Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Love Winning (By Standing With the Hated and Loving the Haters)

It's late, I'm tired, and pretty out of it, but it has been too long since I've written and my folks are coming for a visit tomorrow, so I know if I don't knock this out now, it will never happen, so here goes:

I went to the same church for the first 18 years of my life, and there was one overriding theme that seemed to run through every sermon & every Bible study.

And it wasn't the Gospel.

It was all about the gays.  The founding pastor of that church spat the word "homosexual" with such vitriol that in my young mind I was terrified to ever meet one in real life, for fear of the things "they" might do to me.  He had so successfully dehumanized homosexuals, seemingly finding a way to work a dig at them into every sermon and blame them for every ill, that I felt not only justified but obligated to speak out against homosexuality with equal force.

It was apparently a special kind of sin.  They had an agenda, you see.

Something had to be done.

Then, in an afternoon, my brain was turned inside out when my mother told me a story.  I had a family member that had died a few years prior from Leukemia, I was told.  Even though he died when I was still fairly young, I have vivid memories of him.  His eyes were the first place I had ever really remember seeing Grace.  His voice was always thick with Love, he acted justly, loved mercy and walked humbly. His life was one lived in the Kingdom if ever I have seen one.

But it was not Leukemia that had taken him after all, it was AIDS.

And he was gay.

[full stop]

What was I supposed to do with this?

The contrast could not have been more stark.  On the one hand, there was this pastor.  For years this man that was supposed to be a pastor, a servant leader, a conduit through which the glory of the Gospel of reconciliation and hope could flow had been spewing hatred and bigotry in its stead. What were supposed to be words of life were infected with the cancer of enmity, and that creeping rot had taken root in the deepest parts of me.

I had believed what he said.

But it couldn't be true.

You see on the other hand, there was this man, my relative.  In the years before he died and the years following as I learned more about him, I saw a man so full of compassion, full of hope, full of life.  I heard stories of selfless sacrifice and undying loyalty.  I read the letters of a man so bursting with authentic Love that it spilled over into every area of his life and everyone he came into contact with.  He knew the Truth of the Gospel, believed it with his heart, confessed it with his mouth, and lived it out every day.  All the boxes were checked, and yes, he happened to be gay.

I was faced with a dilemma. Either accept the teachings of the pastor, and accept the fact that my relative had lived a life of sin that was worthless to a god that required perfection in order that we might escape his wrath, or don't and forget everything I had ever been taught.

I chose the latter.

And now, 15 years later, after having lived quite a bit of life, I'm still unlearning, learning, and relearning, and there is only one thing that I am certain of.  For my relative, for my pastor, for me, and for everyone:

Love wins.

You can ascribe all of the connotations and subtext to that statement that you want, but you cannot deny its truth.

For those of you being hated for who you are, I will love you, and I will always stand with you.
For those of you doing the hating, I will love you, and I will always do so standing between you and those you hate.

3 comments:

  1. We tend to categorize and rate sin when in the eyes of God all sins separate us from Him. I don't understand why certain sins like homosexuality and abortion seem to be such hot buttons and tend to get such strong reactions from people. I still sin, even though I am a Christian, just like the Christian homosexual still sins. But why are my hidden sins or socially acceptable sins better or more tolerable?

    "Extreme sins" cause people to forget exactly what you said, that "love wins." So simple. Why do we not get that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Personally, I don't necessarily agree with the characterization that "the Christian homosexual still sins," but I see your point.

      Even if we grant that point for the sake of argument, there is still no strata of sin, and any semblance of one is certain of our own creation. Since there are no categories to "sort sinners into," it follows that there should be no difference in how we treat anyone, because we're all damaged and desperately in need of grace.

      Indeed, I think this penchant for categorizing sins is just another symptom of that damage, a continuing desire to otherize, and to elevate ourselves above the other, motivated by our own insecurities.

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