Where I Stand
by Jen Hatmaker on April 2nd, 2014

The combined hours of untroubled sleep this last week has got to be under ten. Around 2:00am, I woke up with some clarity on next steps, and a tiny weight rolled off my shoulders. I laid in bed the rest of the night praying, letting the Holy Spirit speak to me, listening, being very still in the Word, which is tucked into every crevice of my heart.
I got an email yesterday from a very dear event planner that will soon host me for her conference. With absolute care and kindness, she asked about my position on homosexuality, because while my World Vision blog held space for peace and dialogue, I kept my personal conviction close, which I have always done. But when this good woman wrote, “I personally need to know which direction your heart lends itself on this subject. Simply because I’m responsible to my superiors and consistency,” I knew it in my gut: she is right. I owe this to her, to others like her, and to my brothers and sisters in Christ whom I love. To the degree that it rests on my transparency as a leader, I bear responsibility for the conscience of others, and it is unfair to withhold.
First, the reason I’ve always held this conviction close, inviting only my real friends and family and community in, is because I am loathe to be a pawn in a hateful public war. I refuse to be a point in some win column, used for my influence and lumped into ancillary groupthink I don’t share. I’ve said before that this conversation best belongs in true relationships, around dinner tables, over coffee, in real life, and I still believe that. The toxic public sphere is not a safe place for this, as last week certainly proved (which is why comments will be closed on this one). Real human hearts are in play, and we should take nothing more seriously.

But for the sake of the conscience of my brothers and sisters who in some way sit under my leadership as a teacher, I want you to know that I land on the side of traditional marriage as God’s first and clear design. I believe God’s original creation is how we were crafted to thrive: in marriage, in family, and in community, which has borne out for millennia in Scripture, interpretation, practice, and society (within and without the church).
Brandon and I have held this position forever; this is not a new revelation or a result of peer pressure. I’ve written every previous word on the subject from this belief. We did not come to this conclusion lightly or without reams of study, discussions with our gay and straight friends, and prayer. We have investigated biblically with gay couples, reading together, praying, listening. We have much skin in this game and do not cast opinions from the wings, dealing in theoretics instead of flesh and blood.
However, I remain disturbed and pierced at how many Christians have handled the gay community publicly. It is a source of extreme grief. We may share theology, but the application of that truth remains a disconnecting point. While Scripture does command us to “speak the truth in love” (and surely Facebook is the dead worst place to exercise that practice), that is not the end of our biblical responsibility.

Applying truth through the hermeneutic of love is a faithful response to Scripture and certainly to God. And while plenty of Christians indeed treat the gay community with respect, for so many, “speaking truth in love” doesn’t come across loving at all. These are real people and their hearts are fragile. When I read Ben Moberg’s blogs last week, I had to shut my laptop, walk to the bathroom and sob.
If our only response is to speak the truth in love to the exclusion of the hundreds and hundreds of verses that call us toward mercy, peace, kindness, hospitality, and patience while leaving judgment to God, the only One able to judge fairly and correctly (James 4: 11-12), consequently also the only One who transforms and sanctifies, then I insist that you exercise that practice with every single sinner in your life. Every single one. Every single sin. Otherwise that obedience has no integrity. Every. Single. Sin. I want it called out in truth and love, I want it blogged about, I want it argued into legislation, I want it discussed in public forums outside of genuine relationships, I want articles, I want excommunications. I would respect a believer who calls out every sinner and sin around him in equal measure over one who selectively applies Scripture to certain categories. (I would not like that believer, but I would at least respect his consistency.)
Why homosexuality has devolved into such an isolated war, I am uncertain, but as I lay in bed last night, listening, still, prayerful, God reminded me of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), which Jesus told after a very smart expert of the Law asked how to inherit eternal life.

