I’ve been known to blurt things out. Not something that I’m absolutely proud of, but it happens. One time at a baseball game, I called Franklin Stubbs, Dodger first baseman, a “sad sack of groceries.” Don’t even know where that came from. People laughed, but our seats were close enough to the field to where he ACTUALLY HEARD ME. I felt awful.
As it turn out, I did it on my keyboard yesterday. Many of you probably read my Facebook status: “Any “religion” that discriminates against LGBTQ – or any other people group for that matter – can go ahead and die now. Christians, PLEASE: we are called to love.” It caused quite a stir.
There were many folks who read it to mean “people who discriminate should die”. Quite literally, and grammatically, that’s not what I meant. I was referring to the practice of a religion that would intentionally put a wedge between itself and the very people they are supposed to reach out to. Here’s what I mean:
If you know me at all, you know I’ve spent most of the last 10 years in vocational ministry. Everything I did was directed at telling people about the love of Jesus Christ. I poured my entire being into this vocation, because it’s something I believe in with my entire heart. Jesus Christ has the power to save people. He saved me. And I’m not talking about the salvation where “now I get to go to heaven when I die.” (We can discuss ‘salvation’ in more depth at another time – and I’d love to have that discussion!) I’m talking about the “I was a WRECK of a human being. I served only myself. I was ugly on the inside and it manifested itself on the outside – by now I’m completely different” sort of salvation. The salvation that leads to abundant, fulfilling life, here and now.
Reading through the gospels (the first 4 books of the New Testament) changed the trajectory of my entire life. I saw how Jesus treated people – especially the marginalized – and I knew it was good. I saw how he loved people – especially the ones who were deemed “unlovable” by society – and I knew I wanted that in my life. Jesus healed people, he did miracles, he welcomed children, he touched lepers, he spoke with prostitutes, he ate with tax collectors. He did the very things the religion of the time would condemn. He loved people in such a sacrificial way; quite literally, actually, when he was crucified.
I cannot get away from that love. I can’t shake that from my bones. It’s part of me now. And if you believe what the bible says about that, it means the VERY SPIRIT OF GOD HIMSELF now lives within me. This does NOT mean I am God, but that somehow He chooses to manifest himself within me. And sometimes I get in the way of that.
Here’s what I’m getting to: When Mississippi passed legislation a couple days ago to “protect” religious freedom, what I really saw happening was a group of people condemning another group of people. And I was SO discouraged. If Jesus did anything during his time on earth, it was to love the outsider and include the marginalized. He told people THEY were a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, and somehow the “sinners” around him were drawn to him. The legislation passed, in my opinion, does the opposite of that. It says to an outside group “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME.” And as much as we want to protect our families and our way of life and our religion, what we are really saying is “you are not deserving of my service, my time, my consideration, or my God.” This is the very antithesis of Jesus’ ministry on earth.
While my post may have been poorly worded, I stand behind the meaning. I want churches to welcome LGBTQ folks with open arms, to tell them the same words people have told me: “There is nothing you could do that would make God love you less.” Let’s allow the Spirit of God to be just that – and see what happens in the lives of the people around us.
And if you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll also accept my apology for a generalized message, and for alienating people I consider brothers and sisters.
I’m trying my best, as I’m sure you are, to figure out this life. And I want to love people well in the process.