Oh, it’s easy to speak out against the obvious, but when it comes to the NOT SO OBVIOUS, we shy away rather than directly inquire and question. Why do we do that? Because it’s uncomfortable? Someone I know told a church leader a while back about his history of being transgender (born female.) He felt it was safe to do so but since there was an invitation to help lead a group, thought it best to let the leader know. All seemed to go well, until a week later his church Pastor is trying to figure out how to handle this, and eventually that information got back to him. So the leader goes to another leader and that leader goes to the Pastor. NO ONE ever talked with him directly. It was just dumb luck that he eventually even knew people were having a problem with him. Everybody here were members of the same church.
But it brings up the bigger question of why can’t we as Christians simply talk with each other with the “uncomfortable” before running to someone else for “the answer” of what to do, and in this case about gender issues?
This is about Christ’s Church opening up and addressing the fact that our Father has children in His church who are hurting, hiding in the shadows because they FEAR what others in the church will think or say about them. And the fear is real because they see and hear about how others are treated within the church. These children of the Father, our brothers and sisters in Christ are people who love the Lord, want to give and long to serve. How WRONG is it that they live in FEAR of the people they may be sitting next to on any given Sunday morning? Afraid to become friends, afraid to share their life, their family? Much of the problem within the Church is that these people are AFRAID to talk about WHO they really are or WHERE they’ve been. The fear of JUDGEMENT is so prevalent that connections don’t happen, relationships don’t develop, and without knowing it – the Church suffers by not seeing the full gifts and talents God has given them. What does our Father think when he looks and sees His child hiding in a corner because it’s too risky to share with his or her Christian brothers and sisters in the church about their life? Where they have been and how God has provided a transformed life for them? How their unique struggles have given them an equally unique strength that could help others if others were allowed to know about those struggles? Many churches will encourage us to be open and transparent (because we’re told that’s a good thing) until you get TOO transparent and suddenly we’re told to “not talk about your past” or just “live as the new creation in Christ that you are” today and “don’t live in the past.”
So much of what you’ve gone through, from the earliest days of your life to the present have formed who you are today, and all is good as long as you agree you “won’t talk about your past.” What is someone like myself, disowned by my own family to do when the day comes that I learn one of my parents has passed away? Who do I share that pain with? To whom do I explain the hurt of knowing that my chance to fix things with them has passed along with them? That my very presence at the funeral is not wanted? If I can’t share that with the people at my own church, if the church isn’t ready to fully embrace me in that moment, then what’s the point of a church family at all? Should it then even be called a church “family”? And if I am able to somehow see the relationship healed before then, who do I share that amazing, miraculous and blessed event with? Who will share my happiness? Who will understand the significance of it and shed tears of joy with me?
THAT is EXACTLY the kind of relationships we as a church encourage people to have within the body of Christ. We have home groups so you can get to know and share more intimately with others. We have special events and studies for men and likewise for women, again to foster relationship. All of this intended to GROW relationship, both with each other and with Christ. Granted, if someone had a past as a hardened criminal, rampant adulterer, had multiple abortions then sure someone may choose to keep that to themselves. But if they’ve given their life to Christ we as the Church should be able to welcome and love them unconditionally, because they haven’t sinned any greater than we have. If they do share that part of their life we should celebrate with them for how the living God has transformed them. Yet when it comes to being transgender which isn’t even a sin, we want to keep everything hush hush. Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Pretend that part of your life never existed – tell lies if you have to. Oh, no one actually USES those words, but that’s the unavoidable interpretation.
As Christ’s Church, we need to LOVE HARD. It’s EASY to love someone who dresses like you, looks like you, thinks like you, lives in the same neighborhood, belongs to the same clubs as you. It may be HARD to love someone who doesn’t look like you, talk like you, dress like you, hang in the same circles as you – but we’re called to do just that. And if we’re not hearing it from the pulpit, we need to be. “Doing” church shouldn’t always be easy. Sometime we need to have a “family meeting” to talk about the hard that needs to be done, that Christ tells us needs to be done. Unfortunately too often we avoid the “family meeting” for fear of putting people off. Leaders don’t want to make church “hard”. So rather than try to help people grow in their expression of Christ’s love, there are just some things we won’t address. We don’t talk about what makes us REALLY uncomfortable from the pulpit. We sweep certain things under the rug and therefore leave it to the soft whispers of rumor and gossip within the church, which IS sinning (but at least we’re not OFFENDING anyone.) By not creating an atmosphere where genuinely EVERYONE is welcomed, loved and accepted – unconditionally, we foster a church family where ALMOST unconditional love where MOST are welcomed is the dynamic.
Christians, if someone trusts us enough to tell us about themselves – even things about their past that may be uncomfortable for us to hear, we need to find a way to 1) listen to them and 2) love them. The first words out of our mouths should be “thank you for trusting me.” Regardless of what it is – this is a brother or sister in Christ who feels safe in trusting you with something important about themselves. That is a compliment and tribute to the kind of person they see in you. Why would you NOT want to be that kind of person? If we want to get into theological discussions about whether something is sin then and sin now, fine and that discussion can and maybe should take place. But why do we find it so hard to just LOVE people, with no conditions. We see in the news every day how people fail to find ways to love one another, but that’s where we as Christians should be able to step in and SHINE.
I’m certainly not here at this time to tell church leaders HOW to teach, but I think it’s important that Christ’s church learn to love those who would be considered unlovable or said another way, someone you wouldn’t feel comfortable having lunch with after church on Sunday. It seems as though many are getting more information about how to act and treat others from the media rather than the Bible. If we observe someone in the body struggling to find Christ’s love for another member, we need to see if there is a way we can help them love, help them understand, help them grow. Jesus surrounded himself with people we would find it hard to love. Fishermen with perhaps a rather “coarse” vocabulary, religious zealots, hated tax collectors, even privileged royalty. Yet these are the people he called to change the world.
Being a disciple of Jesus is to follow where he goes, do what he does. Jesus showed us what it is to love hard. We don’t need to help people love easy, but we do have the responsibility to love hard and to teach and help others learn how to love hard. When we do that, we are doing exactly what Jesus did and are helping them allow more of Christ to live in and shine through them.