I don’t think it’s any secret that I am one of “those” Christians who supports the LGBTQ community. My journey into affirming same-sex relationships began about four years ago. I had just left a very conservative Christian church due to Spiritual Abuse and my Faith was barely hanging on by a thread.
Because of this abuse, I was suffering from severe loneliness and had been for some time. And because my Faith was all but gone, I decided to step outside of what I had thought to be true and attend a church which was not so conservative.
During this time, an old high school friend and I reconnected on Facebook. As we began to catch up we engaged in a few back-and-forth messages where he disclosed to me that he was gay. He was reluctant to tell me this piece of news because he knew I was a Christian and he had been cut off from some of his other “Christian” friends. At this point, I was still believing that homosexuality (defining the terms was completely off my radar) was sin. Essentially, to identify as LGBTQ was just wrong.
But now it was personal and as most of us know, our understanding of God, Faith, and Scripture usually come into question when the ideas we have in our mind don’t seem to line up with reality. And they should. What I thought was a simple, cut and dry issue-“the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”-became so much more complex…because this was my friend. This was my friend being brave. This was my friend trusting me with who he was to the core of his being. And I knew that this identity was attached with years of pain, hiding, and mental/emotional torture.
Christians disagree on the biblical interpretation of the few verses that mention the word ‘homosexual’. And I am perfectly okay with Christians disagreeing on the meaning of these words. What I am not okay with is when Christians disagree on how to love members of the LGBTQ community, particularly when they stray from the example we have in Jesus and begin protesting funerals with obscene and hate-filled signs, when they refuse to bake a cake, and when they insist that “rights” deemed by the state are only for those who believe in the Bible.
I cling to the Anabaptist tradition of Christianity which believes that Separation-Between-Church-and-State is essential to following Jesus. This belief is lived out in many ways and not all Anabaptists agree on how to live this out. But we tend to agree that it is something that needs to take on a form in some way throughout the lives of Christ-followers. With that said, I have chosen to opt out of the voting process. I find that placing my hope in any system that isn’t moving the Kingdom forward is simply false-hope on my end. You can read more about my position on this issue here. But because I live in a world where I am on mission to bring the Kingdom (God’s ideal for His creation), I am constantly faced with the tensions of the social-climate I am surrounded by.
These tensions beg the question: what might be the Kingdom’s voice; what hope or offer can the Kingdom bring to this world and the conflicting realities we live in?
To answer this question in regards to marriage and the LGBTQ community, I think a good starting point would be to examine marriage from a Kingdom point of view. Marriage is a covenant made by two persons to live a life of Faithfulness, Self-Sacrificial Love, and Commitment to one another. This covenant is one of the last remaining covenants we as Christians celebrate and take seriously. I think that if more Christians understood what exactly a “covenant” entails, marriages within the Church would be flourishing. This covenant is a picture of the relationship God has with His people. It demonstrates the “giving up” of one’s rights in order to love and care for the other. Christ-followers are in a covenant-marriage with God when they choose to surrender their lives (setting aside their own agenda) in order to bring the Kingdom to this world.
It’s interesting to me, how subverted the idea of covenant has become among the North American Church. Once Christians grabbed a hold of the idea of a “Christian” nation (which doesn’t exist) we began to cling to our rights rather than sacrifice them. Our merge of Faith and Politics has disrupted the very essence of how we were intended to demonstrate Christ’s love to the world. It is by laying down our rights, picking up our cross, and following the road of suffering that we show the world the kind of love Jesus extended when He gave up His rights, picked up our cross, and suffered on our behalf. This is the length that God was willing to go to in order to bring us back to Him. And when you think about it, it’s mind blowing. It’s beautiful and contagious and attractive and out of this world…and it is also our calling to do the same.
Ouch! Tough words. They are especially tough when living in a society founded on Independence, Individual Freedom, and which birthed the attitude of entitlement among us. But Jesus showed us a different way to go:
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
It’s pretty clear that entitlements and rights were not a part of Christ’s mission. Instead, He entered into solidarity with us, with our sin, with our suffering and hurts, with our second-class-citizenship status; and continued to manifest the Father’s love all the way to and through His death on the cross. And we see all throughout the New Testament that suffering is part of the package deal. Both Paul and Peter talk about suffering in their letters to the early church, and there is something about suffering that cannot be separated from the call to bring the Kingdom. They just go together.
The promise is that our suffering will not last forever…but that discussion is for another time. The question now, is how can I (a non-political participant) enter into solidarity with the pain my friends in the LGBTQ community have had to endure due to the right of “state” marriage not being afforded to them? I have a few thoughts:
1. While it was practical and beneficial at one time for the state to determine marriage (mainly in protection of women and children), it does not seem to be the role of the state (from a Kingdom perspective) to hold such authority. Christians believe that it is God who joins us together (Matthew 19:6). He determines marriage and we take our vows before Him. Therefore, while the state may continue (the Supreme Court Ruling is still out) to not recognize same-sex couples as “legally” married, the Church can and (in my opinion) should recognize couples as “covenantally” married; welcoming same-sex couples and affirming the covenants made before God.
2. An option for us heterosexual couples to consider as we enter into solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, would also be to abstain from “legalized” marriage, but rather allow the Church (community) to hold us accountable to the covenants we have made with our spouses before God. Somewhere in our fallen human makeup, we gravitate towards laws, rules, and boxes. We find safety in knowing that a law protects us from the consequences of those who break them. But this goes directly against the very idea of covenant. These legalities reduce the covenant of marriage down to a mere legal contract. Contracts are lists of rules and stipulations signed by two parties which essentially bind them to each other. The requirement for getting out of the contract is simply based on one or both parties not adhering to a stipulation. Furthermore, if one or both parties become unhappy, we can simply search for loopholes.
A covenant, on the other hand, is not just the ceremony of taking some vows (although important and beautiful in-and-of themselves), but it is a daily choice we make to take on the committed, faithful, and other-oriented posture we find in Jesus. It is not a matter of slavery, or being locked-in. Each one is free to leave, but that is the point. Cross-shaped love is not coerced; it is a self-giving, self-sacrificial choice to love and care for the other.
By leaving the state out, however, we leave behind the rights that come along with “legal” marriage. This sends the message to the LGBTQ community that they are not alone-that we are willing to take on the same suffering out of free will. The freedoms in which they are not afforded, we can freely give up on their behalf. This is what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is to use the freedoms we have been afforded in order to benefit others. It is to no longer cling to the “things” (promises, freedoms, possessions, etc.) that this world offers and instead cling to the promise of the Kingdom.
There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom and it’s time Christ-followers search for alternative ways to live this out in the here and now. I think this begins with the Church choosing to no longer seek hope from a worldly system, but rather seek first the Kingdom of God.