the hermeneutic of love, the church, and our LGBTQ neighbors

For the church that practices a lifestyle and worldview of love, their interactions with an openly gay neighbor would be fairly distinct from how we have seen much of the church interact with the LGBTQ community. First, regardless of what the members of that congregation believed about what the Bible says about homosexuality, they would not be angry, scornful, or judgmental towards their neighbor. They would not look at the neighbor as someone that the church needs to change. They would not feel the need to inform their neighbor of their opinion of “the homosexual lifestyle.”

This church would welcome the neighbor to share the pain and suffering that they have experienced as an openly gay individual, rooting that experience in the pain and suffering of Christ. They would share their own pain and suffering with the neighbor, letting them know that not only are they not perfect people, but that they have made mistakes. They would assure their neighbor that they have hurt themselves and and their loved ones, and that they have also experienced anger, scorn, and judgement, both from themselves and from those around them. They hold their own brokenness closely as a reminder that regardless of what they believe, we are all in the same boat.

This church may not have decided what exactly they believe about homosexuality and the Bible, or how they think God feels about homosexuality, but they have certainly talked about it. And it wasn’t just the preacher that talked about it. The entire congregation has shared openly, discussing the verses, hearing about what specific words meant in the context they were written in. They aren’t afraid of talking about hard topics, and they don’t debate. They listen deeply to what everyone has to say, and they are challenged by the thoughts of their sisters and brothers. They pray and listen to the ways that the Holy Spirit is moving inside of them to challenge their preconceptions.

This church welcomes their gay neighbor into community, into a life of prayer and deepening that will lead to growth in the life of Christ.  And most importantly, this church has faith that Christ is what their neighbor needs…Christ, and not condemnation.  For it is Christ who will work in this church and inside of their neighbor, who will create a clean heart and renew a right spirit in them.  Whatever that means.

[This post is mildly editted from an essay I wrote for a final in one of my classes last semester.  Some of the thoughts in this post draw from Elaine Heath’s The Mystic Way of Evangelism.]


About Rosten

2 responses to “the hermeneutic of love, the church, and our LGBTQ neighbors

  • Wesley Dingman

    Rosten, thanks for your post. I found it intriguing, so I thought I’d give a comment. Hopefully you won’t find it offensive, although I have been known to be unintentionally (and intentionally) offensive at times.

    Anyway, I see a tension in your thoughts that I would like to hear more about. You hold that a Christian congregation should interact in certain ways with the LGBTQ community regardless of “what the members of that congregation believed about what the Bible says about homosexuality.” Specifically, members ought to do and not to do certain things. They “would not be angry, scornful, or judgmental towards their neighbors.” They “They would share their own pain and suffering with the [LGBTQ] neighbor, letting them know […] that they have made mistakes. They would assure their neighbor […] that they have also experienced anger, scorn, and judgment.”

    The tension I see is this: Christians in this interaction have experienced pain, suffering, anger, scorn and judgment because of actions that the Christians themselves acknowledge to have been mistaken. What these Christians have experienced is at some level deserved. The LGBTQ community, on the other hand, apparently experiences pain, suffering, anger, scorn, and judgment because of actions (and orientations) which they generally do not acknowledge to be mistaken. From their perspective, their suffering is unwarranted; they are the victims of prejudice. Consequently, I wonder how a LGBTQ neighbor would respond to such an approach. They might see it not only as condescending, but also as implicitly condemnatory of who they are, despite Christians’ good intentions to the contrary.

    • Rosten

      Wes, thanks for the question. Just so you know, I don’t find you offensive. I might tease you from time to time, but it’s because I like you.

      I think your distinction is important. So to give a crude example of what you’re talking about to make sure I understand, if a friend told me that they came out of the closet and now their family won’t talk to them, it wouldn’t be helpful for me to say, “I know exactly what you’re going through…one time I stole money from my family and they haven’t spoken to me in years!” That would be incredibly misguided.

      Of course, Christians have often been on the unwarranted end of suffering, prejudice, and persecution. This might not be something either one of us have experienced much of, but we still read Jesus say things like “blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” While some might argue that this does not apply to this case (my gay friend hasn’t been persecuted or insulted because of following Jesus, but specifically because he is gay), I think there is a deeper truth here. Many of my LGBTQ friends are among the most hospitable and empathetic people that I know, and I consider hospitality and empathy to be very relatable to the kinds of blessing Jesus was talking about.

      I don’t think there is as much tension here as you might think. I’m not really interested in comparison of experiences, so much as what it looks like to weep with those who weep. Inside of a deep understanding of our own brokenness, pain, and despair, I believe that we can more openly hear and feel the pain of our neighbor. Very often, this is where healing starts. I am also not interested in whether or not we are justified in our actions. I’m interested in looking for what is deeper in the human experience of pain and suffering, the fact that we have all both experienced pain and caused pain in other, and the fact that our life is found in the life of the suffering servant.

      This is also why I think it is important that this is all rooted in the life of Christ. We see all of this in the life of the Spirit present in Christ and the early church…through the Sprit, Christ and Christ’s followers responded to people with all kinds of pain in their life. If the fruits of the Spirit truly are things like patience, kindness, and gentleness, then I’m pretty sure we’ll be okay as long as we are actually involved in peoples’ lives.

      Regardless, while I know good intentions have often yielded bad results (which becomes an especially sensitive topic for me when it happens in the church!), but I’m not sure that this would be one of those cases. As I said before, my LGBTQ friends are some of the most hospitable and empathetic people that I know. But even if we do offend someone, thankfully the line is “love never fails,” not “love never offends.” Keep loving!

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