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.]