About a year and a half ago, during the whole Chick-Fil-A boycott/buycott thing, I asked my friend to tell me his story, and to let me take his voice to an audience that normally wouldn’t hear him. See, my friend is gay. And on the day that many of my other friends circled the block of the restaurant in support of the owner and in protest of gay marriage, my friend made a short comment on Facebook that let me know that he was hurt. Deeply.
I sent him a message and told him that I wanted to know what he was thinking, how he was feeling, and specifically how he felt about Jesus in the wake of all that has happened in recent years. And then I waited for his response, not sure what he would say, or if he would answer me at all.
He answered me, and while he appreciated my questions and my desire to take his voice to the Church, he warned me that he was hesitant because he was afraid I wouldn’t like what I heard. In fact, he said that he wasn’t sure he wanted to tell me the truth because he liked me and valued our friendship and didn’t want to hurt me in what he said.
I reassured him that I wanted to hear the truth. This wasn’t about me, and it wasn’t about my feelings.
A little while later he responded with the first part of his story, and what I read broke my heart. It was a story of a young boy who was frightened. Frightened by the things he saw, the things he felt, and the things he heard. A young boy who was bullied and humiliated on a daily basis, but who never said anything about it because deep down he felt that God was punishing him for his thoughts and desires. A young boy who desperately wanted to know he was loved and accepted, but who felt that he was unworthy of the saving grace of Jesus.
My friend stopped at this point of his story – before he became an adult, before he even entered his teen years. He said he’d get back to me with the rest of the story when he could, but that at that point it was too painful for him to continue. There were memories he didn’t wish to relive, feelings he didn’t wish to revisit, and encounters he didn’t want to talk about. He needed time, and would finish writing when he felt stronger.
I waited for him to get back to me. I waited some more, and then I reminded him that I was still waiting. He told me he knew I was waiting, and that he knew he needed to finish his story, if for nothing else than his own healing, but he just couldn’t do it right then. And so I said I would keep waiting.
And I still wait.
But I think of him almost every day.
Every time I see a picture of someone holding a sign condemning homosexuality, I wonder if that sign is bringing my friend closer to Jesus. And when that sign is referencing Leviticus and is being held up by a person who has tattoos, I know that my friend is only rolling his eyes. He knows what the Bible says.
When I see people talking about how sickening and disgusting homosexuality is, I wonder if their comments make my friend feel that Jesus loves him. And when women with braided hair, gold jewelry, or bright colored clothing use verses from Corinthians to reinforce their stance on homosexuality, I know that my friend is again rolling his eyes. He still knows what the Bible says.
And when a divorced Christian starts screaming about the sanctity of marriage, I know that my friend is laughing out loud, while rolling his eyes.
But there is something else that I know.
I know that underneath the eye rolling is pain. A lot of pain. Pain so deep that my friend has trouble sleeping at night. Pain so personal that my friend uses humor to try and camouflage his hurt. Pain so intense that my friend made it clear that I was “wasting my time” talking to him about Jesus.
And my friend is only one of the roughly 9 million people in the country who identify as LGBT.
How many other adults out there lie awake at night, fearing that they will go to Hell but sure that Jesus wouldn’t love or accept them, let alone save them?
How many other teens endure humiliation and bullying because they believe they deserve to be hated because of their desires?
How many other children hide in the corner, terrified of the things they see, hear, and experience?
Does the Bible condemn homosexuality? Yes.
But does the Bible also offer a story of hope, love, scandalous grace, redemption, forgiveness, acceptance, wholeness, and abundant life? Yes.
Do we as Christians have the right to point out that the Bible condemns homosexuality? Yes.
But does the constant condemnation hurt people to the point that they don’t trust us enough to hear about the hope, love, scandalous grace, redemption, forgiveness, acceptance, wholeness, and abundant life? Too many times, yes.
How do I know it happens too many times? Because I know it has happened at least once. And once is too many.
Remember, “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.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
For too long the LGBT community has heard only resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.
Many people say that pointing out someone’s sin is the most loving thing that you can do. But consider for a minute how you would have responded if you were constantly told:
- Your gossip is disgusting.
- Your promiscuity makes you filthy.
- I despise your gluttony.
- Your relationship with alcohol sickens me.
- Your lies are an abomination.
- Your pride is repulsive.
I don’t know how you would have felt, but I know that I would not have felt loved. At all.
“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Love. Grace. Compassion. Community. Honesty. Trust. Relationship. Those are the things we would have others do to us.
So let’s make sure we are doing those for others.
And to my friend, I know you are reading this. I’m sorry you have been hurt. And I’m sorry you hurt still. I hope to hear the rest of your story, and I hope you know you are loved.
And I also hope you know your friendship has enriched my life.
See you soon.