When Austin asked me to write a guest post, he sent me a text that said: “So...How do I get you to write a guest post on loving despite a theological position?” I laughed, albeit a little uncomfortably.
You see, I have decided that I don’t need to have the exact theological arguments in place about how to interact with the LGBTQ+ community. My job is to love people without regard to sexual orientation, or the lack of one, color, nationality, political leanings, or anything else that is being used to decide who is in or out of The Kingdom.
"Love will leave fewer scars than shouting invectives and pointing fingers, holding up signs, and excluding people from churches."
I am an African American female pastor of “a certain age.” I have been around long enough to have had the Bible used to explain why I shouldn’t be in a leadership position, marry “outside my race,” or be a pastor. I’m intimately familiar with the verses in the Bible that used to justify slavery and tell slaves how to respect their masters. Clearly, we don’t adhere to many of the things that were once thought to be rock solid theology.
A lot of things that the scriptures were used to justify because they were thought to be correct interpretations are now part of our everyday lives; they are not the litmus of one’s salvation or status. People choose to follow their interpretation of one part of the Bible while ignoring another parts, or admitting that their interpretation may be wrong. They prefer to believe that they have the right to denigrate other people because they can say “At least I’m not ______. That’s worse than I am.”
Today, one of the litmus tests of whether someone is a “proper” Christian or not is how they feel about the LGBTQ community. The idea of loving our neighbors seems to come with implied directive that says “Unless they…”
It is so important that we do away with caveats when it comes to loving those around us. Caveats mean we put our own spin on who is worthy of God’s love and who isn’t. That spin is usually defined by who we are more than who God is. Our own lenses are faulty no matter how perfect we think they are. How much better to view everyone through a lens of God’s love that persists no matter how badly any of us miss the mark? Gay or straight, single or married, married or divorced, regardless of nationality, God loves us. That is the bar that has been set for us – love without judgement,
I’ve been relying a lot on the verse where Jesus answers the question about what the greatest commandment is. He knew scriptures better than all of the religious leaders in the world combined. He could quote from memory with precision. Yet, he chose this:
Pharisees: Teacher, of all the laws, which commandment is the greatest?
Jesus: “Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is nearly as important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations on these themes.
Matthew 22:36-40 The Voice (VOICE)
Interestingly, Jesus’ response comes from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the same books where the “clobber” verses are found. The verses that talk about all sorts of people being stoned for various offenses, not just being gay, come from the same books of the Bible that talk about loving God and your neighbor first!
So, in light of this passage, straight from the mouth of Christ himself, I choose to love people first. Love will leave fewer scars than shouting invectives and pointing fingers, holding up signs, and excluding people from churches. Love will bring people hope instead of contributing to the shocking, horrible numbers of suicides by members of the LGBTQA+ community subjected to families and churches that tell them that they deserve to die and that God does not love them.
I don’t have all of the theological intricacies worked, but I will always err on the side of loving. Anything else would be less than the greatest commandment of loving God and neighbor. I’m going to love a lot of people in the name of Jesus because there’s no law against showing humans, made in the image of God, the dignity and respect and love that I try to show God.
Nothing less than love will do, no matter whom my neighbor is. According to Jesus, love is to be the basis for how we treat God, our neighbor and ourselves—so let’s start there.
Gina Pollard’s greatest joy is encouraging, empowering, and equipping people to live a God-designed life. As a pastor and life transitions coach she gets to do this on a regular basis. A self-described “hope junkie” Gina continues to journey with others, helping them to validate the whole of who they are in Christ. Gina earned her Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and is ordained by the National Association of Christian Ministers. She currently works at Fuller Seminary Arizona in a variety of roles, mostly related to spiritual formation. Connect with Gina on Twitter @HopeattheCenter or HopeAtTheCenter.net.