Ask a Pastor Ep. 61 - Watching from Heaven, Homosexual/Trans Kids, Unmarried Couple Visiting
Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.
This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Teaching Pastor and professor at Geneva College, Dr. Terry Thomas, about if people are watching us from Heaven, talking with your kids who are homosexual or transgender, and ground rules for an unmarried couple visiting.
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Kurt Bjorklund: Well, welcome. I am joined today by Dr. Terry Thomas. Terry is a teacher at Geneva, the New Testament and also teaches here at Orchard Hill on a regular basis. We're glad to have Terry.
Terry Thomas: Good to be here.
Kurt Bjorklund: So I brought in the big guns today, as in Terry, because we have some really significant and challenging questions. But I'm going to start with a question that actually is fairly quick and short. Now I told Terry ahead of time that I've never seen him answer a question quickly or in a short manner, so we're going to see how well he does. You have like 30 seconds to answer this question.
Terry Thomas: Okay. All right. I'm ready. I'm ready.
Kurt Bjorklund: See how fast we can do this. Not that we're trying to make short shift of this, but we want to get to the other questions here. And the question is, do people who have died and gone to heaven know what's happening on earth? And it was, can you basically sit in heaven and observe what's happening with people on earth?
Terry Thomas: Well, I start by thinking this, that if they can, I hope that when I turn out the lights, they have the discretion to look away.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay, yes.
Terry Thomas: But here's the deal. As far as I know, I don't think they can.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Terry Thomas: That that would be my ... My sense is that there is one person in heaven who sees everything.
Kurt Bjorklund: That's right. That's a good answer.
Terry Thomas: We should care about that. So, but I think that what theologians call the intermediate state, it's what they talk about. That's that time between when you die and when you're fully resurrected. Okay. There isn't a lot of information in the Bible about what goes on or what it's like during that time for people who have died in faith. We know that they're with the Lord somehow. It's an unnatural way clearly because they don't have a body. And there isn't a lot of information about what happens to them until they're restored.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right.
Terry Thomas: Matter of fact, there tend to be kind of two general theories about it. One is that I think that something called soul sleep that people talked about. And they think that somehow when you die you sort of fall asleep and then the next moment you wake up is when you're resurrected. And so if that were the case, then nobody's looking and seeing anything or that kind of thing. However, I'm thinking that that soul sleep thing is more from passages that talk about death as being falling asleep as a metaphor. It's like a euphemism for dying is falling asleep, so I'm not quite sure that's as easily, you can get a lot of implications from that.
Terry Thomas: The other one is, is that there's a kind of consciousness among people who have died. There's a consciousness that they're with the Lord. That we have some sense that in the book of Revelation we hear about martyrs crying out. I would think you'd have to be somewhat conscious to do that. Again, that could be a metaphorical thing to be saying that there's a demand for justice in the world that will be met by those who didn't see it when they were alive.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So your quick answer is no.
Terry Thomas: No.
Kurt Bjorklund: There's a couple of different different options and sometimes this might even revolve around the idea that a lot of times when people use the word heaven, they conceptualize it as floating around in the cloud somewhere with this ability to see what's happening as opposed to maybe a more robust biblical view, which would have this idea of an intermediate state leading into the new heavens, new earth, where instead of floating around in a disembodied spirit, able to see what's happening here. I'm actually engaging in all of the things that I engaged in at one point before in the new heaven, new earth.
Terry Thomas: Right. And so the emphasis in the Bible clearly is not about that intermediate state. It's about like you said, it's about life now and the life to come. That is the fullness of life.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right.
Terry Thomas: So we should be happy about that and not be concerned and speculate that much. There is one passage that is a little weird when Saul goes to the Witch of Endor to try to talk to the prophet. And there's this sense in which he talks to him. Okay. I would say this, generally speaking in the Bible, it tells you not to try to talk to people who are dead. That's a bad idea. Discouraged. He was making, he made a mistake in doing that. He goes to this witch to do this. And we don't know whether that's just a description of what Saul thought he experienced or whether it was real or if it was a deception of some kind, a demonic deception of some kind that he bought into. But even that, I think that's maybe the only one or there might be some kind of thing like that. But it's in a context...
Kurt Bjorklund: Some people would probably argue and now we are taking time on this question.
Terry Thomas: That's all right.
Kurt Bjorklund: I know. It's all good. Some people would argue is that Luke 16 where you get the whole go tell my brothers.
Terry Thomas: Yeah.
Kurt Bjorklund: About what this is and if I had known you get all of that, that seems to give some idea of knowledge between, but I think you could easily argue that that is a story that's teaching something about the reality of our choices now than it is trying to teach.
