If you read my post last week, you know that I’m working to respond to some concerns I’ve heard expressed over the past several weeks. The first concern, which I responded to last week, is that I have not really clearly shared my goals for all of this (although, I’ve attempted to allude to them through the posts). If you want to read my response to that, as well as my own personal story and why I’m doing what I’m doing, check it out here: My Story and My Goals.
The second concern people have expressed to me is that I have not really clearly shared my approach and strategy for how to achieve these goals (although I’ve attempted to do this somewhat vaguely through my posts as well). As I’ve said before, part of the reason for that is that I am still forming some of this, so I’ve been reluctant to share too much detail about my goals and my strategies up to this point. I hope this post sheds some more light on how I think we should go about reaching the goals I mentioned in my last post. I think there are a couple concrete steps we should take, and in a particular order, but I’m still working through how to verbalize that exactly. But I do want to speak, generally, about what those steps entail.
To start off, let’s review. Here are the goals I mentioned I have in my last post. Again, they will be tweaked a bit as I go, but generally, you will get the point:
My goal is to continue within the LGBT community to:
- Love and serve them in such a way that they sense God’s love, strongly, through our interactions.
- Love them in such a way that in personal relationships we can share our opinions, beliefs, and convictions with one another freely, without fear, and commit to continuing the journey towards truth together.
- Engage in relationships with them where I can challenge, and be challenged, by people (even people I may disagree with) to pursue God and truth more passionately, more consistently, and more fervently.
- Help Christians and churches to do all of the above with the LGBTQ community as well.
- Help the LGBTQ community come to a place where they trust Christians enough to be able to do #1-#3 with the Christian community.
I just completed reading this amazing book by Christine Pohl and Christopher Heuertz called “Friendship at the Margins” The very principles God has been revealing to me over the past several months and years have been captured and expressed so beautifully in its pages. You see, Chris and Christine have this wild idea that we should never make people into projects. Instead, they encourage entering into true and lasting friendships with people, not with the sole intent of evangelizing, but with the true hope of loving them, and encouraging one another in the pursuit of God’s truth. Our relationships should never be based on our desire to change someone, but rather, on our desire to share God’s love with people, and to experience it through mutual friendships. The principles in the book deal mainly in relation to those in poverty situations, those being mistreated, enslaved, or abused, etc. but they are overarching principles which I believe (and one of the author confirmed for me) could certainly be applied in various contexts, including the LGBT community. I’m going to steal from what they have to say because it articulates things in a way far beyond my own ability. If you have not read this book, and you have a heart for showing God’s love to those in the LGBT community, or anyone who has been mistreated or marginalized, click that link above and buy yourself a copy immediately. It is truly life-changing!
One of the ideas the authors present is that if we could learn to see people (in our case, the LGBT community) as individuals loved by God, as fellow travelers, rather than as projects, everything would change between us. Instead of approaching people with the goal of changing or fixing them, the authors of “Friendship at the Margins” encourage approaching people in friendship, with a desire to understand one another, and to show God’s love to each other through our interactions. Jesus said that the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another. Unfortunately, as Christians, we are instead known to be (1) hypocritical, (2) only caring about making converts rather than truly caring about people, (3) antihomosexual, (4) sheltered, (5) too political, (6) and judgemental. (This was found as a result of some fascinating research done by David Kinnaman and in cahoots with the Barna Group which he published in his book “UnChristian”. I highly recommend it.)
I know that there are many opinions about what the Christian’s response should be to homosexuality. But my goal is to make our first response love. When it all shakes out, we may disagree theologically or morally, but I believe we could love each other through that painful process of disagreement, and sharpen each other as a result. I believe that if we can live in the spot where we learn from each other through our disagreements, that we will be pushed closer to Truth (capital T, meaning God’s truth), and thus, closer to God in the midst of that, even in the issue of homosexuality! I believe we could learn to stand in support of one another, as people, even if we don’t stand in support of each other’s beliefs. I believe that loving someone well does not mean you have to support and agree with everything that person does.
It is my firm belief that (1) we lose our voice of influence with a person when we make their moral decisions the first or the only point of conversation with them and (2) that Jesus didn’t operate in the “condemn people first and only love and serve them if they get in line” model that we so often do. Instead, Jesus stood up for and defended the woman caught in adultery, saving her life, in an act of a radical service and mercy. He spoke to and offered the Samaritan woman at the well his gift of everlasting life, when others would never have acknowledged her. He ate dinner with the ones the rest of his society scorned and looked down upon.
