BREAKING NEWS, read the headline. THIS JUST IN! In a move that sent the evangelical world into a collective uproar, World Vision announced it would be dropping its restriction on married gay persons—people WHO LOVE JESUS, profess salvation in Him, and have a heart to see poor children made whole—from working for their company.
Of course, as a side note, World Vision also explained how their company now strongly endorses homosexuality as a principle for personal living and is hoping this strategic move turns the whole world flaming freaking gay. Oh, wait. My bad. That part I totally made up. Pardon my sarcasm, but based on the general reaction of many Christians to World Vision’s “announcement,” you’d think that that was the intent of the statement. Or maybe even that beyond a mere policy change, World Vision had just revoked their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, instead of simply announcing that they won’t exclude people from serving that same Jesus because of differences of Biblical interpretation and understanding not related to salvation. Did you get that? NOT RELATED TO SALVATION, people.
Drawing Lines and Boxing Me In
And before the whole evangelical world had yet to
vomit react, I posted my thoughts on my personal Facebook page.
The ensuing conversation—much of which I’ve adapted for this blog post—was no surprise to me, as any post related to a hot-button issue du jour is sure to garner a reaction from all “sides.” But at the same time, it’s these kinds of topics that always leave me feeling like I just don’t fit on a “side” at all, that as much as proponents of the opposite viewpoints want to box me in, I just can’t squeeze myself into such confinement. (I’ve always hated small spaces.) And the thing about being boxed in? It leaves no room to change your mind.
So I often simultaneously make enemies on both sides and friends across the spectrum—no matter the debate, because as soon as one “side” thinks they have me figured out, the other “side” claims I’m on theirs. And then I’m told that “not taking a side is actually taking a side.” Um, okay then. Glad to clear that up. But how about the side of just loving Jesus and loving others? I am so grieved that Christians even want to make and take “sides” in the first place.
For reasons I have yet to figure out (and if I ever do, that’ll be a Breaking News blog post all its own right here), we humans are so eager to draw lines that divide, lines that separate us from them, the ins from the outs, the yays from the nays, the holier-than-thous from the wholly heathenistic. But the problem when people divide people against people is that someone always loses. Always. And that someone always ends up isolated, outcast, alone, feeling less than the human that they are.
And that’s when I really start to get why the only lines Jesus drew with religious people and sinners were lines in the sand that caused grown Pharisees to straight-up drop their stones and walk away and fallen people to come falling at His feet. So if I’m going to draw lines, may I be like Jesus, who even without words made the outcasts feel included, the “sinners” redeemed, the broken made whole. May I only draw lines that extend from my heart into another’s, from my soul into my fellow human being’s.
If we’re humbly honest (sometimes a doubly challenging thought), the reaction of the evangelical world against an evangelical organization that HELPS POOR KIDS, Y’ALL, says more about the state of the American Church than it does about the state of gay people’s souls. Let’s just be very real here, friends. On the whole, Christians are more passionate against homosexuality than poverty. Because I don’t recall the last time Christians were in an uproar that people are bound in poverty and preventable diseases.
As the mom to a son who was formerly a sponsored child in Ethiopia, I can assure you that kids don’t care who feed them and give them an education. If their meal came to them through the administrative work of a Jesus-loving gay man in the U.S. of A. or they were able to attend another week of school because a Christian lesbian in America helped make it possible makes no difference. What makes the difference is that someone cared at all. And really, how many of us Christians really do? Really?
On the heels of news of the death of Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for their hatred of gay people (and just about anybody else who ever walked God’s green earth), what does this mean for those who claim to love Jesus? What kind of test might God be up to here? (Don’t think for a second He won’t test our love for the world.) How should we followers of Jesus respond to one of the most divisive social justice and political issues of our day?
When it comes to this topic, I can try to understand the fears, the prejudices, the assumptions that cause some Christians to go a little cray-cray for morality, because we absolutely should care about holiness. (That is, our own.) But the thing is, Church, the THING IS, there are a slew of people and denominations who genuinely love and follow Jesus but have different beliefs about homosexuality.
And whether you think gay people are a heartbeat away from the flames of hell simply because of whom they get all googly-eyed about or you believe that homosexuals who love Jesus are no worse than you, people who have same-sex attraction—whether you like it or not—actually can have salvation in Jesus and truly love and worship Him, even if they never, ever “change their ways” to fit yours. And if you disagree with that, then you have narrowly defined who is fit for salvation and who is suitable to love our Savior, and you have even established unBiblical criteria for who is allowed to serve the poor.
Too many Christians just can’t believe that homosexuals can “really love Jesus.” And that’s what it comes down to. And that’s called judging. And not in the righteous way. And that’s just not ever okay. And I just started a lot of sentences with And.
So to me it’s pretty simple: World Vision, instead of causing division on matters of disagreement among Christians, is not going to let such matters determine who is “fit” to serve the poor or work for their organization. It might be a challenging idea, but perhaps that’s because we are so accustomed to finding grounds for division instead of unity in Jesus.
