We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. – 1 John 4:19-21
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
She sat across the small table from me, fidgeting with her coffee cup and letting me do all the talking. It had been a long time since we had last talked and I had a lot to catch her up on. One of my favorite things to do is reconnect with old friends! After a time of hearing only brief responses from my friend, I asked her if everything was okay with her. She stared at her coffee cup for a while and then looked up at me with such pain in her face that it startled me.
“What is wrong?” I asked as I took her hands and squeezed them gently, encouraging her to open up to me.
“You are going to hate me and run out the door if I tell you,” she replied with tears welling up in her eyes.
“I could never hate you and I am not done with my coffee yet, so I am not going anywhere,” I tried to lighten the mood and reassure her.
“Okay,” she began. “Here is the deal. I am gay…I met someone…I love her.” She said all this looking deeply into the light brown coffee and then looked up at me again, expecting to see disbelief and hate.
“Well…that is definitely NOT what I was expecting,” I said. “Let’s talk some more. And let me reassure you: I don’t hate you and I am NOT running out the door.”
“Oh, Linda! I’m an abomination! I AM AN ABOMINATION! What am I going to do?”
This was the beginning of a LONG conversation. Let me give you a little bit of information about my friend. She and I have known each other for a long time and she has always been a “church girl” like me. She was raised in church and has always been very active with her family in her church. She never married, so she got even more involved in the activities of her growing church and she loves the Lord with all her heart. Her quiet and contemplative personality made her the perfect “worker bee” and many people counted on her to work hard and get things done. She and I have had “God conversations” MANY times over the years, so I know she knows the Bible and has a good handle on what Jesus did for us on the cross.
During this conversation, I found out that this church life she has led has both cradled her in God’s love and frightened her to death. Since she was a young girl she realized she was different from other girls, in that boys didn’t seem to excite her as they did her girl friends. When she was a teenager, she realized what was going on inside of her and she was so ashamed. She hid who she was and what her body was telling her she wanted. She studied the Bible, searching and searching for God’s guidance. What she found there told her she was unnatural…she was a sinner and an abomination in God’s eyes. She buried those feelings of desire for other women down deep in her heart and soul. She got MORE involved in her church and lived a lie for more than 30 years. A year ago at an out of town conference for her work, she met a woman who she instantly connected with and one thing led to another and the feelings she had been hiding and squelching inside came pouring out. Her new friend had had a similar experience and my friend felt she had finally found someone who understood her. A relationship between the two grew over time. My friend now finds herself in love with this woman and feels so split. Part of her is awakening to a part of herself didn’t even know existed. At 45 years old, she is discovering what most of us discover much earlier in life. She found who she considers her soul mate. But, she is also in fear for her soul…in fear that the life she had once lived is gone. She is afraid of what her friends and family will now think of her…afraid of what her loving Savior now thinks of her. How would that feel to think you are an abomination?
She was afraid of what I would think of her. My heart broke for her. There were many tears shed over those coffee cups that morning. I did what Jesus taught me to do…I loved her. I didn’t judge her. I didn’t run away from her. I didn’t tell her that she disgusted me. I didn’t slam the door in her face. I LOVED her. I don’t have all the answers for her. I don’t understand what she is going through, but I could see that this poor woman needed to be loved at that moment.
If I reacted the way some Christians might have, the way she EXPECTED me to react, I might have pushed her FARTHER away from the God she loved so much. I would have affirmed what she believed about herself…that she was an abomination and not worthy of my love and not worthy of God’s love. I KNOW what the Bible says, but what God put in my heart at that moment was love.
So, as I watch the news and the Facebook posts about how we should support those Christian businesses who want the right to not serve and shut the door on people just like my friend…my heart hurts. Why would we shut the door on some of the people who need to be shown God’s love the most? We SAY that God is love and we SAY that whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God who gave his life for us will receive eternal life. But do we really believe what we say? Do we LIVE what we say?
If I opened a restaurant and I reserved the right to only serve the people who were without sin and lived a perfect life and believed as I do and lived their lives the way I think they should, my restaurant would go broke very quickly as NO ONE would be allowed to eat there! It would be a business without God’s love in it and the closed doors would keep out the very people who needed nourishment the most.
I realize that many will not agree with me and many would have walked away from my friend, letting her know that she was as unclean and unworthy as she believes she is. I am just not willing to let her lose faith in a loving and forgiving Father because of my actions!