[This appeared first at LifeChurchNC.com]
June 17, 2016
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate…
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4,7,8 (NIV)
On Sunday morning, June 12th, news first began to break of a violent attack in Orlando, FL that led to the deaths of 49 people and the injuries of many more. This ‘act of terror’ was carried out at a gay night club and specifically targeted a segment of the population identified as LGBTQ. Not only has this event sent shockwaves across our nation, reminding us of our vulnerability to such attacks right here on American soil, it has also served to raise tensions between the LGBTQ community and those who oppose same-sex lifestyles and have differences in views on gender identity.
I’ve been encouraged to read about reports throughout the week of how local churches and organizations (like Chick-fil-a) have stepped-up and stepped-in to be a presence of comfort and peace in the midst of fear, tragedy and loss. At the same time, there have been those who have only made things worse by choosing to share their differing opinions with the LGBTQ community, and some who have gone so far as to say that this tragedy was a result of God’s judgement on their sin. As a pastor, let me be direct in saying that there is absolutely no room for such judgements to be made – because ALL sin (which includes yours, my friend) is deserving of God’s wrath, and yet, it’s only by His rich mercy that the wrath we’re ALL due is held back. Furthermore, as a Christian, I’m ashamed to be confused with such bigotry and misrepresentations of the name of Jesus. How many times this week have I wanted to follow every insensitive statement with a deep apology on behalf of the Body of Christ?
And yet, perhaps the most hurtful thing that’s happened since the events following last Sunday has nothing to do with what has been said or done, but rather, what HASN’T been said and what HASN’T been done.
Sometimes our silence can be more deafening than our words.
(For an excellent perspective here, I’d encourage you to read this article by Scott Sauls, Violence toward LGBTQ: A Pastor’s Reflection)
As your pastor, I need to offer an apology for my own silence this week and ask for your forgiveness. I also need to apologize to those among us who identify with the LGBTQ community and those in our church family who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender identity. I am sorry for not offering the guidance, comfort, assurance of God’s Sovereignty, and the hope that He can take what man means for harm and turn it into something beautiful. I am all the more convinced that it’s weeks like this week where we need to be loud with our compassion and our love instead of being silent in our indifference.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. In no way here am I advocating the acceptance or the embracing of homosexuality, same-sex attraction and gender reassignment. Almost exactly one year ago this week, we issued a Statement on Homosexuality as a church in hopes of lovingly and truthfully explaining our Biblical view of same-sex attraction and gender identity. However, one of the primary purposes of this statement was to make clear that as a Gospel-Centered Church, we will always lead with grace and acceptance – regardless of our differences. And that remains especially true today.
Therefore, we will continue to be a church who welcomes sinners of all kinds, of whom we consider ourselves the greatest. We will not be a people who live in fear, driven by our homophobias, but rather, a people who are led by the Spirit, driven by the love of Christ, in whom there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
We will build bridges instead of draw lines.
We will stand for justice against any form of violence done to a human being created in the image of God.
We will seek to be the aroma of life to the world and not the stench of death.
And we will speak compassion and love instead of not speaking at all.
What can I do?
Next week, Salisbury Pride, a local organization that advocates for those of same-sex attraction and gender identities, holds its annual series of gatherings across Salisbury. Although I’m not asking you to be part of the events, nor am I asking you to agree with their position – what I am asking you to do is to NOT ignore it.
As a Jesus-follower, I encourage you, first of all, to pray for the hundreds and thousands who will gather in various areas across Salisbury, most of whom will likely do so with a bit of fear: Will I be next?May our presence as the people of God, a people who call this community home, and as His Churchnot be one of condemnation, but one of welcoming and love, exhibiting the same open arms that the Father has welcomed each of us with to Himself by His Grace.
Lastly, as a church, we have been asked to provide a few folks who would be willing to serve as peace-keepers for the Salisbury Pride event next Saturday, June 25th. If you would like to participate, please EMAIL us here. There will be a training on Wednesday, June 22nd you will be asked to attend. Again, in no way is participation seen as agreement, but instead, as a presence of peace and the protection of the dignity of those created in the image and likeness of our Creator.