Jesus Stops A Lynching and the LGBTQ Community

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery . . . (John 8.2-3)

This week I want to address a story from which most have only heard very conventional explanations and a traditional expounding. In my opinion, how this story is spoken of normally, does little more than allow us to continue on in our culturally conditioned lives unchanged. This story is most often used today (although there are exceptions) by one of two groups. It’s used by behaviorists, who say, “Yes, Jesus forgave, but he also said ‘go sin no more.’” And therefore this story serves to do little more than confirm them in their already-in-motion behaviorism. And this story is also used by those who have been deeply wounded by behaviorists as a treatise on how behaviorists are to not “judge,” reminding behaviorists that Jesus also said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” On this side, this story also serves little more than to simply confirm where someone already is.

I want to suggest this week that if these are our only two options in our search for understanding this story, then we miss the underlying point entirely. Something much deeper is going on in this story than what we see on the surface. This “something deeper” is what all of us (behaviorists as well as anti-judgmentalists alike) may be trying to avoid with our surface explanations, fearing that the deeper narrative could implicate us all.

Scapegoating

This story is neither about “anti-judgementalism,” nor is it about “loving the sinner, but hating the sin.” Instead, it’s about “scapegoating.” René Girard, whom some regard today as a veritable “Einstein” of sociology and theology, in his work on violence and the sacred, has discovered that societies, in times of crisis throughout human history, time and time again, are reunited by society unifying around a hatred for a common enemy. This enemy is selected as 1) different from “us,” 2) a minority whose absence would least affect the overall society, and 3) those upon whom the blame for society’s problems can be placed and whose presence must be removed. Various methods can be used (political, economic or religious) to characterize this minority as the “threat” to society. But they must be vilified. Scapegoating will not work to unify a society if that minority is seen as being victimized instead. Those being scapegoated must become villains or of moral disrepute. They must not be seen as victims, but as enemies of what is just and good and therefore they must be opposed. Thus, the society now possesses a common enemy. And the unity within that society, which was previously being threatened, is restored as they now rally together around this common enemy. (A great example of this is seen in Luke 23.12)

What led Girard to become a Christian was his discovery that the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is uniquely different. This Jesus uniquely sought to expose human society’s scapegoating mechanism. He sought to create a human community centered on love for our enemies (removing the exclusive lines of “us” and “them,”) rather than hatred for a common enemy. And finally, this Jesus became the ultimate scapegoat (politically, economically, and religiously) within the narratives of human history in order to, through his unjust death and then resurrection, put an end, once and for all, to our practice of “sacrificing scapegoats.” This is not only seen simply in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus spent His entire life pulling back the layers beneath which we hide the morally, monstrous ugliness of humanity’s continual sacrifice of innocent victims for the protection, advancement, and/or well being of the much larger population.

“The Gospels not only disclose the hidden scapegoat mechanism of human cultures, but witness to the God . . . who stands with the Innocent Victim and is revealed through him.” – René Girard, The Girard Reader

“The most important of these we find in the Gospel of Luke, the famous prayer of Jesus during the Crucifixion: ‘Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing’ (23:34) . . . Persecutors think they are doing good, the right thing; they believe they are working for justice and truth; they believe they are saving their community.” – René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning

Jesus called this the way of “sacrifice” rather than the way of “mercy.” It was to open our eyes and call us away from the way of sacrifice to the way of mercy that Jesus set all his energy in His teachings, His death, and His resurrection.

Jesus stops a lynching.

This is where we need to pick up our story in John 8.

The teachers of the Torah along with the Pharisees are feeling threatened by Jesus. Their place within their society is as risk. They must remove this threat (think Cain and Abel). But in order for it not to back fire, Jesus must not be seen as innocent. The sacrifice of Jesus must be justifiable. Jesus must been seen as a “sinner,” someone who disregards the “Law of Moses.” So they lay a trap—a woman caught in the very act of adultery.

What I find most appalling about adultery in the first century is that adultery laws did not apply to men unless the woman they were having an extramarital affair with was also married. The adultery laws of the Torah applied to both the man and the woman only if the woman involved was married. The culture was patriarchal, and the chief concern expressed in the underlying moral logic of their law was protecting the property rights of the man to whom the woman involved in the adultery “belonged.” We are not given the details of how this tragic mistake was made by the woman in this story. We are not told if she was lured by some pretense, or if this was rape. Either was possible within the patriarchal environment of first-century Palestine. Obviously, it was a trap set for Jesus, however the woman came to be there. She was now the chief, expendable pawn in their scheme.

