This piece is twice as long as usual, but my prayer is you will be encouraged by it.
Years ago I lived in a part of the country that celebrated diversity of every kind, including sexual diversity. As a Christian I knew what the Bible taught, but didn’t have control over the culture. My strength and focus came from God through being in a good environment. In no certain order, I had health, a good job, a loving church and good friends.
My congregation was not so much rooted in church tradition, but was deeply rooted in Jesus, and honestly seeking his face. They taught me a lot about Christ’s love in ways I had not experienced by accepting me and loving me up, instead of trying to force me to grow up. I continue to thank God today for their maturity, humility and patience with me and each other. I wish all congregations had what my sweet Burlington has – the unconditional love of Jesus and a faithful heart bent towards him. I believe God used my home church to help me not simply survive, but to thrive in a lovely but very strange land at times to me.
Over the course of my stay in this culture, I worked two different jobs that had a high homosexual population.
As a follower of Jesus, I decided I was living as a guest in the land, and to be gracious to my hosts. After all, God gave me good employment and good connections, and I could simply live for Jesus without fear of any kind, even fear of failure. I didn’t have a strong enough self-esteem to be arrogant, as I was more of a shy personality, for I was slowly coming out of my shell in my newfound young adulthood.
As far as it depended on me, I decided to live at peace with my neighbors, and still do today to the best of my knowledge.
I had many respectful conversations about my faith with people of all kinds and backgrounds, and in turn I learned to hear others out. I always left more encouraged, empowered and felt a deep sense of loving acceptance by the Holy Spirit who lived – and still lives – in my heart. I knew deep in my soul that though I was not equipped or called to ask for a Bible study and walk another through the Table of Contents to the Maps, I still could be Jesus in the way I did my job and dealt with my relationships.
After all, though Christ quoted Scripture, he infused it into natural conversation. Those who knew Scripture understood, and those who didn’t, were still fed spiritually.
I could do the same.
One day I was speaking to a woman at work who was an open homosexual. She respected my boundaries, but that day she changed the subject and ventured into defending her lifestyle.
I simply said, “[Friend], this is not my lifestyle,” and I changed the subject to fitness as I was working at a health club at the time. I also pointed to a second earring I had put into my left ear to let the outside world know that I was a heterosexual. (In those days in that culture outside the Bible belt, my choices as a Christian were always respected in culture and at work.)
My friend replied, “Denise, I know you don’t believe like I do. It’s obvious.” And then we proceeded to talk about something we had in common.
During those years I learned how to show the love of Jesus to the homosexual persona. I studied the behavior a bit to understand, but not to accept the transgressive part towards God. I began to feel compassion, not a sense of judgment. Only God has that full right. I had — and still have — a compassion that I believe Jesus would have towards the homosexual. I cannot imagine that there were no homosexuals in Jesus’ day. I don’t know why Christ didn’t address this specific behavior except that when he addressed heterosexual sins, I can only decipher that Jesus was teaching that any sexual sin outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage was an affront to Holy God – as other parts of Scripture pre-Christ and post-Christ openly teach.
Jesus is well and alive today! The rainbow to me is a symbol of hope. It’s a reminder Christ is returning. Next time with fire, and not water. How thankful I am for Jesus, and His truth who saves me from the fire to come. I want more people to know God’s truth.
Which is why I write – to supplement the studied and trained ministers behind pulpits, the praying and ministering elders, the serving deacons, and individual Christians needing more encouragement than ever to stay focused and positive about their faith today.
With Christ’s help and love, we can all live for Christ more than ever today. We are not alone.
There is opportunity even today to tell the story of Jesus lovingly and humbly, as well as teaching appreciation for the Biblical account of the rainbow.
I have two choices: I can chose to live by the sword or I can chose to walk with the Prince of Peace, and if God wills, I look to live long in the land watching new generations grow up, sharing the love of Jesus in this ever changing landscape.
I chose to walk in peace, praying for all authorities and working faithfully and lawfully to encourage others towards God.
Because of Jesus, I still have hope in this strange new day.