Stop Fearing Other Christians
I expected many of you would write to me after I posted that Jesus loves homosexuals on A Deeper Story this week. I expected most of those emails to be self-righteous folks trying to set me straight. I also expected a flood of angry comments on the post.
I was right about one thing. Many of you did write to me. Nearly every message included stories of a person in Christian contexts who identified as homosexual. On the whole (with a few too-rare exceptions), these stories told of people who did not find love or grace or mercy or acceptance of who they are – human beings made in the image of God. The people in these stories received only pain and rejection in the Church and from Christians. They were dehumanized and stigmatized and isolated. Every single person who emailed me thanked me for sharing my story and for writing what I did. So far, I have received no hate mail, no declarations of my apostasy, and very few self-righteous comments.
At first, I was encouraged – after all, this must mean we are making progress as a Church in seeing past an issue to the people involved. But as I read the messages people sent me, an incredibly disheartening theme emerged and broke my heart all over again.
It is fear. So many readers, who themselves love and accept their family members and friends who are gay, are terrified to reveal this fact. They are afraid of other Christians. Over and over, readers apologized to me, saying they couldn’t share or “like” my post for fear of what others would think or say.
Of course I understand. I have the same fear. Like I said, I expected a flood of angry emails from Christians accusing me of heresy. I hate those kinds of emails. I’m afraid of other Christians too.
Sit with that thought for a minute: we are afraid to express our love and support for our gay family and friends because of what other Christians will think.
How can this be? How is it that our churches, which exist to share the Good News that Jesus loves us, are so hostile to a certain segment of “us?” Why can we not proclaim this message from the rooftops?
I know that “gay Christian” is no more bizarre a term than “gossipy Christian” or “female Christian” or “stingy Christian” or “foodie Christian.”
I know that God loves each sinner, and each one of us is a sinner.
I know that Jesus reached out to the outcast, the outliers, the ones the rest of society shunned.
I know that you would shun me if you knew how ugly my heart is, how faithless and deceptive and self-loving I am.
I know how wretched it feels to know that if people saw the real me, they would hate me, and thus how desperate I can be to hide the real me.
I know that Jesus knows the real me, and somehow, He still loves me. And when I remember that, it makes me sob huge relieved body-wracking tears.
I know that I will do my best to show that love to you, no matter how ugly the real you is, no matter how many other people shun you. I will be your safe person.
I would bet my mortgage payment that I had written this post about a different topic and called on us to love and listen to and support women who have had abortions, or people who have been divorced, or couples who can’t have babies, or people who are overweight, you wouldn’t be afraid to share or like that message. I know I wouldn’t be afraid to write or publish that post. I guess that means that we’ve made a little progress.
But that is not enough. Nowhere near enough. We still fear sharing the message that God loves people no matter what their sexual orientation. As we used to say in high school, “Sick and wrong.”
I do think that I missed one very important thing in that post. I wish that I had added this: Whether or not you or I believe that God declares homosexuality to be morally wrong, we all can say this: Jesus loves gays because Jesus loves us. You believe that, right? We are all made in God’s image, gay and straight, white and black, male and female, and everyone in between. And we know that “For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
This fear of other Christians ought not be. This fear of respecting and loving the people enmeshed in various “issues” ought not be. If you don’t know how, find some people who do and learn from their example. Brothers and sisters, we must do better. We must love better, those like us and those with whom we disagree or cannot relate.