Despite my belief that all scripture is profitable, I continue to say that it wasn’t any of the verses on homosexuality that changed my mind or drew me close to Jesus. It was actually all the verses that pointed to what God was actually like, most accurately displayed through His son, that caused me to want to give up all that was dear to me in order to obtain the One thing that really mattered most – that costly “pearl of great price”. And it’s in that vein of relating to God well and pouring out your heart to Him that the Psalms become a beautiful piece of discipleship. One may think that the Psalms are “for beginners”, but it’s this book – these songs – that give me permission to pour out my heart and engage the grief, lament, and anger of my humanity. So the question might be, “will you not just present Scripture, but will you use the right ones that meet the deeper need of LGBT people….”
In the sexuality conversation, more people get hung up on talking about Jesus, than actually revealing who he is. You might feel a lot of pressure to talk about sexual ethics when you’re with LGBT people, but I think that’s because we’ve misinterpreted our purpose in people’s lives altogether. I think this is where we have failed the LGBT people in our communities. Our role is not to correct values, it’s to reveal something much larger…..
When I start talking about churches becoming safe places for LGBT people to connect with Jesus, I get the question, “But where do we draw the line?” It can be a legitimate question. However, that question can be asked with different motives and I would invite us all to examine those motives because “where do we draw the line?” can also be asked with the intention of wanting to keep a hierarchical distance between straight & gay people in the church. To be more pointed, it can say, “you can’t truly belong until…..”. So let’s examine our motives and then ask questions that posture our hearts to receive LGBT people warmly…
Those who are LGBT are certainly a minority group. This has nothing to do with morality, spirituality, or ethics. More than 90% identify as heterosexual, making it very clear that if you identify as straight, you are in the majority and therefore have power. Knowing, realizing, and using this power is crucial because those in the majority ALWAYS have the power to invite in, make room for, and help restore dignity. So how will you wield the power you already have (and can’t get rid of) to invite others in?
On my journey I feel I have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that despite my orientation, a same sex relationship is not God’s best for me and that despite my leanings, stewardship of my sexuality His way leads to greater life and joy even when it involves suffering. Without this “convincing”, without this confidence in a person’s soul, without this faith, adherence to a sexual ethic is just white knuckled obedience at best – which I don’t believe is what God is after for us. So with this in mind, how will you compassionately engage LGBT people?
People often ask what convinced me to surrender my sexuality to Christ, despite him not changing my orientation. They ask as if there’s a secret truth or special verse that did a magic trick in my heart, mind, and soul. What convinced me is the same thing that convinces you, my friend – God’s goodness. I had walked with Him long enough to be convinced that He could be trusted to fill my soul and satisfy my heart even if I gave him the very thing I thought would fulfill me most and came the most natural to me.
So can you practice patience by surrendering your ideas of what others should repent of next?
The kind of judgement that Jesus tells his followers is NOT for them, is the kind that renders verdicts, separates humanity into tribes of “us” & “them”, and creates hierarchies for who is in (God’s family) and who is out (and will be eternally separated from Him). The trinitarian God goes to great lengths to show us, specifically in the book of Acts, that those that God’s people traditionally had thought were “out”, are actually declared “chosen”. So will you allow God to use you to communicate and be a conduit for the great truth that mercy has actually triumphed over judgment?
The message was clear, gay and Christian were polar opposites, there was no gray in being gay, and allegiance to one group was to betray the other. When we adopt such a polarizing stance, I think it reveals how obsessed we are with knowing who’s in and who’s out and also that we don’t understand a core message of Christianity..... Which is why I’m very committed to not making “gay” the disqualifier for faith in God and belonging in His family.
I think it’s definitely odd that we’ve raised several generations of people, especially boys, that will refuse to engage in things they are good at (or talk about things they like) simply because it might signal something about their sexuality. As I’ve walked with God, I believe I’ve found a new freedom to really own my giftings, talents, and abilities, to disregard the shame others may imply, or the attachment to a sexual orientation those things might signal. An identity label doesn’t give me permission to enjoy things I’m good at, God does. One thing my church did well when I decided to steward my sexuality towards a more traditional ethic, was that they made room for my gifts rather than just tolerating them.
