It's happened a lot in the last few years that I've questioned where my family fits in this world. We are messy. But we are real. And once we've let you in you know that what you see is what you get. But we are fierce protectors of self. We've been known to close our ranks quickly in order to conserve energy and keep out anything that would add unnecessary pain. And at times we've even hurt each other. I'd like to think that we are more the norm than the exception - but all too often the church organization that is supposed to be set up to love the "other" isn't so good at doing so.
I've been hearing and reading a lot of stories of hurt. A lot of pain. A lot of mistrust. Confusion. Despair.... It's easy enough to scroll past a Facebook post or turn off the radio in order to avoid being consumed be the discussions that are causing these feelings. But it's not so easy when the things that are being talked about, the people that are being hurt, are your own.
I'm a mom to a gay child. This revelation came out this past Thanksgiving. It's a reality that, if truth be told, I've known since my kid was 3. Our family has been processing what this means since. Not because we are ashamed or think our child is going to hell, but rather because we are scared of what this child's life will be in this world - in a world where their very existence is hated.
I was brought up in the conservative Christian faith (primarily in the South). I've listened to countless sermons where I was told why someone who is gay is a sinner. I've been witness to terrible abuse and disowning by families who have learned of their child's sexual orientation and determined that loving them was not something they could do anymore. I've sat with people who identify as part of the LGBTQ spectrum and held back my tears as they told of beatings and persecution at the hands of those who profess a relationship with Jesus.
"Just pray it out of them."
"Just shock it out of them."
"Just shame it out of them."
"Just beat it out of them."
"Just counsel it out of them."
Never once considering that perhaps what Jesus has asked us to do....
"Just love them."
I don't even like using the word "them". It feels pejorative. Mostly because when used it usually is.
I was sitting in church this last Wednesday listening to a sermon. The pastor was talking about the Pharisees and Sadducee who used to question Jesus in order to "trick" Him - in an attempt to call Him out as ignorant and blasphemous. They focused so much on what they believed the law to be that their focus was on legalism and not on relationship. They cared too much about what others within their ranks might think. They wanted so badly to be seen as "holy" and "righteous" that they continually put others down in order to hold themselves higher. All the while missing the presence of the Savior who was literally seated at the table with them. Jesus was pretty clear all through the bible regarding how He felt about these people - what He thought of those who put legalism above grace and mercy. He cared about relationship.
I could spend countless hours telling you why I am ok with who my child is (for that matter why I'm ok with who all three of my children are). I could spit biblical truths your way. I could talk to you about what I believe the original text to mean when it talks about sexual behaviors, especially given the context of the time. I could share my thoughts on various relationships that are discussed in the bible. I could even give you theories on the influence I believe those in power had on the various translations of the bible.
But I won't. Because we all have our own way of interpreting scripture. That's the beauty of God's word. And I am secure enough in my relationship with Christ and His leading in my life, that I don't think I need to defend my position. Just as I am not going to ask you to defend yours. I don't want you to tell me that you are "sorry" that my child is gay. Or ask me if I'm "ok". I don't want you to tell me that you hope my child finds their way "back to Christ" or try to "pray the gay away". Don't let me know that you can "love the sinner but not the sin".
And if you contact me in an attempt to help me understand why I am wrong in accepting and loving my child just as they are, I will remove myself from your world. And not because I am a Christian who can't accept accountability or admonishment - if you know me well you know I don't ever come to decisions lightly. I'm just beyond sure that God has me exactly where He wants me.
My kid is good. My child is made in God's image and God has my child held tightly to Him.
Here is what I WILL ask you to do, because Christ asked it of you too, just as He has of me.
Love without anger.
Love can not exist in the same space as hate.
I have seen so much hate. So much venom. My child is less safe now than they were just a few months ago thanks to policy and funding changes that have already begun to take place. Thanks to an environment that has been created where human decency and kindness is seen as political correctness and has been replaced with such cruel and vile language and actions.
I opened my Facebook feed yesterday to see numerous individuals had posted their disgust that Disney included a gay character in a movie (spoiler alert: that character was obviously gay in the animated version too).
Listen - you do you. I have no problem with a difference of opinion and belief.
But be mindful of the words you use.
Realize that there might be someone out there who sees what you wrote, or hears what you say - and decides that they don't deserve to live on this earth anymore. You could be the straw that breaks the camels back. Realize that there may be people who are watching your walk with Christ who look to you and decide that He could never love them, because of who they love.
Don't make Jesus exclusive to only those who only follow your interpretation of the laws.
Don't put my God in a box.
Remind yourself that you were commanded to love Christ, and to love one another. Everything else you do hangs on this.
Consider that your words and deeds could be the stumbling block that keeps someone from Christ.
Leave the judgement to God and take care of your own logs.
And finally, I leave you with this. Scripture that is most often considered to be just for those who are in marriage, but was written to the church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 13-
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.