I attended a conference on ministry this week that included a session called “Living in the Tension,” which was designed to guide us in ministering to gay peoples. Like most areas of the country, that’s happening here in the Great Northwest on occasion. The discussion reconfirmed a couple truths.
First, when people tell you that Christians hate gay people, they are big fat liars. You may have had an encounter with a “Christian” who misused that verse in Leviticus and applied it to the person and not the behavior who called you an abomination or some other judgement soaked, holier-than-thou embarrassment. If you have, would you please accept this sinner’s apology on behalf of Christ? You are a fellow image-bearer of my God and cherished by Him. If however, you are passing judgment on the All Of Them scale by one or two nasty encounters with “Christians” you are just as guilty of those that assume All Of You are exactly like the leather-and-chain-draped-half-naked gay couples in pride parades. I know that they do not represent the majority of the LGBT community. The same goes with Christians. Most of us love you.
Second, we love you imperfectly. Often embarrassingly imperfectly. As I sat in that room filled with pastors sharing their interactions with gay nephews, high schoolers, adopted children, and parishioners, every single one of them was trying to figure out how to love their Savior by loving their gay brothers and sisters. Many were bumbling through it. But they were there. Bumbling.
Third, it was clear that some of us found loving and sacrificing for our gay friends easy. Others? Not so much. Loving meant they would have to step out of their comfort zone to extend a welcoming hand to the lesbian couple visiting their church. From what I saw I believe they would. Likely clumsily, but they would. Some found that articulating what scripture says about homosexual behavior came naturally, while others shied away from speaking that difficult truth. They might rather love them with actions and lead them to Jesus without speaking of the matter at all. It’s kinda like we are all very different, no?
One pastor said, “I’m in a small town. And it doesn’t matter if I love my gay neighbor. Because when the local paper comes to me and asks me our stance on the gay marriage bill, there is going to be an uproar if I share what scripture says about marriage.”
Because I am a sneaky pastor’s wife, few in the room knew that they were privileged to be in the company of a know-it-all blogger/wanna-be expert sitting in the third row. So while I didn’t impart all my nuggets of wisdom on them, because even though I love to bask in attention, I decided to check it. So instead I shall bestow my gift of wisdom on you. Long-time followers (sufferers?) of asktheBigot know where I’m going…
So… how DO we “live in the tension?”
Well, we cannot bend God’s truth about marriage and sexuality. Do not do it. You will dishonor your Lord if you cannot speak honestly about His truth on the subject. (Need some details on biblical sexuality? See this, this, and this.)
However, because we cannot bend God’s truth, YOU YOURSELF Christian reader must do the bending. You must bend over backward to serve and minister to your gay family and friends. You must bend your schedule when they are in need. You must bend your heart until you are genuinely compassionate. You must love them first and love them best. (Need some details on loving gay people? See this, this, and this.)
And WHEN you speak with them about God’s truth on the subject (because it will come up if you are honest about your relationship with Christ) it should be gently, privately, and only when it is clear that you will take a bullet for them. (Or help them move. Helping them move should seal the deal.) It should be with the recognition that this is not simply a theological concept for them. This is deeply personal and deeply emotional. And, like all us when faced with a difficult personal truth, they may get defensive, lash out, or withdraw. That is when you pull up your big kid pants and stay with it. You need to remain faithful to as much of a relationship as they will allow. You even humbly take the blows and repay them with kindness. Easier typed than done. This Bigot knows.
This biblical path of faithfully speaking truth and zealously loving your gay friend is like straddling a fence that is slightly too high. OUCH. Most of us would like to hop to one side or the other because standing with tip-toe on each side is VERY uncomfortable and none too lady like. By nature we are either truth tellers or grace givers. But if we do one without the other, we sin. We cannot forsake truth for tolerance. Neither can we kill love on the altar of law. We must both speak the truth and sacrifice for our gay neighbor. We must do both wholeheartedly.
What I am telling you to do is impossible for man. It is impossible for me. Thankfully, it is not impossible for the Spirit of God. We must have a healthy recognition of our inadequacy when ministering to our gay neighbors, family and friends. Heck, that goes for ministering to anyone. Let God speak through you, love through you, and heal through you. Without Him, you may blow it big time and further alienate them from His heart of love. That is a fail. Try your best not to fail. We are talking about Salvation here. Not an experiment in persuasion.
If I could have answered the pastor from the small town, I would have told him that when the reporter for the local paper showed up on their church’s door, he cannot shy away from answering their questions about biblical sexuality honestly. To do so would amount to being ashamed of the gospel. Fail + sin. However, when the residents of Smalltown Oregon opened their papers the next morning, all gay residents should have a resounding response of “I disagree, but MAN, that pastor loves me so much!” If he failed to accomplish that? Also sin.
Will you be hated? Yep. You know that Sinead O’Conner lyric “If they hated me they will hate you?” Not an original line FYI. No matter what you do, some will disapprove. But if you can hold orthodox truth firmly in one hand and sacrificial love firmly in the other hand, you will get a hearty “well done” from your Savior.
And honestly, does anyone else’s opinion matter?