When I accepted Christ and the straight, Christian world became my primary community, I was surprised that there were several men who were not afraid to give the type of hug that says “Your presence in my life is felt and valued”. They weren’t obsessed with “not looking gay”, the way many straight, unbelieving men in my life had been. Their physical affection said one thing very clearly, “we’re not afraid of you or put off by your sexuality.” So will you be someone anointed by God, filled with the Holy Spirit, & walking in the power of Jesus, that will help meet the relational needs of LGBT people?
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 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?
When I’m freed up to not feel like I’m responsible to “create faith” in people, I can enter into people’s questions, accusations, & doubts with shared humanity and my limited perspective yet still be confident that God will use our time together to reveal Himself. Jesus often answered with questions in order to get to the heart of what was behind the inquiry in the first place.
So, very practically, what does that look like?
Sometimes “love the sinner, hate the sin” is rejection that masquerades as acceptance, fooling us into thinking mere words are equivalent pursuing & being present with people. Part of the good news is that I don’t have to hate sin. If I’m honest, I don’t know that I can truly say I’ve even hated my own sin.
The church has expected the gay community to bow their knees to truth without receiving the investment of relational trust. If the God of the universe does not expect our obedience until he has earned our trust, Christians should do the same.
Understand that hurt and judged people easily anticipate condemnation.
The gay community has historically been approached as a community that “needs the truth told to them”, rather than a people to be loved, reached, and cared for. It’s important to shift our perceived role in an LGBT person’s life from “truth teller” to “relational missionary”. Theology is important, but if I lead with theology (what I believe about sex and sexuality) then the person is likely to feel judged and assume I have one agenda in their lives – to make them feel conviction. The truth is, I have no power (nor am I called) to make anyone turn from any sin. The only agenda I want to have is to show someone the goodness and abundant life that comes from walking with Jesus.
Wondering how you can love the gay people at your dinner table over the holidays? Your greatest act of faith this holiday season may be starting the conversation you have been fearing...