I was once you. I believed there was only one way to the one true God and that that God was my God. I believed being saved meant that it was up to me to save the world, while separating myself from it. We learned to prey on the weak, the sick, the homeless, the lost as we called them, and to recognize those who were “ripe” to receive. My evangelism 101 class, a mandatory requisite for all new Christians at my evangelical church, taught me how to talk the talk, but not so much how to walk the talk. There were hints of it, but the most important thing was getting others…sinners…to pray the salvation prayer. Each name to be secretly added to my personal roster of “souls saved for Christ”. But I wasn’t truly saved back then. There was no grace in this lifestyle.
There was a saying we always used that allowed us to justify our mission. Love the sinner but hate the sin. The truth? As long as I was intent on changing those I perceived as sinners, it was impossible to really love them. I know that now.
My true salvation came later in life when God finally brought me to my knees and forced me to admit that I was gay. It was a true road of Damascus type of conversion…my second salvation. I prayed until I could pray no more begging God to change me. My prayers only returned answered by confirmations of the dreadful truth that I had tried so hard to bury. It wasn’t until I became one of those unlovable others who refused to see the light, who refused to change, who were impossible to love, that I realized what grace truly was. Only then did I realize how big God is and that my vain attempts to change the world were not my job. God didn’t need my help, thank you very much. God just called me to love the most unlovable soul I knew…myself…and then eventually to love others just as God loves me.
And so believe me when I say I understand how hard this week in our history must be for you. I do. If not for God’s grace in my own life I’d be right there with you, lamenting what seems like a tragic loss for a society that feels like it is spinning out of control. Except for grace…
With Grace there are no losers, but I do believe there are great opportunities. As I look back on this week I am amazed at how Love permeated each event, calling us all to receive that Grace so freely given, along with a hefty dose of a peace that defies our understanding.
“Love is kind, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…” If anyone had reason to be angry. To count and recount centuries of abuse, unfairness and injustice it would be our brothers and sisters in Charleston, SC. But when given the opportunity to act, through tears of brokenness they looked hate directly in the eyes and forgave. That single act opened the floodgates of grace and allowed us to see the sickness of hate and racism that still pervades our nation. It led to another opportunity…a call to remove the emblems of hate from our public squares. “Love…does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in truth.” It has been a hard thing for some to do. To let go of emblems considered heritage, honoring those who fought and died for a long lost cause. But for Grace and through Love for others we are truly presented with an opportunity to remove one of the conspicuous walls that divides so many of us.
Later in the week many of us were stunned by the swift judgements passed from our highest court favorably addressing the appeals of those seeking shelter, the sick, and the outcast. That’s not how the media reported it. Talking heads with political agendas called it Fair Housing, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and Gay Marriage. But Love once again offered us an opportunity. A chance to walk the talk by realizing that we are our brother’s keeper. A chance to Love with a capital L. “Love is patient, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes…”
When Love wins, as it has in so many ways this week, there are no losers because “Love never Fails.”
And I hope you won’t mind it if I tell you I love you. To be honest I pretty much love everybody right now! What a week! But also know that I’m here for you if you ever need me.