Sin as a symptom…
I’ve had many conversations concerning the affirmation of Gay marriage since a recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune informed us that the United Church of Christ recently became the largest denomination to bear the label “open and affirming.” “Open and affirming” would be an amazing label for the Church if it meant now what it should mean. “Open and affirming” now means that the institution that bears it has no objection to homosexual lifestyle. I have grown up in and now work in a United Church of Christ. Our particular church has yet to specifically deal with the issue but, because of the National institution, it’s become the “open and affirming” thing has been a hot topic.
There seems to be somewhere around three kinds of people I have come in contact with: Those who oppose homosexuality outright and loudly sending a message to homosexuals everywhere that they have no place within that sphere (group 1). There are those who think it’s wrong, unnatural, and harmful to live that lifestyle but desperately long for the “gay community” to be loved as the beautiful people they really are (group 2). Then there are those who have no problem with homosexuality and criticize anyone who speaks out against it (group 3). Group 1 has approached the situation aggressively, you might see signs that read: “God hates fags” or “Gays, go away.” Group 3 combats the first group by encouraging, supporting, and empowering the Gay lifestyle. The second group, Group 2 usually finds themselves uncomfortably placing themselves on one side of the fence or the other. Which are you and what are you doing? Does your view point keep you from either love or justice, from compassion or discernment? Any movement that lacks these components is not of God.
Soon the Ramona Sentinel may be placing an article to see where the local United Church of Christ stands on the issue. Knowing our pastor, it broke my heart. Our pastor will now have to deal with the situation, being in group 2 most likely; he’ll be asked whether he is in group 1 or 3. Again, this breaks my heart. How can we convey a message of peace and acceptance and love and at the same time a message of discernment and justice?
Maybe our terms need correction. What if we’ve been looking at this from a bad angle the whole time?
Have you ever stopped to ask why someone lives a homosexual lifestyle? Let’s step back, why does someone become an alcoholic and drink themselves into a stupor? Do they set out saying, “man I wonder what it’s like to be an alcoholic and drink myself into a stupor on a daily basis?” Probably not. That lifestyle is rooted in… it comes from… something so much bigger and immensely more serious. Alcoholism comes from a lack of self worth, motivation, or acumen about life priorities. It can come from neglect at an early age, or even abuse, even poverty. It comes from a variety of different things none of them positive, all unnatural, unfortunate circumstances. Look at prostitution, look at drug addicts. There are deep places within each of us that are occupied by the remnants of life circumstances. These things condition the kinds of people we are. Generally if we know great love then we are conditioned to be the kinds of people who love. If we are exposed to manipulation regularly we will be swayed toward becoming manipulative people. So can we proceed to say that it’s less about the specific action and lifestyle than it is the kind of people we are?
Why do we demand someone stop what they are doing long before we address the deep places of their heart that need healing. Brokenness leads to all kinds of unnatural ways of living. A sin, after all, is simply something that hinders people from living the best kind of life. Relationship is all about wholeness and healing, it’s about getting into the dirtiest places in a persons life and shining light and bringing new life into those areas. When the Church says that someone, anyone in any sort of lifestyle, should be excluded from their midst the message it sends is that to enter relationship with them you have to have it all together and already healed. The Church has nothing to say to the Gay community until there exists a loving relationship between them.
The Church has become an institution. If the Church is an institution they are forced to answer to the rest of culture. The church even if only through deed and not word is labeled and placed on one side of the fence or the other sending their message to the world of either “moral hate” or “immoral tolerance.” If the Church was once again essentially relationship and not a location or establishment their message would be understood by the culture appropriately because judgment would be made at an intimate level. As soon as Church became an institution that has been given authority to give out marriage certificates we were inured to be labeled and to send out contemptible messages. Maybe we need to be careful what we wish for. Do we want the kind of authority we’ve been given? Has it made us into something we don’t want to be? Maybe it’s about people speaking on behalf of the Church who simply shouldn’t.
We have turned a gospel of love and hope and acceptance into one of sin management. If it’s about relationship then everyone belongs, everyone is accepted. Lifestyle change comes from deep healing and healing naturally comes from loving community and genuine friendship.
We’re so focused on outward actions; think about love for example. If you are not the kind of person who loves then how hard will it be to do the action? It’s not about picking and choosing who we love and don’t love it’s about becoming the kind of people who love, people who love everyone.
When we attack a lifestyle we attack a people. Are we called to go out into the world and tell everyone what they are doing wrong?
Jesus came, if I remember correctly, “not to condemn the world…” (John 3:17). The beauty of the kingdom of God is that it’s open to every person, in every facet of life. So how do we send a message of love into the world while sending a message of purity and restoration to the world? Let’s put it in the right terms. If the Church was people not a place again and the people were the kind of people who love, and the kind of people who accept others as they are, then that will be how people enter the Church, through people.
God is deeply in love with every human on the planet. To know God’s heart is to love the same way. I pray that that love will be what the world sees first. No one seeking compassion and grace should feel out of place in the Church. I want to be the kind of person who loves without an agenda, I want to make friends no matter what their life looks like and no matter how far from my point of view they may be. I want people to know they are loved… by God… by the Church.