Dear Friend by Christian

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. […] For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
            —Luke 15:20b—24, ESV

 

Dear friend,

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. Let me explain:

There is something that happens when a group of people gets together. They start making small talk by finding the things they have in common—“You’re from Los Angeles?! What part? Me too, yes!”—which is great, since it gets them going about the wonderful ways the world is so small and everyone is connected by no more than six degrees of separation and all that. But after a short go at finding the things they have in common, people start looking for the things they don’t have in common with the rest of the world—the things that make their collection of people different.“Finally someone who understands! Mexican food just isn’t the same anywhere else.”This is where things get tricky.

Christians, I think, have begun to get into this second stage of small talk. We’ve moved on from finding things to love in the world around us, and begun to find the ways we stand out from the people who inhabit it. I’m a Christian; I should know. We Christians talk about things, about heavy, complicated things, as if they’re simple and obvious and anyone who’s reasonable should agree with us in a heartbeat. We cite scriptures, assuming it’s possible for us to know exactly how God wanted us to understand them, and that those scriptures bear the same weight for everyone. We forget some folks do not see authority in ancient text, or even in Christian faith at all. We lose compassion. We forget we follow the God who compared himself to a Father that embraced a rebellious son before the son had the chance to apologize[1]the God whose first question is not “are you willing to see what you’re doing as sin?,” but “do you know how much I love you?” I, personally, pretend like I’m a part of the most inviting faith on earth, but secretly I’m not sure I actually believe the gospel is here for my drinks-too-much-and-hooks-up-too-often buddy or for my privileged classmate who can be kind of a douchebag about race and class. What’s worse is I sometimes think it’s alright to say my friends drink too much, hook up too often, or are douchebags. Because, you know, I’m the right guy to make those assessments.

And I should know better, I really should. I’m gay, and inside the world of contemporary evangelical Christianity, few folks get more flack than gay guys like me. People are real quick to think they know what’s going on in our hearts. To mainline Christianity, those of us who believe God blesses gay relationships must be looking only for ways to affirm our own desires and skipping over truths that convict us. And for those of us who don’t believe God endorses gay relationships, mainline Christians overlook the weight of saying “no” to a lifelong partner and friend, to having children, and to full membership in a family-oriented church culture. Those losses can be scary. Jesus tells his disciples to renounce all they have to follow him,[2] and I think it’s safe to assume Gay Christians have a head start in that department—celibate or not, gay folks like me are renouncing a sense of safety and acceptance when they join Christian communities that place heteronormative families at their center. But instead of inviting inpeople who must have a heaping helping of grace to want to spend time with Christians in the first place, the church largely tells gay folks they don’t get a seat at the communion table.

So I should know better than to make people outsiders. I’ve been an outsider myself, and on the wrong day or with the wrong church, I still am one. And I don’t like it. I think most Christians have been outsiders to the faith at one point or another—they’ve been “a long way off” and felt Jesus draw them near with an embrace that couldn’t care less about their messiness or the things that are easy for others to judge. But somehow, we look at a God who has loved us unconditionally and, in our pride, we respond by offering a select group of friends a love that is contractual… a love that goes away when they annoy us or when they do things we’d rather not be associated with. That decision we make when Godaccepts us but we reject others—that is what I’m sorry for.

Friend, I wish I could promise to always love you unconditionally. Iwant to say there will always be a place for you here, that it’ll never be like Mean Girls. But I know one day I’ll wake up on the wrong side of the bed and not have my coffee and just be such an asshole. What I can promise is that I’ll give it my best try and I’ll keep saying sorry when I screw up. And I hope you’ll have the grace to be patient with me on those days.

So these are my arms, open wide, inviting you in. And this is me, on my knees, saying please forgive me for not inviting you sooner.

Love always,
Christian

 

 

 

[1] Luke 15:2021

[2] Luke 14:33

Posted on September 10, 2015 .