A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Hier stehe ich nicht; ich kann nicht anders

From Lewis Smedes, quoted by the Real Live Preacher:

Dear God, I am unsure of what is right because there are people I respect on both sides of this issue. But I cannot stand against my friends and remain emotionally healthy. It will kill me to stand against them. I cannot do it. Forgive me for my weakness, my fear, my unwillingness to take chances, and for all the times when I have been wrong and believed the wrong things. I pray that you bless whatever goodness you find in me. You know my heart and my desire.


8 responses to “Hier stehe ich nicht; ich kann nicht anders

  1. Mark Fitzgerald March 21, 2006 at 2:21 am

    Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended upon man.
    -Francis Cardinal Spellman

  2. Natalia March 22, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Wait, we’re supposed to be emotionally healthy?
    Does this mean I have to quit grad school?

  3. wrf3 April 15, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    Once again, emotion triumphs over faith. Using the “hier stehe ich…” quote from Luther is really ironic, because Luther used it in defense of “from faith to faith, the just shall live by faith.” But, for many — including RLP — the passage should really say, “from feelings to feelings, the just shall live by feelings.”

  4. Will April 16, 2006 at 8:14 am

    Hmm, I’ve to engage you on this topic–is what ways is “faith” an emotion, it what ways is it not? Did you notice I didn’t exactly quote Luther, but modified his statement? Ah, but I see that you haven’t left enough information to allow me to do so. So, ‘wrf3,’ if you do happen to see this, let’s talk.

  5. wrf3 April 16, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Oh, my… When I read that you had modified Luther’s statement, I went back and re-read it — and had to read it twice before I saw what you meant. I’m fascinated by my ability to not see what was in front of me — I know enough German to easily be able to comprehend what you wrote, but I guess knowing Luther’s quote so well enabled my mind to skip over the change.

    Anyway, I goofed, and for that I apologize.

    As to “is [in?] what ways is ‘faith’ an emotion”, I would say that faith is never an emotion. Some people may base what they take by faith on emotion, but that’s either imprecise description of what they’re doing or using emotion as a substitute for reason.

    Anyway, you have my e-mail address (at least, since it’s required to post a comment I assume you have it), but I do have a very aggressive spam filter since I get up to 10,000 spam e-mails per day…

  6. Will April 16, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    OK, via comments then.

    Smedes was a counselor, as you’re aware–of course emotional health was central to how he discussed, viewed and acted in the world. It’s hard to fault a man for exercising his pastoral and clinical gifts.

    Having to choose between a (weak) Biblical position against homosexuality and the people he called friends caused him anguish and pain. You can see in the throes of ‘pecca fortier’: caught between agape and pistis, he chooses agape. The thing is, if his convictions weren’t important to him, there would be no emotional conflict.

    I’m very sorry that Smedes’s cri de coeur doesn’t seem to affect you. May God bless you with many friends and may their human anguish begin to touch your soul as the anguish of Smedes’s friends touched him.

  7. wrf3 April 16, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    Let me make two comments on the statement “Having to choose between a (weak) Biblical position against homosexuality and the people he called friends caused him anguish and pain.”

    First, I don’t want to get into a flame war, but I don’t agree that the Biblical position against homosexuality is “weak”. We are designed for a purpose. We were not designed to be homosexual any more than we were designed to be fat. And while I can easily claim a genetic component to my struggles with my weight, I am still responsible for every bite I eat and every bit of exercise I don’t take. I never woke up one morning saying “I want to be fat” but, nevertheless, here I am. Being overweight is not good and I will not try to make others think that it is in order to feel better about myself. As you can see, I hold the same position about homosexuality.

    Second, back to Smedes. I don’t agree that his was an either-or choice between faith and love. I don’t like obesity, but that in no way prevents me from loving people who are fat. How can it be otherwise? If it were, I would have to end up hating myself — and I won’t do that. So I don’t understand why it has to be any different with those who are homosexual. Their particular sin is no worse than anyone else’s. I take refuge in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that *while we were yet sinners*, Christ died for us.” So if it is true that God has poured His love into my heart, I should be able to do no less, regardless of their state.

    What about the pain that the message “homosexuality is sin” can cause people? Do I change the message because it makes some uncomfortable? If that were the case then I would have to change the Gospel. Christianity is “problematic” because it says that people are broken beyond the point of human repair. In fact, the response of pain to this message is a sign of that very brokenness. Without recognition of this there is no repentance.

    Smede’s “cry of the heart” certainly does affect me. I am not insensitive to the pain of others. But as Jesus showed, the cure for the pain of Calvary was not to escape it, but to go through it and rise again. So I won’t change what I think is the clear teaching of Scripture because of the pain it may cause. The cure is the Risen Word, not an altered word.

  8. Will April 17, 2006 at 12:47 am


    I’ll just address one point: “What about the pain that the message ‘homosexuality is sin’ can cause people? Do I change the message because it makes some uncomfortable?”

    First, let’s start by taking it out of the abstract, ‘can cause people’ to the more concrete: ’causes pain to my beloved friends in the following ways…’ I don’t know your friends–and I am sincere in my prayer for you, by the way–but for some of my friends and family that pain has included ostracism, self-hatred, verbal and physical abuse, constant guardedness, betrayal of friendships, high costs for therapy, etc. It just might be a good spiritual exercise for you to sit down with someone who is gay and ask the question, “What pain has the message ‘homosexuality is sin’ brought you?” and, then, just listen to the answers.

    This just might make you consider what you mean by ‘homosexuality is sin’ and send you back to Scripture–especially through the lens of the life and teachings of Jesus and his self-described primary lens (Mark 12:28-31, e.g.). Just maybe you won’t be able to completely align your (adjusted?) convictions with what you think the rule of love requires. Just maybe you’ll be still be required to act, to make choices. Just maybe you’ll feel as conflicted as Smedes did. And just maybe you won’t be so ready to consign people like Smedes, RLP, and me to acting on ‘just feelings.’

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