Love Doesn’t Keep People At A Distance
When my parents and their friends got out of church last Sunday, they were greeted with a surprising sight: a 17-year-old boy was outside protesting their church.
Mom recalled the story for me that afternoon.
"He's never been to our church," she said. "He'd been hurt by another church, I guess he thought we'd treat him the same way."
"Well, did y'all invite him to come in?" I asked.
"Yeah, they invited him and loved on him," she said.
It will be interesting if he chooses to attend, because he identifies as gay. Either way, I was proud of them for their kindness in what could have been a hateful situation.
Obviously this is something that is a heated debate within Christianity, and it's not surprising the boy had been hurt by members of another church. Christians everywhere are trying to determine whether it's possible to be born gay and whether it's a sin or not. Most evangelical churches, which are the majority in the South, believe that being gay is sin, and would take issue with even the phrase "being gay."
It's not the point of this column to find answers to any of those questions.
The point is that a tenet of Christ's teaching is this: Whether or not you agree with someone's beliefs or behavior should have no bearing on how you treat them.
"If I really make a friend of a homosexual, aren't I condoning their behavior?" evangelical pastor Hugh Halter said at last year's Verge conference. "If you take that line of thinking to its extreme, we would all be in a world of hurt, would we not? Scriptures seem to indicate that 'while we were yet sinners,' Christ came, jumped into humanity, stooped down next to us, protected us, let us know, 'I'm right here.'"
Stories of Jesus confirm this again and again. The woman at the well. "Let you who are without sin cast the first stone." The Good Samaritan.
And when Jesus said we would be judged even for our anger, he took away all our right to exclude anyone from seeking after God.
This is Christianity 101. So what's the deal with all the hateful rhetoric?
For example, a popular online video of a North Carolina pastor's sermon makes my blood boil.
"I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn't get it past the Congress," Pastor Charles Worley tells his Providence Road Baptist Church congregation. "Build a great big, large fence -- 50- or 100-miles long -- and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them. And you know in a few years, they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce."
To suggest anyone should be denied their freedom and have less to offer the world than another person is one of the most morally repugnant ideas I can think of.
Jesus never called for us to segregate ourselves. Never, not once, but the idea the pastor suggested does remind me of the actions of certain men that history despises.
Other news outlets are reporting that the church took the video down from their website, the website provider shut down the site, and many people are calling the IRS to see whether the church's nonprofit status can be revoked since the pastor also made political comments about the president's recent support of gay marriage. Several calls to the church were answered by busy signals.
The people Jesus spent the most time with were the ones who were despised by society, and he reserved his harshest criticism for church leaders.
Telling someone they have to change before they can be right with God is not going to make them want to seek Him, and that kind of judgment is not our job. What will make someone want to seek God is expressing His character -- love -- through your actions.
Love doesn't keep others at a distance.