the nature of our flesh, following its desires and thoughts, and were deserving of wrath. But God, being so rich in grace and mercy, when we were dead in our sins and could not help ourselves, made us alive in Christ Jesus. It is by grace we have been saved. (Ephesians 2). Clearly they have forgotten their own depravity, as one cannot understand Christ’s grace and mercy and still respond to sin with judgement and condemnation.  I am sorry.

So many of them are up in arms and even surprised because the Supreme Court’s decision does not align with the Bible. They argue that homosexual marriage should not have been legalized because it does not agree with God’s purpose for marriage. In doing so, they are arguing for a Christian state and a Christian country. Dare I suggest that that does not align with the Bible? Jesus did not come to establish a Christian state. As Jesus says in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus never planned to establish an earthly, Christian Kingdom on this earth. He did not care for a christian state, but for the state of our souls. Yet they have become so wrapped up in having a Christian country that they have forsaken your souls in showing hate and condemnation to you. I am so sorry.

They argue against homosexual marriage on the grounds that it does not honor God, but they completely ignore the fact that for years, many heterosexual marriages have not honored Him either. In the last 30 years, the divorce rate has been the highest ever, with the peak reaching half of all marriages ending in divorce. Heterosexual marriages are filled with adultery and pornography, with husband and wife cohabiting a space but rarely ever acknowledging each other’s presence. I am sorry that rather than addressing the issue as a whole, they address only  homosexual marriages. I’m sorry that Christians as a whole have done a poor job of modeling godly marriages, or that if they have one, they do a poor job of inviting others to be a part of their lives, to witness their God-honoring marriage. We have become so complacent with living our christian lives, in christian communities, with christian friends and have completely shut out the outside world. Jesus came not for the healthy but the sick (Mark 2:17). He spent his time not with the religious but the sinners. I am sorry that we have become content with attending church or church related activities 4 and 5 times a week, and don’t even know the names of our neighbors. I am sorry we do not spend time with the sick.

Lastly, I’m sorry for all the posts you read regarding how “we win in the end.” I am disgusted by the apathy. Yes, Jesus will return one day and sin will be defeated once and for all. Yes, there is a battle against Good and Evil, and yes, Jesus has already won that battle, but that should not be their response. I’ve read posts where people are begging Jesus to come quickly, so that once and for all, sin no longer reins and it is no longer celebrated. I am begging Jesus to wait. If He returns this afternoon I will fall on my face in adoration, and I don’t dare wish to tell Him the right and proper time that He should return. But I beg him to have mercy and compassion and to wait. There are millions of people that do not know the love of our Father, that have not surrendered their lives to Him, and if Jesus returned today all of those people would be separated from God for eternity. I want each and every one of you standing beside me in Heaven worshipping our Good Father. Therefore, I beg Jesus to wait.  I am so sorry that their response is otherwise.

Homosexual America, please forgive us. Forgive us for the bigotry and hatred we have shown, for the many instances that we have failed to display Christ. I love you. Oh how I love. I do not agree with your lifestyle, but I love you nonetheless. That’s the beauty of the gospel…even when Christ did not agree with my sinful lifestyle, He loved me anyway and died for me.

I am praying that as Christians, we would allow Christ’s love, grace, mercy and compassion to flow through us and into your lives. That through our response to this issue, and every other issue out there, you would see Jesus. As you have already discovered, we will fail. When we do, I’m praying we have the humility to admit that we were wrong, to apologize and to seek reconciliation.

I believe that love from your partner will never satisfy the love you are looking for, just like love from a man will never satisfy the love my heart craves. Only Jesus does that. But I pray that my life, more than my mouth, will gloriously display that beautiful truth to you and all I come into contact with. And if you don’t know me, I’m asking the Lord to put someone in your life to display that truth to you.

I love you, regardless of whether or not I know you. And there is always room at my dinner table for you, regardless of who you’re married to (Mark 2:13-17).

In Christ,

Update: Due to the argumentative nature of many comments,  for now I have disabled the discussion section. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to an authentic, respectful conversation! If you would like to get in touch with questions or comments, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to email me at kaitlinebeling@gmail.com – I only ask that you respect my desire to have a pleasant, civil conversation. I have very much enjoyed hearing from people all around the world, thank you for taking time to read the post!