The trap was then set: “In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” It is at this point the story takes an unexpected turn. Jesus bends down and begins writing on the ground.

I’ve heard (and read) so many try in one convoluted attempt after another to show what Jesus was actually writing on the ground that day. All are guesses at best. My favorite is Shane Claiborne’s: “If this doesn’t work . . . run, woman!” Claiming to know what Jesus wrote that day is to miss the point. To get caught up in trying to figure it out, though, is the point itself. Let me explain. Jesus must get their attention off of being centered on this woman. He must draw all attention to Himself. He comes along side this woman and draws the attention of everyone away from her to Him. You see, scapegoating only works if the scapegoat (in this case, the woman) is “the center” around which everyone else can unite. Jesus begins disrupting this mechanism by doing something brilliant. He bends down and begins writing mysteriously, drawing the attention of everyone away from this woman to Himself. He slowly trades places with her, placing Himself now at the center of their attention as they each, one by one, begin to look down and try to see what Jesus is writing. We must not miss this. Jesus begins by slowly drawing their attention away from her to Himself.

If John had wanted us to know what Jesus wrote, he would have told us. John purposefully leaves the words out for a dramatic reason. John, in beautiful form, preserves this action in the manner in which he records the story for future readers as well. By leaving what Jesus wrote unrecorded, your attention, even right now as you read this, if you can be self-aware for just a moment, is on trying to figure out what Jesus wrote rather than focusing on the woman. Jesus, that day and in the beautiful way John has preserved this story, comes alongside the woman and draws our attention off her and onto Himself. If you’ll notice, you weren’t thinking about that woman at all until I mentioned her again. You were trying desperately, especially if you are OCD like me, to figure out instead “What is He writing.” We can focus only on one or the other, and Jesus knows it.

Jesus then takes a chance. This could have gone the other way very quickly. They could have chosen to stone them both: She as an adulteress, and Jesus as a blasphemer. But Jesus took the risk and stood in solidarity with this woman who was being sacrificed, scapegoated, or in reality, victimized. With one contemplative statement to the oppressors, (“You who are without sin cast the first stone”) He not only saved this woman from what was about to happen, He also won what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called a “double victory.” Jesus not only saves the woman, but He saves the perpetrators too of this act of violence. Jesus saw two sets of victims present, the woman and her accusers. Two parties were held captive to whatever you want to label it, systemic injustice, systemic scapegoating, systemic violence, or systemic “sacrifice.” And He saved both! Scapegoating, or “sacrifice” is the way of the satan, the accuser; Mercy is the way of God, the God we see in Jesus. Jesus interrupted the proceedings of the path of the accuser and set the entire group on the path of God. This story calls us to look at “scapegoating” from the perspective of the victim and of Jesus. The story ends in redemption rather than victimization. “Mercy rather than sacrifice.”

Go And Sin No More

Last, I want to address the much-misunderstood statement by Jesus, “Go and Sin No More.”

The word for sin here that John uses is hamartano, which is the verb form of the noun hamartia. In the ancient Greek world, hamartia was the term Aristotle used in Poetics. One of the ancient Greek story genres was tragedy. In a story classified as tragedy, a mistake, or error in judgment is made by the main character (the hero’s “tragic flaw”). This error in judgment is what leads to the hero’s/heroine’s tragic downfall. This definition fits extremely well with our story. If it were not for Jesus, this story would have been classified as a “tragedy” with the woman as our central character.

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood, hamartia can refer specifically to the tragic mistake itself. BUT DON’T MISS THIS. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states that hamartia can refer to the “guilt of wrong doing” as well as the wrong doing itself. Hamartia can go way beyond the behavioral aspect of an action to the guilt or stigma associated with that action as well. In these next passages, John’s use of hamartia, which is very unique to the way other authors of the New Testament, is not talking about a behavior but guilt for that behavior; not the committing of the wrongdoing itself, but the guilt for committing a wrongdoing. This distinction is important if we are going to see how it ties back into our story. All of these examples are from John, who is the only gospel writer to use the phrase “go and sin no more.”

