In light of the historic Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states this week, I wanted to share a few thoughts that have been on my heart. I really hate social media during times like this. It’s so emotional and so exhausting. Everyone expresses their opinion. At times this is great and I’m rejoicing, at times I’m embarrassed and humiliated, at times I’m livid and want to fight back. And here I am sharing just another opinion.
It seems to be worse that I am open about my spiritual beliefs being a follower of Jesus. Much of the time I want to remove myself from the “Christian” category all together and walk away from the church for good. I’m hurt by others who bear the name of Christ, but openly judge and hate.
My life has taken me on an interesting journey. I came from a very conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical background. (Lots of big words, I know. I could also just say “the south”). I learned the Bible inside and out. I once believed that everyone should live life from my worldview. Looking back, I’ll admit I was very close-minded and judgmental. I didn’t know what to think about people who were different than me. So I did what everyone else did, I pushed them away and expected them to conform to my viewpoint.
I was very shallow, naive and inexperienced. Life had been pretty easy going. I hadn’t faced much adversity. I’d followed all the rules. I had a very closed off perspective about the world – it was safe, good, and rewarding, IF you maintained all religious and social expectations.
This was great, for the most part. Until I began experiencing the world. I made a few mistakes. I lived in shame and guilt and secret, protecting my “good” image so I’d be kept in right standing.
For years, I suffered from depression and anxiety. I wasn’t comfortable with who I was. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. I couldn’t seem to find my place in the world. I didn’t fit into my “church and Christian” community anymore, but neither did I fit into the “secular” world.
Again, I was so shallow and naive. Not that I’m super intelligent and have everything figured out at this point in life, but I feel my real-world experiences, outside of my safe, Christian bubble, have truly taught me more about what it means to follow Jesus, than I learned when I lived with my closed off perspective. I’ll share a few examples.
1. I once thought I was somehow better than others because I was more dedicated to my faith and didn’t struggle with “big sins.” Comparison is a terrible thing. Over the years, I’ve seen in my own life that I use comparison to make me feel better about myself. I can find someone out there who is living life “worse” than I am, and that seemed to make me feel better about my own stupid choices. Because she was doing this and I was only doing that, I was therefore superior to her. We use comparison to justify our own sinful actions.
2. I realized that we all make dumb mistakes. We are human. And I’ve realized we are always going to make dumb mistakes. I make them. You make them. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and justifying our stupid decisions. Instead of pointing out our differences in choices of sin, let’s come together and realize we are all sinful. It does no good to judge and slander each other. But what if we work together and support one another in order to overcome our issues that we all face. Now we have this shared, common experience and we aren’t so different after all. We can’t overcome sin alone. In fact, that’s what the church is supposed to be all about. A body of believers, living life together and supporting one another. Not a ranting bunch of idiots (which is exactly what we look like) calling out sin by judging others in the name of standing up for the truth. It’s embarrassing. The Bible says that believers will be known for their love, not their annoying protesting, or not even because they stand up for the truth, but for their love.
3. I don’t understand why being different is so offensive. For some reason, humans seem to be afraid and offended by what they don’t understand. And in order to “fix” this problem, we want those who are different to become exactly like us. The issue then is that every group of people wants every other group of people to become exactly like them. We rarely desire and support diversity. Which is a shame. Why do we want everyone to conform to our ideals and standards? Why are we not celebrating the uniqueness of others? As a follower of Jesus, I believe that each and every person was made in the image of God, just how they are. These differences should be seen as glorious and wonderful! But so many times we make fun of and persecute someone just because they are different…their religious beliefs, skin color, country of origin, social class, language, style of worship, gender, beverage preference, etc. Again, I think this somehow makes us feel better about ourselves in our own twisted little minds.
4. We struggle with huge insecurities. I feel that the root of comparison and the reason differences are offensive is our own insecurities. I mentioned my struggle with identity, anxiety and depression. Today, I can proudly say that I’ve overcome those challenges (with help of my faith, my church, my family and friends, and a good therapist). For the first time in my life, I am proud of who I am. I know I’m quirky, independent, and don’t fit socially constructed gender roles, but I’ve learned to accept myself as who I am and love it. It’s who God made me. I’m comfortable knowing that I don’t have to be like everyone else. In addition, I know that I’m flawed. I know I’m sinful. I know I need Jesus. Learning these truths has helped me love others better. I don’t feel a constant need to belittle others to build myself up. I no longer see myself as superior, nor do I feel I need to be seen as better than anyone else. I’m just me. And you’re just you. And that’s beautiful.
5. Another common similarity we have is the need to feel valued and loved. Because we are insecure and flawed, we need to be reminded that we matter, that we are important, that someone cares. Every one of us. We have this incredible opportunity to rally together and be that positive influence on one another. Yes we are different, but we also have so much in common! We can choose to seek common ground and praise one another because of it. This is a huge opportunity for the church to stand up and be known for their love, yet the church today is majorly missing out.
6. People are people. We think because someone makes difference choices than we do, that somehow that makes them less human, less worthy of acceptance. It’s hard to relate to others whom we don’t understand. It’s hard to want to help a starving child in a third world country, until you’ve visited that child a third world country. It’s easy to keep them at a distance, out of sight out of mind, calling them “different” and ignoring the so-called problem, or in this case, pointing out the problem. It’s messy to jump in with two feet and build a relationship and share openly our weaknesses and let others in. But, we can’t continue to dehumanize others. We can’t ignore someone we consider to be a problem.
I really want to ask those who are against same-sex marriage if they know anyone who is openly gay. I want to ask if they’ve ever talked to anyone who is gay; if they have ever attempted to build a friendship with a gay person. Because when we actually open our hearts to others and see the commonalities we have with them, it’s a whole lot harder to point fingers and cast blame. You may just discover you’re more alike than you think. You may discover that they are people, just like you. People who just want to be accepted and loved. People who have families and friends, people who have jobs and hobbies, people who laugh and cry. People who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and honor. People who we, as Christians, are called to love.
In conclusion, I’ll say that my life has been filled with personal struggles. It’s nothing like I ever expected. I’ve made huge messes, I’ve felt like a failure more than once, I’ve celebrated amazing victories. I’ve learned that people matter most. Every person matters. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done or where you’ve been, you matter. The Bible says that if we don’t have love, we have nothing. If we can’t look past our differences and preferences and love others, life is miserable. At the end of the day, despite my actions and my choices, I serve a God who extends love and grace over me even though I’ve done nothing and will never do anything to deserve it. I will always be a sinful human being, and so will you.
When I look at the life of Jesus, whom we are called to model, I see a man of love who spent time with societies’ outcasts, the broken, the hurting, those who were different. He didn’t come to fight a political battle or establish an earthly kingdom. He didn’t create a Christian bubble and play it safe. He chose to be in the world, loving those who weren’t being loved by his followers. Ironically, he was also called out by believers for hanging out with sinners, accepting gifts from prostitutes, and partying too hard. In scriptures you never see Jesus ranting and rioting in the name of truth, except when he was in temple over-turning tables of the religious. His pursuit wasn’t winning favor in the government or changing the laws of the land. That stuff didn’t matter. His pursuit was the hearts of people. He came to love.
As the church, we’ve missed it big time. Our sights are so off course. Our mission has been so skewed. We spend an outrageous amount of our time, finances and resources fighting the wrong battle, one that we are still severely losing. My plea is that we would stop fighting the wrong fight and remember. Remember who we are, remember what we’ve done, remember who Jesus is, remember that people are people, remember we are called to love, remember that we need to be loved, remember that God is love.