This week’s drama over the issue of same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court has been nothing short of historic. American society is at a point that I thought wouldn’t come for several years, if not decades. Same sex marriage might be legal in most of the nation in a few short years. Here in Minnesota, it might be that by the end of the year we might have the right for gay couples to marry. It means that I can have my relationship with my partner Daniel, recognized by the state and therby able to receive benefits that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for a very long time. There’s been a sense of celebration among my friends, as we see places like Facebook ablaze in the red equal signs with people showing support for same sex marriage.
But there has also been a darker side. I’ve seen friends kind of using this moment to make fun and belittle those who have opposed same sex marriage. Of course, when you are on the winning side, especially in the culture wars, it’s very easy to start “spiking the ball;” enjoying the tables turning.
But before we pop another bottle of champagne, those of us who all ourseleves Christians need to make sure we are offering love and grace to our opponents instead of spite.
On Good Friday, we see Jesus on the cross surrounded by soldiers and religious leaders laughing and taunting Jesus. It is a total hatefest. Now, Jesus had every right to ask God to send down angels and put this obscene display to a fitting end. But Jesus didn’t seek revenge. Instead, he said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
It’s pretty common in the gay community to not always be so gracious to our enemies. After all, we see them as the equivalent of modern day segregationists, and why should anyone treat them with kindness?
And let’s be honest, there are a lot of gay folks who were hurt by people who called themseleves Christians. Those hurts take a long time to heal, if ever. You can’t blame folks if they don’t feel charitable to people who may have hurt them.
As Christians, gay or straight, we are called to love our enemies. I am to love those who might still think being gay is a sin, or who might disapprove of same sex marriage. I know I’m right about this issue, but it is also equally important in my view to be loving as well.
And this all matters because people are watching us. They are wanting to see how we act. If go around calling everyone a bigot because they don’t see things our way, we will be seen as a poor witness.
A few years ago, I shared a blog post about an elderly man I encountered at church. He and I didn’t see eye to eye on being gay. I shared what happened one day between the two of us:
I had just graduated from seminary and was doing my CPE at a local nursing home. I was still involved at the church where I was an intern and was asked to serve on the church board. It came to a vote and I was voted in nearly unanimously. I say nearly because one person voted against me. I knew who it was and so did many others. It was an elderly member of the church. He had some idea I was gay and many people assumed that was why he voted against me. After the meeting concluded, he asked me to come with him into another room. He explained that he prayed and studied the scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but his conscience was not swayed in favor. As he said this, he began to cry.
I was and still am touched by this guesture. He did have to speak to me to explain his actions, but he did. He might not approve of who I sleep with, but he did treat me with respect. This wasn’t simply about being right for him, but about being loving.
Yeah, I know that his actions were hurtful. Yes, it would have been nice had he voted in favor. But I could respect his decsion even if it was wrong, because he valued me enough to respect me.
That experience told me that even though some people might not approve of me, they are also human beings and need to be treated with love, not judgement.
People are watching to see what gay Christians will do. Can we show love to our enemies? Can we allow for grace to breakthrough?
This might be the biggest test for gay Christians in America. Will we pass the test?