I have made it a practice these past few years to spend time during the month of June to purposely write about how I see passages of scripture differently now. I guess you might say they are words of pleading for my more conservative siblings in the faith to reconsider their position on the LGBTQ community, or at least be willing to consider that there is more going on here than they realize.
(Before you write me off and stop reading, please note that this is not a blanket approval or celebration of everything that goes on in the LGBTQ community, just like I would never issue a blanket approval or celebration of everything in the straight community. We all have conservatives, we all have moderates, we all have extremes, and we all have things we are comfortable with and things that make us uncomfortable. This post is about personhood, not actions, character, or attitude, so hang with me if you can)
Last week before I left for a work trip, I began reading again Luke Chapter 4 where Jesus was speaking in his hometown of Nazareth. Luke tells us that he went to the synagogue – something Jesus did pretty often (he was a good Jew of course).
They handed him the scroll of Isaiah.
“Unrolling it, he found the place were it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1-2a NIV)
The fact that Jesus chose this passage out of all of the book of Isaiah stood out to me.
He could have chose one of the condemning prophetic passages that called out the atrocities of the governing rulers. He could have chosen the passage about the suffering servant, or the passages with shepherd imagery, and used it to explain who he is. I mean, wouldn’t that help people see God’s plan? Maybe he did teach about those passages at other times, but this is the one Luke wanted us to know about. This one he included. We have to pay attention to that.
Jesus started by saying to the people that day “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” – and Luke tells them that everyone was amazed at what he said after that. The text does NOT tell us what he explained about the passage… but I sure would have loved to know, wouldn’t you?.
You see, people weren’t offended at what he explained, or how he explained it.
They only got angry afterwards, when he started casting shade by telling stories of ways God had done these very things through Elijah many years before, but for people not in “the chosen” Israel. Then they decided to chase him out.
So much for hometown hospitality huh?
I have found it easy to love this passage, reading that Jesus cares for the broken hearted, because that speaks to how great his love is for us and for those that are hurting.
It’s easy to use this passage to speak of how Jesus frees those that are captive to addictions, lies believed, pain of the past….and you might read it as him delivering from sin (but no mention of sin is here, mind you).
I know there are a zillion other ways each one of us might be able to see how this applies to ways Jesus has set us free, since we each have very unique stories.
I’d like to offer one more for church people to consider.
Picture a 13 year old who sits in the locker room and finds they are attracted to their own sex, yet only ever hears for the next 5 years that their desires are “not what God intended” or are shameful, a family curse, or anything else along those lines, so they believe the lie that they are not loved by God because it doesn’t line up with the “right” desires the church thinks they should have…..
Can you recognize that over and over, this message is exactly what causes internal struggle and shame, cognitive dissonance and all sorts of depression, anxiety and self hatred?
They can’t hear or believe “beautifully and wonderfully made”… because no one tells them that their desires are God given, which is what every other teen is told.
They wonder if God hates them because they have probably prayed and asked God to take away their desires, and he doesn’t so… where does that leave them?
You might say “well, they need to depend on Jesus, we all have desires we have to lay down. It’s part of denying self”. Yes, agreed we all need to deny self when we choose to follow Jesus. But denying WHO one is was not what he asked. Whether or not Jesus asks someone who is gay, bi, lesbian or trans to depend on him instead of finding a partner is something completely different. This is about BEING. About accepting SELF.
So they leave, because they need to be able to accept who they are and how they were created, and church people are often hesitant to navigate this with open arms.
So in light of this passage, I’d like to ask:
For those who are in the LGBTQ community and are finally able to shed words of condemnation and shame and acknowledge that they actually ARE gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or trans…..and truly accept this part of their identity —
Can we see that perhaps this is Jesus proclaiming liberty in their lives?
You have no idea what it’s like to be in their shoes, so don’t brush this off thinking simply “Jesus would never do that”
Are we so sure? His thoughts, His ways are much higher than ours.
Do you think the fact that someone’s desire for love and connection and relationship with someone of the same, not opposite sex, is a surprise to God? He made them, didn’t he? And shouldn’t we be willing to recognize that the combination of hormones and brain chemistry that even go into gender and attraction are more complex than we understand?
The fact that 90% of the world might be straight and be attracted to the opposite sex, but it doesn’t mean that the other 10% should be shamed or neglected or told they don’t belong in the story of God. They too, are worthy of God’s love. They too need transformation of character, just like everone else. But they too have gifts and talents and beauty to offer and glory to reflect – JUST AS THEY ARE.
So it stands to reason that if this creation of his is bound by words of hate, or shame in how they were created, don’t you think he might want to set them free too?
Because if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, how can they do that if they have been taught, by the church, to hate this part of themselves?
It’s time for that to change.