A few nights ago, while attending a holiday function with my wife, I met two wonderful, attractive young ladies. While my wife had met them before, I had never had the pleasure of their acquaintance. Now, I must preface this with a statement that I was not attending this gathering in an official capacity. In fact, I’m sure few in attendance knew that I was a pastor. I was simple my wife’s husband in the midst of her colleagues celebrating this season of joy. But I digress.
As I was saying, these two young ladies were very pleasant I enjoyed talking with them. To my surprise, both seemed quite comfortable talking about matters of faith, in fact, they brought the subject up. It seems these two have been looking for a church where they could become members, a search that has proven to be difficult. Their desire has been to find a place of welcoming, non judgmental people. I had to laugh when they told me this. I have been Christian all my life, active in my congregation, and I am still looking for this very same church. Naturally I thought we were speaking the same language.
Imagine my surprise when I realized they were looking for a congregation that would accept them as they are, two attractive young ladies in a loving relationship with one another. They were not shy about telling me about this as well. Whether they were comfortable telling me about their relationship, or they just didn’t care what I think isn’t really clear. But I hope they found me receptive and non judgmental as I certainly hope this is the case (God help me).
They told me about the congregation they have been visiting; how the people don’t seem to mind that they are “together.” It doesn’t seem to be an issue at all during their worship and people are always glad to see them. As I listened, I hoped this to be the case at the church where I am pastor. I pray that as we welcome strangers in our midst, we welcome them for who they are, and pay little attention to what they may be. But there is difficulty in this, a point of struggle if you will. I struggle with the false perception that, being one who acknowledges homosexual behavior as sin, I am therefore unwelcoming and judgmental of gays a lesbians.
True, I do believe in traditional and orthodox teaching of the Church. I believe that God gives us the gift of sexuality as an expression for humans to show deep affection for one another, and that this expression is to be lived out in marriage between one man and one woman. On this issue there can be no compromise for it is God’s intention, not of human design. Yet, I do not condemn persons such as these two women because they are in a same gendered relationship. I do not believe they are excluded from God’s grace because of their sexual orientation, nor do I believe their relationship to be a barrier standing between them and a welcoming congregation.
No, I would not bless such a relationship, nor would I lift up such a relationship to be a model for Christians to follow. Yet, I cannot deny that their feelings for one another at this time are real. Herein lies the rub. This is a point where the ELCA has given in to emotional pleas for social justice with regards to same gendered relationships. This is where the ELCA’s decisions of August 2009 skew God’s commandment to love one’s neighbor.
Loving our neighbor begins with loving God with all our heart, soul and mind. This means striving to live according to God’s intentions first, while forsaking the ways of our sinful world. Loving our neighbor, at its most basic level, means helping them strive toward this same goal. Making normative any relationship that is contrary to scripture does not show love for our neighbor. So what do we do?
It is not my job to beat those in same gendered relationships over the head with the hammer of scripture; I am not their judge. It is not my intention to “convert” anyone to a life of heterosexuality, mine is not their standard. It is; however, my duty and my joy to give thanks to God for his love and grace through Christ Jesus. It is my responsibility and calling to proclaim the salvation of God in Christ for all who know Jesus as Lord and Savior. And it is my pleasure to welcome the strangers in our midst, nurturing them in faith and love, and helping them strive to live a faithful and godly life.
This, my friends, is a work in process.