A few years ago, back when I lived in Austin, TX, I received a phone call from a guy I occasionally did work for, asking if I was willing to work a 2-day event for a pretty decent chunk of change. He ran a sound and lighting company and I did roadie work for him on the side. I asked what the event was and Gene said it was a festival. Great! I needed extra scratch in my pocket and festivals are fun!
Closer to the event I asked him what the festival was and in classic Gene style, he responded “oh, some gay thing.” Honestly, I didn’t think a thing of it. In fact, all I thought was that I needed to make sure I was ready to work the long hours and to adjust my regular work hours accordingly. I never thought of the implications of being a college pastor working sound for Austin Pride 2010.
After two days of the event, I had experienced so many emotions in such a short time. At the evening “party” event, I was backstage with a gentleman whose name I cannot remember, so I will call him Jeff. After wondering for a while what he was doing back there with us who were working, I asked him and he told me that his partner Jerry (who was on stage) was the DJ. Jeff and I had a pretty long conversation throughout the night. He was a really nice guy. He and Jerry had been together a long time. Jeff was beside Jerry when they removed a big part of his lower jaw due to cancer.
You would never know Jeff was gay. He didn’t have any stereotypical mannerisms. He was not decked out in rainbow. He looked like the average, suburban, husband and father. I don’t know that he was a father, but, hopefully you see where I am going here. JEff and Jerry were two “normal” guys, living two “normal” lives, except they were attracted to each other.
Now there were some things right in front of my eyes that were downright disgusting. I don’t care what your orientation is, but watching someone “dance” provocatively, wearing nothing but their underwear while pouring drinks all over themselves is not something I want to see, man or woman. There were things like this that clearly fit the description of the Romans 1 passage in the scripture:
24-25 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
26-27 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
28-32 Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!
But then there were Jeff and Jerry. They do not fit this description. They wanted genuine love! These weren’t two lustful guys burning after one another saying f**k off to God. They wanted something real.
Is their love sin? Maybe. Is their relationship “unnatural”? Perhaps. Does God love and adore them? ABSOLUTELY!! I have to be completely honest, I struggle with this tension. I want people to be able to find love. I want people to know that they are loved by God. I want people to be able to respond to that love in love to God and to others. I do not intentionally revel in disobedience. But, I struggle here. My heart broke for Jeff and Jerry, and countless others who were there, not to revel in sexuality, but because they wanted to be known and loved regardless of their imperfections and vulnerabilities (which we all have).
The church, at large, has failed miserably in this department. The bumper sticker reads “What Would Jesus Do”? I believe he would have shown up at Austin Pride 2010, walked backstage, and say to Jeff, “I’m thirsty, may I have a drink of your water?” (See John 4, The Samaritan woman at the well).
We often downplay the story of the Good Samaritan and the Samaritan woman at the well. We notice some of the important factors such as Jesus calling out the fact that the woman has been around and that the good Samaritan showed neighborly love, but we often gloss over what the significance of the fact they were Samaritans really meant. They were known for a loose interpretation of Judaism. They were “sinners.” Unclean. Heathens. Donald Miller puts it best when he said the modern-day Good Samaritan story would be more like that the traveling man whom was robbed and abandoned was a conservative evangelical and that the “good Samaritan” would be a liberal, homosexual, pluralist that stopped to aid the injured conservative evangelical, as the preacher, and church going family pass on by.
My point here is this: Jeff and Jerry are people. Just like the “Good Samaritan,” and the Samaritan woman at the well. When we label people by sin, we don’t see people as people, we see them as objects, even if our intentions are good. Jesus worked relationally. Jesus went to that woman and said “I know you. I know your deepest, darkest secrets. Guess what? I love you. I AM all you need.” Jesus via the Holy Spirit work the rest. HE restores. HE reconciles. HE convicts. HE loves!!
If the church is made up of Christians, and a Christian is a follower of Jesus, then maybe we need to follow Jesus. Maybe we need to walk up to Jeff and say, “I’m thirsty, may I have a drink”? Or in today’s model “Are you thirsty, may I buy you a drink”?