Some would argue that part of loving someone is calling them to deny sin (or however you want to phrase it). But do you know what stands out to me? Jesus did all those acts of service and love, towards people who had been marginalized, mistreated and condemned, before he brought morality into the conversation. Jesus earned the right to be heard by people, by first showing them culture-bending, mind-blowing, unfathomable love in the time of their need. If we could only emulate this to our fellow person in the LGBT community, can you imagine that transformation that would take place, in both communities? I can. Oh, I can! Hearts and lives would be forever changed! We would see reconciliation and discipleship happening that is mind blowing! Young men and women who are struggling to come to terms with their orientations would stop taking their lives. They would feel safe asking questions, seeking spiritual guidance, and being truthful in our churches. Oh, that I might see just a glimmer of it happen in my lifetime!
We have to stop treating people as if their ideas, their thoughts, their struggles, and their lives are not worthy of our care and consideration. I think Chris and Christine hit the nail on the head in “Friendship at the Margins” when they said, “We are better able to resist tendencies to reductionism when we are in relationships that affirm each person’s dignity and identity and when we come into those relationships confident that God is already at work in the other person.” Unfortunately, this is not always the stance of humility that Christians, me included, have taken with people. Instead, we define people based on our presuppositions and automatically group them into categories. Before a word ever leaves their mouth, we’ve determined to doubt it’s sincerity, question it’s authenticity, and discount it’s truthfulness. Sad, but true. I know because I’ve been guilty of it.
It’s time to start treating each other with dignity and respect, despite our differences. How else will we ever inspire a community who has been mistreated to trust Christians (and ultimately, God) again? How do we get them to believe that we actually care about them, that we are not in the business of making a project of them? How do we break down the defenses for the past wrongs and inspire them to risk relationship with us once again? We apologize for the past wrongs. We care about what matters to them – their pain, their stories, their challenges. We love and serve them. We humble ourselves. And we pray to God for the opportunity to earn their trust again and to show them the love of God, as he first intended us to.
LGBT people have heard quite a lot about God. Some of them have even heard about his love, because there are some Christians and some churches that are getting it. But in my experience, few in the LGBT community have truly felt and experienced the love that God has for them. Instead, they have been dealt hatred in his name. Few have been told the truth that God loves them and desperately desires relationship with them, that their orientation has nothing to do with their ability to enter relationship with Him. In order to let people know and experience God’s love, we must break down the walls that we have erected to keep people out and instead show them that God’s grace and love are not bound by conditions. And we must show that through our actions. As Chris and Christine put it, “In situations where persons have been brutalized or have suffered at the hands of others, words of comfort, hope and promise – unaccompanied by presence and action – are small comfort indeed.” We must be present. We must be vigilant. We must be full of care, and concern, and action. Our hearts must be open.
You know my goals for this project I am taking on. My approach? Humility. Service. Love. So that the LGBT community can feel safe with me, and hopefully, with you too. So that they can experience God’s love, some of them for the first time, even if they don’t want to “become a Christian”. So that they can get to know the God I serve, the Jesus I am in love with. So that they have room, and space, and grace, and encouragement to grow in relationship with God (if they so desire it). And so that we can tear down the walls that separate us from each other, build bridges of trust and reconciliation, and ultimately, acquaint this beautiful community of people with the God that desires a relationship with them.
So, there’s my approach, in all of it’s non-succinctness. My goal is to, within the next few months, narrow it down and make it a little more bullet pointed for you. But thanks (and kuddos!) to those of you who have taken time to read that which burns in my heart in the meantime. One thing I plan to do (hopefully in the near future) is to write up some general “Here’s What We Believe” type of information for those of you who are curious. But again, wording is of utmost importance so bear with me as I build this framework. Lastly, I have two very important things to say.
First, I do not know everything. In fact, I hardly know anything. So I’m just trying to stick to the basics: loving like Jesus loves.
Second, Conservative Christians – you probably think I’m being too “non-committal” LGBTQ – you might think I’m not driving a hard enough stance for your full acceptance into society, the church, etc. To both of you, I say, I’m sorry if I have offended you. I had anticipated it, but I don’t revel in it. I’m just a person and I will fail you. But I hope that you know that when I do, I’m sorry. I will just keep trying to do the right thing the best I know how. And trying to love the way Jesus did. I hope I get at least some of it right. I’ll keep on working on it. Just keep coming back!
Keep the faith! Much love!