First, to love someone means that you are willing to sit down and listen to their story, to understand, to let your heart break for theirs and to rejoice with their rejoicing. To truly love the LGBTQ+ is to be willing to hear the hard truths of the rejection and alienation they have experienced from the church and to dig into ancient texts to discover how truly loved by God they are.
We must stop rewriting history to fit our own narrative. The church has stood on both sides, both accepting and condemning. It is past time we really listen. The church as a whole has not always stood against the LGBTQ+ community. Today denominations are divided, but those who do stand against them yell the loudest. Fear and hate often overshadow love and kindness.
The Drowning of Stephan Jones, a YA book by Bette Greene, portrays an ultraconservative community raising homophobic Christian teens who ultimately murder a man for being gay. This is how the world sees those of us who profess Christ. Why? Because this is the reality that many of them have seen and the hatred many of them have experienced from the American Christian church. We’ve become so consumed by rules and appearances that we’ve forgotten that ALL are children of God.
That sounds familiar. Who did Jesus call out for that? Oh, that’s right, the Pharisees.
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned” (Matthew 23:13-15 MSG).
Ouch. Remember, God sees the heart.
Loving the LGBTQ+ community means that we do not stand in the way of their faith. We have to stop being the roadblocks that keep them out of the church. God didn’t call us to make others like us; we were called to love others and let God do the work. Changing hearts is not ours to do.
When a gay man asked Jesus for grace
Jesus didn’t shun others for their gender or orientation. There are no boundaries to God’s grace. Can we take one minute to acknowledge how complex and vibrant the Bible truly is? Language is a beautiful thing, and the translation of ancient Greek to English is something worth studying. New layers of meaning are constantly being found as words are held up against other texts and studied alongside other Scripture.
Take for example Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 when Jesus heals a centurion’s pais. If you are familiar with this story, chances are you’ve always heard it translated “servant.” But the word holds the possible translation of son, boy, servant or male lover.
Regardless of the specific meaning, Jesus had more to say regarding the centurion’s faith.
“Taken aback, Jesus said, ‘I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works. This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions — streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God’s kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then those who grew up “in the faith” but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened’” (Matthew 8:10-12 MSG).
Jesus saw a man of faith from outside the community. The centurion represented a completely different culture than the one Jesus and His followers occupied. In fact, he was one of the oppressors and still there was room for him in God’s family. In a move typical of Jesus, He made the banquet table of God even more inclusive by welcoming in an outsider that looked nothing like the pious God followers of the day.
You and I are called to go and do likewise.
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