In the last couple years, it seems that everyone is being forced to pick a side. Choose the topic, and you will likely find two very polarized majorities arguing over who is right, and who must obviously wrong. We can feel like our loyalty and even our character is being questioned, and the discussions can turn into brutal arguments. The thing is that for many people, myself included, we can’t choose one side or the other because we have people we deeply love and care about on either side. One of the issues that seems to be a big divider is homosexuality, and unfortunately, many of my fellow “Christians” are acting like the Pharisees of old and looking down on others because they are different.
(Side note: I used the quotes around the term Christian for a reason. You can call yourself a Christian all you want, and use the Bible to back up your beliefs, but unless you love like Christ and accept people then I honestly don’t believe you can label yourself as such.)
In the last few weeks, World Vision (a Christian-based humanitarian organization) announced that they would allow gay Christians in same sex marriages to work there. Almost immediately they were inundated with people telling them they would stop supporting the children they sponsored through World Vision unless they abandoned their new policy. Within a matter of a couple days, World Vision did just that. Ultimately this wasn’t a win for God, it was a travesty that we “Christians” showed the world that we were willing to let kids suffer simply because we weren’t comfortable with someone working at a non-profit business (not a church mind you) if in their private lives they were married to a consenting adult of the same sex. Anyone else see how we’ve become like the priest and the Levite who passed by the man lying beaten on the side of the road only to be watch for someone outside the church (in that case a Samaritan) to do the right thing (see Luke 10:25-37)?
In order to further explain my feelings, I’ll share some of my personal history. I had a tough time in the first three years of high school knowing who my friends were. I take as much responsibility for the situation that I found myself in, so I’m not naive enough to think I played no part in it. I know many people have experienced this feeling in their lifetime, but this was a first for me. I moved around a lot as a kid and had become pretty good at making new friends. This caused an immense amount of self-doubt and my self-esteem plummeted. Thankfully, my amazing parents were always there for me, and I made it through a couple of very tough years. But coming out of this, I was pretty shaken as to who I was, and what value I had to anyone outside my family.
Toward the tail end of my junior year, we moved and quite honestly, I was grateful that it came when it did because I could kick the dust off the old city and dive head first into the new. We started going to a large church and thankfully I fell right in with some really great friends. They accepted me for who I was, and actually shared my weird sense of humor. The next 18 months or so were great for me, and potentially even saved my life. But then came the fall after I graduated from high school. My new friends were heading off to college, and I was staying close to home to go to a local university. The night before one of my friends was leaving for college, I dropped him off at his house and I immediately knew things would never be the same and that I’d have to make new friends again. That thought literally frightened me.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long at college for me to make friends. I met some truly incredible people, and I was able to see that my ability to make friends was not lost. Through their acceptance and love, I realized that I was not broken. If ever I made mistakes, they encouraged me to push through them, and held me accountable to the best they knew I could be. After being friends with a couple different guys for a few years, on separate occasions they both confided in me that they were gay. The first time this happened, it really shook me because I had not knowingly been around gay people before and wasn’t sure what to think. I’d been brought up in church and the by in large had been taught it was a sin. Ultimately, I found that I had to make a conscious choice, either lose a good friend or find a way that I could live with it. Given my issues with not knowing who my friends were earlier in life, it really wasn’t a hard choice for me. I chose my friend vs. feeling like I was right about an issue that I thought was very black and white.
Since my time at college, I can look back and see the impacts my friends have had on me. Frankly I would not be the person I am today without the love and support of my friends. They have taught me more than I could have ever imagined, and they have loved me unconditionally. That’s not to say we haven’t had some rough patches. I think every friendship that last as long as some that I have are not going to be without difficulty. But those times have always been very short-lived, and we’ve always come out stronger for them. These people are like family to me, and they have my undying love and loyalty.
As it turns out, a couple of the key friendships I have had over the years have been with people who happen to be homosexual. They have not only taught me how to love unconditionally, but they have shown me how to look past my own initial judgement of someone and look at the path they have walked to be who they are. But even though I have walked through some tough times with them, I cannot possibly relate to their experiences in this world. These people grew up in church, so it’s not like they don’t know that a majority of Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. And the fact that the majority of the established churches that we all grew up in not only would not accept them, but would villainize them not only hurts them, it hurts me too because you are referring to my family.
One thing I’d like to point out here is that when you accept someone, that doesn’t mean you approve of everything they do. I am accepted by a lot of people, but that’s due in large part to the fact that the majority of my life that is visible to others just so happens to fit in line with what most Christians deem to be acceptable Christian behavior. If I laid my life, actions, and thoughts out to you like an open book, I can absolutely guarantee that many people would have a hard time looking at me the same way again.
I just finished reading the book The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and it really hit home for me. In the book he talks about how we need to live more in the light of God’s love, grace, and mercy and reach out to people who are hurting. One of my favorite quotes from the book was “We are all, equally, privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy.” None of us is better than anyone else. In Matthew 6:10, Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” His will is for us to love others as He loves us, and in doing so we bring a piece of Heaven down to Earth.
Some will say that when you love someone, you must speak the truth to them. They use this as their reason for why they can tell someone else that they believe what they are doing is wrong. While I agree with that in principle, in practice you should only do so when you are actually close to that person, or if they have given you an opportunity to speak into their lives. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and if he didn’t berate people about what they had done wrong in their lives then neither should we. If you do speak that truth out to the general masses, watch how you do it, and have a little tact and grace, otherwise you come off sounding like the folks from Westboro Baptist Church. You know who they are, the “god hates fags” folks. Well, in my opinion, the god they believe in is too small if his love cannot encompass us all.
In his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp said “Truth that is not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it is twisted by other human agendas.” Ask yourself the question “what is my agenda?” If the answer ins’t in alignment with Ephesians 4:29 (“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”), then I’d say you have a problem.
While I wrestle with how others live their lives, I still accept and love them. That’s a lot easier to say than do sometimes, so in writing this I am helping to remind myself to err more on the side of love. I am, and always will be broken, but thankfully with the unconditional love of my friends and family, and the Lord almighty, I am being put back together one piece at a time.