It is possible to stand for truth without being a jerk about it. It is equally true that we can love another person deeply and still hold firm to the truth. Somehow speaking the truth in love doesn’t seem to apply to the church when it comes to homosexuality.
I must admit that over the years, and particularly now as my own denomination is having a conversation about gays in the church, that I am genuinely grieved and lament over how people talk to one another about this. On the one hand, there is the truth tellers. They have a passion for holiness, a zeal for the righteousness of God. They point out that Jesus got angry over sin, and did not put up with people watering down the gospel. Jesus, for them, is the Divine Warrior who is ready and armed to nuke every GLBT that gets near him. On the other hand there are the lovers. They are sincerely and often hurt by the constant chatter about how gays are sinners bound for hell. For them, Jesus loves, period. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, and drives a Prius around trying to leave the most loving impact he can on the earth without a harmful spiritual footprint or a rebuke from anyone.
I, of course, have painted the extremes on both sides. But therein lies the point: all the rhetoric that gets spewed on each side of the fence is extreme. Somehow love and truth don’t co-exist.
The problem is that few want to take the time to listen. Few are interested in understanding the other. There isn’t much poverty of spirit, little mourning over sin, and even less meekness. Instead, we look down our noses at each other. But listening, really? Yep, listening is really that important. “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If the person listens to you, you have won your brother or sister over.” (Matthew 18:15). I guess it is kind of hard to listen when people are taking pot shots at each other through social media and huddling together in their own little world. Matthew 18 presupposes relationship, and there seems to be little of it going around.
So, how about this: truth teller, will you take the time and the effort to build a relationship with a gay person? Will you seek to ask questions, listen, and understand without making comments? Are you able to see the image of God in someone very different from yourself? And, lover of all, do you have room to love someone who is at opposite ends of your understanding? Are you willing to take the time and effort to see why this is such a passionate issue for someone else without thinking that you already know why they think the way they do? Can you see that God’s love is big enough to extend to truth tellers?
The reality is that there are hot button issues for every church in which people are at very different ends of the spectrum of thinking. We in the church must take the lead and have the maturity to learn how to talk to one another without assuming we already know what the other side is all about. We don’t. We won’t know unless we listen. We won’t listen unless we are humble. We won’t be humble unless we become poor in spirit before our heavenly Father.
Think about having a conversation night in your church, not a debate night. Have two godly people who don’t agree on an important subject speak with the intent of promoting information and understanding – no other agenda. Allow the audience to ask write-in questions, and screen the best ones to be answered by the presenters. It has to start somewhere. Let it start with listening.