If I were gay, I’d just want to be left alone.

As a married heterosexual, no one outside of my closest and most trusted circle of friends would feel inclined to quiz me about my sex life. That’s as it should be. Homosexuals don’t have that luxury. Controversy and unsolicited opinions come standard. It’s unfortunate.

As a Christian, I must live by the golden rule:

Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

The golden rule says, “treat people the way you’d like to be treated.” Well, if I were gay, I’d just want to be left alone. That’s how I would like to be treated. So is that the end of it? Is that the sum of the Christian response?

It’s not that simple. To be honest, I sometimes wish that it was.

However, I believe that God has something better for practicing homosexuals. I understand how arrogant that sounds, I really do. But I would never make a statement like that on my own authority. I believe that God has said that he has something better.

The golden rule says, “treat people the way you’d like to be treated.” Well, if I were missing out on something better, even if I felt okay about the way things were, I would want somebody to tell me. That’s how I’d like to be treated.

If I say that I love homosexuals (and I do), and if I say that God loves homosexuals (and he does), then my response has to be something other than leaving them alone. 

I hope that my homosexual friends understand that if anyone believes as I do, then not being fully accepting of the behavior is not only the most loving choice, it’s the only loving choice.

When I became a pastor I thought,

“well, that’s that…none of my gay friends will ever talk to me again.”

The exact opposite has been true. I realize now how judgmental that assumption was.

I consistently struggle with how to speak I what I believe is the truth in love. I have discovered, however, that the heartfelt attempt has been sufficient in what have been many kind, thoughtful, and mutually respectful conversations with my homosexual friends.

I feel no judgment, no disgust, no ill-will and no superiority. I feel friendship, love, and hope. Hope for something better.

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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14 Responses to “If I were gay, I’d just want to be left alone.”

  1. Sally March 4, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    I have to reply, Pastor. I find that God has dropped me right in the middle of the gay community in my work place. I thought perhaps He put me there to be used of Him. Perhaps He did, but only in part. I have learned that perhaps the opposite is more likely true. God is changing me. We are to be in the world and not part of it. True. The traditional church might think I have compromised the truth of the Word. However, through working in community with my growing number of gay friends, I find I am getting to know Christ better.

    • Aaron March 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      Sally, that’s awesome! It sounds like a great opportunity to develop friendships and have meaningful conversations.

  2. Sally March 4, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I feel it is a shame that in all these decades of living I have felt a need to put people in groups of any kind; to label them. It has only served in building walls. I am not judging anyone else for doing that. It is the culture I know. Im just admitting that I was wrong to do so. Christ is tearing down all my walls. Sometimes I feel too bare without them. But the walls separate me from taking the gospel into the uttermost. More, the walls have kept the truth of who Christ is hidden (veiled) from me.

    • Aaron March 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

      sounds great to me, Sally!

  3. Ken Christianson March 4, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Thanks Aaron, I feel the exact same way. My wife and I have a lot of practicing and none practicing gay and lesbian friends that we have met in the 20 years of ministry. Some have made it very easy to talk to them about the love of Jesus and some have a different opinion of who and what God/Jesus really is about. We love on them and pray for them. We don’t ever condone their way of life, but love on them the same. Most of them feel when they are going through something they can call us anytime for help and prayer. It was only because of the love of Jesus in us that we were able to develop this relationship with them in order to lead them to the cross. :-) Love the Blog………!

    Franklin Vineyard
    Ken Christianson
    Youth Pastor

    • Aaron March 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Ken, that’s great! Kindness goes a long way. There’s a scale of responses and theologies…but in this discussion and all others, kindness always has a place. thanks for sharing. glad you enjoy to blog :)

  4. Elise Klepatz March 4, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    Good thoughts Aaron. Previously in my job, I worked with lots of gay people. I, like Sally, had some changing to do. I had several open, loving, truthful conversations with gay friends. Some had ears to hear what I was saying, some did not. But the love of God compels us to speak the truth in love when we see people not walking in the fullness He has for them.

    • Aaron March 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      I read ya, Elise. So long as the love of God is compelling us, I think we’ll always represent the truth well. thanks for sharing.

  5. Adam Woods March 5, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Aaron-

    While I’m not a parishioner of yours, I am a friend of yours, and a faithful reader of your blog. This was tough for me to read.

    Tough because when I read it I’m not thinking about theology—I’m thinking about my life and my family. Reading that “God has something better” for me than my life and my family is a tough thing to read.

    Let me respond. And let me start my response by saying that it doesn’t matter to me whether or not you believe that homosexuality is a sin. On that score I am happy to ‘agree to disagree.’ What I want to respond to is the thing that comes next, viz. your approach to relationships with gay people as a faith-leader and a friend (or rather, relationships with LGBT people, can I use ‘gay’ as shorthand for LGBT?).

    So if we begin by accepting that homosexuality is a sin, the next and most puzzling question becomes, “why are people of faith so preoccupied with homosexuality?” While sodomy is prohibited in scripture, it is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes. It is also not one of the seven deadly sins. And yet, Christians seem to spend a lot more time thinking about homosexuality than they do thinking about, say, graven images. I’m not sure why that is, but I think it probably has to do with ‘ease of obedience’ for heterosexuals.