Terry Thomas: Plus it's more parabolic.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right.
Terry Thomas: It's more of a Jesus, he's telling us something that necessarily didn't have to happen to make a point.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right, right.
Terry Thomas: So, so all in all I'm saying no, although here's the deal. Angels do see what you do. And I think that they're appointed by God to care for you. I think what we, the rationale between do people see me is sort of like, can I still have some sense of having a relationship with these people that I love, that I've lost.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right. Can I speak and they'll hear me? Can I communicate in a way that even if I don't sense it, they sense it?
Terry Thomas: Yeah. And I would say this, your point was exactly right. The beauty and fullness and depth of the relationship that we'll have with them in the restored kingdom is nothing compared to if somebody could hear you now and when you said something. And you won't think if it means anything anyway.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. Okay. Well let's talk about this and this is a challenging question. So as I heard the podcast on homosexuality, it really hit home. My question is how do I a Christian or what I do feel when it comes, what do I do or feel when it comes to what to do when both of my adult children, one who's gay and one is transgender, admit to basically or say that that's where they're at. Needless to say, I'm broken and lost. I always will love them. I'm not sure how God wants me to interact with them in this situation. The shock of the news that it had brought me to depression and back, I was hospitalized. Basically said, the trauma and a sense of kind of feeling the weight of those decisions became personally traumatic to this person. So how would you speak to that? So somebody who says, I believe my Christian conviction leads me to say, I'm not sure I endorsed the lifestyle, but at the same time I want to love my kids.
Terry Thomas: Yeah. A couple of things. One it is a really heartbreaking situation, if you have two, especially if you have two kids and these are the two kids and you're struggling with this issue, with their decisions and so forth. And you can tell this person is because it's driven them deep into a clinical depression, which is made them, thank goodness they've sought treatment for it. That's a great thing at that point. My sense is that this question, it has a little bit of a what you might call the point of entry through issues about sexuality. But it's really more about parenting in a way. But to start with the first part of it, I would say understanding the experience of your kids. And this isn't just a people with kids, friends or people that you know, other family members I think it's really important.
Terry Thomas: I had these two books, one by a guy named Preston Sprinkles called People to be Loved and it addresses issues about homosexuality and he makes a point of saying is homosexuality is not an issue. It's about people. I think this is a great, and it's a good research-based biblically appropriate response to try to talk about all these things. The other one is by a guy named Mark Yarhouse and it's called understanding gender dysphoria and navigating transgender issues in a changing culture. I would say people would be really encouraged by looking at one of those books to be able to talk these issues. And the subtleties of it, it's not some like black and white kind of either. Matter of fact, I think the issue about homosexuality and transgender is two different issues and two different set of problems related to trying to discuss them and understand what's going on.
Terry Thomas: So I would say that that's important to make that distinction. But then I'd go this way. I'd say, well what do you expect of parents with their kids? What do we expect of parents with their kids? And on the very bottom line, we expect them to love them, right? I mean we expect to say, "Hey look, I'm going to try to continue to love my kids no matter what they do." Now when they're younger, I always talk about the responsibility of parents to be people who give their kids roots but also give their kids wings. That it's a process by which...
Kurt Bjorklund: Sounds like a song.
Terry Thomas: It does sound like a song.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Terry Thomas: Maybe you got to heal those broken wings. But anyway, that's another song. But anyway, you got to figure out how do you do that. And oftentimes what happens is you realize that the things you tried to root them in when they took wings, they decided to leave behind.
Kurt Bjorklund: So I'm guessing for a lot of families where this issue comes up, whether, and I agree there are different issues for homosexuality or transgenderism.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: But what often happens is a child will come home and say, I am gay, I've always been gay, or I became gay, however they phrase it. And you should now accept this.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: And somewhere in here, there's a challenge between what does it mean to love. And I think the homosexual community at least has done a public relations job in terms of saying, if you don't affirm my choice, then you don't love me.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: And that seems to me to be a false dichotomy.
Terry Thomas: I agree.
Kurt Bjorklund: And it's unfortunate because it doesn't allow for clear conversation. And what I would say is, if your child went into prostitution, and I'm not in any way equating homosexuality and prostitution, I understand the differences. But if somebody said, I just always enjoyed sex, I feel like I was born for sex. This is a way to make money. I have no issue with it. I have no moral issue. And it's a good lifestyle for me.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: As a parent, you would love your child, but you might say to them, I'm not sure that's your best choice. You might even use the word sinful.
