I have a friend who, after many years of marriage and several children, came out as gay.
When someone does something like that, it’s so easy to talk at them. To tell them how wrong they are. To shame them. To fling Bible verses at them like hot coals. To cast them out and give them the cold shoulder. To remind them about horrible eternal consequences.
It seems to me that, lately, there has been a whole lot of talking. I mean, there’s always a lot of talking, but it feels like the volume has gone up lately. There’s just so. Much. Freaking. Noise. It’s hard to even think straight. It’s hard to know what is actually even going on. Everyone has so many words they feel like they need to share.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, there have been cries of outrage from the right and cries of triumph from the left. There have been lines drawn in the sand and there have been pride parades. There have been countless blog posts and podcasts and status updates.
But in all the noise, doesn’t it just feel like everyone is talking past each other? No one is listening. No one is trying to understand. No one is trying to look through the eyes of the other side. It’s like everyone is simply shouting their particular opinion at the top of their lungs.
What would happen if we, as Christians, led the way in listening?
I believe that homosexuality is wrong. I believe that gay marriage will be harmful for our world. I haven’t changed my convictions on the inerrancy of the Bible, and I don’t agree with people like Matthew Vines, who argue that monogamous same-sex marriage is acceptable to God.
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The Supreme Court decision was a cause of celebration for so many people. Why was that? What particular pain points did that decision touch upon? How did that particular decision bring a sense of wholeness or peace or well-being to people? Why is this particular decision a cause of so much joy for so many people?
And what was it like for my friend to be in a heterosexual marriage for so many years, all while experiencing same-sex attraction? What sort of guilt and grief and anguish did he experience? What was it like to tell his children that he was gay? How has his relationship with God been affected by his particular experiences?
What have gay people felt when they interacted with Christians? Love? Hate? Simmering opposition? How has their view of God been shaped by their interactions with Christians?
The gospel doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The gospel comes to people where they are, and it seeps into the nooks and crannies of their lives. It meets people at their points of pain and points them to a deep wholeness that they cannot find anywhere else.
Jesus was a friend of sinners. He was a friend of tax collectors. He was a friend of prostitutes. He was a friend of Pharisees. Tax collectors had different struggles than prostitutes, yet both desperately needed Jesus.
Jesus isn’t a one size fits all Savior.
If we don’t listen carefully, we won’t be able to help people see how Jesus can rescue them from their particular struggle. If we are constantly talking, we won’t be able to help people understand how Jesus is the ultimate solution for their feelings of shame, deep-seated guilt, longing for intimacy, or craving for joy. If we’re always drawing lines in the sand, we create an “Us Vs. Them” mentality, and most people aren’t inclined to listen when they can sense that you are against them.
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What if we listened? And then listened some more. And then, just when we are about to speak, we shut our mouths and keep listening. Then, after we have heard and understood and felt, we speak the gospel.
I haven’t had a chance to talk to my friend yet about his particular experiences. When I do, my prayer is that I listen before I speak.