05 May GAY PEOPLE GO TO MY CHURCH
Yesterday I had a brief phone conversation with a homosexual man who attends my church.
Yes, you read that right, I have gay people at my church.
Yes, you read that right as well, I said people. As in more than one. Plural.
If that bothers you then there’s a chance this post in it’s entirety may set your hair on fire (is that a real expression?).
See, this is a post about love.
Wait, Ryan, I thought this was a post about gay people going to your church?
Let me explain.
Every now and then people reach out to me for a quick phone conversation, cup of coffee, or counseling session. I try to connect with as many of these requests as possible, but it sometimes takes a week or so to etch out the time.
Last week I got a message from someone who had just started attending. He didn’t say what he wanted exactly, but mentioned that he had some questions about the church.
I’d wrapped up my last meeting and had an hour or so before I’d pack it in and head home, so I decided to return a few phone calls.
He picked up after only one ring and upon introducing myself quickly got to the point.
“I have really loved attending your church but I don’t think I can go anymore because I’m gay.”
You should probably know that on Sunday we started a new series where I’m tackling a few hot-button issues. My message last week: ”What does the bible really say about sex before marriage?” (You can watch it here.)
In the sermon we worked through 1 Corinthians 7 where the term “sexual immorality” is mentioned. I unpacked that loaded phrase, mentioning that it includes things like (but isn’t limited to) beastiality, pedophilia, extra-marital sex, sex with prostitutes, premarital sex, and (although it’s not so PC for me to say it) homosexuality.
I didn’t camp out on any of those things other than premarital sex because, well, that was the subject of the sermon.
I knew though, that my mere mentioning of homosexuality would ruffle some feathers, especially in my assertion that it was, according to the Bible, sexually immoral.
My friend on the other end of the phone had taken note.
We rushed a bit through the conversation because he was at work, but even still I could sense the tension in his voice.
“I really do enjoy the church but I don’t know if I want to go somewhere that says I’m immoral,” he said. “I’m just wired this way and after all, Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality.”
I’ll be honest. I started to push back a little bit. I began talking theology and doctrine and tried to explain the tension between grace and truth…
And then I stopped.
“What am doing?” I thought to myself.
Did I really think I was going to win him to my way of thinking over the phone?
Was I more interested in proving a point than being like Jesus?
Was I going to throw aside this man’s struggles and hurts, possibly derailing the spiritual journey he found himself in the midst of, because I had a point to prove?
At my church we do believe that homosexuality is a sin. We believe it’s a sin, not the sin. What I mean by that is, we don’t direct more attention to it than other sins. We don’t believe it holds more weight than lying or stealing or addiction or whatever else you want to throw in there.
I know there are many that disagree with me on the premise that it’s a sin at all, that someone’s sexual preference could be immoral, and that’s ok.
I actually get it. I understand why you disagree. If I’m being completely transparent, I wish it wasn’t a sin. I don’t understand why God, in his wisdom, cares at all who we choose to love. I don’t understand why He speaks against homosexuality in scripture. I wish he didn’t. And I can’t imagine the pain, loneliness, and confusion one feels in trying to navigate through something as deep as same sex attraction, especially in light of what their faith says about it.
Yet, I do believe scripture defines homosexuality as sin.
As someone who believes scripture to be God speaking truth and life, that’s ultimately where I draw the line. I side with God even though I don’t understand him.
But let me be very clear: scripture also commands me to love. Like, over and over and over again…
“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.”
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8
I could keep going.
This is why at my church we say Jesus is for all people.
Jesus got into a lot of trouble because he loved people he wasn’t supposed to love. He was ultimately killed because the Kingdom he talked about was inclusive. It welcomed everyone. Prostitutes. Tax collectors. The marginalized. The disabled.
Don’t mishear me. Jesus didn’t want his marginalized friends to remain in sin, He wanted something better for them (John 10:10). But he was willing to engage them on their level. He loved them in spite of their struggle or sin.
You see, I have gay friends.
I have friends who live with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
I have friends who are addicts.
I have friends who won’t stop talking about people behind their backs.
I have friends who have lived secret second lives.
I don’t sweep these things under the rug, but I also don’t allow an individual’s flaws to keep me from loving them. After all, I have burdens that I’m not proud of as well.
At my church we throw the doors open wide. We say come as you are – gay or straight, addicted or sober, browns fan or steelers fan. Come as you are and bump into Jesus.
Bump into Jesus and let him work on you.
I ended the phone conversation by begging the man not to leave. I asked him out for coffee and told him I refused to fight with him. I refused to argue. We could talk, but really all wanted to do was love him.
I don’t know if I’m doing this whole grace and truth thing correctly. I don’t know if I look at all like Jesus in moments like that. But I do know I’m trying. I know that someday I’ll stand before God and I will be able to say, “Jesus, I really tried. It was hard and messy and kind of confusing, but I did my best.”
I like to think he’ll be good with that.