By Doug Talley
Indiana Ministries and Crosspoint Church (thank you, Curt Walters & team) recently hosted a workshop on relating to LGBTQ+ persons without compromising our traditional Christian beliefs about gender, marriage, and sexuality. Ty Wyss of Walls Down Ministries did a stellar job guiding us in this conversation. We had almost 180 persons registered. Many said how timely, relevant, meaningful and helpful the day with Ty was.
Ty was very open about his own story, including his brokenness as a person. He reminded us that there are many manifestations of brokenness in people’s lives, including brokenness that affects our sexuality. He helped us see that the primary issue is not what causes same sex attraction and gender identity issues, but whether we recognize that all areas of life, including sexuality and sexual expression, have been affected by our brokenness.
Over lunch Ty and I debriefed about the morning. My first words to him were along these lines: Though you’ve been talking within the context of sexual issues, including LGBTQ, what you are ultimately talking about is relationships and how we as the church and Christ followers should treat others. Namely, that we should value all people and treat them with honor and respect whether or not there are behaviors and/or attitudes in their lives with which we do not agree.
Isn’t that what Jesus did? Read back through the Gospels. Jesus treated each one as a person of worth and value. He spent time with and loved on people who were given a cold shoulder by the religious community because of how they were revealing their brokenness. Jesus tried to help us see that when we look down on others because of their brokenness, we are letting our brokenness show.
We see signs of brokenness around us every day. If we are open, I suspect each of us would admit that we struggle with attitudes and behaviors that come from our own brokenness. I’m not wanting to get into a theological debate about sin, holiness and sanctification. God desires us to be holy like He is holy. He sends the Spirit into our lives to fill us more and more completely with His presence and power. Yet, until Jesus returns our transformation will not be complete. So, no matter how much God heals our brokenness, there is always deeper healing that is needed. Since we are experiencing such great mercy and compassion, how can we keep it to ourselves?
In the church we unofficially categorize broken behavior (sin) into acceptable, undesirable, and detestable behaviors. (Your categories may vary.) For example, some tend go pretty soft on criticism, negativity, manipulation, selfishness, emotional and relational dysfunction, envy, being judgmental, disrespecting others, and pride. These are often regarded as expressions of just being human. I see examples of these behaviors quite often in the church, and a lot of people don’t even bat an eye at them. Some see behaviors like racism, stealing, drunkenness, serial marriage, fits of rage and ambition as a middle category of more undesirable but at least not as bad as the really detestable behaviors of same-sex sex, adultery, sexual promiscuity, murder, exploitation, sex trafficking, criminal behavior, addiction (there are a lot of options here and the church doesn’t see each type of addiction as being equally bad), and physical or sexual abuse.
ALL of those behaviors and attitudes are expressions of brokenness. And there are many more. All of them break God’s heart and hurt people deeply. As Christians, we honor God and act like Him when we care about, love, and reach a hand of friendship to people regardless of their brokenness (or the level of badness we assign to their behavior or attitude). We defy the wounds and scars of our own brokenness when we care about other broken people.
What would happen if Christ followers realized that acting in loving and caring ways towards others does not mean we condone (accept, approve, affirm, or sanction another’s behavior) their behavior? What if we realized it means the love and Spirit of Christ is overflowing in our lives?
If you are a critical person and I extend the hand of friendship to you, I am not condoning your critical spirit any more than you are condoning my selfish spirit if you act lovingly towards me. I think we realize that. Then why is it that with other categories of broken behavior that we deem worse than being critical or selfish that we equate acting in loving ways with condoning the person’s behavior? When we equate the behaviors, we treat the person as less than human and of less worth and value than others who meet our standards.
In the church we tend to regard sexual expressions of our brokenness as being among the worst of all behaviors. (I do realize some behaviors have more far reaching consequences than others.) It seems we treat LGBTQ+ as the worst of the worst, possibly because we are so uncomfortable with it. Yet for the church to be redemptive and point people to God’s best for us, we must love and care about all broken people no matter how their brokenness is expressed.
If you only love people who aren’t broken, then you won’t love anyone… not even yourself. And you won’t qualify to be loved by anyone.
At this point I am tempted to clearly indicate my stance on issues related to sexual behavior so that persons reading this will not misunderstand me. But I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to resolve to love others more like Jesus does – starting today. In spite of my brokenness, I am going to resolve to love people who are wounded, broken and struggling with toxic shame. I am going to resolve to walk with Jesus in a way that He can generously love others through me. Care to join me?