My friend looked at me across the table. “I always had in mind that, like a good Christian girl, I would marry the one man I loved someday. I had a list of requirements, and he had to love Jesus as the first thing.”
I was listening, watching my dear friend’s face and knowing something heavy was about to drop. She hesitated when she told me her confusion at her recent experience: “I finally met that person, but it wasn’t a man. It was a woman. I think I might be bisexual…does that mean I’m going to hell?”
So many thoughts flooded my mind, because my conscience was at war with itself. I had ended this discussion, determined not to find an answer because it didn’t matter because I wasn’t gay. The Bible said homosexuality was wrong, but I hadn’t really studied it much. As for eternal damnation, I wasn’t sure because there were other things in those verses Christians choose to overlook, like coveting and extorting.
I also knew that of the two choices before me – to show love to my friend in her time of need or to feed her a message I would be repeating from other sources about how she was going to hell – the former was winning. I felt a strong urge from the Holy Spirit to be honest with her, and that honesty was that I didn’t have an answer, but I could be a friend.
The result was a weird conversation where I just kept asking her questions so she could let it all out. I could at least be a listener and hear her story, and ask about the woman she was attracted to. I told her the attraction wasn’t a sin, but I hadn’t found an answer yet about whether getting into a lesbian relationship was Biblically acceptable.
One thing I couldn’t bring myself to say was that she wasn’t welcome as my sister in Christ because she was sinning. I might have half-believed it at the time, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
I chose to accept my friend anyway. To me, this is the simplest message of any post in this series: to warn people of hell may or may not be my job. I know for a fact that Jesus commanded to love people first.
I watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean film with my friends a few days ago, and one line stood out painfully to me, because I was in the process of writing this series.
Captain Jack Sparrow has been imprisoned, and the crew of the Black Pearl is attacking. The ghosts come into the dungeon, and Sparrow says, “Worry about your own fortunes, gentlemen. The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.”
One of the Black Pearl pirates reveals himself to be a ghost, meaning he’s living with a curse, and retorts, “you know nothing of hell.”
Regardless of where I ended up standing on the issue of homosexuality, I knew from watching the way people acted around my friend that she was quickly becoming an outcast. She went to church, and the pastor would carelessly say uninformed things about homosexuals, without actually helping her deal with what she was going through.
In an attempt to keep people from hell, the church is not just abandoning love. It is creating a living hell for the people it casts out. When my friend asked me if she was going to hell, I struggled to find a satisfactory answer, but for myself I focused on loving her. A few months later, I did the same thing when another friend told me she’d become an atheist.
As I’ve become more aware of the issue of homosexual people in the church, I hear the stories of being cast out again and again, and it sounds like that line from the Pirates movie. The church says, “You will go to hell because of what you are,” and the voices of children who have no allies and feel no love from their own families and circles of friends reply, “you know nothing of hell. I go through hell every day because you say you know God, but I can’t feel that love through you at all.”
I began testing the waters by posting about the issue on Facebook. I got hateful comments just for asking my fellow Christians if they would hide gay people from a government who wanted to hurt them. I wasn’t even taking a position – I hadn’t fully formed one – and that was enough to make me an outcast. I could only imagine how much worse it would be if I were gay myself, and for those comments to be directed at me personally.
What made me conflicted when I had that first conversation with a friend coming out to me wasn’t God. It was my societally constructed conscience. This distinction helped me take the next step and finally go back to the Bible for answers.
I will end this series with a video addressing questions and comments, so please leave your thoughts here on my blog, or on Twitter (@cynthiajeub) or Facebook (Insights on Epic Living).