“I’ve been convinced that LGBT Christians have a special role to play in teaching the church how to be Christian.”
― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
When I was growing up, there was that one boy in youth group that everyone had a crush on. You know the type; drop dead gorgeous, plays a musical instrument like a magician, makes you feel like you’re the most important person in his world, and can make you laugh when no one else can. He hangs around with all the girls, but never dates any of them. All the girls are in love with him, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in anyone particular.
Everyone in your youth group graduates and moves away and you lose track of this boy. Then one day years later you find out that he’s gay and had been hiding it from everyone all along. The deep sadness and empathy for him, growing up feeling alone and having to hide his orientation because of his fear of judgement from the religious community surrounding you hits you like a brick wall.
Fast forward twenty years, and one of your good friends from church comes out to you. Only she has one little complication. She’s married and has children, and she’s attracted to you. What do you do? How do you react?
I’ll tell you what my reaction was:
“Ok. I love you. I’m here for you, whatever you decide. Whether or not you decide to stay with your husband, or whether you chose to leave and pursue a different lifestyle, I’m here. I will stay beside you all the way. Through the pain and the loss and the good and the bad. Because I love you. No judgement, no fear.”
Holy Hannah, you can imagine how well that went over with my church at the time…not well. Not well at all.
She is no longer allowed to have contact with me because I am “dangerous” and I was “taking her away from God’s will for her” because I did not tell her what to do. I did not judge her and clobber her with scripture verses ( which by the way she already knows, probably better than I do) or inform her that the only way she could live was whatever way my interpretation of her life should be.
I miss her.
Fast forward another two years, and I meet a lovely woman and her bride at my current church. I decided I needed to know more. So this week we met for coffee. What an amazing experience it was for me to be able to sit down with this lady and listen to her story.
I did what most Christians do. I asked her about those clobber verses in the Bible that speak on homosexuality. How does she respond to that? How does she view those verses in light of her lifestyle? How does she handle the reactions of friends and family who have disowned her and told her she can’t possibly be a follower of Jesus and be a practicing gay woman.
Here’s the thing. I’ve read the books on both sides of the argument. I’ve listened to brilliant people speak on both sides of the debate both for and against homosexuality. I’ve done my homework. But there is a difference between intellectual knowledge and having relationship which leads to true understanding. For me, knowledge is not enough. I need to understand on a personal level.
This woman I met with was one of the most Jesus centred people I have ever met. Her whole worldview centres around and comes back to relationship with Him. We spoke for two hours, and I think I was reminded more about the importance of having a relationship with my Saviour and Creator than I have been in a month of Sundays.
Whether you agree with homosexuality or not is not the true issue. What is important is whether or not you are in relationship with your Creator, your Saviour, and your God.
What is important is how you treat those who live a lifestyle different from your own. What is important is how much you reflect Jesus in your thoughts, your words and your actions.
This woman said something to me that I will never forget. She said to me “I have searched for God for many, many years. I grew up in the church. I wrestled with my orientation and my faith for a decade. It was hell. But it was in my wrestling and asking and doubting that I met him. He has revealed himself to me and I know he loves me and that I am his. And if I’m wrong in my lifestyle, if I am wrong in my beliefs, then I’m trusting him to show that to me, whatever that looks like.”
How many people do you know that actually say “I could be wrong in my understanding of God’s word and God’s will for me. And if I am, I trust he will show me and I will change.”
I’ll tell you how many I know… Like five.
The humility in her words was so poignant. She’s not walking around filled with self righteous pride. She’s not returning scathing rebukes with hate filled words of her own. She is looking at her own life and her own sin and her own issues, no one else’s. And she is responding with the love of Jesus.
And that my friends, is who I want to be.