Last week I read this article by Jen Hatmaker. It’s called “Where I Stand” and in it Jen offers her personal convictions and stance on homosexuality. You know, because of the whole World Vision thing, which is a-whole-nother discussion I have decided not to enter except to say that Jesus spoke about loving the poor and orphaned more than he talked about homosexuality (which he mentioned zero times in Scripture) and what Jesus said should matter more than what makes us uncomfortable.
Anyway, I loved Jen’s article and her thoughts on how we as Christians like to choose the sins we want to really get fired up about. I liked her inclusion of Jesus’ words about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the guy who loved his neighbor back to healing and health, even though his neighbor was super different than he was and even though nobody would’ve blamed him if he just kept on walking.
My friend Mary, who is gracious and kind, said that Jen’s article reminded her of how I love people. Which is mind blowing because at the end of most days I feel like I failed at loving people. But, Mary is honest and has no reason to blow smoke, if you know what I’m saying. So the other day on the walk to the grocery store I decided to think about why (besides the obvious “Jesus” answer) I am able to love people who are different than me, who have chosen different lives and belief systems.
I thought of the former and current prostitutes I know and love. I thought of the people I know and love in same sex relationships. I thought of the people I know and love living as trans-gender. I thought of the people I know and love living with their boyfriend/girlfriend and having sex outside of marriage. I thought of the people I know and love who have heard me talk about Jesus and said, “You’re passionate about Jesus and that’s awesome, but it’s not for me.”
For a while I worried that if the different beliefs of others didn’t bother me it was because I didn’t really believe that Jesus is the only Way to heaven. I worried that I must be an awful, awful Daughter if I don’t want Jesus for every single person in my life. And maybe that’s true. I’ve never been a super awesome Daughter (I disobey my Father all the time and ignore Him and push Him away). But if they’ve heard of Jesus, if I’ve been faithful to tell (which in most cases, I haven’t, to be honest, but have instead left the evangelizing to Preachers and Bible Verses and Blog Posts and Natural Revelation – I told you, I’m probably awful) and have said, “No thank you,” what good would not loving them do?
When I decided to become a Christian I was seven and in a Sunday School classroom. I had heard about Jesus and my response was, “Yes, please!” I said, “Yes,” to getting into heaven and to doing the right thing. In that particular setting choosing Jesus was a popular decision. I knew I would be applauded for asking Jesus into my heart, that my grandma would write my name in her Bible and give me a piece of candy. I knew I would get to be baptized in front of the whole church (I do love attention!) and that the little old Baptist ladies would give me hugs and smiles. I had nothing to lose. It was an easy decision.
When I chose Jesus I lost nothing. My family supported me. My friendships were unaffected. My life didn’t radically change – I continued going to church and memorizing verses and following the rules.
But somewhere along the way I realized that my story is just that – MY story. It’s not everyone’s story. In fact, I’m probably in the minority. For most people (people that aren’t rule-loving seven-year-olds whose mom takes them to church every Sunday and Wednesday), choosing Jesus means giving something up. It means losing relationships, lifestyles, and comfort. It means huge life changes.
Jesus has changed my life in huge ways, but I chose Him early and easily. Since that day 17 years ago, there have been plenty of times when I’ve chosen my own way over His way. These are small things – Turning the movie off during the first sex scene or waiting until the fourth? Opening my mouth or keeping it shut? Doing the right thing because it’s the right thing or because I want someone to praise me? Letting my thoughts wander to places they shouldn’t go or taking my thoughts captive? Skipping prayer because it’s boring and hard and sometimes I wonder if He’s actually listening or trusting that God is Who He says He is?
In all of these scenarios (which are my daily struggles – I’m sure you have your own) I fail almost daily. I choose my way over God’s way. I choose myself instead of Jesus. And in all of these scenarios what do I have to lose in choosing Jesus? Only my pleasure and my pride.
For some, for some brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins and friends, choosing Jesus would mean severing relationships. It might mean never seeing the people they love most ever again. For some, choosing Jesus means a life of celibacy – a life without a first kiss, a first date, marriage, or a family of their own. For some, choosing Jesus means giving up what currently brings them the most joy, what keeps them sane. For some, choosing Jesus means losing everything.
Who am I to say that if I were in another’s position I would choose Jesus? I choose myself over Him all the time and I have tasted and I have seen that the Lord is good. How much harder would it be to choose something you have never experienced in exchange for everything you hold dear? For what’s keeping you alive? If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I could do it.
I believe that God’s way for my life is the best possible way. I believe that God’s way for your life is the best possible way. I believe that this is true for everyone. But after just a little bit of living life with other people, I can understand why choosing Jesus is hard, hard, hard and why to some it doesn’t seem worth it. I can understand why when loved ones hear about Jesus and the cost their response is sometimes, “No, thank you.”
What I can’t understand is why that would ever mean I should stop loving them. Jesus has asked me to give up a lot, (He has also given me a lot – like a lot more than He’s asked me to give up) but He has never asked me to give up a relationship with someone just because they’ve chosen a different path than mine. He’s never asked me to stop talking to a loved one because her loved one is also a woman. He’s never asked me to end a years long relationship with a friend who supports and encourages and gets me just because they’ve chosen to live apart from Him.
He doesn’t give up on people and He doesn’t ask us to either.
Beth Woolsey had this to say on the subject: “…There’s one thing I can do, even though it’s a little thing – a tiny thing, given my one life and my one voice – and that is to tell the wild truth, as best as I understand it in this moment, about Who Is Welcome at Love’s Table. Which is everyone. All the people. Welcome at Love’s Table. Despite everything, welcome. Despite the war, welcome. Despite the hurt, welcome. Although I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to come or to trust that Love even has a table.” (You can read more here.)
That’s it, the wild truth.