I woke up the other day to a memory from when I was a 10 year old girl. It was strange because the dream I was having before I woke up had nothing to do with the memory, but there it was nonetheless.
I was in the 5th grade. A boy in my class was having a surprise party for his birthday. It happened to fall on the same day my family was moving. In order for me to go, I had to get there an hour or two before the party was starting. My mom contacted his mom and she was more than happy to have me arrive early so that I could attend. It wasn’t a big deal to me to sit with an adult I had never met before. Back then people would have said I had an old soul and I was very comfortable with adults.
I can remember so much about that day. I can see myself sitting in his kitchen chatting with his mom. I even helped her with some of the party prep. I can remember bursting at the seams about the gift I was going to give my classmate. It was a five dollar bill. Just a few weeks prior, my mom’s boss had me go around our neighborhood and put an advertisement on everyone’s door. For the task, I was rewarded with a five dollar bill. I felt like the richest kid in the world. Back then to a 10 year old that was a lot of money. So I could barely contain my excitement to give my classmate this same joy. I also may have had a crush on him (smile).
During our chat, I mentioned to his mom what I got him for his birthday. She sternly said, “Oh honey that is too much. You can’t give him that.” I immediately regretted sharing with her. She insisted that she replace my five dollars with a two dollar bill that she had tucked away. She said that her son would love it. I had never seen a two dollar bill before, but I can tell you that I didn’t love it. I didn’t know what to do. I mean…what could I do? I was a 10 year old girl. I had to listen to my elders. I reluctantly gave her his birthday card and she made the switch along with giving me the 3 dollars in “change.” I was crushed.
Little by little my friends arrived and we got into our hiding places to yell surprise when our classmate arrived home. It was a success…he was very surprised. When it came time for gift giving, my stomach was in knots. I dreaded it. One by one, he opened cards from our fellow classmates, and one by one five dollar bills floated out of the cards. Until he got to mine. He opened it and the two dollar bill spilled out onto the floor. He was so sweet and made such a big deal about it. I wanted to melt into the floor and disappear. I actually felt ashamed. I remember it as if it were yesterday and to this day (42 years later) I get anxious when I give someone a gift…every time. I am always afraid they aren’t going to like it or it’s not going to be enough.
A friend contacted me back in November regarding a message she had just heard at her church. She wondered what I might think of it. This particular message was about the Bible, Sexuality, and Gender. Oh boy!
As the pastor spoke, he explained that it’s important to remember that God loves everyone. No matter what. He reminded the congregation that we are also called to love everyone as God does. He explained that the church has harmed the LGBTQ community and that saddens him. He reminded the congregation that we are all sinners…and one sin isn’t worse than another. He mentioned that we are all broken. He said that we should go further than “love the sinner, hate the sin” and instead we should “love the sinner, and hate our own sin.” He explained that sexuality is broken for everyone. He explained that when having conversations with the LGBTQ community we should speak truth with love and grace. And then he went on to say that Jesus loves us and knows us and wants to have a relationship with all of us.
He said all of this with a spirit of humility. He was loving and kind. On the surface it sounds good. Would I prefer to hear this type of message rather than the messages of hell and being an abomination? Of course…it’s a step in the right direction. But…
Let’s break it down just a little. The message that God loves everyone is a good message. Since it is part of the greatest command, we should also love our neighbors (that means everyone). No exceptions.
One sin isn’t worse than another. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with Christians regarding the LGBTQ community that start off with the person telling me that they are a sinner. They are the worst of the worst. They go on to explain to me that they have no right to judge anyone because of how awful they themselves are. Here’s the rub with this conversation. The topic of sin only comes up when talking about LGBTQ people. If they learn that Sally is dating Johnny, they don’t immediate start talking about the sin in their life. They don’t make assumptions about straight people’s relationships. They don’t reduce straight people to sexual acts. Are Sally and Johnny having sex? Who knows! But if they talk to me about my gay kid, it goes right to sin. Sin is what we do. Sinning is a choice…being LGBTQ isn’t.
This is the same with “love the sinner, hate the sin.” When we compare being sinners to being LGBTQ, we are telling them that the very core of their being is sinful. Straight people don’t always handle their sexuality in the most righteous, holy way…but we never call people sinners due to their “straightness”. The conversation always goes to sin when the subject of being LGBTQ comes up. Always. I’ve never heard a straight person say they had a significant other and the person respond with, “well we love the sinner and hate the sin.” It’s not assumed that anything sinful is happening. Although the pastor mentions changing that saying up a bit, I think it would be better if we completely removed it.
We are all sexually broken. LGBTQ people have the same choices as straight people do when it comes to sex. There are so many straight people in the church that do not handle their sexuality in a way that the church would find acceptable. The difference is that straight people aren’t subjected to the same judgement just because they are straight. I bet if you are straight…you haven’t had Bible verses quoted at you just because you love someone of the opposite gender. Happens to LGBTQ people all of the time…even if they aren’t dating someone.
Speaking the truth with love and grace. I simply want to ask with this one…
Well of course the truth of the Bible Lesa. I think we can all point to something in the Bible that was believed to have one meaning when in reality it meant something quite different. I’ve written about that before. Are you speaking your truth in love? Are you expecting the LGBTQ person to accept your truth? I don’t know one LGBTQ Christian who has not tortured themselves, to the brink of death in many cases, going over the Biblical verses that seem to condemn them. They have prayed and searched and have come to a place of acceptance within themselves and with God. Your truth or the way you interpret the Bible is just that…your truth.
Jesus loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. We have to be careful how we address this because it seems that the underlying message with many churches is if LGBTQ people really knew Jesus their desire for a same sex partner would go away, or that Jesus would make it possible for them to live celibate. And if the LGBTQ person would just hang out with our loving church they could learn to trust Jesus. If they just love him enough…he will help them. This is the premise of a lot of conversion therapy. I would like churches with this thinking to talk to the thousands of Christians who tried that. It is literally killing people. What about the people who are Christians when they reach puberty (and for some even earlier than that) and realize they are gay? They already know Jesus. This teaching produces shame, depression, anxiety, etc.
Churches don’t understand why it might be difficult for a person from the LGBTQ community to attend their church if they are loved on there. A gay person can go there and feel welcomed and loved on. They can feel like they are part of the family. They have a spiritual leader in their pastor. Then they fall in love and want to get married. Now all of the relationships that they have built, the relationship that they have with their pastor…the person they would like to marry them…is gone because the church doesn’t allow it. Now they have to go to someone they don’t know…that they don’t have relationship with…to get married. How is that supposed to make them feel? Or what about serving in the church? I have a lesbian friend who had this experience. She was accepted and loved on. She served on many ministry teams. But when she wanted to serve in a role that was less behind the scenes she was denied because of her sexuality. This happened to her over and over again at different churches. She commented, “How many times is a person supposed to let this happen before they just give up?”
And I think it was tough to offer the gift I had for my friend? How much more difficult do you think it is when the gift you are giving…the gift of yourself and your talents…isn’t accepted? When the person is bursting at the seams to use the gifts God gave them…when they are excited to serve…and they are denied instead. Do you think it may cause the person shame? Do you think it may stay with them for a lifetime?
Some churches have come further than others, but for the LGBTQ person who loves God and wants to be in community fully accepted as themselves…well it kind of feels like this…
Naked Pastor (David Hayward).
Let’s understand what feels like love and what doesn’t…because love matters.