This past summer on our family vacation, which included three extra teenagers, as each of ours brought a friend, I watched an Ellen DeGeneres DVD with the girls. I have always enjoyed her comedy and we laughed a lot. At the end of one of the segments, however, it got a little more serious, when she took comments and questions from the audience. A young woman came to the mic who would be recognized on the street immediately by any of us as being a lesbian. She immediately choked up to the point of having difficulty speaking, and expressed to Ellen what a difference she had made in her life by "coming out" and how it gave her hope for her future, and brought her comfort in the midst of all the pain she had experienced at the treatment she had received by those in her community, and some in her own family.
Ellen was visibly moved (sure, there may be some who would say it was all staged and contrived, but I am not speaking here to those people) and motioned for the woman to come forward. She bent down over the front of the stage and embraced her, at which point the woman sobbed uncontrollably in her arms.
My girls all teared up as most anyone with even a basic sense of compassion would. I was moved to tears as well, but perhaps for more specific reasons. I immediately wondered if she came from a "fundamentalist" background. It is a story I am sure you all have heard over and over again from homosexuals who speak out: they come out from "fundamentalism" and break free of its oppression. Invariably, anyone who comes out as a homosexual, and is a member of a church even remotely resembling the church in which I grew up, has only one option available to them, and that is to leave that church...or be expelled.
You know what's perplexing? You don't see gossips being compelled to leave the church. On the contrary, it's often a "the more the merrier" mentality. You don't see those who perpetuate strife among brothers being kicked out, as they often manage to present themselves as acting in the interest of "truth". But there is no such thing as truth void of mercy; that "truth" is a lie.
As I watched Ellen embrace this young woman, and comfort her in her pain, letting her know she was not alone, I thought about Christ, and how He would have responded to her. We don't have to wonder whether He would have responded like Ellen who embraced her, or like the "fundamentalists" who had turned their backs. We already know.
I thought about my girls and what I am teaching them about Christianity, and who Christ is. And who we are in Him. What made me weep was the fact that an unbeliever was demonstrating to them them a level of compassion that they were not likely to see in a "church" any time soon.
My 17-yr-old daughter asked me a few months ago, "If I got pregnant, would you kick me out of the house? Because [so-and-so's] mom would kick her out." I was immediately grieved that the question had to be asked, but what I realized after a very tender conversation with her, was that she knew the answer, she just needed to hear it from me again. And so I resolved that day that she would continue to hear it again, and often.
The moralist will dismiss this as sentimentalism, or "emotionalism", or as somehow excusing immorality. I even heard one say recently that to admit to our moral weaknesses, and confess them to one another, was to take pride in them, or to be without remorse. That somehow owning up to our human frailty and reveling in the mercy of God is the height of debauchery. (Nothing like entirely missing the point!) But "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
As Christians, who have experienced God's mercy and forgiveness and are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us, we should respond to a fellow believer who struggles with homosexuality the same way we respond to a fellow believer who struggles with any other area of weakness. And yet for whatever reason, this one "sin", and even one who commits it, has been separated as untouchable by the church. This is especially perplexing since the afore-mentioned sin of gossip arguably does much more damage to God's people and the reputation of His Kingdom in the world. It should sadden all of us, and convict our conscience, to see an unbeliever show more compassion to a stranger than we as members of God's household would show to a hurting brother or sister.
Why does James write, "Confess your faults one to another?" He tells us why, in that very context:
James 5: 16 Confess your faults one to another, <em>and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
It goes hand in hand with this passage:
Galatians 6: 1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, <em>restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 <em>Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
We confess our faults, or our struggles and weaknesses, with one another <em>so that</em> we may be restored and healed. But where there is fear of judgment and condemnation, not to mention excommunication, this restoration cannot be accomplished. Christ's law cannot be fulfilled through our communion if we are fearing one another. That is why the apostle writes, "There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).
So many times I have heard Christian parents speak about the ultimate shame of finding out their child struggles with homosexuality. But would these same parents hang their heads and be afraid to show their faces in church if their child struggled with being unkind, unloving, self-righteous or judgmental? It is no wonder that hurting people desperate for mercy often run as far from "church" as they can get.
As parents, we should consider fervently how we are portraying Christianity to our children. I want my children to encounter Christ in my loving arms. I want all who enter my home to be embraced by His mercy. And someday, maybe those expelled from "church" will be drawn to the Kingdom of our Savior.
I have been married to my loving husband Keith for 26 years. We have three beautiful and brilliant children, ages 24, 22 and 20. Nothing cheers my heart more than having them all at home, yet nothing is more satisfying to my mind than watching them grow from afar. My personal passion is theology: the knowledge and experience of the Truth and Mercy found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and displayed in the lives and communion of His people. My husband and I love to travel, and because our children are often out and about in the world, we get lots of opportunities to see it! And we also love to fill our home with friends who love us, and love our wine collection.