Do you love us enough to hear our heart?
by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL, USA)
California native Reuben Israel
Dialogue between non-gay Christians and LGBTs is sometimes angry and often graceless. What non-gay Christians view as ministering often pushes LGBT folk away from Christ. Many Christians seem to be more interested in denunciation than evangelism, almost as if they gauge their success by how deeply they offend their audience.
Jesus was full of grace and truth, John 1:14, yet never truthless in His grace nor graceless in His truth. When you profess to follow Jesus, love like He loved.
If non-gay Christians make the effort to listen and really get to know gays and lesbians, the Holy Spirit can do a mighty work in our day. Here are helpful suggestions to evangelize your gay, transgender, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters.
1. Approach us in love
When you look at us, if all you see is a pervert, all we'll see is a bigot. Jesus died for our sins as much as He died for yours. If you can't get beyond your personal dislike for us or your vivid imagination about our sex lives
, we will pick up on that immediately and you'll do us more harm than good.
2. Visit us where we live
Have you ever been in a gay bar or a gay church
? Have you ever complimented a lesbian on her colorful flannel shirt or a gay man on his stylish clothing? Remember that the lesbian you love to insult is someone’s much loved daughter; the gay man you love to disparage is the beloved grandson of doting grandparents.
Treat us as you’d like people to treat your children. We’re really friendly and if you approach us in love, we're not even scary. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover we are not the deviant monsters you’ve imagined.
We know what you think about us because we grew up in your churches. And we’ve already heard what some pastors say about us from the pulpit. Calling us nancy boys, Frisco faggots, fairies, lezzies, bull dykes, queers, trannies, mos, queens and pervs doesn't make us long to be your friend. Don’t expect us to visit your church anytime soon so your pastor can insult us in person. If all you do is invite us to church, that’s not evangelism and that’s not loving.
4. Visit gay or gay-affirming churches
If there is a gay or gay affirming church in your area, visit it. And don't be surprised if we sing, What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Don't go to argue doctrine but just to see what we teach and how we worship. You may be amazed at how many lesbians and gays are devout Christians. You may also be amazed to discover that some of the things you've heard about our churches are not true.
You may even hear justification by faith
and the gospel of the grace of God being preached and see people getting saved. Put aside everything you've been told about us for a few hours. Most of it is wrong anyway, little more than propaganda based on lies. If you repeat those lies to us in your witnessing, we probably will be polite but we will still lose respect for you.
5. Don't keep telling us you're straight
For psychological reasons we will not get into here, Christians who witness to gays feel compelled to keep announcing they are straight. That only reinforces the unstated message that you don’t like or respect us. The more prejudiced we perceive you to be, the less likely we are to listen to your message.
6. Don't try to change our sexual orientation
Don’t go there. No, really, don’t go there. Those of us who grew up in church have already interacted with ex- gay ministries like Exodus International
. We’ve seen it up close and personal and it wasn’t pretty. We’ve never seen anyone freed from homosexuality by an Ex-Gay
It is frustrating and faith destroying for gays who buy into the ex-gay message yet real orientation change never happens. If your only interest is in getting us to attempt orientation change, we won't have much to talk about.
7. Stop with the clobber verses
We've heard it all before. Gay Christians have studied those verses as if our lives depended on it. We already know the context of those verses better than most preachers. We also know the original Hebrew and Greek words and what they meant in Bible times.
Christians who blast us with clobber verses only push us away. If you really want to reach us, remember we grew up in your churches. We know the context and meaning of the clobber passages, even if you don’t. Knowing that has not made any of us ex-gay.
If someone claims to love you and then compares you to child molesters, murderers and people who have sex with animals, would you think, Hey, she really does love me!? Those issues are different issues than innate sexual orientation. Christians who think they’ll win gays to Jesus by comparing us to that kind of wickedness are missing an opportunity for productive dialogue.
9. Hone your listening skills
Instead of waiting for a lull in the conversation to blister us with an insult, listen to what we're really saying. Do you love us enough to hear our heart? Christians in most denominations have railed on us, judged us and rejected us without giving us a fair hearing.
Are you willing to acknowledge the hurt and oppression you’ve heaped upon us? Christians who will not repent of their sins of abuse have no credibility in the LGBT community.
Healing can begin when you admit that you don't really understand us. Simply put, you have never heard our heart. And instead of trying to convince us you do understand, please humble yourselves and listen to us.
Now take a minute to listen to yourselves. Hate the sin, love the sinner
comes across as mean-spirited instead of loving. We hear it as an ill-disguised attempt to seem loving when you really don't even like
us let alone love
When it comes to sexual orientation, it is impossible to separate the sin from the sinner. Your heterosexual orientation is not something you do, it's who you are. In the same way, our orientation is not something we do, it's who we are. You can't hate our “sin” without hating us. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. I'm just telling you how we perceive your rhetoric.
11. Stop calling us fags, fairies and bull dykes
It should go without saying yet someone needs to say it. You wouldn’t walk into a Hell's Angels bar and begin your witness with: You're all maggot-infested, hygiene-
challenged, tramp-stamped sissies!
If you wouldn’t say that to a bunch of bikers, moderate your language when you talk to us. I get emails from christians who hope I’ll get AIDS or tell me I’ll burn in hell or the devil will love it when I get to the lake of fire. They quote one or more of the clobber passages and close with, I love you in Jesus or I love you enough to tell you the truth.
The angry attitude sizzling in their vitriolic words is amazing. Demeaning and insulting us is probably the quickest way to lose us. When you have no more respect for us than that, we tune out everything else you say. Seriously now, do you think we believe those words come from a heart of love? Why are straight Christians
so dismissive of gay Christians?
Why would a preacher
constantly make anti-gay remarks?
How can we build bridges of trust
with non-gay Christians?
Isn’t it all about sex
for you gays and lesbians?
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This page is based on an essay by Scott Cruse and adapted for GC101 with Scott’s kind permission.