Terry Thomas: Because that's what parents want. They want the best for their kid.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right.
Terry Thomas: And they never give up on them.
Kurt Bjorklund: And if there was a community of people saying, well, that's an archaic viewpoint. It's steeped in bad religious tradition of the church. It's not in step with culture that has free sexual moorings. And if somebody tells you shouldn't be a prostitute, they don't love you. And the point is that I'm trying to make is that I think a parent can say, I want a different choice for you and I don't even agree with your choice without not loving their child. Now obviously you can debate whether or not they should have that view or not have that view. I understand that that can be debate, but my point is I think people should be able to have different views and still love. And I think that's part of what creates this tension is the dialogue has become, if you do anything other than throw me a party then that then you aren't loving. And that seems to be an unfortunate position that parents and people in general are put in.
Terry Thomas: Yeah, I would say that the other kind of a, if you want to call it a false dichotomy or a reductionism of some kind, is this is the assumption that somehow people are their sexuality, that they're one dimensional. That's what defines them. So here's the thing, you got a kid, this is your kid and they choose to this lifestyle. You don't say, well that's it or something, or that that defines all that you are now. It's just a part of who somebody is. And I think that's what parents need to remind themselves. They love these kids for all that they are. They want the best for them for all that they are. They don't want them making bad financial decisions. They don't want them texting and driving. And there's all kinds of things, you might say, they want the best at that point.
Terry Thomas: And I would say that if that becomes the case, if they realize, if they can keep that in the forefront that that will, that they love their kids, they want the best for them. They're not one dimensional people. They want to be able to have that continuing, nurturing, loving, encouraging relationship with, even if they can't do with everything in their life, they want to be able to do that with their, the fullness of their life. I think that's a really, really good thing. I think too, that I'd want to remind myself as a parent that I'm responsible to try develop a life that is reflective of the fruit of the spirit. And what are some of those things? Patience, kindness, love, self control, and the things that I say. That kind of person, this is who I ought to be. So in my mind, this is where, these are my like three closing things I would say, what I would say to somebody in this situation.
Terry Thomas: One is I think you got to really dwell on self care in a certain sense. You need to do the things that are going to draw you deeper into the gracious relationship of God. You got to do everything you can to be reminded just how good God is and how gracious he is and how powerful he is. Because he's the only person who can actually change somebody. And he can do it from the inside out, which is hard to do, okay. He can change from the inside. And here's what has to happen in this situation. I got to be changed. If I'm the parent, I want to be changed from the inside. I want to be able to continue to love people that whoever they are that I don't necessarily always agree with. And if I stick to somebody's behavior needs to change. It's not me that's going to change it.
Terry Thomas: I'm going to say, God, I trust you to do that. And I think that we really need to work to draw near to God in a relationship like that. I'd say the second thing is that I'd want to be in a community of support perhaps about this particular issue. We talk about people who are struggling with something in their family whatever it is. And we say, hey, it'd be good to have some friends or to be in a situation where you could have some dialogue. This person's already sought out professional counseling, which I think is a great idea in terms of self care.
Terry Thomas: But I think being involved in a regular conversation with friends or with folks and that's where providing information, we're dealing more with the subtleties and issues of particular things would be more helpful to help you understand and to reshape your mind about the way you're going to approach and do those things. And then I think the other thing would be I would be aggressive in my relationship of communicating love to my kids. And I would, and I think what that means is I'd up the communication. I wouldn't go back, I'd up the, I wouldn't make it one dimensional. But I would up the communication and I think those would be things that would help that anxiety a bit.
Kurt Bjorklund: And I would add a couple things too that I think I would challenge the false dichotomy that says, I can't love you if I don't agree with you.
Terry Thomas: You can prove that in by the way you act.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right, exactly. And although, because of the culture on that issue that, you're going to have to challenge that personally because otherwise the idea is simply that you don't throw the party, in some people's mind will be you don't love. And so I would agree, practice love at every turn. I don't think you ever make a mistake leaning into the relationship.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: And I love how you said that you aren't going to bring about change. I think a lot of times parents who get in this situation, anything with their kids that they don't think are great. Think if I can just say the right thing. If their kid drinks too much, they think, well if I just say the right thing right. If I just figure out the right moment to confront it or to say something now I'm going to. People do what they want to do.
Terry Thomas: Sure.
Kurt Bjorklund: At the end of the day, your kids have this thing...
Terry Thomas: Can't control it.
