The essence of who I am is far more shaped, influenced, and guided by my spirituality than by my sexuality. I am wholly wrapped up in my pursuit of Christ and his amazing grace. And I’m quite comfortable there. – Jonathan Merritt (Christianity Today, 2014 an excerpt from his book Jesus is Better Than You Imagined)
“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:10
When I was but a wee lad in seventh my mother first began to suspect that I was not as heterosexually normative as she and mother intended me to be the first question she asked was “Did someone touch you?” Parents are also so queer (pardon my word choice) when it comes to talking about sex with their children, when it come to talking to their children who are not easily fit into the boxes society has made. I have never been sexually abused, so part of me was greatly offended by the article Jonathan Merritt wrote for Christianity Today on Friday that subtly implied that sexual attraction that is not 100% heterosexual is created by experiences of sexual abuse. There are plenty of studies by people with fancy Phds that prove that assertion to be completely without merit, so I will not bother addressing it in this post, instead I want to talk about how we Christians who err on the side of grace should show it to those who are accidently harming entire populations of the faith with the language they choose to use to frame their story.
I have recently written about how love the sinner hate the sin was an act of violence, but one thing I neglected to mention is the passive microaggressions that plague the everyday heteronormative language that passively situates the feet of heterosexuals over the necks of their non-dominant counterparts. While the LGBT community is used to their daily doses of microaggression – it is a problem that needs to be addressed especially by a community of faith that claims to be centered on the love of the God that created them. I admit that I accidently committed one of these microaggresions to one of my siblings in Christ by simply using the term “brothers and sisters in Christ”. When this person said they were offended by my word choice, I asked them to explain their frustration and to give me a different terminology to use that would not be emotionally harming to them. This person exists outside of the gender binary, so that makes it impossible for me to use gendered language in order to discuss this story. (Notice this entire paragraph only uses first-person pronouns.) I was told that the phrase “siblings in Christ” is better because it includes all of God’s children not just the males and females.
I also confess that I commit these microaggressions to dominant groups as well, I even did it in this post. If you scroll upward I subtly implied that Evangelical Christians are not well versed in scientific studies. (I’ll give you a second to find it) You see, we use our language in ways that subtly attack and harm our siblings in Christ. The problem is that Christ has commanded us to love one another (John 15:12) – Paul reprimands us for back-biting (Ephesians 4:29), James rebukes us for showing preference to others based on outward appearances (James 2:1-13), as disciples of Jesus Christ we are held to higher standard of human behavior. Rather than tongue in cheek insults – we are to openly address our issues with those in our community of faith bringing witnesses if need be. Rather than screaming at Merritt for the harm he has done to LGBTIQ Christians, we on the left should be engaging in a loving discussion. Rather than judging him for sharing his story and “causing division” we on the right should listen to his story and find Christ within it. Rather than looking at things with human eyes, we should allow the Holy Spirit to give us the eyes of our Creator to see this narrative as God sees it.
We must make room for grace. Grace that corrects, grace that embraces, grace that touches the places we want to leave unchanged by God. Those places that we believe God has lead us to, and those places of deep immeasurable pain that have been buried in closets, written out in suicide notes and hidden in sock drawers. Our way is not our own, it is the way of Jesus Christ, and it is difficult. It will not be easy working to not offend our siblings in Christ, it will not be easy listening to stories that have such gravity, it will not be easy to do no harm; but Jesus did not tell us to take it easy he said “Follow Me”. This grace comes only when we are able to humble ourselves to live in a state where we can be corrected, where we can grow, where we can correct with love (actual love, not condescending dogma from on high), and where we can share in our brokenness. It is only in the sharing of our brokenness that together we can be made whole in Christ.
May we follow Christ in our thoughts, words and deeds. May we love one other and work to not harm each other with the words that we use. May carefully craft a world and a faith community that is worthy of being called “the kingdom” of God. May we love as Christ loved – walking with our siblings in Christ not trying to coerce them. Amen.