Listening to human stories and sharing the Jesus Narrative are the hallmarks of who were are at Grace Church. It's not easy. At times it's very hard. Listening is hard because we are talking about things everyone's fighting about or the things that no one wants to talk about. I wish I could tell you that when you decide to listen to those who are hurting or with opinions and theology that differs from our own, that you'll always find beautiful moments of breakthrough. I can't. It can be vulnerable and exhausting to even tell our own stories when it feels like nobody cares. And if we truly listen to one another, we will hear things that demand that we shift our own perceptions. There is no perfect time and there is no perfect place to start a difficult conversation. There's never a time when everyone will be on the same page, share the same lens, or know the same history.
So as Christians, how do we help create a culture and a society that values what makes us human while making room for our flaws, our imperfections and our experiences (whether perceived as good or bad)? How do we establish a way of thinking that allows us to see our differences with respect, instead of fear or judgement? We listen. We make room to feel negative emotions, the ones that may confuse or challenge our faith, and we talk to God about them.
We also empathize. We pursue to love with our actions by allowing ourselves to imagine being in someone else's shoes. It doesn't mean we all have to end up in the same place nor should we seek for an a agreement. In the grand scope, that doesn't matter. Listening and seeking to understand others generates the empathy that we need to overcome all the ways that we try to hurt one another. Stigma, shame, prejudice, discrimination, oppression... Our relationship with God empowers us to love. Love propels us to pursue those in need and to listen with open hearts to the stories of human experience with respect with no strings attached.
This is what Tim Carey and many others have done. Read Tim's story below and share your thoughts and feelings about how we can challenge ourselves to show the love of Christ by simply listening and loving others.
Written by Tim Carey
Last Sunday morning, the worst mass shooting in US history took place in our own backyard. 49 precious lives were taken, and 53 more were injured. But these were not the only victims in this horrible tragedy. A whole community was shaken and devastated. Primarily the LGBTQ+community.
In the days after the shooting, I spent time going on LGBTQ+ Facebook pages to say that we in the Christian community stand with them. I wanted to tell everyone that they are loved and are not alone during this horrible time. I received a lot of positive feedback but two responses stood out the most.
In the first response, a man explained to me why this is so devastating to the LGBTQ+ community. He said that these clubs are the only places they can go where they can be themselves without being persecuted, bullied or intimidated. It's a safe haven for them in a world that rejects them. He continued to say that their safe haven was taken away from them. This really saddened me and broke my heart. I was thinking to myself, why isn't the church a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community? Why has it been so hostile to their community? If any place should be a safe haven, it should the house of our loving Heavenly Father. But for the entire LGBTQ+ community, it has been a place of judgment rather than love.
The second comment that stood out to me was a woman who said that it's rare for a Christian to show love like I did. She said normally Christians are hateful and judgemental. She said she was surprised to hear a loving comment from a Christian. This really broke my heart. Jesus said that our love for one another will prove that we are His disciples. But in the LGBTQ+ community we are known more for our hate rather than our love. This has to change!
While listening to the City Wide Prayer Service last night, a guest speaker said some things that really shocked me. They said that while the gay community makes up about 5 percent of the population, they account for 33 percent of all suicides and 35 percent of homeless youth. Many are kicked out of their homes for being gay and they have no hope.
As Christians, we know who the hope of the world is. It's Jesus Christ! It's time that we share His hope rather than judgment! Let's make church a safe haven for all people no matter their sexual orientation. Let's be the hope for people who desperately need it.
My hope is that through this horrible tragedy, we can all learn to love and accept one another as Christ has loved and accepted us. Thankfully I believe that this is starting to happen. I saw churches offering free funerals for the victims, I saw churches offering grief counseling for those who are hurting, I saw local businesses and churches offering free food for blood donors. This is the vision that I've always wanted to see from the church. On Sunday, a weapon was used to take 49 lives, but God has given us the greatest weapon of all to begin the healing. His love.
We want to hear your experiences. Please share your comments or questions below.