If we have to choose sides…

It’s been over a month since I wrote the following post.  It came out of me in a burst of heartache and anger, and then…..I chickened out on posting it.  It seemed really bold when I wrote it, but as I reread it now I think, “Is that all?  What was I afraid of?  I couldn’t even stick my neck out this far?”  I’ve seen people take far greater risks in the last few days, and now I’m a ashamed of my own cowardice.  This post which felt like a watershed moment when I wrote it now seems like just another step, just another admission of where I’m at.

I’m motivated to publish this now because of the discussions I’ve seen this week on Facebook, surrounding same sex marriage.  I’m astonished at how many Christians still sound as if they’ve never had a conversation with someone who is gay.  For the love of God – I mean, seriously, for the love of God – the least we ought be able to do is listen to other people.  I honestly think some of us are afraid to do that – afraid to listen; afraid we’ll be infected with empathy.  We can do better.

sneetchesI’m feeling a little cranky tonight.  I’ve got a head cold and a toothache – my first toothache in decades.  I haven’t missed them one bit, and the fact that this one is located in a tooth with a root canal and a crown doesn’t bode well for the dental budget.

Also, I’m really struggling to catch up on my school work.  I fell behind when my mom died, and every week I come up a little bit short of being really caught up.  The mental pressure of knowing that, at any given moment, I should be doing school work is….fatiguing.  Kids, stay in school.  ‘Cause this business of doing school in middle age is not as glamorous as it sounds.

And then there’s this.  We’re talking Christian Ethics in one of my classes.  That’s practical, right?  We were challenged to think of some contemporary issues or events that call for thoughtful biblical-theological reflection.  One of my issues was the church’s response to the gay rights movement.  When asked for biblical principles that would come to bear on the issue, I talked about the creation account, but I also mentioned the misuse of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the small number of scriptures addressing homosexuality (relative to other issues addressed in the Bible), the inclusion of outsiders in the ministry of Jesus and the disciples (including sexual “others” like the Samaritan woman and the Ethiopian eunuch), the golden rule, and blah, blah, blah, etc.

I guess I sounded soft on the issue, or something.  So here’s the response I received from a classmate.

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable (Lev 18:22).  If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable/  They must be put to death (Lev 20:13).  Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with  with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Ro 1:26-28).  The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Homosexual offender is on this list of the wicked (1Co 6:9-10).  I believe these verses say that homosexuality is sin.  The Bible tells us to love everyone.  We are to hate evil.  Let those who love the Lord hate evil (Ps 97:10).  Hate what is evil (Ro 12:9).

Really?  REALLY?  I don’t even have the words to articulate how much this bothers me, if this is the entire ethical response that this person has to homosexuality.  I mean, just reading those last couple of sentences makes my tooth hurt more.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate.  Evil.  Evil.  Evil.

“But what,” I want to ask my classmate, “would your ethical response be if your son or daughter came out to you, and wondered if you could still love them?  And what would you do if they wanted to introduce you to their partner?  And how would you respond to the celibate homosexual in your church who is desperately lonely and afraid to share who they really are?  And how would you help to fill the space left by the spouse and children they’ll never have?  Would you open your home, invite them for holidays, make them feel like a part of your family?  Or would you just keep quoting those verses at them?”

image via tumblerJesus identified with all the wrong people, you know.  They were changed by him, changed by his presence – but that’s weird, because he often seemed to forget to tell them how evil they were, and how much he hated evil.  In fact, he seemed to like those “wrong people”.  He seemed to enjoy their company.  And so the pharisees accused Jesus of being unclean himself, of doing miracles through the power of Satan, because he identified with the unclean.  I love that about Jesus.  He cared far more about people than about his reputation.

I thought of that as I read my classmate’s response, because I heard it as a rebuke directed at me.  She assumes I’m on the side of “the gays”.  And you know what?  She’s right.  I am.  If the choice is between hurling clobber passages at them and erring on the side of love, I choose love.  God knows me.  He knows I want to be faithful to Him, want to do the right thing.  If I’m getting this wrong, I trust that He’ll either show me, or forgive me, or both.

I’ve got so many unresolved questions, but at some point you have to be willing to move in one direction or the other.  I’m choosing to move toward my gay friends, the people too many Christians still describe with words like “pervert” and “abomination” and “detestable”.  Some of them are choosing to be celibate because they believe that’s what faithfulness to Christ requires.  Some of them have concluded that they can serve God in the context of a same sex relationship.  Maybe they’re mistaken about that: I don’t know.  That’s part of my own confusion.  But I know that some of them are in more faithful, long term relationships than the straight marriages that the church supports.