    But, more importantly, what to do with homosexuals? How can we Christians enter into relationships with the homosexuals among us? How can we apply the Golden Rule to them? On this score, I humbly offer a bit of advice.

    The first thing you need to do is appreciate how much more difficult our lives are than yours. Here are some examples:

    – while gay people are only 3-4% of the population, 20-40% of homeless teens are gay
    – almost 30-40% of gay teens have attempted suicide
    – when people who haven’t seen me in a long time bump into me they don’t say, “how’s Justin?” instead they say, “are you and Justin still together?” they’re not being mean, but since Justin and I can’t get married, they don’t presume my marriage is as valid as those that have been solemnized by the church AND state.
    – when Justin and I walk together in public, we generally do not join hands or show affection, mostly for fear of being beaten up, and we live in a really progressive place.
    – when my “OUT” magazine comes in the mail, it comes in a non-descript mailer (like it’s porn) because it’s still dangerous for people to see “OUT” in your mail.
    – when Justin and I move to a new house/apartment, one of our main worries is whether or not the landlord will object to our being homosexual and not offer us a lease.
    – when I decide where to live, East Tennessee, my much-loved homeland, isn’t a very realistic option.
    – while a good deal of the people I interact with socially are gay people in long-term committed relationships, I’ve never been to a gay wedding, and I’ve been to over 60 straight weddings.
    – every day at my job I have to decide whether I want to be ‘out’ to my clients, because some of my church clients withdraw their business when they find out I’m gay.
    – as juveniles, almost 100% of us are bullied at some point at school for being gay, even if we’re not ‘out,’ because bullies have incredible gaydar.

    When I hear from faith leaders that my family isn’t necessarily “God’s best” for me, I feel let down by the church. I feel let down because you are not really Golden-Ruling me. If you would like to do better for me than you’d do for yourself, I’d like you to work as my ally to create a world in which it’s just as safe and healthy to be a gay person as it is to be a straight person. I don’t want to be left alone, I want an ally to make my world safer. If we are able to create such a world together, then afterwards we can have a candid chat about what God’s best for me is. Until then, however, suggesting that being gay is somehow substandard, especially making that suggestion from a place of influence, helps perpetuate all the problems above.

    That’s why this was hard to read, Aaron. We have been friends for a long time. My mother and I ogled the cuteness of your baby at Brad Hitch’s wedding. Twelve years ago, we sat outside at SONIC and drank slushees and you shared your amazing skill wherein you can instantly tell me the number of letters in a word like chrysanthemum. I read your blog and am so proud of the pastoral work that you do. But this post, these words, they make it harder, and less safe, for me and people like me to live in this world.

    • Aaron March 5, 2012 at 10:03 am #

      Adam, I’m glad you weighed in. Truthfully, I was hoping you would…since I know you’re a thoughtful guy and, to be frank, you’re one of my friends whom I’ve often feared my faith would offend. My hope was that this would be a step away from that offense, and not toward it. I will regret it deeply if it’s the latter.

      There’s very little in your comment that I’d disagree with.

      you said:
      “So if we begin by accepting that homosexuality is a sin, the next and most puzzling question becomes, “why are people of faith so preoccupied with homosexuality?” ”

      I agree that the church is disproportionately fixated on homosexuality. To be fair, though– on this blog I’ve addressed pride, for example, far more frequently and far more aggressively than I have homosexuality. I know that I have to fight off pride daily…or it will surely catch me. I think about it a lot, so I write about it a lot.

      I rarely worry about offending prideful people, though. They’re either too prideful to see it in themselves, or feel like it’s a ‘category’ they can easily step out of (because they’re prideful). I think it’s more difficult, at least in part, to talk about homosexuality because the lines are clearer, and it’s often not viewed as a category you can exit, but as an identity. Does that make sense? It leaves me scratching my head about how to address it well and with love.

      Adam, if we can agree to disagree about whether it’s a sin to practice homosexuality, then you likely know that I feel that way because I believe the entire Bible to be true, and have interpreted it as such. The Bible says a LOT about sin. And what’s really clear, is that it says that with ALL sin, God has something better. If I get trapped in my own selfish pride, for example, then God has something better for me, and I believe that I’m best served by pursuing it.

      I’m not trying to play ‘big sin’ ‘little sin’ (if I did, I think the best argument is that pride is the worst of them all)…I just want the people I care about to have what’s best for them, and speaking from the Bible’s authority (not my own) all sin leads us to something less than what’s best.

      You’ll get no argument from me that homosexuals are mistreated, and that it’s absolutely wrong. I can’t speak to it nearly was well as you can, but I don’t deny it for a second. It makes me even more sad to hear it on a personal level from a friend. The church has sinned against the gay community, and the world has sinned against the gay community.

      You shouldn’t be persecuted or have your rights withheld because you’re gay. I shouldn’t be persecuted or have my rights withheld because I’m prideful. But you’re persecuted and I’m not. It’s a double standard, and it’s not fair….it’s a wrong that should be righted.

