LGBT+, Jesus and Me
By Eileen Slattery Berglund
One of the things I really love about walking with God is the fact that He continues to be both predictable and unpredictable at the same time. For instance, His character never changes, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever” ( Hebrews 13:8 ) And yet, the way He will choose to use me, move through me, is ever changing and unpredictable. Case in point, I never thought I’d be writing an article like this. Never. Yet here I am, doing just that, at His prompting.
I am such a fan of God, but not just that, I am a true follower of Jesus Christ. I used to live a life apart from God and it really just led me to misery, destruction, depression, etc. When I read God’s word saying that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) that was a radical kind of transformative love. In other words, I didn’t have to “clean myself up” and eliminate all my sinful behavior in order to have God receive me through Jesus. I simply had to say yes to what Jesus already did for me. Now, I desire to live my life in a way that aligns to His standards, His precepts, His truth. I don’t always achieve that goal, but the beautiful thing is that when I fail, He is 100% ready and willing to receive me. As Christians, we can always “approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16). In Christ, I have been made new, “the old has gone, the new is here!” (2Cor 5:17) and in reality, while that is a “done deal” from God’s vantage point, I am still “working it all out” here in my tangible life. (Phil 2:12)
I take the time to write all this to set the stage for what I’m about to say.
Over the past couple of days I’ve been seeing all sorts of posts on Twitter with regards to an upcoming conference in St. Louis called Revoice. All the commotion and debate is centered around the fact that this is a Christian conference for the LGBT+ community and any others who want to attend. Here is the mission statement directly off the Revoice 2018 website:
“Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality” (revoice.us)
In other words, based on this clear statement, these Christian leaders are gathering to welcome those in the LGBT community who are Christians, or who may want to know more about Christianity and Jesus, while not compromising on the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality. To put it yet another way, these leaders believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and they also believe sex is something that should only occur between male and female, ideally within the realm of marriage. They also believe, however, that everyone should have a chance to know and encounter the life giving love of Jesus and that you do not have to be perfectly “cleaned up” in order to do so.
This position toward the LGBT+ people/community is known as “welcoming but non-affirming”. It is important to realize that this wording is an accepted term in the larger discussion.
There is a different stance that some Christians share that is known as “welcoming and affirming” or sometimes just “affirming”. While the word affirming can be used in other ways in other discussions, when it is used in LGBT+ discussions it is generally accepted that it always carries the same meaning. That meaning is that affirming Christians do not consider sex or marriage between two same sex people to be sinful or in violation of God’s standards. In other words, they have no problem with it.
You also have a third group, which sadly I must mention. That would be the “non-welcoming, non-affirming” Christians. Like the first group, these believers are against same sex marriage and/or sexual relations, however in great contrast to the first group, they do not feel any obligation to to welcome said people into their church, social circles, etc. They tend to have a viewpoint that the LGBT+ person must indeed “clean themselves up” before they even encounter Christ or Holy Spirit.
Now that we have some terms sorted out, I will tell you that I consider myself to be in the “welcoming, non-affirming” group. I believe in the traditional Christian doctrine which has sexual relations occurring between male and female, and marriage occurring by the union of one man and one woman. However, I love gay people. I love transgender people, I love people who gossip, and those who cheat on their spouse, and those who have stolen things and those who have lied. I love all people. I don’t like all the behavior, but I love the people. And I honestly believe that’s how God feels too.
There are definitely boundaries of behavior outlined for us in the Bible. The Bible also tells us that we “all fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), in other words, none of us is going to be able to be perfect like Jesus was. None of us will be without sin. We also know we will all face temptations but thought we are tempted, we are not to act on those temptations and sin.
When I came to Jesus, I was a mess. I most certainly engaged in beliefs and behaviors that were not aligned with His plan for me. There was nothing about me that would have qualified me to receive His beautiful, outrageous gift of love and peace. In fact, there was plenty that would have disqualified me! But because God is who He is, and Jesus is who He is, a way was opened for me that I never could have opened myself. And I learned about His love, His gift, and I received Him in my life. (Rom 10:9)
I was not changed overnight, but now, 25 years later, my life is radically different.
In regards to today’s LGBT+ discussion, I want to say, “Church, there is a better way!” We must reflect the heart of God and love the people whom He so loves. (John 3:16)
We must do a much better job of extending an open hand and an invitation to fellowship to those who want it. In this case, we’re talking about those in the LGBT+ community, but it doesn’t stop there. It includes those in prison, and those in Islam, and those who don’t fit any prescribed category! We don’t need to be in fear and we certainly don’t need to shun those who are currently aligned with different belief systems than we are. We can be the light that we are called to be and we can do so without compromising our beliefs. We can love people where they are at, allow them to hear God’s word, and let Holy Spirit work in their life to bring about whatever change He wants...just like He did for us. Our greatest call as Christians is to be conformed to His image and to be ever increasing in revealing that to the people and world around us.
As I end, may I encourage you to operate less in fear and more in love. I think of several times that Jesus encountered those who were caught in sin- he never compromised, but He led with love and simply told them “go and sin no more”. God can still speak those words into hearts today, but we as His church need to facilitate that process, not barricade the church doors or our own hearts.
Author’s note: I wrote this article on July 19, 2018, prompted by the discussion of Revoice I saw on twitter and off the mission statement posted for Revoice. I cannot speak for any particular speaker, leader, or person other than myself I also recognize that there is a category of affirming Christians that don’t share my viewpoint. However, I do feel at peace writing this article which will hopefully clarify some of the confusion that has been going on in the social media atmosphere regarding this topic. I do not consider myself an expert on this topic and am continuing to learn more each day. If you are interested in learning more about how you can navigate the LGBT+ landscape as a Christian, the book People to be Loved, by Preston Sprinkle is a great starting point.