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned [Harmatia] this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9.2-3)

It would make no sense to look at hamartia as purely “behavioral” in this passage, for how could this man commit “hamartia” as a behavior before he was even born? If we take Mounce’s definition of the word as also being able to refer to guilt for behavior and not merely the committing of certain behavior, the text makes more sense. The apostles are asking, “Rabbi, who is guilty of sin? This man or his parents since he was born blind?”

These passages are from John as well:

“Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they CANNOT sin, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3.9, emphasis added)

“We know that those who are born of God do not sin.” (1 John 5.18, emphasis added)

No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3.6, emphasis added)

In 1 John 3.9, John says, “cannot sin?” Really? Paul would never have said that followers of Jesus are incapable of hamartia! Because Paul uses hamartia behaviorally. John goes much deeper, using hamartia to refer to the guilt that is associated with certain behaviors. I’ve seen this verse cause much heartache and damage when “hamartia,” here used by John, is defined behaviorally rather than as guilt over one’s behavior. I’ve seen it rob multitudes of any assurance every time they make a mistake, leaving them to wonder if they were ever genuinely born again at all. On the other side of the spectrum I’ve seen gross sins being perpetrated against others while those committing such actions say, “This can’t be sin because I’ve been born again!” Is John saying that if you abide in Jesus you no longer make moral mistakes? Not only that you don’t, but that you CAN’T? Is John really teaching that when you choose to follow Jesus you achieve over-night, undefeatable moral perfection?

These verses are dangerous if you interpret them as meaning that a Jesus follower cannot ever sin again. BUT, if what John is saying is that once you are born of God the accuser loses his ability to entrap you with overwhelming feelings of GUILT over your sins then this passage from John becomes blessed good news of freedom from guilt, shame, and stigma. John’s use of hamartia (and John’s use, again, is unique in the New Testament) goes way beyond the behavior of sinning. John is saying in all of these passages that if you have been born of God, if you know Him, if you’ve seen Him, you are no longer enslaved by feelings of GUILT over your behaviors, and you cannot be. If God looks like Jesus, guilt loses its power over us to control our futures. To the degree that we believe that God looks like Jesus, to that same degree we will be free from guilt, shame and stigma over our mistakes. Paul actually says the same exact thing in Romans 8.1, “There is therefore no more condemnation to those who are in Christ.” (emphasis added.)

Now let’s return to our story.

“Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from this point forward sin no more.’” (John 8.9-11, emphasis added)

Here is the million-dollar question. Is Jesus siding with the accusers now implying that this woman really is to blame for all that took place that day? Is Jesus saying, “Yes, I don’t condemn you, but they are right, don’t do this anymore?” Having barely escaped with her life, do you think she would even need to be told this? Or on another note, is Jesus telling her to never sin again, setting her up for questioning her sincerity as a Jesus follower every time she failed from that day forward? Is Jesus really expecting this woman to never sin again? From this point, this initial point forward? Don’t get me wrong; Jesus DOES radically change the direction of our lives! But which of us after meeting Jesus for the very first time “sinned no more?” Which of us never sinned again? Yes, the direction of our life dramatically changed when we met Jesus, but haven’t we all still made moral mistakes here and there, from time to time, after our first encounters with Jesus? Following Jesus is much like learning how to walk. Following Jesus is an adventure in learning how to live a radically different life. It’s about being mentored by Jesus, not being perfect from an initial moment onward. None of us become Olympic-gold-medalists in our behavior after our first encounter with Jesus. Which one of us achieved overnight, “sin-no-more” moral perfection after meeting Jesus the very first time?

What John is showing us here is that Jesus is saying something to this woman that is much, much deeper. Jesus is saying go and be guilty of this tragic mistake no more? Certainly her life direction was changed that day. But Jesus wasn’t siding with her accusers here and he wasn’t setting her up for continually doubting her own sincerity either. He was setting her free, free from the guilt, the shame, and the stigma of what she had been involved with that day. Jesus was saying, “Woman, from this point forward, go forth, be guilty of this mistake [John’s use of hamartia] no more. You are free. I don’t condemn you, and I don’t want you to condemn yourself either. Don’t define yourself by this mistake this day, go and be guilty of this tragic failure no more! You don’t have to define yourself the way these people have defined you here today. You are not what they call a ‘sinner.’ You are a daughter of Abraham too!” (cf. Luke 19.9) Jesus looked at this woman and gave her a fresh start; “Go and be guilty of this sin . . . no more.”

