A little while back, I had the pleasure of talking with LGBTQ activist, advocate and United Methodist pastor, Rev. Frank Schaefer. This exclusive interview is part of a Snarky Faith Radio show on why dialogue, not debate, is needed more in the church today. To listen to the show, click here.
You can usually tell you’re going to hear something pretty horrible when someone uses the word “but.” For example, when someone says, “I’m not racist, but…” I know that I’m going to be treated to some horribly racist comments. When I try to explain that what they said was actually very racist, they look back at me confused saying, “But I told you I wasn’t racist!”
The problem with using the “but” word is that whatever you say after the “but” usually negates whatever you just said before the “but.” It completely changes the meaning of your statement.
I’ve also heard the “but” word being used a lot when Christians talk about the gay community. Many Christians assure me, “I love gay people, but…” and then I’m treated to some horribly unloving comments. When I try to explain that what they said was actually very unloving, they look back at me angrily saying, “But I told you that I love gay people!”
If we are using “buts” when we’re talking about how we love people, then maybe we don’t really know what love is. If I tell my wife, “Honey, I love you, but…” she’s only going to hear what I say after the “but” and my statement of love is completely negated. She doesn’t feel loved and I’m not truly loving her.
Imagine if Jesus’ love for us had “buts” in it. John 3:16 would read, “For God so loved the world, but…” God’s love wouldn’t be so loving if it had conditions. But there are no “buts” in God’s love.Instead, Jesus tells us, “For God so loved the world, that…” God loves us so much that He died for us. No conditions for His love on our part, just loving action on His part, for both those who believe and those who don’t. God proves His love for us with all that He did for us.
That’s because love doesn’t have any “buts.” True love is unconditional and accepts you as you are. It doesn’t have any exceptions, conditions, or stipulations. True love is, “I love you.” Period.
And what if we went beyond just “I love you” and show people that we love them. What if we didn’t have any conditions on our love for others, just loving actions for them on our part…like God does for us.
Now I know what you’re going to say. “But if we accept them unconditionally, aren’t we condoning their sinful behavior?” “But if we don’t stand for God’s righteousness, who will?” “But if we don’t tell them they’re wrong, how will they know the truth?”
See how many buts we have?
If we’re telling the world, “God loves you, but…” then they will only hear what we say after the “but” and the truth of God’s love is completely negated. [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]And if we’re telling others, “I love you, but…” then they’re not going to feel loved, and we’re not truly loving them.[/tweet_box]
What if we stopped being a bunch of buts? What if we started really showing the world that we loved them? Period.
Joel Varner has served in ministry for the past 15 years. He is a pastor in Albany, Oregon equipping and training missional community leaders. Joel works with his wife Brenna, of 13 years, and their two daughters. You can find him on Facebook.
If you’re a Christian, I don’t care what your orientation is when it comes to same-sex marriage. This isn’t about debate or picking sides. When it comes to debates, it’s never as simple as two sides – it’s nuanced if you’re actually trying to have rational dialogue. Though when it comes to this issue, rational dialogues are few and far between. But enough of that, I honestly don’t even care what you believe on this issue.So, listen up… if you claim to follow Jesus, then you’re called to love.
I’m not talking about “loving” in theory; actual, real, tangible acts of love to one another. Let’s also go ahead and kill the “speaking truth in love” remark that so often comes up. You’re not actually speaking love. It’s akin to the times someone prefaces a comment with, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” We all know what follows that setup is bound to be offensive. In the same way, I’ve rarely seen someone “speaking truth in love” in a way that’s oriented in love or compassion. It’s the typical set up for being hateful and/or judgmental and typically comes from a place of piousness. You know that place where “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
It’s broken my heart to see how Christianity has been engaging this whole issue with their heads in the sand and their middle fingers raised high in the air against culture. Two middle fingers don’t form the cross, even though that’s how many Christians are depicting their faith.
I was recently speaking at a conference about engaging culture. One gentleman asked me a questions (which was more of a statement that a question) that went something like this, “Homosexuality is rotting our culture and faith, so how do we combat that?” I sat there for a moment, trying how to even engage in such a comment. Then I asked him, “Have you ever shared a meal with someone that was homosexual? Ever befriended someone from the LGBTQ community?” His response was classic, “Why would I ever do that?”
One of the biggest flaws we have when approaching Jesus is that we only see his divinity. His divinity is easier to embrace than his humanity. Divinity is something we can’t really grasp, so in turn, we grab hold of it in an ideological sense. It’s a concept. The humanity of Christ is often too close to home for us and I think that scares us. Thinking of Jesus as flesh and blood challenges us. The things he did, the teachings he taught were for us to walk out… not just philosophize or theorize about. His humanity confronts our humanity.
So when it comes to concepts of love, if we claim to follow Christ, we have to see it as an act of rebellion. Think rebellion is a bit much? Well, let’s look at the people Jesus loved. Over and over, we see him reaching out to the marginalized in society to offer hope, love and compassion. The prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, hurt, forgotten and broken. People that were fully entrenched in the human experience… and especially those under the boot of the corrupt economic, political and religious systems of the time.
Now it brings me to wedding cakes.
There is a ridiculous debate that is raging due to Indiana’s “religious freedom” law. Let’s be honest, this issue has been brewing under the surface for some time now. There are numerous other states with similar legislation in place, Indiana just brought it to the forefront.
A basic point of the argument is that Christians feel their religious beliefs are being trampled on because they’d have to cater to homosexual weddings. It’s funny how pious we become in such situations. For those that are standing on their religious high ground, let’s fully run with their logic a bit. That would also mean they should also not making cakes for the divorced people, murderers or pretty much anyone who sins. I’m thinking they should put into place a pretty lengthy application process for anyone they do business with. Does putting two grooms atop a cake really mess with your faith because I’m pretty sure there’s something in Leviticus about abominations that include a man bitten by a radioactive spider and getting superpowers. Sorry, Johnny, no Spiderman on your birthday cake for you.
I’m being facetious, of course, but you see my point.
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also,” he said. “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Her conclusion was that:
If someone forces you to bake a cake for a gay wedding, bake for them two.
“Christians, our Jesus said to not only follow the law, but to rise to a higher standard of love. Christians should be the FIRST people baking cakes — for everyone who asks us. We should be known for our cake baking. People should be saying, “There go those crazy Christians again, baking cakes for everyone. They just won’t quit!” Then, when we share the reason for our wild, all-inclusive love, people will want to hear it. “Let your light shine before others,” said Jesus, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Jesus loved beyond lines, laws and rules. Does that look like the Christianity we see today? Sadly it doesn’t. We’ve become so consumed by finding a moral high ground to stand on so we can plummet stones at others… that we’ve forgotten how to love. We’ve forgotten the namesake of the faith we claim to follow and gone off fighting battles we were never called to fight.