When it comes to Christians and the LBGT community, there’s a lot of suspicion and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I was reminded of this once again when I encountered a young lady working as a volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) which is the largest American civil rights group for LBGT people.
I met this woman walking into the local library. She was outside working for HRC trying to help end workplace discrimination, so that LBGT people cannot be dismissed from their employment based on their sexual orientation. Our conversation was short but good. I listened to her talk about the cause she supports. But as she told me about her cause, she also mentioned a couple of well-known Christian organizations that opposed the cause she was working for (honestly, without knowing all the details, I cannot see why any Christian would oppose ending workplace discrimination against LBGT people or any group for that matter).
That’s when I told her that I was a Christian and immediately I saw fear in her eyes and sensed her putting up her guard. So I told her, “I’m sorry that any Christian would oppose ending workplace discrimination against LBGT people and that while I likely don’t share the same moral convictions as you, I don’t have to agree with you on such matters; that LBGT people should be treated the same as everyone.”
She thanked me for being open-minded enough to hear her view point. I then asked her what sort of treatment and interactions she had encountered from other Christians. She said that the treatment and interactions varied from friendly to hostile, with some Christians being very quick to express their convictions.
This is not the first time I have spoken with someone of a LBGT sexual orientation. Yet every time I do, there is a sense of fear that I find myself having to dispel. This is disappointing, to say the least. While it would be unfair to suggest that every Christian contributes to this problem, this is an image problem that all Christians own and must address. Jesus practiced hospitality, humility, and love in such a way that those rejected by other religious leaders were able to approach Jesus without judgment. Yes Jesus spoke the truth and told people to “go and sin no more.” but before doing so, he authentically welcomed and befriended such people. This point should not be overlooked because it tells us that Jesus established a relationship in which he could speak and have it heard as a word of grace rather than a “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” word of condemnation.
This is the challenge that Christianity in America and elsewhere must take up. If we who proclaim our allegiance to Jesus as his disciples want to have a voice and any influence in the shaping of culture, we must learn how to engage people outside our community as Jesus did. To state it as I did in a tweet yesterday, we must learn to build relationships with all people based on hospitality, humility, and love before we can speak of the gospel and expect it to be heard.