Messy Grace (Caleb Kaltenbach) – Review

4 stars

Paul said that while we were still sinners, God extended an offer of relationship toward us!
We need to express that same kind of love – a love that doesn’t wait for people to be perfect or get everything in order before beginning a friendship with us.  It’s imperative that we have grace for people while they are still thinking, speaking, and acting in ways we might not agree with.  And we need to overcome our own inner resistance to getting involved in a relationship with them.  A real mark of spiritual maturity is how we treat someone who is different from us.
People in the LGBT community aren’t a faceless enemy.  They are real people who need to know that God loves them.  People like my dad, my mom, and Vera.  People like some of the other gay men and lesbians I’ll be introducing to you in the rest of the book.
Their lives are far from perfect, sure.  Just like ours.  But unless we choose to get involved in their lives in a loving way, they may never know the Lord who loves them.

Publisher’s Overview
Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents, marched in gay pride parades as a youngster, and experienced firsthand the hatred and bitterness of some Christians toward his family.

But then Caleb surprised everyone, including himself, by becoming a Christian…and a pastor.

Very few issues in Christianity are as divisive as the acceptance of the LGBT community in the church. As a pastor and as a person with beloved family members living a gay lifestyle, Caleb had to face this issue with courage and grace.

Messy Grace shows us that Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t have an exception clause for a gay “neighbor”—or for that matter, any other “neighbor” we might find it hard to relate to. Jesus was able to love these people and yet still hold on to his beliefs. So can you. Even when it’s messy.


My review
This is a departure from my normal fiction fare, but a book that I have been keen to read since I first knew it was going to be released. Finding the balance between loving someone while still standing firm in God’s truth has been the cause of dissent within my own extended family, not just with same-sex relationships but also with opposite-sex relationships outside of marriage, and so I was keen to see how someone in such a unique position approached the issue.

Caleb Kaltenbach has two biological LGBT parents.  They divorced when he was two, meaning he lived alternately with his mother and her lesbian partner (Vera), both very political and active in the LGBT community, and his father, who didn’t reveal his LGBT status to Caleb until he was out of college.

It should be noted that this book is not a discussion of what the Bible says about homosexuality.  There is a chapter in which the author discusses the Bible’s teaching on the subject and explains why these passages cannot be reinterpreted as more liberal theologians have tried to do, but the book’s focus is much more on the need to demonstrate love, not hate, to those in the LGBT community.

The first half of the book focuses on the ‘not hating’ part of the equation, including memories from Caleb’s childhood of the way Christians behaved towards his mother and her partner.  The need to show love, not hate, has never really been in issue with me, and so this part was not really instructive so much as reinforcing what I already knew.  It did give me some insight into why relations are often so strained between Christians and the LGBT community.

The latter half of the book turns to what the author describes as the ‘tension between grace and truth.’  While the author defines this tension as ‘love’ he also tends to use the words ‘love’ and ‘grace’ interchangeably, and I would have liked to have seen this more clearly defined.  In the end, it doesn’t alter the message he hopes to convey: We cannot compromise on God’s word, but neither should we give up on a relationship simply because we don’t approve of what they are doing or how they are living.

The author also shares his thoughts on what to say (or not say) if someone tells you they are gay, as well as his thoughts on how those who are attracted to the same-sex can honour God through celibacy or even, in some cases, heterosexual marriage (not that there is any other kind – I use the adjective here simply to make sure there is no misunderstanding).  He also encourages Christians to actively seek to build relationships with those in the LGBT community – a suggestion that unleashes another whole book’s worth of questions in my mind, particularly when he talks about mixing with the community in their own setting.

In the end I feel as though I was given plenty of ‘what’ (show love, hold fast to truth) but not so much ‘how’.  Maybe I had unrealistic expectations.  After all, every person’s ‘how’ will depend on the situation they are in.  The author also freely admits that it can be especially difficult when a LGBT person in your life essentially says, “If you don’t approve, leave me alone.”  As a follower of Christ, the truth wins regardless of the cost to your relationship with that person.  But he does encourage readers not to give up on that relationship – be patient and persistent, open for reconciliation.  And pray.

This is definitely a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing conversation on this topic, and as a testimony of one man’s experience, it encourages Christians to walk that difficult line where love and truth intersect.  I just couldn’t help wishing there was a little more here to help me find where that line lies.  There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter which would make this an ideal book for study or reading groups wanting to explore the topic.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review.

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.