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?
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?
When I'm so busy thinking about my defensive response, I don’t have the capacity to feel the pain of your story or appreciate the uniqueness of how God has worked in you thus far in your journey....We often feel the pressure to “tell the truth” to people. We see it as bold and courageous. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s cowardice.
So growing up, I didn’t hear much about “how awful gay people were” but more about “how disgusting they were”. I’m not sure which was more damaging to my identity and how I saw myself. What was even more hurtful was my inevitable conclusion that if my community was repulsed by the thought of gay people, then my family & friends were certainly going to be repulsed by me as well
We get so hung up on the sexual attraction piece of a person’s LGBT identity that it’s hard for some to see that person as anything more than same sex desire. We have to get a bigger vision OF & FOR people if we ever want to help people see, feel, and know the love of the Father.
The fact remains though that some gay people may be attracted to you and navigating this well will prove to be a significant sign that you are a safe, stable person with which to build a deeper friendship. So what if the person is attracted to you? ......
I’ve noticed that even when we are not using the 6 verses on homosexuality, we can sometimes use portions of scripture to paint a picture of God where He is fundamentally opposed to a person until they repent which then causes God to completely change His posture and then pours out every blessing from Heaven. We try to lure people into repentance by saying that God will bless them. This would make sense if I had never met Jesus.....But Dad isn't like that.
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.
I often meet Christians that, during conversation with their LGBT loved one, struggle to get the picture of two men or two women being together out of their heads. The person’s being is somehow swallowed up by who they are sexually and romantically attracted to. I find it a little humorous (and maybe even a little sad) that we have tried to convince LGBT people that they are more than a label, feeling, attraction, or behavior when we have often failed to truly see them that way as well.
Jesus didn’t spend time with people to “get them saved”. He spent time with people to show the heart of the Father towards them...... If my neighbor never wants anything to do with Jesus, would I still see the point in loving a fellow fallen image bearer and see the value of loving others simply for the reward of knowing I loved another person?
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.
Do you fidget? Back up? Go silent? Change the subject? Or just generally look uncomfortable? The way you initially react in these first moments will either invite the person to tell you more or let the person know you’re not interested or uncomfortable.
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.
.....This is what the church has been saying for a long time – and it hasn’t produced the fruit of Christian people being safe, empathic, disciple makers of the LGBT community. Where is the part that shows me how to (or at least gets me started) loving gay people that are interested in Jesus? How do I walk with the transgender person that was raised in church, loves Jesus, and feels that the only viable way forward for her is to transition her body to match what she feels inside? How do I encourage the man that feels called to celibacy, experiences exclusive same sex attraction and feels the church to be a relational desert rather than an oasis?
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...
Showing empathy isn’t saying you voted similarly or differently than they did. It’s not saying you wish the results of the election were different. It’s saying, “I see that you are hurting and disappointed, and because I care about you, my heart hurts for & with you”.
"Does the gay community really need to have a parade? Why do they have to be so 'in your face' about their sexuality?" I get that most straight people are annoyed at the thought of the gay pride parade. I understand that some of my Christian brothers and sisters see this event as a time where gay people "shove their lifestyles in our faces" and "revel in their sin". I get it and I understand it, but I don't agree with it. Because I've been the gay man at the pride parade, and celebrating my sexuality and seeing others like me was like coming up for air in a world that kept trying it's best to drown me.
Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires I’ve often sat and wondered what I would say to some of you now that my life has taken a markedly different direction. I know some of you probably wondered what happened to the guy you used to go out and party with. All of a sudden, I went from clubbing, dating, and drinking, to none of that. Even more than that, I gave up everything I knew, left town, and started studying the Bible. Pretty dramatic I suppose. I know it probably didn’t make sense looking at it on the outside. I know some of you had thought that I had caved to the pressure of straight society, that I would be back, and eventually just accept the fact that I was gay. And that was understandable to many of you. I was 19 after all and there probably isn’t a gay person alive who hasn’t had to deeply wrestle with the reality of their sexuality, their identity, and how they will live in light of it – something they didn’t choose but feel they must choose to accept.
So I wanted to explain what happened. Some of you were intensely hurt by my decision; others were mad and a few easily rolled their eyes and brushed me off. I likely would have had the same reaction had our roles been reversed. I remember speaking with one of you in particular. - “So, what are you? - Straight I suppose?”
- “No. I’m not sure what I am honestly. But I want to follow Jesus”.
I had become pretty disillusioned with gay culture. I had also become pretty disillusioned with me.
It wasn’t because I was gay. Admitting I was gay was actually pretty freeing. No more double life. No more trying to please people. It was actually the man I was becoming that didn’t seem to fit anymore. I didn’t like that a casual night out often turned into heavy drinking and hooking up. And at first I thought it was just me. But many of you were doing the same thing. And even more concerning, those that were 10, 20, and even 30 years older than us, were doing the same thing as well. And I don’t know how you felt, but I felt dirty. Used. It was devaluing of myself and other people. And I felt trapped. Trapped in a cycle of doing the very thing I kept vowing to never do again.
