Can The Church Accept Gay Marriage? P8: If This is as Far as You Go… / A. J. Hendry

*note, this piece is part of an ongoing series. If you’re just joining this korero, I would encourage you to start with part one, which you can find here

So, when we reflect upon our last couple of blogs, what does this mean when put into the context of our current korero (if you haven’t already, i would encourage you to go back and read part 6 and part 7 before continuing)?

I believe that God’s example shows us that there is a place for silence.

There is a place for us to recognize the lens our culture is conditioned by, to choose faith over ritual, love over the enforcement of correct doctrine.

If Jesus has revealed to us that the most important commandment we can follow is to love, then it leads me to believe that everything else comes second to that.

There are times when to love people – and to lead them into a relationship with the God of love – our silence is needed.

If God can display both a willingness and capacity to love through silence, then can we do less?

Now I hear the concerns, perhaps you are thinking, “But, surely if we don’t tell them that they are sinning aren’t we just risking them dying and going straight to hell because they didn’t change their ways?”

My question to you is, do you really think God is so hard hearted? Do we really think that our salvation is contingent on an individual’s capacity to strive against sin? And if God’s salvation is based upon these conditions, then do we actually believe that any of us are worthy? 

The God revealed through Jesus is one whose character is defined by overwhelming, tremendously gracious love. A love which is “slow to anger and abounding in love (Ps 86:15; 103:9; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)”. A love which is patient with us, walking slowly beside us, revealing himself to us, not willing that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Dear Christian, rest in the warmth of your fathers embrace. This fear that the heavenly father will incinerate your friends for wrong belief is unfounded. Our fear reveals that we have misunderstood the heart of our Father (1 John 4:13-18). Your God is patient, He is kind. He will reveal himself to those you care about through your love for them. There are times when this love will require your silence on things which you are concerned about.

If this is as far as you go

I understand that for some, this is as far as you may be willing to go in this korero. For you the traditional perspective may be all that makes sense, you are steeped in it, and you hold a strong conviction that to be faithful to your Lord, that you must not let it go. Maybe you’re not able to move further in this korero because of this believe. If you can go no further, I pray that you can hear this. Your traditional perspective does not require you to exclude your queer brothers and sisters. You can hold to your convictions and still open your arms wide enough to allow the rainbow in. You can walk beside your rainbow whanau in love and humility, you can serve them, and be served by them, you can both accept and be accepted by your queer siblings. Jesus has invited us to love our neighbours, I believe it is fully possible for you to hold your traditional perspective, and still accept, love, and serve your queer Christian whanau. You will have to do the work, you may have to reexamine other aspects of your theological framework to do so, you will definitely need to listen to Queer Christians, and take time to hear and understand their experience of your theology, but if you are able to recognize that telling Queer Christian’s that they are sinners, broken, and going to hell, is unhelpful, and in fact harmful, than perhaps it’s time to do that work.

You, me, all of us, I pray that we do not allow fear to prevent us from obeying God’s commandment. It is God who saves. Not us. May we rest in that knowledge. Let us be sensitive to the journey our friends are on. Let us not be afraid to Love.

For if – as we have already explored – the Church’s words are driving people away from Ihu Karaiti, and if “speaking Truth” has ceased to be loving, and if the fruit of our korero in this space has become death, than is this perhaps a time to be still, to love, to listen, to serve, and to leave it up to God to change people, if that is what he decides to do? And if God, chooses not to change a person’s sexual orientation – which when we look at the witness of gay conversion ministries such as Exodus ministries amongst others, seems very much to be the case for a lot of people – than why is it that you and I feel that it is our right to impose our will on people God has accepted?

You may not agree with your Queer Christian brothers or sisters, you may think that your theological position is the most defensible, but is being right helpful in this context? Is it leading to unity? Is it birthing fruit filled with Love and Grace? Or is it a resounding gong, or clanging symbols to the ears of whanau who have been wounded and excluded as a result of the words you speak?

If so, perhaps this is a moment for us to remember that it is not our role to change people, we are not called to modify the behaviour of our fellow sojourners, or to pronounce judgements on behalf of God. It is ours to Serve, to Listen, to Love.

I remember having a conversation with some whanau within our faith community a few years back, it was one of those late night chats, we were talking about faith, and life, and the complexity of human existence, when my wife Summer said something that has stuck with me ever since. I remember her leaning into the conversation, our little one having only just fallen asleep on her chest, and just dropping this truth bomb on us, “maybe”, she said, “maybe, community, and church, and life is meant to be messy. Maybe that’s what this is all about, all of us coming together at the table, and trying to figure this out together. Maybe, we were never meant to be able to hold this all together in straight lines, or tidy boxes, maybe the whole point of life, and community, and church, is that we are a group of people, flawed, imperfect, different, who come together, and are just committed to loving each other, and figuring it out as we go.”

Since than I’ve reflected a lot on this, I often think about what it would mean for us to Embrace the Messines that is life and community. To recognize that life is messy, that we won’t all be on the same page, but to be so committed to Love for one another, to unity, to Justice, that we figure out how to make it work for those who have been the most marginalized within our community. To recognize that we shouldn’t have margins in our community any way, to decide we’ll be brave enough to step over them, erase them, and open the door to those of our whanau that we may struggle to agree with, or perhaps even understand.

We won’t figure this all out all at once. But, while we’re wrestling with this, let’s find a way to move forward in a way that honors the humanity and dignity of our queer whanau. Let us find a way to have these conversations, and to create communities, where regardless of our theological differences, we choose love for one another, we choose to listen to one another, we choose to work towards unity, and to walk towards each other, rather than erecting walls and drawing lines.

Queer, Christian, Straight, or otherwise, let us commit ourselves to the Way of Love.

For in the end, it is Love alone that truly wins.

A.J. Hendry

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