#12 Engage Like Jesus


     I sometimes wish Jesus was a bit more formulaic when it comes to ministry.  I like formulas.  They’re consistent, routine, and produce something you are expecting.  It takes the guesswork out of life.  I’ve read all of the Gospels multiple times and although Jesus is consistent in loving people, he’s very inconsistent in his methods.  It always seems to be different.  For people who love formulas, Jesus tends to ruin things.  We all agree that loving LGBT people like Jesus is the goal, but putting feet to that statement is difficult because each person may need to be engaged differently. 
            Jesus modeled for us what it looks like for a person to be filled with the Spirit and reflecting the Father to people who had many misconceptions.  From my (limited) understanding of Jesus, he wasn’t all knowing or all powerful, yet he was given insight and endued with supernatural power because He followed and listened to the Father.

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       I work for a counseling ministry whose stated mission is to “help people take next steps with Jesus”.  I love it because this simple statement seems to acknowledge that each person is on a unique journey with Christ and each person is being led, sometimes unknowingly, to the next step of surrender.  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? I meet many people that feel that this is the first thing God MUST want to deal with because in their sin hierarchy, same sex sexual and romantic relationships are the most offensive to the Creator.  I’m thankful God doesn’t see our lives so superficially. 
        In my life, God first earned trust with me, then he started to deal with my sexual expression, then my propensity to gossip and slander others, and then different ways I expressed my gender, and later about unforgiveness towards those that had done me wrong decades ago. I can’t imagine how destructive it might have been if someone had tried to demand I forgive before I was even aware that this was a problem & before God was giving me the grace to do so. It’s crucial that we walk in concert with God as we simultaneously walk with others. However, I’ve met others whose stories reflect a much different order. I’m glad God plays the long game with us. Can you imagine if He convicted you of ALL of your sin and demanded complete repentance and total surrender the moment you invited Christ into your life? It would be overwhelming and impossible, disheartening and confusing.  It reminds me that God is intimately aware of what we need, when we need it, and when we have the capacity to surrender our free will to His will.  He hasn’t put us on an assembly line of sanctification where one size fits all.  He fathers each one of us in beautiful, unique ways (on His timeline) which tell us that no one escapes His view.
      So are you willing to do the hard work of first taking the time to listen and discern what God’s agenda is in the person’s life? Can you be satisfied if God is possibly years away from calling the person to repentance in their sexuality? And can you humble yourself and honor someone else’s journey in such a way that you don’t assume you know the next area of redemption on God’s docket? If we will do this then we are closer to engaging people like Jesus. 

This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people.  Find the condensed list HERE.  These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues.  These blogs have been expounded upon with permission. 
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available