by Christine Sine
I mentioned last week that I am starting a busy travel season and part of what I am discovering is that flying is becoming a great place to listen, learn and reflect. My last trip to Texas was no exception.
Standing in line for my plane (no it wasn’t the one in the photo) in Dallas I started talking to the woman in front of me and soon had a lively and engaging discussion going. It was obvious that we were connecting at a deep level. Just before we boarded she asked me what I did for a living and when I mentioned that I wrote books for a Christian audience she suddenly disengaged and took a step back, a look of pain on her face. We boarded the plane in silence and discovered we were sitting next to each other.
I knew exactly what had changed her attitude. In our early conversation she had mentioned that she was in a same sex relationship and now she was sure that I would start Bible bashing her with my theology.
I turned to her and shared that I had just come from a Baptist church in Waco where the congregation decided not just to accept gay couples but to perform gay marriages. In response there had been picketed demonstrations in the parking lot, hate mail in the post, abusive and offensive language and behavior directed at congregational members. Professors at the local seminary were told they couldn’t attend. It has been horrible but they have stood their ground believing that this is the loving thing to do.
Her eyes lit up as she realized I was not rejecting her but accepting her and she shared with me some of the pain and struggle of her own life. Growing up in a Catholic family she hid her developing sense of sexual identity. When she finally “came out” and let those she loved know, she was rejected by both her biological and church family. “I am still spiritual but I could never go back to my church and my family doesn’t want me either.” she confessed with tears in her eyes.
I have so many friends who have gone through this kind of trauma and it is so often the church and their Christian friends that are the most hate filled in their response. Learning to listen, reflect and being open to change our attitudes is one of the hardest things all of us are faced with. We want others to change without being willing to change ourselves because the know that we are right.
This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:17) I believe that Jesus calls us to be loving and inclusive, to unity not uniformity. We are called to embrace the diversity of the body of Christ even when we don’t understand how another person looks, thinks or acts.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselveswith compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
So as we end this series on Reading Life Differently make sure that you take particularly note of Ana Lisa De Jong’s poems the week and next. They are a spectacular way to finish.
Also my question today that I would encourage you to contemplate is: What does love look like for you? Where are the uncomfortable places that God might be prompting you to read life differently even though your theology has you pulling in another direction? Is there a possibility God wants you to change rather than expecting others to change?
Thanks for that, Christine. Like many churches all over the world the Uniting Church in Australia is seriously divided on the issue of same sex marriage, especially after it became legal in Aus. Ministers in the UCA now have the option to marry or refuse to marry same sex couples and the holds two distinct and separate definitions of marriage: that it is between a man and a woman; and that it is between two people. Alternative liturgies now reflect that stance. For followers of Jesus to hold paradoxical stances on an issue can be Biblical – otherwise how could we believe in One God who is three? As you say: Love must rule. But the division and pain remains.
Yes it is such a painful issue everywhere no matter which side of the divide you stand on. Trying to get people to come together in love is not easy. It seems to me that hate is more likely to reign. And it always seems to me that this issue takes our focus away from the ones that I think are much closer to God’s heart – poverty, injustice, and I suspect concern for creation as well.