I have a friend who is a lesbian. That’s right. The Church Lady hangs with someone who is gay. Well, I really only started hanging out with her last week. Before that I was avoiding her. Although we have been very close friends for the better part of 18 years, when she and her daughter moved in with a woman about ten years ago I decided to distance myself from her. I didn’t give it much conscious thought. I just knew that Christians aren’t down with the gay thing, don’t generally hang out with gay people and I hadn’t even had the birds and bees conversation with my kids; how would I explain my friend’s homosexual lifestyle that I didn’t agree with or understand?
About two weeks ago I met one of my Christian mentors and a dear friend for coffee. Terry is a little older and a little wiser and a little further along in her faith walk than I am. She is the kind of person you have coffee with and you want to take notes because you can glean so much wisdom and insight from her. I made the mistake of telling Terry however that my friend who is a lesbian had asked me to go out for coffee. Unfortunately Terry got this strangely joyful look on her face. She reminded me with much exuberance that God puts us in places and with certain people for a reason. She encouraged me to not just go out for coffee with my friend but to ask God why he keeps bringing this friend into my life and what He wanted me to do with our time together. Oh please no. I asked Terry how a suburban football/volleyball/basketball mom who works at a church and is in seminary would tell a lesbian about God where the outcome would be something other than a complete disaster. Terry told me she didn’t know (thanks Terry) but she did tell me that God knew and that I should just pray about it. So reluctantly that is what I did and as I prayed here is what I heard in my heart and in my head: Tell your friend that Jesus loves her. I’m sorry, what? Jesus loves her? What about changing her? What about telling her I cannot approve of her lifestyle? How will this make her ungay (is that a word?)? But it was very clear to me that all the Lord wanted me to do was tell her that Jesus loves her. Awesome (not). So in the course of the next week I kept asking God how exactly I was going to tell my friend that Jesus loves her. It seemed like there might be a transition problem here: “Hey there – that’s a pretty rainbow bumper sticker; do you like my fish bumper sticker? Did you know that Jesus loves you?”
But I kept praying. I kept asking God what on earth this was going to look like. And frankly I was wrestling with Him about a few things. Although I realize that my sin, when I gossip, when I covet my neighbor’s new couch or when I am filled with pride is no worse than my friend’s sin of being a homosexual, I really did not believe that. I mean, she’s gay. She’s not throwing a shoe at her dog or slandering her neighbor behind her back; she is a lesbian. So I kept asking God, “Are You sure that her being a lesbian is not “worse” than other sins? Are You sure because I don’t see protesters on the news holding signs that say “God hates arrogant people.” But over the course of those 10 days of praying, God answered me with three thoughts. Three passages from the Bible came to me out of the deep, deep recesses of my little Dory brain.
The first one was from Matthew 9:11-13, “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” No explanation needed. What Would Jesus Do? Love sinners; it is why He came.
The second verse God reminded me of was Proverbs 6:16 – 19: “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” What? Being a lesbian didn’t make the list but three of the things I did last week did? Gasp.
And lastly in John 8:1-11 an adulterous woman is brought to Jesus by the religious teachers who ask Jesus if they can stone her since that is what the Law says they should do. Jesus however tells the Pharisees: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Any of us who is without sin? What about those of us who have a more socially acceptable sin than she does?
Here is what I learned in going to tell my friend who is a lesbian that Jesus loves her. I learned that without realizing it I have been one of those Pharisees. I had made my friend out to be less; less holy, less good, less than worthy because I deemed her sin worse than mine. I did meet my friend for coffee last week and I did tell her that Jesus loves her. But before I told her that I had to apologize for my thinking and my heart. I told her that I don’t understand or agree with her being a lesbian and that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but I also told my friend that I don’t agree with or like my own sins either. Ten days ago I would have never been able to tell my friend that Jesus loves her (I also had to read about and wrestle and pray about if Jesus loves lesbians who don’t love Him; He does by the way). But ten days ago I was being obedient to my judgment, my stigmas and what I thought I was supposed to do in order to maintain the status of being a good Christian.
“Dear Lord, thank you for my friend. Thank you that in order to minister to her, I had to learn some things about my own judgment and my own critical spirit. Thank you that in being in the uncomfortable place of sharing your love (I know, that sounds bad on paper) I had to learn that what I think, believe and feel is always trumped by the fact that you are so madly in love with all sinners that you died for all of us (not just for those of us with seemingly more “attractive sin”). Thank you that I am called to love sinners and leave their sin for you to deal with. Thank you that your mercies are made new every morning for someone who is a lesbian or someone who is judging a lesbian. Thank you that your Word is truth and that cannot be compromised. And thank you that loving sinners is not a compromise, it is a command. Amen.”