And now Caitlyn Jenner.
|photo credit: cnn.com|
My ears and eyes are inundated with her. Most comments fall into categories: fully supportive and happy for her, or fully unsupportive and not-at-all happy (and sometimes hateful). But there's a third category: folks who genuinely don't understand transgender issues and are trying not to judge but feel strongly about standing firm in their belief of what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.
I love those folks. I truly do. I no longer believe the Bible condemns same-sex relationships but I used to. I respect their belief and I feel like I know their hearts: they want to love our LGBTQ community but can't quite figure out how. Because, to some, supporting someone who is LGBTQ seems like an endorsement of something God is against.
I have good news: our responses don't have to be different. We don't actually stand on different sides. I have yet to meet two Christians with the exact same theology. We all tend to interpret different parts of the Bible in different ways. But there is one BIG thing which unites us: the overall message of the Bible. The Bible is the story of how God gave us full access and community with him and unity with one another and then we broke it. But instead of damning us all, God sent Jesus - he reached out to us and fixed it, at great cost to himself. Jesus reconciles us not only back to God but back to one another. Regardless of theology, I'm willing to bet that 99% of Christians will agree with me on this. The Bible is the beautiful story of a gift of shalom (wholeness, rightness, unity) that was broken and brought back to shalom again.
What did God do when we broke the relationship with him and with each other? He stood with us. He sent his son not only to stand with us but to die for us. He wasn't against us. I know many Christians whose standard response to all things LGBTQ is to immediately distance themselves from the gay community by declaring, "I have to stand on what God says in the Bible about same-sex relationships." But what if we are supposed to do what he did? What if we are supposed to stand with his people? What if we are supposed to love them and sacrifice ourselves for them?
When in doubt, I think God says, "Love them." When in doubt, God says, "Get to know them." I think he says, "Stand with my people, be the ones who protect them from hate." If you aren't sure about this whole transgender thing, learn about it. Transgender is quite different from sexual orientation. But get to know some gay people too. Neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is a choice - please believe LGBTQ people when they tell you that about themselves. The more we listen to one another and learn from one another, the easier all of this gets. It is a lot less tricky when it's not an "LGBTQ thing" and instead it's the names and faces of people I know and love. And then it's no longer "us and them." It's just "us."
The more I study the words of Jesus, the more aware I am of how he linked our relationship with him to our relationship with others. Following Jesus is only partly about him & me - it's also about how I connect to everyone else around me. Jesus said that loving our neighbors was akin to loving God. When my focus is on me, when I make my theology more important than people, I've missed the point. When we proclaim loudly that God is not okay with Caitlyn Jenner and then use that to distance ourselves from the transgender community, we've missed a beautiful opportunity to live and love like Jesus.
This isn't about ignoring sin. Sin is anything and everything that separates us from God and breaks our relationships with each other. The best response I can think of in the face of someone else's sin is to draw them closer to me and point them to the one who loves them most. When I am doing something destructive to my relationship with God or my relationship with another person, the ones who will be able to speak meaningfully to me about it will be those who have pulled me in close, those who love me and point me back to God. I can't think of a single situation in which a stranger or an acquaintance would be helpful in confronting my sin by calling me out or distancing themselves from me, especially not if the sin I'm struggling with has been a hot-topic on social media. If I'm gay and I hear, "God believes homosexuality is abhorrent," over and over again from people who don't know me and don't care about me, why in the world would I want to seek Jesus? How is that the message that Jesus died for?
When I meet Jesus, I don't think he's going to ask me where I stood on the hard-hitting, controversial issues. He's not going to ask me if I called out strangers on the ways they were failing to live perfectly. He's going to ask me how well I loved, who I loved, when did I put my own needs aside to serve others. He's going to want to know if I lived like He did, not to punish me, but because he knows that was the best way to have a life full of abundant joy and the best way to point others to him. That's a tall enough order. Following Jesus is no piece of cake. But so far, I've found joy that passes beyond understanding in the process.
Right now, it's not about our beliefs on what the Bible says or doesn't say about same-sex relationships or people with gender dysphoria. Right now, that truly isn't the issue. It's not about where you stand, but who you stand with. Jesus stood with the outcast, the hated, the unclean. He stood with the misunderstood, the powerless and the oppressed. He stood with you and he stood with me. We can do the same.