When in Doubt, Bet on Friendship

I'm starting to experience chronic déjà vu concerning discussions about emerging faith, postmodernity, and inevitably - yes - homosexuality. I feel like a broken record...

I was in a small group discussion a few nights ago. We were discussing Christianity's interaction with the broader culture.

"How do we navigate relationships with non-Christians?"

Hmmm... I continue to be amazed that this question still needs asking. Aren't things like love and kindness obvious answers? Just as in any other relationships?

One group member (a guy I really respect, by the way) shared that he felt conflicted over a work relationship with a homosexual man. "I like him, I'm kind to him, I treat him fairly, but I can't get beyond feeling like I am condoning his lifestyle by not saying anything."

I asked, "Is it always our jobs, as Christians, to identify what we think is wrong?"

"Not necessarily," he said, "but if I don't say what I believe, then maybe I'm being deceptive about my faith."

In a way, I sort of admired his desire to be authentic. But there are more than enough Christians who have made their personal positions on the issue quite clear. What if he allowed himself to be one of the few who didn't need to make a point of it? I asked if he'd feel that compulsion with a friend who was divorced for any reason beyond marital unfaithfulness. He answered "yes," which surprised me. I don't tend to presume an understanding of someone else's marital decisions.

And I obviously have more left-leaning opinions on this subject matter, but I'm not particularly interested in creating a defined theological position for myself. I'm more interested in how Christians treat other folks, not what they ideologically think. I don't want the Christian church to split over homosexuality or abortion or inerrency or Coke or Pepsi. The fact is, relationships change everything, and I believe the church could radically grow and evolve if Christians took time to make friends with the outside world - with people they might disagree with. Even with other churches.

I also don't feel like "taking sides" because each direction I might go, I would effectively "shut down" the other side, and lose their trust. Hard to speak prophetically when everyone is wearing earplugs. I've said many times that I have friends on each extreme of this issue (among other issues) and love them, respect them, and pray for them, equally. I don't believe I have a right or - more specifically - a call to "convert" them to a side. It took me long enough to get "de-converted.' This ambiguity has helped me open up to a lot more new friendships.

But as for asserting a judgment or an opinion about someone else's lifestyle or sin? Well, did they ask you for your opinion? Did they wound you, personally? Or do they just appreciate you as a human being? Because that's what they are.

When in doubt, bet on friendship.

6 comments:

Al said...

Bravo, Amen, or whatever is the correct response to indicate total agreement with the guy on the soapbox.
Fits in rather well with what I just posted, which contains something posted by someone else. I guess you have to read it to figure that out!
http://al-muses.blogspot.com/2009/02/buses-with-slogan-theres-probably-no.html
We've got to keep playing those broken records until people get annoyed enough to listen.
Play on, Peter, play on.

Existential Punk said...

i often hear other Christians say to me they 'ARE' being loving and graceful to point out that my being queer is a sin, that i can't be queer AND Christian,and that i am an apostate. The 'WORD' of G-D is ever so clear and that it show them they are to confront, 'in love' of course!

You know how i feel, Peter, and i appreciate your effort to discuss this here. It seems the same old things from the beginning of time happen over and over and that things rarely ever change or evolve. Sometimes i just want to give up on this whole faith thing but then i don't. At times i feel like a masochist and i'd do myself better in the long run to leave it all behind. It feels like it would be the healthiest thing to do to love and nurture myself. i find too often that many Christians are just plain mean-spirited and hurtful to continue putting up with it.

So sorry for the rant but i always feel safe here. Thank you for that!

Much respect,

Adele

Les said...

Good post. Here in Australia I find myself having exactly the same conversations. I do some ministry in a gay bar in our city. Regardless of my own personal stance on the issue there are people in the pub who need to be loved and to experience authentic friendships so I eat meals there, play the trivia quiz and get to know people.

They know I'm a Christian and a pastor but I don't need to judge. I'll talk about Jesus and between themselves and Jesus they can figure out the details.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

There's a difference about being judgemental and making a judgement about things. There's lots of things I don't approve of and I do make a judgement about them. I don't approve of theft for instance and so a thief's thieving actions do not get my approval. I don't like Divorce and I don't approve of someone who actively divorces. But I also don't approve of lying, laziness, maliciousness, pounding anger etc....I do some of those things at one time or another. Therefore who am I anyway? Now, I'm not someone who feels better the guiltier I am, but these things do allow my heart never to be judgemental. So whatever I feel about someone's sexual preference or about someone's bad behavior I have to say, "who am I to be judgemental?", and then work on the plank in my eye. We have friends who do not know God. We've been friends for some years and we have enjoyed them profoundly. They have watched us over the years, I know they have. They are generous to a fault and they are great people, but for some reason they've started to ask us about God and want to know more. Two other friends who don't know God have asked to start a bible study with my wife...relationships matter. I'll let God be God. I'm just going to enjoy being human.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, I'm not particularly knowledgable about aspects of religion(s). But, I do consider myself to be a spiritual person. I believe in God and in loving each other.

Here's what this whole question comes down to for me: Is it really my job to judge? Of course it is human to have opinions. But, isn't it up to God to judge? It seems to me that my ulimate goal,as a human, is to try to be respectful of all types of humanity; to understand that I don't and can't know EVERYONE'S perspective. That's God's job. Right? So, to me kindness, love, caring, tenderness, and a knowledge that I'm just not going to "get" everyone's perspective, (and to respect that), is what being a Christian is all about. Sharing your opinions as a Christian, or about Christianity, is appropriate in certain situations, but just espousing on what one sees as "sinfullness" seems to me a selfish way to make yourself feel better. Its not your friend's "job". Its God's.

Just a thought (: Becca

Peter said...

It occurs to me that, despite some theological and worldview differences between commentors in this post, the discussion about homosexuality has REALLY evolved in the last few years. At least on this blog. 3 years ago, this post would have instigated all sorts of rants and verse-throwing. I'm thankful for that.

Adele, I sympathize, and can imagine it must be exhausting going through the same dialogue(s) again and again. I hope you find encouragement by the mere fact that many Christians KEEP asking questions because they AREN'T satisfied with the easy answers they're given. To me, that's a very good sign.

Les, kudos on the gay-bar ventures. I've been in a few myself, and can say it really helped me grow, personally. You said, "...between themselves and Jesus they can figure out the details." Very nice.

Rick, graciously articulated as usual. As I've said before, we're probably miles apart on a few issues, but I appreciate your friendship and openness to discuss in gentleness and kindness.

Al, you da man.

Becca, you said:
"espousing on what one sees as "sinfullness" seems to me a selfish way to make yourself feel better. Its not your friend's "job". Its God's."

So true. I often talk about inserting "my vulgar voice" into situations where I haven't been invited. It's a part of my upbringing that I still work on.

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