Far from looking at this story through the lens of behaviorism or anti-judgmentalism, this is a story that contrasts the way of sacrifice with the way of mercy, the way of scapegoating with the way of redemption. We see Jesus coming along side this woman about to be scapegoated/stoned by His own religious community and Jesus turns the tables on us all and calls all of us to two new realities:

1) If you have been religiously scapegoated, you no longer have to define yourself according to the moral inferiority of how the majority has made you feel.

2) If you have taken part in religiously scapegoating others, it’s time to humbly submit to Jesus’ radically different way of looking at those we are presently rallying together against, calling them “sinners,” using Torah, once again, as our justification.

This was what converted the early apostles, especially the apostle Paul. And it’s what converts each of us. It is at least one of the central points of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection if not the center itself. Jesus has revealed God as being with those whom we are politically, economically, or religiously scapegoating, and we must come to terms with the reality that we are with God, when we with them.

The Jesus story calls us to recognize where we are participating in the way of sacrifice rather than mercy, the way of scapegoating minorities, for the certitude of the greater populous. It calls us away from arranging our lives where a “common enemy” is always needed. And it beckons us to, from this point forward, stand in solidarity with those we once scapegoated. Jesus calls us to abandon whatever sacrificial system we’ve stood in solidarity with up to this point, and to now stand in solidarity with those who are being victimized by those systems instead. We are to be like Jesus, coming along side of those about to be stoned, saying, “If you’re going stone them, then you’re going to have to stone me, too. But know this, whoever among you who is truly innocent in all of this, let them cast the first stone.” As followers of Jesus, we follow Him into the hope of a new world where the continual tides of sacrifice can be turned, and waves of mercy, rather than sacrifice, can wash over our human societies as the waters cover the sea.

HeartGroup Application

Actually, more than an application, it’s time for some confession. I’ve been asking you to sit with Jesus over the past few weeks, asking Him to show you a people group that is on His heart. The reason I’ve asked you to do this is because this is what He has, inescapably, done to me.

For me, this is really where the rubber meets the road. If the story of the Resurrection teaches us anything, it teaches us that the way of sacrificial systems that justify scapegoating innocent victims has come to an end. The Resurrections puts on display that the Presence of God is no longer to be sought within the most exclusive, most holy places belonging to those systems. The true dwelling place of God is now to be found in the ones shamefully suspended on crosses at the demand of those religious sacrificial systems. The Resurrection is the start of a whole new world where we don’t need to fear the consequences our nonviolent engagement with those systems either. We stand in the Victory of the Christ over all injustice, a victory that has already been won. So here goes.

My Confession

I’ve taken a lot of heat over what I’m about to write here over the past few months. I’ve even had a few of my meetings cancel over this. I’ve had those who have been my friends for years now shun me as I begin to take my place alongside those I believe are being scapegoated today. Rather than perusing dialogue and discussion, I have simply been written off. Yet there is a beauty in the pain of rejection when you are now standing along side those you yourself used to reject. Being on the receiving end myself of religious scapegoating now, it’s my prayer that Jesus uses it deep inside me to change me first and foremost.

Here are the responses I’ve gotten so far:

“But I cannot endorse their choice of lifestyle.”

Justin Lee’s continued passion to define the terms we are using is much needed in our discussions. Justin asks the question, “Would you agree with me that sex outside of marriage is wrong?” His audience responds, “Yes.” Justin continues, “Then would you also agree that heterosexuality before marriage is also wrong?” The audience scratches their heads. Heterosexuality is not about whom one has sex with. It’s about whom one feels attracted to. And we don’t choose whom we are attracted to, we just are. Attraction is not something one chooses, it’s what someone experiences whether they want those attractions or not. In the same way, homosexuality cannot be reduced to a sexual act. Homosexuality is defined as feelings of attraction, whether those feelings are wanted or not, to the same gender. I don’t know one of my gay or lesbian friends who chose to feel attracted to their same gender. For them, this is not a lifestyle that they chose. It is something they experience inside of them for which they cannot find an explanation. It would be most helpful if we stopped referring to homosexuality as a “choice of lifestyle.” Just as with heterosexuality, there are expressions of sexuality (both hetero and homo) that are very unhealthy. But it is unjust to group all homosexuals under one sweeping characterization. (Or heterosexuals for that matter.) The struggle for my Christian LGBTQ friends is to find the difference between what is a healthy expression of these same gender attractions that they are feeling and what is an unhealthy expression. And there is just as much debate on this subject among them as there is among my straight friends. Yet my friends in the LGBTQ community are left to struggle with this alone, being shut out from the support of their Christian communities, for even having these un-chosen attractions to begin with.

