Before we dive in here, I just want to say that this isn’t a place where I’m going to argue that Jesus was super liberal or conservative. I’m not going to say either that Jesus was apolitical, because Jesus was a political figurehead. So, let’s dive in.
I began walking from one side of campus to the other to get from my Christian Ethics class to make it to my Exercise and Stress Management class. I had headphones on, music up, and not really paying attention to where my feet were headed. I found myself still on my root, but I was facing a picketer. The sign behind him was blank, but his words painted a very dark picture on that piece of plastic.
“Only Jesus can save. This Christian campus is not so Christian. The true gospel is repentance. Jesus wasn’t here to make you feel good about yourself. Fagg*ts roam this earth without shame. Fagg*ts burn in hell, and so will you if you don’t repent.”
Now many students were shaking their heads as they passed by, smiles in tow. Some students were watching this show from afar whispering in hushed tons hoping to not draw attention of the picketer. I stood stunned.
This is not the first time these buffoons has been on the public sidewalk feet away from private, Belmont property. This is, however, the first time I felt a ping of pain inside my chest. This is the first time I’ve walked by a picketer and imagined someone I knew standing with the picketer agreeing with the statements. This is the first time I imagined a few from my family standing on that sidewalk condemning me.
Jesus did not die on the cross for Christians who damn people to hell, witness in fear instead of love, and push a homophobic, small minded point of view of the Gospel. Jesus did not stand silently by when the oppression occurred in his time. Jesus did not walk by silently shaking his head when people told the blind man to sit back down. Jesus did not comply with oppression, because then he too would have gained the label of oppressor.
To be complicit is to be privileged. To be complicit is to be the oppressor. To be complicit is to be a murderer of human spirit.
When one’s words lead to self-hatred, to further internalized homophobia, to shame, those words are not of Jesus or God. For if God is love, then anything less than love is not of God.
I know I have said a lot of heavy things in the last few paragraphs, so if you need a minute to reflect, take it. If you struggle to understand what I am saying, ask me questions. As we pivot here though, don’t get lost.
Upon rereading the last few things, I realize just how harsh my words are – arguably as harsh as the picketers, maybe. I can hear some of my “spiritual advisors” now telling me that God even loves the picketer like God loves me. Here’s what I have to say about that.
Yes, I believe God loves that human. Yes, I believe God loves that man as much as God loves me. The Creator made both he and I. However, I can love him through challenging him. I can talk with the man about his beliefs, how he reads the Bible, how he interprets loving neighbor as one loves God. I can push that man out of his comfort zone, but there’s only so much I can do. God has to love him. God has to love him harder and longer than I do. I don’t control this man’s destiny, only God does. God can only take my words and use them to change this man.
All of this to say, I hope this man changes his heart and mind before he steps into worship with me. I hope this man apologizes to many before he worships in the same pew as me. I hope this man has worked it out with God before he tries to work it out with me. This man has caused deep pain in many. Only God can truly heal that pain.
Jesus changes hearts, minds, and souls. I truly believe it. I also truly believe that God uses people to help this change. I feel called for that. I will stand complicity anymore. I have done that for far too long. It’s time someone stepped up and did something. It’s time to stand up and stare down hate. Jesus, where you lead I will follow. Lead me now.
I believe the most simple thing we can do is genuinely love others. Pinpoint those in the crowd with pain on their face and in their heart and walk over and comfort them. We can also pray for those hearing these words of hate and even the lips spewing it. Pray that God is bigger than these words and will work in these people to change them and better them. Pray that God is just and will save all of those who love God and have faithfully loved others both in word and deed. Also, organize or participate in a love protest to counteract the hatred. Show them that God loves all no matter what. The road maybe narrow, but there’s room for all of us.