Authentic Community is Messy

Last Sunday, I spoke in church about community for the second week in a row. The first week was the “easy” part – how great community can be and how we’re wired for it – how we all need it. But the second part was harder, because community is messy, just like real families are messy. Except for friends we invite to church, we are mainly thrown together with a bunch of strangers, and the only real thing we have in common is our relationship with Jesus. Those strangers – like us! – have lots of invisible baggage: quirky personalities, odd worldviews, political opinions, stuff they have or haven’t dealt with from their families. Whew! How does a group like that end up unified? Unity stems from the working of the Holy Spirit, and it is one of the most under-appreciated miracles of the Spirit.

I brought up one of the most difficult relational issues I could think of – how the gay man or woman navigates our church. And, vice-versa, how Christians interact with friends or relatives who are somewhere on the gay spectrum, anywhere from sensing initial same-sex-attraction to fully identifying themselves as gay. I dealt with this in more detail in a sermon a couple years ago, which you can find HERE. I also found a recent, very helpful Q & A with Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. You can find the Q & A HERE, starting at the 19:08 mark.

As our church leadership looks at the Scriptures, we see marriage as a sacred relationship, created by God, between a man and a woman. However, throughout the gospels we see Jesus befriending everyone, without partiality. People were attracted to Him because He embodied grace and truth. It seems that followers of Jesus are called to show others the same grace we’ve received. When a friend or family member confides in us that he or she is gay, suddenly it is no longer a political or theoretical issue, but a real person on a real journey whom we can decide to love or not love. Like Jesus, we can choose to come alongside them on their journey. I know that from my own friendships with gay people, like their own journey, our journey with them may be stressful and uncertain at times. But, I like what one of our elders has chosen to do – whenever he meets a gay person, he intentionally initiates a friendship through a coffee, a lunch, whatever. It’s a small step, but a step in the right direction.

- Steve