***A few things I want you to know before reading this post.
- First, if you haven’t already guessed, this quest will likely make many uncomfortable… myself included. I’ll tackle issues like homosexuality, immigration, abortion, race, politics… all the easy stuff that offers no chance of confrontation or division. (Did you catch the sarcasm and humor? If you did’t, I assure you it was there!) Many have warned against talking about such things, but I refuse to believe that true followers of Jesus Christ are incapable of discussing these important issues in an effort to better understand our convictions, our callings and our purposes for the kingdom.
- Second, the young woman I refer to in this piece was given this manuscript before being posted. I actually asked her permission weeks ago.
- Third, I also had three trusted people from different parts of the country help me sift through my thoughts and continue to cultivating my theology in this area.
- Last, this is by NO MEANS an complete look at the issue of homosexuality in the church. It doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. But, it’s where I’m starting the conversation that I will revisit over the next year as we hear more stories. ***
The second young woman I discipled while in Rhode Island is someone you’d never forget… and, honestly, you just wouldn’t want to. She is precious to our family, as is her son, who Jamie and I LOVE to pieces. He was truly the hardest person to say goodbye to when we left.
Like the other young woman I met with every week, she was so excited to grow in knowledge and showed a genuine excitement for her pursuit of Jesus. She also came prepared every week with more questions than I had answers, but together we wrestled through it with a lot of laughter. Until one day when she sat across from me at my kitchen table and told me she was gay.
You guys… I had no clue. Like… For. Real. I wish I had a video of that moment. I can’t imagine what my face looked like. It was clear the news was a surprise to me, which was also a surprise to her. She had actually been meeting with several leaders at our church to discuss the issue. These guys knew she was meeting with me, BUT NEVER TOLD ME ANYTHING! Should I be mad at them for not telling me or ecstatic they didn’t see this as some scandal needing swift action? She assumed they would have told me and I think that was a pretty fair assumption. But, for whatever reason, they didn’t. And, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. It did nothing to change the way I felt about her and it did nothing to change my interpretation of what the Bible says about engaging in homosexual relationships. And, ironically, I think this was the beautiful thing about what God was doing.
Here’s the truth: Up to this point, I had never formally discipled anyone. Another truth: I grew up in an EXTREMELY conservative church and the thought of someone who was gay wanting to learn about Jesus never would have crossed my mind. NEVER.
I remember sitting at my kitchen table wanting to ask her so many questions, yet fearful of completely scaring her off with my ignorance. I guess the confusion was written all over my face because she broke the silence with nervous laughter and the perfect summative statement: You had no clue. There has never been a truer statement and one I would be confronted with so many times over the next few years.
I continued to disciple her up until the time our family left Rhode Island and asked a dear friend to continue on the work we started. I never once deviated from what I believe the Bible teaches, but I also never wavered in my love for her. The week before I left, she asked me if I would baptize her. I actually had never been asked to do that before and, honestly, I had no reservations in doing it. She acknowledged what the Bible said and was willing to trust the Lord and the work He was doing in her life, no matter how difficult it was. I knew she loved Jesus and she had proven herself faithful in pursuing truth and wrestling through the difficult parts. But, once we returned home to Maine, I encountered a perspective that gave me great pause.
At this point, I had been in seminary for a while. In one of my classes, when asked about his stance on baptizing those who are gay, my professor gave a quick, negative response. His only exception was in situations where people renounce their way of life. Immediately, his answer seemed off to me. It seemed in direct opposition to the idea of NOT having to clean yourself up before approaching the foot of the cross. I remember sitting there thinking, “If someone struggles with anger, do we tell them they have to renounce it and never get angry again before we are willing to baptize them?” It seems like such a ludicrous requisite when the context changes, doesn’t it?
In the years since that moment, the Lord has had me on a journey. Full disclosure, it’s a journey I’ve tried to ignore for a while. But, for whatever reason, it’s an issue the Lord has laid upon my oldest child’s heart. Actually, He has pressed it so firmly on her heart that she has spent hours researching and writing, questioning and challenging. If I’m committed to discipling her well, that means I have take on that challenge with her.
I told you there will be no answers here today. We’re only scratching the surface. But, I will say my research is pushing me to study the Bible like never before. If there was ever a need for solid hermeneutics, this is it. And part of our journey this year will be diving into the deep end on this subject. You’re definitely invited to dive in with us, but we have one requirement in our house: ALWAYS truth IN love. If nothing else, in seminary I learned the importance of studying the depths of God’s Word. There’s much wisdom to be gleaned, even in the surface, check-the-box, daily devotional reading. But, the most profound, life-transforming truths are found in the tensions that so many ignore.
But, as far as my family is concerned, we’re done ignoring them.