Life is filled with issues. What if? What if I am? What will people think about me? What will others say about me? What will I worry about the most? Whose opinions really matters? What is love? What is an orientation? Who determines what is right or wrong? Is there such a thing as truth in a “post-truth” world? Does the Bible answer any of these questions? Does interpretation of the Bible come down to your orientation? Can the Bible be interpreted however you want it to be interpreted? Does gender really matter? Does checking a box make me something? Where are all the answers to these maddening questions? Are there answers to any of these questions? Andrew Marin in his book, Love is an Orientation, attempts to raise questions and then pose answers to questions with an open-endedness that makes me think. He is attempting to “build bridges between the Christian community and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” He does this from an insiders perspective because he has immersed himself into their culture.
His personal journey began with him being a high school student athlete that used the slang term “fag” and “that’s so gay” in his normal everyday language. He couldn’t identify where this language or orientation came from but it was his normal language that defined his life as an athlete. After much thought, he places the blame for his behavior and language on the Christian culture: “I started believing that general anti-gay thoughts are naturally passed along within the broader Christian culture without us ever really realizing it is happening.” Later in his life, he was interrupted by three friends “coming out” to him about their sexual orientation. He declares himself to be “straight, white, conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical male.” He was raised in a Christian home in a conservative Chicago suburb. He states this “I don’t remember hearing anything explicitly defaming the LGBT community from either my church or my parents.” The context of his book, however, is pointed toward Christians, the Church and Christian culture and their treatment or mistreatment of the GLBT community.
What must Christians do?
In the book the author starts to challenge Christians to take actions and to make changes that are not common. Here is a quick but not simple list of actions that he felt should happen, to start to build a bridge:
- Christians must be the first to humble themselves.
- Christians must be the first to apologize and admit that they have wronged people who are gay lesbian bisexual and transgender.
- Christians must know how their belief system can be perceived by others. Christian community has only ever known one way to handle same sex sexual behavior: take a stand and keep a distance.
- Christians must be aware of how they project themselves and their beliefs. Christians tend to perceive themselves as morally superior to GLBT people, based on belief that the Bible allows only three options for connecting faith and sexuality: Be hetrosexual, be celibate or live in sin.
- Christians have to get past their own major issues regarding the GLBT community.
- Christians have to prepare ourselves to not be contrary to our intent to learn and serve.
- Christians should seek out those who do not fit in.
Building a bridge is not always easy and this is just a sampling of ideas for Christian to be able to start to have a relationship with another community. Many stories and illustrations supported these points. Challenging the norm is not easy and I respect the author for embracing this issue.
As we have read this year I continue to find within each book a section that addresses language and this book is no exception. The author wants to help the church and Christians with language that can be seen as a barrier and can be changed pretty simply.
One of the really offensive piece of language that the church or Christians use is the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This expression is not a Biblical phrase but it is used to justify actions by Christians toward others that they do not agree with. For those who use this language, it was pointed out that it brings great separation instead of reconciliation.
The second most offensive thing that the author points out is “Don’t use the word homosexuals.” He tells a story of a man who was apologized to by a believer for calling him this word. There was a very emotional response to this sensitivity. Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are much more preferred than this word for definition. Calling people what they call themselves is better.
One more point on language that I thought was really interesting was this quote from a pastor addressing his personal struggle for wholeness; “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality it is wholeness.” This was a very insightful thought and started to bring the conversation of the book to a spiritual point.
When Marin started to really bring the conversation to a clear spiritual conclusion he made a few points that I thought were clear, concise and comprehensive. These were very positive take-aways from his writing. First, “GLBT people are nothing more than sheep looking for their shepherd.”It is very clear that everyone needs the shepherd. Second, “The way forward with the GLBT community is not a debate on the Bible’s statements about same sex sexual behavior but a discussion of how to have an intimate, real, conversational relationship with the Father and Judge.”
These two points resonated with me. Can I do these things easily? No, but I can attempt to be a Christian and to bring understanding instead of judgement to the conversation.
First, I am convinced and have preached for years, it is my job to present the truth but I can’t change anyone. I can’t save anyone and I can’t make seeds grow that I have planted. The Holy Spirit is the only one that can draw another person toward changing their life or lifestyle. I don’t have the power to do that with my words. If I did, it could be viewed as manipulation. I can speak the words of truth from the Bible and if I do it in love, then I have represented Christ the best way that I know. And second I can go on the journey with you. Relational discipleship is the only productive way to introduce someone to being a disciple of Christ. If I walk with you, out of where you have been and into a new place in Christ, then I have been on the journey with you. True relationship and friendship doesn’t take off when it gets tough or difficult, instead it steps in. Steps in to go with.
I spoke this Wednesday night on the topic of sex with my students. After the service one of my young men needed to talk. His struggle? You know what it was. It is not the first time, it will not be the last. How I received him and his news was vital to his future. How I handle that information is crucial because it could crush or alienate him. So, when I read this quote from Billy Graham, it was a very confirming: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” True Biblical love does not come naturally to our human nature. So, I must choose to love the person, that has a name and a story, no matter what the sin because that is my part as a Christian.
 Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 22.
 Ibid., 92.
 Ibid., 16.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 37.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 62.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid., 47.
 Ibid., 60.
 Ibid., 85.
 Ibid., 90.
 Ibid., 108.
 Ibid., 109.