Either way, I’m on their team.  I want to support them as they seek a truly Christian sexual and relational ethic – and I want them to support straight Christians as we do the same.  I really believe if we live in the presence of Jesus, he’ll transform us from the inside out, as he sees fit.

“Love is the fulfillment of the law.”  I choose love.


About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, church, homosexuality, marriage, religion, sex, spirituality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to If we have to choose sides…

  1. Sean Asbeck says:

    Love it! And you were worried about this??????????


  2. jubilare says:

    “the least we ought be able to do is listen to other people.” This is so true it makes my head hurt.


  3. Kevin Beeson says:

    I love you for this, and so many other things. Kevin Autenrieth is such a blessed man to have such a smart woman. Just like me. Thank you for talking to me the other day. Things are going well.


  4. Brilliantly put, Sharon! I really believe that being on the side of love IS being on the side of truth. How can it not be? The black and white spouting of scripture quotes with self-righteous judgments always saddens and angers me. Thanks for deciding to share your words. They are needed!


  5. somepcguy says:

    I saw the post you made complaining because people talked about their disagreements with you without talking to you. I believe that the fundamental mistake is that you follow the pattern of those who wish to change the meaning of words. In this case, they wish to define people according to their actions and box people who have chosen a particular sexual behavior in forever more. Those men who have had sex with other men are now “homosexuals”. That separates them from others and makes them “different”. The answer is that as Christians, we already have a word for men who have had sex with other men. That word is “sinner”. And guess what, it doesn’t separate them from others and make them different, because the Bible tells us that we are all sinners. I am a sinner, you are a sinner. Our sins may be different, but my sins do not make me worse than you and your sins do not make me better than you. We are all sinners and require God’s grace to improve our lives and to live according to His will.


    • Why “Hello” some guy who doesn’t wish to reveal his name.

      Actually I wouldn’t call someone a homosexual just because they’ve had sex with someone of the same sex (your comment doesn’t refer to women, but I’m not sure why). I call someone a homosexual if that’s how they would identify themselves, even if they’ve never said it out loud. Being gay or a lesbian is about affections, not just body parts.

      You’re talking about people who have “chosen a particular sexual behavior” – but I’m NOT talking about those people. I’m talking about people who, for reasons that we may never completely understand, are attracted (romantically & emotionally, not just sexually) to their own gender. And I don’t know about the say people YOU know, but most of the ones I know didn’t choose this attraction. And some of them have not even acted on it sexually. Do you see the difference between my perspective and yours?

      As for all of us being sinners, yep, we certainly are.


      • somepcguy says:

        Yes, you judge people by what they say about themselves, I judge people based on their actions. People choose what actions they take. I don’t care if someone calls themselves homosexual, or purple (of course if their skin is actually the color purple I will take notice), I care about what they do and how they treat both themselves and others.
        All too many Christians have gotten involved in “identity politics”, the only identity that matters is that we are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God.


      • Okay, fair enough. Do you see same sex attraction as a sin? Or just acting on the attraction sexually? If someone was open about having same sex attractions and NOT acting on them, would full inclusion in your church be available to them? I’m just trying to clarify.

        By the way, anonymity is a pet peeve of mine because it puts the anonymous in a power position (perceived, anyway) over the one who is not anonymous. You can say anything and not be accountable. Will you share your first name with me?


  6. Well said.
    I know a lot of people won’t like this, but the Bible was written a really, really long time ago, by humans. A good thing to keep in mind when quoting it to serve your own purposes. Personally, I only read the parts that serve me. I’m selfish like that. I like that Jesus guy. He said some good stuff. 🙂


    • I read all of it – although not all at once, obviously. But I don’t read it all in the same way, and learning to do that both faithfully and carefully is the work of a lifetime. But also fun, mostly.


  7. cindy0803 says:

    “I love that about Jesus. He cared far more about people than about his reputation.”

    Thank you so much for sharing and for being brave. This was my New Year’s resolution as I just could not keep it all bottled inside anymore; not for me, not for my daughter (which was what worried me most) and not for friends and family.

    Worrying that you are not Christian-enough at church or among church acquaintances is like trying to tap dance on the head of a pin. While I was trying to be a loving example to the world using Christ as my model, I was not feeling the love of many other Christians not only toward “sinners” but to other Christians (like me) who had different opinions and priorities.

    While I don’t know if the encouragement I get from reading blogs such as yours indicates a shift in attitudes or is just a way to access an attitude that was there all along, it sure gives me some comfort.


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