As we dive into holiday festivities and rush headlong into a new year, one thing weighs heavily on my heart: the recent rash of suicides by gay teens. The deaths, themselves, are alarming, of course. But what also troubles me is how little this issue is addressed from the pulpits of America’s churches. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
The subject of homosexuality is a problematic one, where Christians are concerned. On the one hand, the bible condemns the homosexual lifestyle. (Note, I said homosexual lifestyle, not person. There is a difference.) On the other hand, scripture designates as the second highest commandment that we love one another. The church, as a whole, hasn’t quite figured out how best to navigate the territory between the two. This is tough stuff.
We humans, in general, tend to treat as villains those we don’t agree with, for whatever reason. (Politics, anyone?) Our default is often judgment and condemnation, mostly, I think, because both are easy. Yet Jesus will have none of that. He calls us to something infinitely more complex. “Forget the speck in your brother’s eye”, he says. “Worry about the plank in your own.” Once we’ve got that settled, his refrain is “Love one another.” Our task is to wrestle with how.
I have friends who are gay, some self-professed Christians, others not. I know gays who’ve stepped away from the lifestyle, and others who have stepped into it. I know gays who have been kicked out of one church, and embraced by another. I care for them all, grieve for them all, cannot begin to imagine their suffering. Are some people born gay, or is it learned? Does that even matter? I’m hard-pressed to make unequivocal statements on the subject. But there are certain things I do know: God weeps over the death of every one of his creations, and that most definitely includes every gay teen. To say or do anything that would cause a young person—or any person—to take his or her own life is unconscionable. To refuse to speak out against such actions is only a little less so.
Am I taking the church to task here? No more so than I’m taking myself to task as part of it.
To be frank, this is not a topic I’m comfortable addressing publicly, but I must go on record here. No matter what an individual’s chosen lifestyle, in terms of gender preference or otherwise, God loves each soul he has created. He sent his son to die for each one. He has a beautiful plan for each life, and most importantly, God considers that life of limitless value. For anyone to suggest otherwise is to make a mockery of the cross.
If you choose to spew words of hatred, don’t pretend to be speaking for God. If you lash out at someone because that person is gay, or lesbian, or transgender, don’t credit God with your behavior. God has not called you to hate, or abuse, or despise anyone—anyone! That’s all on you. In the end, I believe we will all have to answer to the God who has called us to love and compassion.