And so I prayed to God in desperation. Not to be straight, but to be free. I wanted to be free of the enslaving cycle that I saw so many of us in. And God answered that very prayer by giving me peace that reached to the depths of my soul.
My heart found rest in one Lover, rather than chasing after many others.
Even more, He didn’t condemn or criticize me. I felt valued, not used and clean rather than dirty. And I knew in that moment that God was much different than we had believed Him to be. He was completely different than the pride parade protesters that shouted in condemnation and the Christians that some of us had the “pleasure” of meeting. This God was real and His love was intense.
So it’s been 10 years. An entire decade has gone by and I’m still following this Jesus. You’re probably surprised. Well me even more so! But when I think about why I follow him, there are so many reasons. And not one has to do with being straight. As you and I both predicted, God did not wave His hand and erase my sexuality, or my past, or my hurt. But He did engage all of those on different levels – and still does.
So why do I continue to follow him?...
I like being His.
He gave me a new identity and one that had nothing to do with my sexuality. He called me son. There’s still something strong that happens in my heart when I sense Him speak that to me.
“You’re mine. You’re home. You belong with me and to me.”
I don’t think I’ll ever get over it or get tired of hearing it. I belong with Him. I was made for Him. And I’m continually uncovering more of what that means each day.
I like being authentic
And I don’t mean to imply that you are not. What I do mean is that living as His son has opened up the door for me to experience and live as He created me to without the smothering dictates of rigid gender roles in Midwestern America or the inflexible, dogmatic stereotype of the gay man. God never invited me to be more “butch”; rather he invited me to experience Him and consequently a more authentic version of myself, which required me asking Him who He actually created me to be. We often told people we were more than a sexuality or sexual orientation, and we were right. But I saw very few gay people actually live like that and I was certainly no exception. Most everything I did revolved around this part of my sexuality; it was the filter I saw most of life through. And God helped me to throw off what everyone was saying I should be and get in touch with who I really am.
I like being loved
His love is altogether different. It’s unconditional and perfect, holy and unending. It’s something my lovers, partners, friends, parents, and even my wife couldn’t and can’t give. The best part is that I can’t be separated from it; it’s unmerited, unearned. I can’t stop it because I didn’t make it happen. And it’s easy to rest in that type of love. I’m not the center of the universe, but sometimes I feel that His eyes are directly on me. He doesn’t show favoritism, but I often feel like his favorite. And it’s not because He gives me what I want or does things my way and in my time. But He has a way of touching the core of who I am, in a place of my soul I didn’t previously know existed. And now I’m ruined of settling for only human love.
I like being known
It’s the cry of my heart and the cry of yours. He knows what makes me come alive. He knows what has broken me in the past and he knows how to mend it. I’m not a mystery to Him in any way. When I become acutely aware of the dark parts of my soul, I can rest knowing that He knew this long ago and it doesn’t jeopardize our relationship even a little. There’s not a human being on the planet that can promise that.
I like having peace
His peace is different. It’s not dependent on people and circumstances. In a raping, warring, molesting world that is often the opposite of peaceful, I am promised peace at the soul level. John 14:27 "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.”
I like loving people
And I don’t mean feeling strong feelings for people. That’s easy. I mean actually loving people – even my enemies. I realized that much of my life had been spent either using people, or at best conditionally loving them. That’s what happens when people are in need of love – as we all are apart from Christ. Out of their poverty of love, people are forced to use others. You can’t give away what you don’t have. My partners were amazing men but I tried to make them my source. That was wrong, and selfish, and I used them. Sure I felt strong feelings for them and at the time I would have declared, “I love you!” But there was no hint of sacrifice or selflessness – 2 bedrocks of truly loving someone else. I was an empty well going to other empty wells for water. And then I met THE Well. And I haven’t thirsted since.
I like worshipping
But not just by raising my hands or singing a song. I love the thought of my life not being lived for me; living beyond myself for a higher purpose that even I don’t fully understand yet or grasp the fullness of. It’s deeply compelling and you and I were made for it. I used to think God must be some egotistical being that creates people and then forces them to worship Him. And then I realized how incredibly freeing it is to worship Him alone and that by worshipping Him, the other things my heart was enslaved to lost their grip.
So I wanted to tell you what I found and about Who found me. Because as much as I know this stirs people up and angers some, I feel selfish keeping it to myself.
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
I didn’t find a dogmatic belief system to be adhered to, but rather a person to follow that led (and is leading) me into greater joy.
I’m asking that you would consider what I’m saying and stop letting your negative experiences with Christians in the past keep you from the very thing you were created for. Sure I’ve met numerous Christians who are hypocritical, or don’t get it, or don’t care to get it. But I’ve met MANY who were real, authentic, imperfect, and loving.
Consider His invitation. Answer His call.
Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires
So I hate the title of this blog. But due to my lack of creativity, there it is. I have had many conversations about gay marriage with many on all sides, even those that are torn between supporting and fighting against it. Is there any middle ground? Because I think that’s where I am currently…….