“What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

I find it so ironic as a Bible teacher that the Savior of the world boiled down the kingdom to such a simple formula while me and mine exegete everything within an inch of its life. When I get bogged down, I always remember Jesus: Love God and love people. There you are. Do this and you will live. The end. I love Him.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Ah, yes. This is so human. What is the morality clause? Who can I omit? Who gets to stay in? Who are the outsiders and insiders here? What are the categories?

Then Jesus told a devastating story about a man beaten, stripped, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.

As I lay in bed, it was instantly and perfectly clear that the gay community has been spiritually beaten, stripped of dignity, robbed of humanity, and left for dead by much of the church. You need only look at the suicide rates, prevalence of self-harm, and the devastating pleas from ostracized gay people and those who love them to see what has plainly transpired.

Laying next to them, bloodied and bruised, are believers whose theology affirms homosexuality and allows them to stand alongside their gay friends. (Again, you don’t have to agree with this, but there are tens of thousands of thinking, studied people who hold this conviction.) The spiritual gutting of these brothers and sisters is nothing short of shameful. The mockery and dismissal and vitriol leveled at these folks is disgraceful.

Also wounded on the side of the road are Christians who sincerely love God and people and believe homosexuality is a sin, but they’ve been lumped in with the Big Loud Mean Voices unfairly. Painted as hateful intolerants, they are actually kind and loving and are simply trying to be faithful. The paintbrush is too wide, the indictments unfounded.

Boy, this debate has wounded many travelers, hasn’t it?

We don’t get to abandon the theology of love toward people; the end does not justify the means. That is not Christ-like and it is certainly not biblical. As a faith community, it is time we relearn what “speaking the truth in love” means. Something that actually feels like love is a start. If the beginning and end of love is simply pointing out sin, then we are doomed.

“A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

Jesus is my favorite ever. This is not even subtle. Who not only ignores this beaten man but moves physically away from him with barely a second glance? A priest and a Levite: two members of the religious elite. This is so direct and specific a point, that anyone who identifies as Christian should take sober heed. No mention is made of this wounded man’s character. We know nothing of his faith, his practices, his background, or even his heritage. There is no qualifier or disqualifier, because it shouldn’t matter. All Jesus tells us is that he is wounded and alone and that not one but two religious leaders left him in the gutter.

When people are broken and cast off, Jesus notices who stops and who walks on by unmoved, unaffected, uncompassionate.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

JESUS IS MY FAVORITE EVER. This is not even subtle either. Who is precious? Who is tender and generous? Who binds up his wounds and sets him toward healing? A Samaritan! A religious outcast discredited by the keepers of the law. The agent of healing is an outlier who Jesus purposely placed in the role of honor. Both the wounded man and the caregiver are outsiders in the religious sphere, operating literally on the margins. So often religious power and position and authority is inversely proportional to humility and deference and mercy, and people who attend to needs first are painted as heretics.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I am convinced we need no more soldiers in this war.
We need more neighbors.

We need more outliers willing to pick up the bloodied and beaten gay community and bind up their wounds with oil and wine, religious approval aside. We need generous and faithful neighbors who stop and say I see you and I see your pain and I care. We need agents of healing over agents of judgment, because if God’s kindness leads us to repentance, who are we to offer anything less? This will come at a personal cost, just like it did the Good Samaritan, but it is the right thing to do. The hard, right thing to do.
It is what neighbors do. They show mercy. They bind up wounds and trust God to heal.
This is absolutely the kingdom I understand. This one. The one where Jesus tells stories that subvert power and lend honor to outcasts (Jesus! Best.). The one where He came for the sick and the lost. The kingdom that led with mercy and made religious people uncomfortable and everything was upside down. Where power is lame and humility is celebrated. The one where God sanctifies us inch by inch into the likeness of His Son, because who else would we want to emulate? This is the lens in which I understand God and it’s as biblically faithful as I know how to be.
Go and do likewise…I will sure try.

I so regret providing another battle ground last week, so comments are closed on this one, good readers. I put this into your hands with humility and a very, very tender heart. 

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