I have to humbly confess that I think we are completely missing the point of the Jesus story. We claim that this story is the center of all we are about. Yet this story is about a Jesus who met scapegoating in His religious community head on, and it cost Him his life for it. This is the story of a Jesus who encountered those who were being labeled as “sinner” according to the Torah, marginalized, and in John 8 even lynched, by the religious community of His day. This is the story of how Jesus loved these people, how He stood in solidarity with them, and having called them His own, He stood in solidarity with them all the way to the end.

As Girard said, those who scapegoat others “think they are doing good, the right thing; they believe they are working for justice and truth; they believe they are saving their community.” Jesus prayed, “They don’t know what they are really doing.” Scapegoating in the Jesus story appears in the form of giving greater value to a definition of Torah observance (even if they had to sacrifice a few among their community for that observance) over and above the value of those who were being sacrificed. (Scapegoating always picks an individual or a group that is a minority whose absence would least diminish the overall whole. Their absence really won’t cost us a thing. Scapegoating then finds a justifiable reason to unite together in sacrificing them.)

Scapegoating in the Jesus story possessed an air of “holiness,” but it was a kind of holiness that caused those who were being sacrificed to steer clear, and to keep their distance. Jesus, on the other hand, stood in solidarity with those being sacrificed. He valued people and the way of mercy, over and above the way of sacrifice, EVEN WHEN IT WAS ENDORSED BY THE TORAH. Jesus possessed a kind of holiness that actually attracted those whom the religious culture of His day, with the Torah in their hands, were scapegoating.

“But the Bible clearly condemns Homosexuality.”

Again, homosexuality refers to whom you find yourself attracted to, not whom you are having sex with. Whether or not the Bible addresses same gender attraction at all, or what exactly was the moral logic that undergirded the Biblical statements concerning same-gender sexual acts are topics that are hotly debated among scholars today. (See The Bible, Gender and Sexuality by James V. Brownson) And although I believe we need more discussions about these topics given the onslaught of such massive misinformation that is being promoted, to stop here also misses the point of the Jesus story. Even IF one does deem the act of same-gender sex as condemned by the Bible, a grave reality is staring back at us in the face. Why are our reactions to those within LGBTQ community so governed by our amygdala (fight or flight) and not Jesus? Why are my friends in the LGBTQ community, not being strangely attracted to us as they were to Jesus? We may claim to be following Jesus, but then why are our results almost identical to the results of those who were doing the scapegoating in the Jesus story? Why are our results so similar to those who actually crucified Jesus too? Why do we find ourselves getting caught up senselessly with the crowd, crying, “Crucify them, and anyone who stands with them!” We must let this contradiction confront us. Deeming same-gender sex as contrary to the Bible may make us feel more secure as Biblicists, but it gets us nowhere as followers of Jesus. We still have to confront the life of Jesus and how he taught us to relate to those whom any religious community in our day deems as living contrary to their sacred texts. We must be suspicious of any activity that blanket labels a minority as “sinners,” and then unites to rally against them. Scapegoaters never realize they are actually scapegoating until it’s too late. (Acts 2.37)

We have to let the Jesus story confront us.

“Jesus said, ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’”

Actually, Jesus never said that. What He actually said was that we are to get the log out of own eye before we can even hope to help others as they are trying to see through the dust that is in theirs. Until someone feels that we truly are their brother, sister, friend, until we’ve stopped and actually listened to their stories, it’s not that we don’t have the right to speak into their lives (which we don’t); it’s that we don’t even have the ability. Without first entering into relationship with those from the LGBTQ community, without entering into their struggles, their stories, until we stop talking about them and start listening to them and along side with them, even when we mean no harm and our intentions are pure, we will continue to do damage that we don’t even realize we are doing.

