My friend Rebecca sent me the link to an article that she thought I would enjoy. The title and subtitle of the article instantly grabbed my attention. Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University: A former student’s account of coming out at Liberty University. Honestly, I wasn’t sure who Jerry Falwell is, but I had definitely heard of Liberty University. A (relatively) conservative Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, not very unlike the Christian university that I attended, Cedarville University. I was certainly interested in hearing about this one man’s experience coming out at a Christian school.
Usually I would wait until this Friday’s edition of Check this out! to share this article with you all, but I feel it deserves special attention. When it comes to homosexuality in the church and all of the accompanying issues I have very few answers – like maybe one answer. But with in an attempt to learn and discern What Jesus actually Would Do I have decide to listen to (and more often read) the stories of those who are living it. And in those stories I find more of Jesus, see more of His face, understand more of His character.
I hope that you will listen to (er, read) Brandon’s story with an open heart and an open mind, taking it for what it is – someone’s story. This is his very self and there is nothing more precious. We may not agree point for point theologically, but in reading Brandon’s story and learning about the people who showed more of Jesus to him, I see more of Him, too.
There’s a story in the Gospel of John that I’ve always liked. Some of the Pharisees who have it out for Jesus try to catch him in a trap. They bring to him a woman who was “caught in the act of adultery,” and they ask Jesus what he thinks they should do with her. They tell him that, as any good Jew knows, a woman committing adultery must be put to death, according to the Law that Moses gave them. After a mysterious episode of writing something unknown in the sand, Jesus both agrees and challenges the woman’s accusers. He says, in effect, “Alright, this is what the Law says, and it is very noble of you to want to honor the Law by stoning her. So we will do that. And we will start with the one of us who is blameless and perfect. Who’s first? Pick up your stone.” Apparently, this really aggravated and bested all of the religious accusers because, according to the gospel account, all of them left, leaving Jesus and the woman there alone. It’s at this point Jesus utters one of his more famous sayings. “Neither do I condemn you,” he tells her. “Go, and sin no more.”
The story centers around Jesus’ declaration that he does not condemn this woman. This is something that really resonates with me. Many of the same passages of Scripture that condemn adultery as abominable also condemn homosexuality. Anyone who is even slightly familiar with Torah or the Book of Romans would have to admit that both activities are regarded as sinful. Jesus, a first-century Rabbi, would have also held this belief. And yet, when the abstract sin is given a human face, Jesus responds with acceptance and mercy, proving the truth of Alexander Pope’s adage, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” It’s easy to despise an idea. But give that idea a human body, beat her up, and toss her down on the sand in front of you—do this, and then try to hate her. It’s not that easy.
I left the following comment (the 676th comment on the article, so Brandon will probably never actually read it) and meant every word:
Wow, wow, wow. I am in tears. Thank you so much for sharing your story, for showing me a bit more who Jesus is and what He looks like. I shamefully wonder if my Baptist University and my church and my Christian friends would react the same way as your friends at Liberty. I hope so.
Sometimes I feel so alone in this quest to reconcile a God who loves with Christians who hate. It’s faces like your’s – and the faces of friends, neighbors, relatives, even characters on a TV show – that make it so hard for me to hate, that make it impossible for me to pick up the stone – that make it possible for me to follow the example of Jesus.
Thank you for sharing your story with such grace, wisdom, and humility, Brandon. I like you, too!
You can (and should) read the rest of Brandon’s story here.
You can (and should) also check out Beth’s thoughts about the popular Christian phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” – a post that came to mind when I was reading Brandon’s story.