I know, you’re probably surprised and maybe even disappointed or enraged. Before you shout “heretic!”, write me off, discredit the ministry, or do a number of other things that Christians should stop doing, let me explain.
The more I get involved in this ministry, hear the hearts of gay people, hear the hearts of Christians, and critically think about how to give my theology of love some legs to walk it out, I’m convinced that gay marriage isn’t the issue. Sure, it’s important and for gay people even more so. As a gay man, that’s what I was most concerned about. Would I have a spouse, a future, and be treated as equal? So can you blame those that are LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) for making this a big deal? It makes perfect sense.
What I don’t understand is why Christians make gay marriage the pinnacle of their fight against “the world and culture”.
If Americans, Republicans, or Christians (NOT synonymous terms by the way! J ) happen to stop gays and lesbians from getting married legally, have we really “won” anything? I guess if our goal is to make this country superficially moral with Christian values being displayed, and to go back to our comfortable American lives where people don’t challenge what we’ve always held to be true then yes, that would be a “win”. But I don’t think that is the goal and never should be the goal. The goal is for people to meet Jesus – truly, passionately, intimately, and personally – and to become obedient, from the heart, to follow His best for all of our lives.
I’m convinced that if marriage laws weren’t being overturned, gay people would continue to be out of sight, out of mind for many people. I have ZERO desire to stop gay marriage and go back to sweeping gay people under the rug in our culture AND our churches.
However, I have an intense desire to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Stopping gay marriage will NEVER make a true disciple, it can hardly make a convert. So pouring my energy into stopping something that is probably going to happen anyway, and is happening, seems futile and misdirected. At worst, it continues to widen the divide between the LGBT community and Christians. I’m not called to fight a public policy against a pagan (unbelieving) government. I’m only called to pray for my government and live my life reflecting God’s character, love, and image to a world that doesn’t know Him. I’m only called to, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). I want to make disciples, not go back to “the way things used to be”. The “way things used to be” often means, comfortable, powerless churches who don’t know their God and his heart for the lost. I want more than that. Thank God we’re being offered a chance to rise up and truly show the intense love of God to people who haven’t known it. So thank God for gay marriage. It’s finally waking people up to the fact that these people exist, & they need Jesus.
But won’t gay marriage ruin the moral fabric of our culture?
- I think it’s already ruined and has been for some time. It’s just that this issue has shocked Christian culture back into reality because it’s something that we’re not used to. I don’t want to live in a country that is held together by “moral fabric”. I want to be part of one that is held together by Christ and every word he spoke. The unraveling of culture is not happening because of gay people; it’s happening because fallen people, both gay and straight, have turned away from God and are choosing to live their lives apart from Him.
But won’t gay marriage invite the wrath of God on our nation?
- There’s no way that 2-3% of the population (the estimated percentage of gay people) can single handedly cause God to set His face against an entire nation. If the wrath of God is coming, it’s going to come because of the intense idolatry of most ALL of the American people including its immense greed, overwhelming pride, tremendous drunkenness (both spiritual and natural), its profound laziness, and sickening gluttony that doesn’t just occur in the world but in the churches as well.
- If 2-3% of the population can cause such a huge upheaval in culture, it is not an indictment on the world but on the church. 120 disciples of the early church turned the world upside down and infected a pagan culture with God’s radical love. If our culture goes down the tubes it’s a clear reflection that God’s people have lost site of who He is and who they are themselves. Are we really saying the church is so weak that those that have the very life-giving Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and promised to give us power and boldness is not enough to counteract a Godless culture and a vocal minority? One light will ALWAYS be greater than all the darkness in the world…..always.
I sincerely believe that the greatest problem in our country and our world is not that evil exists but that the Church doesn’t know their God. I’m not waiting on God to conquer His enemies and defeat evil; He’s already done that. Much would turn around if God’s people would surrender to Him, start to seek Him, and be transformed by Him into the likeness of Christ.
So do I think God approves of gay marriage? I don’t. I just see it honestly as a secondary issue to a bigger root problem. As usual, God is probably not interested in fixing the branch issue, but rather the root issue.
I think gay marriage is a distraction for all sides to be honest. It's a distraction for the church because gay people are messing with our idol of comfort and we think they're the problem. It's a distraction for gay people because they think that if they get a spouse and equal rights, they'll be completely content and that the church is keeping them from that. What they really need is not a spouse, but the Living God and His presence in their lives. I'm interested to see what will happen when the LGBT community no longer needs to fight for their right to marry. My guess is that their lovers will fail to satisfy under the weight of trying to be their savior, and just as I was, they'll be in prime position to see that God is the only Lover who can meet the deep longings of the soul. And He'll receive them with gladness and offer them grace as He loves to do. More prodigals coming home; more sheep finding their Shepherd. I can't wait....
So I’m torn on gay marriage. I think it’s a huge departure from God’s design and an inaccurate reflection of Christ and his Church. But on the other hand, I can foresee God using it wonderfully (as He does all things if we submit them to Him), much to the chagrin of many evangelicals and much to the delight of those that truly want to see the LGBT community reached for Christ.