I often hear straight Christians comparing homosexuality to other sexual sins or their own experience with how this fallen world has affected them saying, “see! It’s the same thing!”. While there may be many similarities, sexual identity and the LGBT experience makes it very unique for several reasons which, if not recognized, will hinder your relationship and conversations with LGBT people.....
We sometimes lack the ability to give people space to wrestle with God. I’ve noticed that this creates tension IN US as we are attempting to minister to others... someone repenting, or simply turning from sin, becomes more about us (and our comfort) than it is about them.
It’s important to remember that when the subject of repentance comes up, I want to help facilitate, shepherd, and steward this mentality & atmosphere. I hope this paints a picture marked by gentleness & patience rather than the “turn or burn” mentality that historic, American Christianity has been shaped by. I remember in those moments my experience with the invitational way that God has called me to repentance, rather than His demand for obedience.....
I often say that when I first felt the Holy Spirit one Sunday morning that I never felt like God was ignoring my sin, it felt like he looked beyond it. It was as if my Father said, “I know what your rebellion against me is about and I get it.” And then he proceeded to meet my core need to know and be known, softening my fear of being alone and insecure, and showing me that He is the fulfillment of the very thing I’ve been looking for.....
If I see a group of people as my enemy, or as the ones who are messing up my world, I will likely do very little to create justice for them when obvious injustice happens to them. My unspoken thought might be that they deserve it or I might even feel a twinge of satisfaction at their misfortune. But Jesus messes it all up, as he tends to do, and refuses to accept the invitation to become mutual enemies. His actions declare, “This is how it is in MY kingdom – opponents are made friends and enemies are loved.” So I make a conscious decision that LGBT people will NEVER be my enemy. I will not see them through that lens because they’re too valuable. And because they’re not my enemy, my heart is moved to create justice for the most oppressed and vulnerable in their community.
Simple things like weeping with those who weep have become hijacked by the culture war - so much so that to do what simply should come naturally in relationship with LGBT people causes some to feel they are "breaking the rules". So in this blog I share actual moments where God has reminded me to cast off the petty rules I've learned from Christian culture and embrace what it means to be human with those Jesus loves.
If you want to give an authentic response that is comforting and welcoming, an excited “I love gay people” response doesn’t really do it. Why? Because you may like some gay people, but you certainly don’t like all of them. And neither do I. So what does a genuine, authentic response look like when someone tells you they are gay?
It seems accurate to say that in the sexuality conversation condoning sin is the “#1 evangelical fear”. This is where we get hung up and this is often why we don’t enter into relationship and conversation easily with LGBT folks. We’re constantly torn between being the loving reflection of Jesus and feeling we need to make our values known (or God might be disappointed with us).
But what if you don’t actually have the power to condone sin? And where did we get the idea that we do?
Asking about the person’s significant other seems like a bold move to many conservative people I meet. There’s fear that you might send the wrong message. But asking about the people & events in someone’s day to day really says one thing very loudly: “I’m interested in the details of your life”.
A safe space allows people to be where they are. It sounds simple enough but in practice can really challenge the “evangelist” or “truth teller” inside all of us. People rarely sin because of an intellectual deficit or lack of knowing the truth. But people more often sin because they doubt God will be more satisfying than what sin has offered them. So I spend less time trying to convince someone to move from the place they currently are and more time asking how they got there.
So in conversations where someone is asking questions they feel they already know the answer to, LGBT people most often respond with defensiveness. This isn’t because “they love their sin”, but more because they’ve been put on the stand and told to “defend your case”.....But if I will simply choose to adopt a posture of humble curiosity, I will be giving someone the space & permission to let down their defenses.
As a counselor, pastor, disciple, and disciple-maker, it seems crucial that with every person I sit with that I take time to listen and discern what God might be doing in that person and how I can aid in helping him/her take that next step. What this implies is that I surrender any agenda I may have to try to make someone turn from an ideology or behavior before God may be “touching” that area of their life. To be more pointed, what if God isn’t even interested in convicting or dealing with someone about their sexuality or gender expression at the moment you are talking with them?