The truth is, people, I don’t have all the answers—and neither do you, nor you, nor you, nor the dude with the Ph.D. who rules Evangelica, the Bible-thumper on the street corner, Billy Graham (or any of his kids for that matter), John Piper, Russell Moore, Richard Stearns, Jen Hatmaker, or even my own personal faves Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and Rachel Held Evans. Not even the Pope has God’s final word on the matter. (But gosh I sure do dig that new Pope!)
And as much as I wish I did, I’m okay with not knowing it all. I’m okay with the wrestling, and that alone makes me on the “outs” for many who claim Christianity. But the thing about this wrestling that so many Evangelicals just can’t quite grasp, is that it doesn’t mean you doubt the Word of God, the holiness of God, or the absolute morality and truth of God; it just means you can admit you might not always be right. So where the Bible and contemporary complexities seem to sometimes collide, I’m perfectly okay resting in the tension and leaving the clarification to God Almighty Himself and just LOVING Jesus and people in the meantime. (And no, that’s not too simplistic.)
And so I’ve come to truly enjoy the wrestling, and in doing so I am discovering that I find wrestling a comforting place to be, because ultimately it doesn’t change my foundation—it actually reinforces it. God can handle my questions, my doubts, my wonderings, my wrestling. I think he finds it mutually sweet because it means I’m digging and leaning into him, and in doing so—even if I don’t come up with all the absolute answers—I learn to love better because I am loving HIM more. And then it makes all of these divisive issues seem so silly in light of the call he has left us with…to simply love.
So What, Then?
So what I’m saying to my fellow followers of Jesus is this: Do we find it easier to point out sin? Or do we find it easier to wrestle? I think our own personal answers to those two questions reveal our hearts. And at the end of it all, it’s our hearts that Jesus cares about most.
And to those who proclaim to know it all, who can’t help but make sure the world knows what you think of “the gays,” allow me to challenge you with this:
If gay people are more inclined to know about your Jesus because of your “righteous stand,” then keep it up. But if instead they’re running the other direction into the arms of the welcoming world instead of their loving Savior, then maybe we should revisit our thoughts on true abomination.
Scripture is clear that we are all wonderfully and beautifully made. At the same time, Scripture is clear that we all sin. Contrary to how that might sound on the surface, that is not a contradiction. Rather, it is beautiful evidence of God’s ability to fully love all of humanity. It is the example Jesus set. And we are to follow.
Stone Me Now
Throughout my years in social media, I have intentionally NOT made any definitive statements on matters of moral controversy IF making such concrete statements will turn people from the Kingdom of God. Because the truth for me is, it doesn’t matter to me whether homosexuality is a sin or not, because it’s not my own personal struggle or identity. What does matter to me is the whole world knowing Jesus, and in my observation in our society in our day and age in our political climate, pointing out homosexuality does nothing but turn people away from Jesus. So I have never picked a side. And I won’t. Because I think that misses the point in the first place.
But why homosexuality? Why this issue to point our fingers at? Well, simply, because most of us don’t feel hypocritical doing so. (I know. That’s sick.) If we point our finger at those who struggle with gluttony or greed or lust or lying we are full-blown, recognizable hypocrites. Singling out homosexuality makes us feel—and even look—so righteous.
But then we remember that we’re not to point the finger at all, so no matter what sin we give special status to, we’re the worst of hypocrites anyway. That’s why I personally can have my own convictions on certain sins but choose not to impose them on others or even express them beyond my own heart, because sometimes convictions are best between me and my God. Not always, mind you, but sometimes and even oftentimes.
This is something I pray daily to do “right,” to represent Jesus well, especially in this area. And when I get messages from gay friends and family members saying Thank You for my thoughts and posts on this issue, I hope that means I’m working in the right direction for Jesus’ Name. Because in the end, you guys, sharing Jesus with others is what I want to be about.
But if we don’t even have the world’s ears, then what does it gain anyone in the end? If our words shut them out, then we’ve doomed the very people to hell that we claim are headed there. So for the sake of the Kingdom, listen to this, please: If you are part of the collective uproar, I hope you realize that if in fact you are right about your stance, your methods are all wrong and entirely counterproductive. If you want the world to hear about your Jesus, you have to stop shutting their ears to Him.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” -Romans 10:13-15, NIV
So I will stick to obeying Jesus. I will “love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength” and love my neighbor as myself. And the next time I’m tempted to have a knee-jerk reaction for the sake of the gospel, I am going to be sure I’m responding like a true bearer of it. In the meantime, you can find me praying and working for the day when saying, “Hi, I’m So-and-So. And I’m a Christian” is connoted with love, compassion, humility, and sacrificial living instead of self-righteousness, judgment, and exclusion. Lord bless. Is it possible? I have to believe. Care to join me?
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
Wanna read more?
Sponsor a World Vision child here on my friend Kristen’s page: http://myshare.worldvision.org/rageagainsttheminivan Yeah, that’s rad. Do it.