I’m pretty sure I’m in Florida and it’s Friday as I write this, but I know I’ve missed posting on the days I usually do. This week feels a little like being on the spinning cups ride at the fair – twirling from a set of controversial conversations where the narrative of one is at odds with the other in the Middle East, to another set of complex conversations around the issue of being gay and faithful to God’s Word.
I got home from Israel/Palestine on Tuesday so that I could be in MN for a conversation we hosted Wednesday night at our church between two friends – Jeff Chu and Wesley Hill. Both happen to be gay Christian men who are trying to faithfully follow Jesus as best they can.
What do the Middle East and sexuality have in common? Well-meaning, broken, faithful people are trying to find their way in a world that often feels hostile and unsafe.
The Wednesday night conversation was rich and honest and gentle. The overwhelming response I got from people afterwards was, “I can’t believe how gracious and kind the tone of the whole evening was…how thoughtful and respectful both guys were.”
Yep, it’s sad that this is not what we’ve come to expect from dialog in the church over things we disagree about. Why is that? Why is there this anxiety about needing to be “right”? Why do we use the Bible as an weapon to bash the other rather than an instrument of love to guide our conversations?
How can what we experienced Wednesday night become the norm? I’ve been thinking about this and have come up with some ideas.
- Expect the best from each other. As Jon Acuff said recently, “People who disagree with you are not always haters.” Start by assuming someone is speaking out of ignorance or insensitivity rather than malice.
- Recognize your own hot buttons. Where you have baggage you may tend to over-react. When you notice emotion welling up in you, ask, “Why am I reacting so strongly to what I’m hearing? Is there something I’m afraid of?”
- Use your gentle words like “Can you help me understand?” or “It seems like you’re saying…Is that right?” Not your passionate, convicted words like “you people” and “always” and “never” that can be thoughtless and reactive.
- Come with a posture of humility and the possibility you may be wrong. I’m so thankful I’m part of a church marked by grace. That doesn’t mean we don’t hold convictions about what God’s Word teaches, it just means that we recognize that God’s Word is inspired, but our interpretation is not. We believe that God calls us to fidelity in marriage and that marriage is between a man and a woman. Is that hard and uncomfortable to acknowledge to our gay friends who long for marriage? Yes. Is it possible we’re wrong in our interpretation of the Scripture? Absolutely. But we’re friends with a lot of people we disagree with. We love both Jeff and Wes and want to learn from both of them.
- Honor everyone (I Peter 2:17). Rich Mouw writes, “Honoring here means having an active regard for someone’s well being. Not that we are simply to give people what they ask for or tell them only what they want to hear… this is what civility is all about: honoring other people – even people whose beliefs and actions we dislike – in a manner that is gentle and reverent.”
- Make it your goal to create conversations, not wounds. I think that means asking a ton more questions than making statements.
Am I good at this? No, but I’m trying to get better. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned in this area!
If you’d like to listen to the audio of Jeff and Wesley’s conversation, go here and scroll down to the banner “Across the lines”. The discussion is in two parts – Sexuality: Being a Gay Christian, part 1 and 2.