‘He showed us real life, eternal life. We have seen it all, and we can’t keep what we witnessed quiet—we have to share it with you. We are inviting you to experience eternal life through the One who was with the Father and came down to us. What we saw and heard we pass on to you so that you, too, will be connected with us intimately and become family. Our family is united by our connection with the Father and His Son Jesus, the Anointed One; and we write all this because retelling this story fulfills our joy’ –1John 1:2-4
A pastor told me recently in an email exchange that he hopes to see more people who ‘struggle with same-sex attraction’ find a home at our church.
Not gonna lie, I’m praying the opposite.
I’ve seen how the few brave gay people who have opened up about their relationships in our church have been treated. I’ve seen them denied membership. I’ve seen them overlooked for leadership. I’ve seen them weep because they cannot give their testimonies of God’s grace and Jesus’ saving power in their lives … at least not publicly on a Sunday morning. The Bible study I co-lead is studying Romans. We got special permission to have one woman who is gay give her testimony to our class. This woman has been part of the study longer than I’ve been at the church. I applaud our leadership for allowing her to give her testimony to our study on church grounds and not making us go off-site.
But, why did we have to fight for her to give her testimony?
Everyone who follows Jesus has a testimony of how God has worked in their lives. Everyone gets to proclaim that work in their own words and from their own perspective. I’m sure there are several things in my past that I interpret one way as giving glory to God that others may have a problem with in their interpretation of scripture. I’ve heard some testimonies in my day that made me cringe–not because of the gory details, but because I judged, ‘God never would have told them that.’ Not proud of my arrogant immaturity. Less proud that perhaps the assessment was correct, but the subsequent gossip with others afterward negated any thought of trying to talk with the person and hearing more explanation of their life–perhaps, in humility, offering a way to clarify what they tried to communicate. Unless something is total Christian heresy like Jesus isn’t the Son of God, or God isn’t sovereign, or only white straight people are going to heaven–you get the idea: character assassination of God or elitist theology that only some are allowed to know Him–we don’t get to decide how a person experiences Christ in their lives.
What does that mean if we allow testimonies that go against the traditional grain? It makes church messy. It may mean pastors getting emails/phone calls/texts from people who, like me, have a problem with a person’s expression of an experience with God.
But, it may also mean that a church will grow spiritually mature because of the depth, breadth and height of the revelation of God at work in our lives through the multi-faceted stories within the congregation. So there may be a few stories in there that don’t speak to me. What if some of those stories are the ones that reveal the joy of life in Christ to someone else. Some of the stories may challenge my theology. What if that challenge leads me and others to examine why we interpret Bible passages a certain way. What if our view of God becomes bigger, and He takes our breath away with His beauty, power and … God-ness? My heart is racing with excitement at the possibility!
I long to see the reality of a church united by the common thread of Christ at work in our lives. The reality that we are family … blood family because of Christ’s sacrifice … and in the telling and hearing, the story of God’s power in our brothers’ and sisters’ lives ‘fulfills our joy.’
What takes your breath away about God? Have you discredited someone’s experience with God because it wasn’t yours? How can you help make church more of a ‘family’ for yourself and others?