      Adam, I want to be an ally. I REALLY want to be an ally! I think it’s a huge mistake to address sin with societal laws. I think that if the gov’t withheld rights across the board based on what the Bible calls sin, then we’d all be without rights. And while kindness surely can’t be legislated, I still want to fight for it! I believe that the Bible commands me to fight for it!

      And that’s largely what this post is about. I’m wrestling with how I can love and serve gay people well while still believing that God has something better for them. I don’t believe that the Bible gives me a choice in either one. I’m not sure exactly how to go about it, but I’m searching. Whether my words have reflected it well or not, that’s what’s in my heart. I hope you’ll be patient with me as I try to figure that out…and I hope you’ll continue to discuss it with me. feel free to contact me directly, or continue the conversation here.

      Blessings & Friendship,
      Aaron

  6. Adam Woods March 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Aaron,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think we can still be friends.

    I like that your position is evolving, and I like that you want to be an ally. Being an ally who thinks homosexuality is a sin isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world, but if anyone can pull it off it’s probably you.

    And we need you. Because LGBT folk are a very small percentage of the population, we really need allies, otherwise it’s going to take that much longer for things to change for the better.

    I think the biggest and best thing you can do as an ally is to support marriage equality. Right now that is our greatest hurdle to acceptance.

    This could be ticklish, I realize, if you still think homosexuality is a sin, but I’m not convinced it has to be. Paul makes it pretty clear that heterosexual marriage is also not ‘God’s best’ (he thinks men should be chaste), but he’s okay with heterosexual marriage as the next best thing. Perhaps for me, since options 1 and 2 aren’t really available, homosexual marriage would be the next next best thing.

    I doubt when you look at your wife and kids that you think, ‘alas, this isn’t God’s best, but I’ll take it.’ I’m betting you think that your wife and kids are the best thing in the world and would do anything for them and can’t imagine your life without them. That’s how I feel about Justin, and it breaks me down that I can’t solemnize that relationship before the people that I really care about.

    If we were really close friends, like if our kids played together and we relied on one another for emotional support and we saw each other very frequently, it would be tough-going considering your position. Happily catching up every couple years is no problem, but it’d be tough to be really close if I felt like you didn’t value the things that are the most important to me, viz. my family.

    Perhaps it’s the unrepentant sinner in me talking, but when I’m living my life with Justin, when I fix his supper and he makes me laugh and we go for a walk in the woods or invite our friends over to play mah-jongg, well, it’s hard to believe that’s not God’s best, especially when I try to imagine the alternative.

    Finally, and this is hard for me to say, mostly because of our friendship, it is important to take note of the immediate dangers of your beliefs. Statistically we can say with some certainty that there are gay teenagers in your congregation and in your community. If you tell them that their lifestyle isn’t ‘God’s best for them,’ however innocently, they may internalize what you’ve said, and they may hate themselves for it, and when people hate themselves they are capable of making really bad decisions. I hate to be that direct, in fact my hands are shaking as I type this, but–and I don’t exaggerate one bit–lives are at stake here.

    With almost every decision a pastor can make, there’s going to be scriptural support for both sides. I think if I was going to go all Sunday School on you and issue you a challenge, it’d be to think of OUTCOMES first and let that inform your actions, even if you hold firm in your beliefs.

    Let’s keep talking.

    Your friend,

    Adam

    • Aaron March 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      thanks, Adam! I understand your concerns about the potential dangers of what I believe. I do feel the weight of that. That’s why this is on my mind. I find a lot of comfort in the knowledge that Christ defines us above and beyond all else, and that we teach that like crazy at our church. If my perspective was based on my own opinions/ideas I would be terrified. But I find a lot of comfort in my belief that they aren’t from me. I do plead with God to give me the right words and heart to minister well to the LGBT community. Thanks for the conversation, and the invitation to keep talking.

  7. lindsay March 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    Adam, I love your thoughts. They are so enlightening and so difficult to read at the same time. I wept at the thought of anyone treating hilarious, beautiful you as anything less than wonderful. As someone who works with teenagers (and someone who is alive), 30-40% of gay teenagers attempting suicide is a terrifying statistic. And one that should call us to action as people who fight for the cause of the persecuted, the abandoned, the hopeless. People who drastically reduce that statistic. I am so thankful that as I stand in a room of high school kids and tell them of a Jesus who loves them exactly how they are, a Jesus who rescues and restores and redeems, that you have given us a much needed reminder of the teenager who fits that statistic. I love the fight in you so much…it is so inspiring to me. You remind me often that it is my job to fight for the rights of human beings with my voice and my vote. Thanks, dude.
    Preach, I’m thankful that you are kind, and that you speak often of kindness to every human being. I struggled a lot with this post initially…but I love coming back today to see the conversations in the comments and your commitment to kindness and compassion as you put action into the things you wrote about. I really love being one of your sheep.

    • Aaron March 9, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Thanks, Lindsay! I was extremely hesitant to write this post. But I think conservative church folks like me have been afraid of our perspective making relations with the gay community even worse. But, if we believe it’s God’s perspective, then we should trust it, and it’s power to reconcile. Thanks for caring deeply about this!

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