Once we stop arguing our dogmas long enough to see the person behind the labels – a human being who was intricately formed in their mother’s womb by God, who has an identity and a purpose in Christ, just as I do – all the cultural “norms” and political/theological debates don’t matter.
The place was a safe haven for those who have been cast aside from most traditional worship. Many have even lost their families. But here, nobody had to fight to be seen or struggle to be afforded the dignity many Americans assume is theirs from birth. In this sanctuary, my friends were able to be fully themselves, congregating in the name that is above every name: the name of Love. And I saw that love is too great to ever be labeled “worldly” or “godly”, “sacred” or “secular”. Love is just love.
Jesus came to offer an invitation. He promised that the underdog would have a front row seat in His radical new kingdom, where the last are first. Jesus and those who followed him were square pegs who refused to fit in a round hole. Whether they realize it or not, the friends I met at the gay bar understand what the disciples of Jesus discovered long ago – that it is okay to rebel against the status quo, when the status quo is doing more to keep people out, than to draw people in.
My straight white evangelical upbringing was screaming at me from one shoulder, and the messy grace of Jesus was on the other. Being raised as a straight, white, evangelical, I always heard that “God is love,” but in the next sentence, He would somehow “spew” homosexuals “out of His mouth”.1
In my situation, Love won. I pumped a few gallons for the couple. They thanked me profusely. As I shook the guy’s hand, I was nearly knocked over by the stench of alcohol. We chatted for a minute. I followed my gut and told him the point of life is that God loves all of us. He grinned and said, “Hey, what’s John 4:24 say?” What a random question. I had no idea.
I’ve been reading the Gospels the past two weeks. I haven’t read straight through in quite a while. And this time, I studied closely, every single thing Jesus said about homosexuality. What I found was astounding…
I thought white privilege was spoiled upper-middle class kids in the suburbs who get whatever they want. I realized, it is the fact that my wife and I sat at this restaurant with our gay friends for two hours last night and I never thought twice about holding hands or kissing. No one else in the restaurant thought a thing about it either.
But if John had kissed Joe? Or even just held his hand at the dinner table? Heaven forbid! Alabaster, Alabama, might have just come unglued.
Millennials like me have grown weary of the message that if you don’t dress, act, vote, think, or look like me, you aren’t welcome at my church. From our perspective, that’s the message of closed-minded religious folks and it has nothing to do with Jesus. We work and go to school with people from every flavor and variety of life. And we care about them deeply. We have formed friendships and romantic relationships with people, not based on their skin color, political affiliation, or even their religious background, but because our generation is determined to remove labels and squash stigmas that kept us segregated and isolated for centuries.
Let me be clear: the Nashville Statement does not represent me or the Jesus I have come to know.
In the past five years, since reaching my very lowest point, I have met a Jesus who accepts me exactly as I am. I do not support this statement, and the “leaders” who have signed this document are spouting hate speech at an entire people group. These “Christians” do not speak for me or most of the Jesus followers I know.