Thursday, July 15, 2010

loving our gay friends

i recently had the chance to preach at imago dei, a church plant now meeting at kennydale elementary school in renton, the bridge's old location. while it was a little surreal to be worshiping there without the bridge, it was an enjoyable time, especially having the chance to get to know the 'id peeps' (as they're affectionately known by pastor j) -- all very earnest and hungry for God, all deeply committed to serving one another and reaching out to renton, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of them don't live anywhere near there.

the message for the morning was entitled, "loving our gay friends biblically." when i said 'yes' to that assignment, i did not anticipate the heartfelt response of so many who have been waiting for someone to speak to these issues from the pulpit. a young christian with a gay sibling. a middle aged man whose workplace has a number of lgbt people. an old friend who has loved and prayed for her gay son for over two decades, but is still careful about whom to tell because there are inevitably... repercussions.

the prep for these messages was harder than i expected. i was confronted with how little i know of the struggles, suffering, and persecution of gay and lesbian people (and their families) and how little effort i've made up to this point to really try to understand. i struggled with the ugliness and even hatred that some in the church have harbored and demonstrated toward gay people. i battled defensiveness for myself and christians generally. i remembered -- and regretted -- interactions with gay and lesbian friends and family and how, as a young christian, i responded to their questions about faith and God and homosexuality. i intended no ill-will toward any of them, but i don't remember demonstrating extraordinary empathy or compassion either -- and i felt a certain amount of shame about that. it's just not how Jesus responded to those who didn't yet know him, to those who were broken and lost and persecuted.

the bible only speaks directly to the issue of the same gender sex a handful of times (gen 19, lev 18, lev 20, rom 1, 1 cor 6, 1 tim 1), but each time, it speaks strongly against it (in contrast to same sex attraction, an issue on which the bible seems largely silent -- maybe rom 1?). that's the simple truth. yet God's Word also says that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 pet 3:9); doesn't that apply to gay and lesbian people as much as anyone? are they not like the rest of us -- people made in God's image for whom he demonstrated his love by dying for them while they were yet sinners (rom 5:8)?

i'll preach a related message at lighthouse on august 8th -- "are christians homophobic?" i'd appreciate your prayers as i continue to prepare, as well as for those who will be in attendance that morning. may the Holy Spirit reveal himself and our hearts, that we might learn to be like Jesus, full of grace and truth.

behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save;
nor is his ear so dull that it cannot hear.

isaiah 59:1