Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"...we don't ever see Jesus rejecting. Ever."

Here's an interesting little piece that includes a story about a pastor who learns a hard lesson about excluding gays from his church. I like the story well enough to quote most of it.

The pastor, after kicking gays out of his church because of his understanding of their sins, dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates. God talks to the pastor about his work:
“... So, I’m looking over your life here… seems like you threw people out of your church, let’s see, because they were gay. Is that right?” 
Pastor smiles proudly and nods. 
“And it says you did this in my name… let’s see here… and you threw their families out too…” Looks up from notes. “Why in heaven’s name did you do all that?” 
Pastor stops nodding and smiling. “Um… because I was doing what you wanted!” 
“What I wanted?? Where did you get that idea? I never threw anyone out.” 
Pastor looking down now. “Well, uh, I thought…” 
“No, you didn’t. You didn’t think about what this would [mean] to them.”  Waits. “I never once told anyone to throw anyone out. 
Pastor shuffles his feet. “But… that was how we’d show them tough love and get them to change.” 
“Did any of them change?” 
Pastor is silent. Then quietly. “I don’t know.” 
“You don’t know?? You’re the pastor in charge of leading these people. How would you lose track of them and not know what happened? Do you remember the story I told you about leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one because each one matters?” 
Pastor looks puzzled. 
“Yeah, that’s what I was talking about. And you not only didn’t go get them, you shut and locked the gate behind them. You told them they were condemned to hell!”  Another pause.  “Do you want to know what happened to those people you and your church sent away?” 
Pastor speaks quietly. “…yes.” 
“Three of them committed suicide. They believed you when you told them they were wicked evil sinners, abominations. They’re here now… in case you wondered.  Most of the others wanted nothing more to do with God. They also believed you that God hated them and had no use for them. I sent some of my beloved faithful people to talk to them, to tell them the truth, to draw them back into God’s unconditional love.” 
Pastor looks up. “I thought my job was to stop people’s sin.” 
“No. In fact, I told you the opposite. I said for you to love them – just love them – and point them to me. I told you to serve them… even if you didn’t feel like it.”

Substitute sex offenders for gays in the story and the story is still beautiful. I left a comment suggesting just that and the author, Susan Cottrell responded:

I assume you're being sarcastic. Sex offenders -- broadly meaning those who molest children or rape anyone -- are not the same as two adult men or women in a relationship. If you don't see the difference, there is much more to talk about.
The author is very involved in LGBT issues so I understand that she has paid little attention to the facts about sex offenders; she can't know everything.

After I explained my position a little more clearly--that I was not comparing homosexuality with a crime but that I was comparing sinners with sinners, Susan Cottrell acknowledged my point:
Marie, I am sorry. I misunderstood part of your other comment. I agree with you. : )
Whew. I feel much better. Ms. Cottrell wrote so clearly about how the role of the church and the pastor is not to stop sin but to love sinners, I hated to think that she had a knee-jerk rejection of sex offenders without even asking what the offense was or if the offender was repentant.
Every day, people from the pews and the pulpits are realizing the deadly result of their attitudes. 
Every day, people are becoming welcoming, loving, and affirming. 
Every day, people are choosing the heart and truth of God.
The deadly result of their attitudes are as deadly for sex offenders as they are for gays.

Churches need a reminder that when sex offenders are rejected, the family of the offender feels the rejection, too. Families who want to worship together, to be involved in church life together, should be able to do so even when the sins of one family member are made public through the registry.

Redemption. Isn't it still a thing in the church?

Do you remember the story I told you about leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one because each one matters?
Most definitely.

1 comment:

Freed Hearts said...

Thank you for reposting here, and the beautiful way you framed it and expanded it.