Kurt Bjorklund: Called free will. They are going to do what they want to do and you have done your parenting at a certain point and you say, great, now you do what you want to do and I'm going to love you regardless of what you choose to do. But that doesn't mean that you don't need to have any opinions anymore.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: But in general, your opinions become less welcome as your kids mature on everything from the way they dress to the way they raise their own kids, to the jobs they take to the way they spend their money. You name it, your opinions are less welcome. And so don't have an overly realized view of what you should speak into in terms of their sexuality at a certain age either. And that may sound counter to some people, but what I'm saying is if your kids choose to drive a car that you don't think is safe.
Terry Thomas: Right.
Kurt Bjorklund: Or something or you don't, you don't think is representative of their station in life. At some point you, if you're a wise parent say, you know what, that's their decision. I'm not going to say anything about that. Because to keep hounding on it is to not recognize that our relationship is now changed from a parent child to a parent and an adult child. And those are two radically different relationships. And so sometimes I think that parents and in all areas try too hard to still maintain the, I can speak into my child's life in a way that is still in that sense unique rather than now as a peer, as a friend, as somebody who has been your parent in that relationship.
Terry Thomas: Agreed.
Kurt Bjorklund: So we just have a couple minutes left. So instead of jumping into the other question that we had talked about getting into, well let me just ask you this question.
Terry Thomas: I've been waiting on that one.
Kurt Bjorklund: I know and it's a good one. So we're going to have you for another podcast on that. In fact, we might have Dan Shields host that one with you. And here's a another question somebody asked and we didn't get to it because of time and in different podcasts. But I think you can do this one in three minutes.
Terry Thomas: Okay. Good luck.
Kurt Bjorklund: So somebody said, my son wants to come home with his girlfriend that they're not married and her daughter, I think it was, daughter or son, and wants to stay in our house and my wife and I are disagreeing about whether or not they should stay in the same bedroom. So this in some ways goes to the same parenting issue. What wisdom would you give to a parent who says, should I insist that my adult child who comes home sleeps in a separate bedroom than their sexual partner who is not their spouse? Three minutes, three minutes Terry.
Terry Thomas: Three minutes. Three minutes.
Kurt Bjorklund: Actually now it's two. Because I took a minute to ask the question.
Terry Thomas: Yeah. Well I would say this. I'd say first off, you have the same issues as we were talking about about parenting. At a certain point, you have to relinquish trying to have control over your kids. The ideal situation is that you rooted them well enough that when you decide to give them the wings to have their own control that they chose wisely. Okay. But they don't always choose wisely. Does that mean you can go back to the trying to reroute them. Maybe not. Now on the other hand you can say this, you could say, hey listen, in your own context, sort of on your own time. It'd be like, for instance, if you had kids that used what we would call colorful language and you said, oh hey, maybe you think you can use that with your friends or on the streets some place.
Kurt Bjorklund: Not in our house.
Terry Thomas: Not in our house. Not when we're eating dinner. I don't want to hear that. And I think you have a right to be able to set some limitations about your own experience at that point. So it's again, it's a touchy one. It's one where you got to to, on one hand you got to say, hey, I think I have a right as a parent to be able to set some limitations about what my kids can and can't do with me or in my home context. But I also want to say, hey, I realize I can't change them myself either. That's something God can do and let him speak to that.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, and this may not sound like much of an answer to a somebody who asked that question, but I think the context matters. I don't think there's a completely right or wrong answer to this. I think sometimes if you, by challenging your child know that you're calling them to account, that might be right. At other times it might be right to say, let's just get them here and love on them right where they are. And I think a lot of times what we want in decisions is we want something to be clear right or wrong. And what we really need is discernment. We need the Holy Spirit and discernment to be able to say, well, in this particular situation, what's wise.
Kurt Bjorklund: And when you're talking about adult children coming home with somebody and wanting to stay in your house, there may be a time to say, look, I want you to respect my house and live separately while you're here. And there may be a time to say, great, we're glad to have you. And I know that doesn't feel like much of an answer other than to say, I think that doing the hard work of discernment is actually often the better path than saying, here's my rule. And I always follow this every single time.
Terry Thomas: In context you're right, it is a big deal. So you have younger kids, you may say, hey, listen, for the benefit of these younger kids, I'm still trying to root here in particular. How about giving me a break?
Kurt Bjorklund: Right.
Terry Thomas: So, right. That would be one of the those.
Kurt Bjorklund: And the path that the child is on themselves. Are they flaunting it? Do they or are they just kind of in a lost season where they're wandering and need some love and touchstone? I mean, those things all matter. So, so great. Terry, thank you. And thank you for spending part of your day here. If you have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be happy to address.