Warning: this is very likely to make my progressive friends mad because it’s too conservative and my conservative friends mad because it’s too progressive. Basically, I’m bracing myself. You might consider doing the same.
I had a conversation lately with a friend whose workplace celebrates Pride Month. They were ordering rainbow t-shirts, and she opted out. She wasn’t up for celebrating a lifestyle at odds with her faith. And I appreciate her conviction.
But I don’t share it.
My relationship with Pride Month has undergone a few iterations over my life. I’ve grown up believing that marriage is God’s design for a man and a woman and sex is His plan within marriage. As an early teen, my image of Gay Pride Marches (as I remember them in the 90s, before the L, B, T, Q, and + got added, at least in the mainstream) was this: naked gay men riding bicycles in a huge mob down the street. Y’all, I have NO IDEA where this came from. I’m just telling you.
Not too long after, I saw some actual footage or maybe a newspaper photo of a march and, lo! Zero naked men on bicycles, so the image in my head got a little more realistic and a lot less weird.
But the image in my heart remained: a bunch of people with an Agenda to to normalize the Homosexual Lifestyle and steal the rainbow, which was God’s idea, and therefore belonged more to Us than to Them.
Big, embarrassed sigh.
Pride Month, for me, has been aptly named. It’s the month that all my pride—the sin God hates—has been on full display.
My stance toward LGBTQ folks has been the classic “love the sinner, hate the sin” for most of my life.
But then I started paying attention to stories. Notably, BT Harman’s Blue Babies Pink (I listened to the podcast, but it’s available online as a blog series) and Justin Lee’s Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. Here were a couple of people who grew up just like I did—Jesus-loving teens in Jesus-loving families. They believed the same things about marriage that I do, and (like me) neither hated nor feared gay people—just more sinners in need of a savior. But then these guys realized their sexuality was at odds with their faith. So they did what I would have: push that business down. Live faithfully. Maybe tell a trusted friend about the problem help me stay on the straight and narrow.
Both of these guys, after years of plan A, did some theological digging to figure out what God actually thinks about homosexuality. Lee laid out his path in Torn and it’s intellectually honest and undertaken with fear and trembling—definitely not a mission to excuse sins he wanted to commit. I don’t come to all the same conclusions he did, but something in me shifted: there are really people who really love Jesus who are both “us” and “them.” Maybe the us/them dichotomy isn’t helpful here.
Here’s my position towards members of the LGBTQ community now, and it’s the same as it is for people outside of it: “Love the sinner. The end.” Now, will I talk about sin? Obviously. Sin, in the most beautiful and poetic plot twist, is part of the gospel, which is amazing beyond reason. I will bring up your sin (of whatever variety) to you in two cases:
- You love Jesus and we have a relationship such that I know you’re caught in something outside His express will or you’re doing something destructive. That won’t be all we talk about—if you’re stuck in a mess, I want to be especially, extra sure you know I love you and you and I are okay—but I will do my best to point you to Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit won’t leave me alone. This happened a couple of years ago—not all of the above conditions were satisfied, but the Lord gave me the words that were needed, and after several months of His prodding (my own sinful hesitance to obey), I said the words. And it was the worst. But I knew for certain He was asking me to do it, and I would do it again.
I hope you would do the same for me. (My sin is every bit as offensive to a holy God as yours, whatever yours is.)
As for Pride Month?
I want to go to an event and pass out hugs, snacks, water. Basically I’d like to pass out general kindness in whatever way I can. My world is small and not especially diverse. I have a couple of LGBTQ friends, but not many. I want to hear more stories, ask more questions, sit with more pain, love like Jesus. I’ve spent years looking at the sin rather than the sinner, which is basically opposite the way Jesus loves. He didn’t ignore sin, but he was much, MUCH harder on the prideful religious people (me) than he was on the prostitutes and drunks and scam-artist tax collectors. He partied with the ones the religious folks shunned. I want to chill with the ones the church shuts out. Not in order to reform or teach or get some sort of “hanging out with sinners” merit badge, but because they’re people, and if they’ve been unwelcome in “my” spaces, I need to go to to “theirs” or we won’t meet and thus can’t be friends. And when we hang out? Sexuality won’t take center stage any more than it does in my conversations with straight/cisgender people.
I was reading this morning and stumbled upon this:
We’re supposed to just love the people in front of us.We’re the ones who tell them who they are. We don’t need to spend as much time as we do telling them what we think about what they’re doing.Bob Goff, Everybody Always
So, friend, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, life stage, here’s who you are:
You are created in the image of the God who loves you.
You are beloved.
Your sin has put you at odds with God.
He wants you to be with Him.
God chose to send His Kid to die to solve your sin problem.
You are worth dying for.