Here in West Virginia, we used to use canaries in the coalmines to warn the coal miners when the air had become toxic. When the canary died, it was time to run to the surface for purer air. Walter Brueggemann, the world’s foremost Old Testament scholar, has gone on record saying that those from the LGBTQ community are the canaries in our religious coalmines today. The way we as Christians have historically treated even Christian young people who begin experiencing same gender attraction has created an eight times higher rate of suicide among them than any other category of Christian or LGBTQ youth. This screams to us that in all our piety and holiness we have to be open to the possibility that we might have imbibed more of the spirit of scapegoating than we have the spirit of Christ. Seeing this only as a matter of whether this is sin or not sin grossly misses the point entirely. If sin is supposed to produce death, and how we are relating to those involved IS producing higher rates of death, we have to ask, where is the greater death-producing sin in actuality? Where is the greater sin? Is it in an orientation we are so deathly afraid of, or the way we are relating to those who posses this orientation regardless of how they got it? First, we must get the log of scapegoating out of our own eye, and only then will we be able to see clearly to be a source of life, a source of hope, mercy and redemption rather than death and greater damage as we try and “fix” them. (The percentage of people who have been irreparably damaged by reorientation therapy is significantly greater than any percentage of those who, by their own admission, say they now live lives that, on the outside, match the lives of straight people, even though they still experience same gender attraction.)

For the sake of every young person who is struggling with this right now as I write, for the sake of every phone call I will receive at 3 a.m. to talk someone back down off the ledge, it is time for change. If we are following Jesus, WHY IS OUR STORY SO DIFFERENT THAN HIS? I wonder if this is why Jesus was crucified by the teachers of the Torah in His day. Was it because He chose to stand in solidarity with those who were being scapegoated around him, too?

Stanley Hauerwas, for me, summed up what may be the underlying basis of our scapegoating of the LGBTQ community today. Notice the part I’ve italicized: “As a society we have no general agreement about what constitutes marriage and/or what goods marriage ought to serve. We allegedly live in a monogamous culture, but we are at best in fact serially polygamous. We are confused about sex, why and with whom we have it, and about our reasons for having children. This moral confusion leads to a need for the illusion of certainty. If nothing is wrong with homosexuality then it seems everything is up for grabs. Of course, everything is already up for grabs, but the condemnation of gays hides that fact from our lives. So the moral ‘no’ to gays becomes the necessary symbolic commitment to show that we really do believe in something.

If this isn’t scapegoating (gaining security, certitude and unity about our own moral “okayness” by the way we justify treating a minority), then I have to confess I am at a loss to know what scapegoating even is.

I know we feel as if we are simply standing up for what is right. Remember, those unknowingly caught up in the wave of scapegoating always do (cf. Mark 15.15). But it’s really not much different from a modern day lynching. (Even if we do it socially instead of physically.) Jesus stood in solidarity with and defended those who were being damaged by those who were “standing up for what is right.” And the servant is not greater than the master.

I know this will be misunderstood by many. I will be accused of throwing out the Bible, as well as other accusations. But I’m actually taking the Bible seriously. I’m leaning into the narratives of the scriptures not further away from them. I’m taking a hard look at what the central story of our scriptures (the Jesus story) is saying, and making the decision to stand in solidarity with my Christian LGBTQ brothers, sisters and friends. What identifies us, defines us, and binds me to them is our mutual love for Jesus, and our desire, together, to follow Him (not which gender we find ourselves being attracted to.) Granted, that discussion is always on the table given the culture wars that are always just circling above our heads. But I, like so many others, are leaving the culture war behind to follow Jesus instead. I know I may lose support, for standing up for them, my brothers, sisters, and friends (especially the younger ones) in the LGBTQ community. And honestly, that part has caused me to lose more sleep than I’ve gotten over the past few months. I’m banking on the hope that somehow God will provide and that there will be more manna tomorrow for my family. But I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent any longer about the abuse I’ve watched my friends endure at the hands of those who carry the name “Christian.” Brian Zahnd wrote recently, “You can’t un-know what you now know and still be true to yourself.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also said, “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.” Dr. King also said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I can’t stay silent any more. God please help me, “the servant is not greater than the Master.”

If you would like to further contemplate how, as a Jesus follower, we can learn to relate to those within the LGBTQ community, without throwing away our Bibles, the following resources are my top recommendations to aid you in helping you find your way. I cannot recommend these resources highly enough.

Seventh Gay Adventist, a documentary about faith on the margins by Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee

Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

Bible, Gender, Sexuality by James V. Brownson