“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What if Christians approached the homosexual community this way? Thoughts?
Field notes on life and mission with God after Christendom
Don’t we all suffer because we attempt to put one another in a comfortable-for-us box, instead of doing the hard work of establishing relationship with someone who has a mind of their own? In re to the gay community, we all suffer because we keep our distance from what we don’t know/understand instead of humbly coming towards someone to find out how we can love them into the healing we have experienced.
Ben Sternke says
Thanks for the comment, Carol. The tragedy is that the “sides” have become so polarized that it is very difficult to even begin a conversation. But listening to peoples’ stories goes a long way.
In my experience, most Christians still consider the gay lifestyle ‘wrong’, and most gays I know personally are very aware of this. I’ve spoken with a few of my gay friends at length about the attitudes (good and bad) they encounter when engaging with Christians….and while they appreciate kindness like anyone else, they still know there is an agenda behind it, they still know they’re trying to be ‘won over’ to something (ie: believing their sexuality is ‘wrong’ and they need ‘healed’). It’s taken me *years* (still learning) to come into a relationship with someone without the constant droning in my brain that they ultimately ‘need’ to receive jesus/healing/whatever, and I should be constantly looking for opportunities to ‘be Jesus’ to them SO THAT they will believe/think/act like me. IMO, the ‘so that’ part needs to be erased from our collective brain cells. Those outside the faith are UBER sensitive to people in the Church because they know that the bottomline is to convince others to “believe like me.” I don’t know about you, but I think that feels icky.
If I want others to ‘believe like me’ that Jesus loves humanity like no other has/does/will, is that still a selfish motive? Maybe my actions need to ‘speak’ this desire more than my words?
BTW-if the church isn’t the place where healthy diversity is welcome, how will we know what it looks like?
Unfortunately, those I’ve spoken with are innoculated completely from ‘jesus love me’. They believe God is love. And rejection of who they are (because they believe their sexuality *is* who they are, just as we’d feel rejected if others said being heterosexual is wrong) doesn’t fit with a ‘jesus loves me’ scenario. It sounds like ‘jesus loves you and wants you to stop being gay’. Or worse “i love you because jesus loves you, and you need fixed’.
I think it’s perfectly legitimate to live our lives as though others might ‘catch’ our enthusiasm for whatever…be it our understanding of God’s love for humanity to simply eating healthy food. I don’t think that’s selfish. BUT, I wouldn’t go around fostering relationships for the underlying purpose of getting everyone around me to eat healthy. See the difference? For those outside the church, that’s how it feels for them. I see quite a bit of danger in the Church even asking questions such as ‘how do we build relationship SO THAT…blah blah blah.’ I think the question should be “How do we build relationship?” No strings attached. Of course we hope the good in us rubs off on others….just as I hope the good in others rubs off on me, regardless of their beliefs……but if the relationship is built on a desire to ‘fix/change/etc’ instead of love, it’s hopeless. Not sure I’m making my point here. I suppose only each one of us can know what our motivations are in reaching out to someone. I find the most satisfaction just reaching out with no agenda except touching another human being and being touched by them….I don’t really care whether they’re gay or straight, spiritual or not. I want to share in the sufferings and stories of human beings.
“…fostering relationships for the underlying purpose of getting everyone around me to eat healthy.” Thanks for this example, Cindy. Yet, I wonder from where does this motive to fix people come? Is it partly my desire for personal comfort? I mean, if I am to regard people more in the light of how they suffer, won’t my response be a desire to end their suffering? Or do I ‘take up’ their suffering…? Hmmm…
Hmmmm is right :o) I think it depends on the depth of the relationship, how much trust is there, that kind of thing. For me, I like to just ramble away (obviously) about my issues and just have someone nod their head in understanding. I don’t like others to give me solutions unless I ask for them. I think humans have an insatiable need to feel like they belong. That others understand and can empathize with their feelings or experiences. Shared experiences, good and bad, together or apart, can bind us to each other and breech the gap.
Rob Bell’s newest book ‘Drops like Stars’ deals with the issue of creativity and suffering. We went and heard him when he gave this presentation in the spring (we’re in the crowd shot on page 60-something!) and he delves into the idea of ‘sharing in the suffering’ of others. I highly recommend it, though be forwarned that it’s a coffee table book. Sleek, glossy black cover, really large hardback. It’s basically his complete talk. Supposed to get people talking when they’re just hangin’ around your house, and non-chalantly pick it up and flip through the cool pictures. :o)
Thanks for the dialogue.