DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Keep It Simple

Written by: on March 19, 2018

Simple

Topic aside, there are so many great quotes and spiritual concepts in Love is an Orientation that is so applicable for all Christians. When addressing the loaded topic for inclusivity of the LGBTQ in the Christian community, I was pleasantly surprised at the strikingly peaceful read for such a highly debated topic. I read this book several years ago, and I still remember the feeling when I finished it: relief. There was a relief because my main purpose as a Christian was to simply love people and offer a true relationship. For some, this may be oversimplifying it, but for me, I like to keep things simple, and this book simply reminded me of my primary calling to love all people.

Loving People…

Our primary calling as Christians is to love all people. “It’s the job of Christians to love the GLBT community in a way that is tangible, measurable and unconditional-whether we see our version of “change” happening or not!”[1] Practicing unconditional love, even if you don’t agree with the behavior or choices of the individual can be challenging and often require divine assistance. What we cannot accomplish on our own, we can simply ask God to make us a conduit for His love: “All God needs are willing hearts to extend his unconditional love for all of his children-gay and straight. This is our blessing. This is our bold calling. This is our orientation.”[2] We are to be known as Christians by how we love one another, which means this love is unconditional and inclusive.

As humans, we are hard-wired to be loved and have a sense of belonging to each other and to God. Staying with someone while you speak the truth in love builds real relationships. These attachment needs are echoed with the pleas of a gay youth: “Please don’t lie to me. Please don’t leave me.”[3] Rejection, abandonment, and betrayal are devastating for anyone, regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, or age. Loving someone means being with them and accepting them.

Relating to People…

Debates seem to rarely go well and can often end up in arguments and character assassinations, as commonly dramatized by political debates. “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.”[4] In our current church plant, we decided to try this approach. We simply do not make an issue or take a stance on the gay issue. Instead, we focus on loving people and introducing them to a relational God who can speak and guide them. It has been so freeing to just love and accept as we seek to create a safe place where people can love and belong together. To establish this ethos, “… this requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. It means, for example, continually listening to the experiences that lead to anger, and trying to see them from the perspective of those with less power.”[5] Real relationships require dialogues, where ideas and stories are shared, and space is given to the marginalized and discounted individuals of our communities. This establishes a relationship of equity where both have a voice and perspective and are respected and valued by each.[6] Dialoguing without condemning but with the intent to explore takes work and time, for “asking and listening are more involved activities than they may seem on the surface.”[7]

Connecting Collaboratively…

Establishing collaborative connections through dialogues is especially potent when combined with a community operating in principles of mutuality. By eliminating hierarchies and fear, which combat love and equity, we are able to build a space where real relationships can be cultivated. “No relationship can be built on fear, and true relationships do not have a hierarchy; so don’t create one.”[8] Simply stated, true relationships are built on love and operate with equity.

Developing connecting and collaborative relationships versus controlling and competitive relationships continues to be a real challenge for our culture, especially for religious communities. Marin offers a plausible reason why: “But the overwhelming pressure to see a conclusion one way or the other inhibits this work of the Spirit. As Christians, our job is not to coerce or pressure anyone, by fear or force of logic. We can only take care of what we can control, and it’s impossible to control another human being’s will and motivation. No matter how much we might want something for a GLBT person, their convictions and beliefs are ultimately up to them.”[9] Simply stated, the gay community has free will and we need to accept their decisions even if we do not agree with them. Ostracizing or rejecting them seems to be a solution that only creates more problems. Looking back through our recent church history, we are still apologizing for how we alienated unwed mothers and divorcees from our congregations and pulpits.

With our evolving sexual identity culture, we have to ask ourselves how are we as Christians and the church called to love and relate to all people? “Dr. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church (located in Korea, with 875,000 members), says, “Realists don’t change the world; dreamers do. Therefore, become pregnant with a vision and birth it.”[10] From the conversations I’ve had with the LGBTQ community and their families, they are needing inclusivity to our Christian communities that are intent on loving and developing real relationships. How we do this will require some innovation, imagination, and purposeful strategies. My suggestion, let’s just start by keeping it simple: love one another

LOVE

[1] Andrew Marin, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 108.

[2] Ibid., 189.

[3] Ibid., 140.

[4] Ibid., 87.

[5] Martyn Percy, Very Revd Prof. Shaping the Church: The Promise of Implicit Theology -Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology, (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2010), 122.

[6] Charlene Li, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, (San Francisco, CA: Wiley, 2010), 1034-1041, Kindle.

[7] Marin, Love Is an Orientation, 162.

[8] Ibid., 163.

[9] Ibid., 149-150.

[10] Ibid., 172.

About the Author

mm

Jennifer Dean-Hill

6 responses to “Keep It Simple”

  1. Jim Sabella says:

    Jenn, I enjoyed and appreciated your approach to this book. I agree that our primary call as Christians is to love people. I appreciate your insight is stating that humans are hard-wired to be loved and accepted by people and by God. In that context you ask a very important question: “With our evolving sexual identity culture, we have to ask ourselves how are we as Christians and the church called to love and relate to all people?” That is THE question for our time and age! How we answer that will define the future of the church for this and the generations to follow. Thanks Jenn,.

  2. Mary says:

    Jen, I appreciate all of your comments and how your beliefs are backed up by your church plant.
    I want to respond to – “No relationship can be built on fear, and true relationships do not have a hierarchy; so don’t create one.” You also pointed out in your response to my post that this works with women as well. Should we apply this to all people – gender, race, economic condition, etc.??? People who go to a church that’s different than ours?
    I noted your comment (from Rev. Percy) that this requires high emotional intelligence. Is another way of saying this – it requires maturity, maturity that comes with humility, grace, and love?
    We can’t change other people – that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. What is our job? I love your solution, keep it simple – love one another.

  3. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    Ah, Jen, you’ve hit on the core of Jesus’ gospel– if we say we love God, how can we hate our brother or sister? Unconditional love IS simple– simply hard. Because love has to be tangibly expressed. Not simply in the words we use, but in the way they are expressed. As you know, it’s so easy to convey subtle disapproval or condescension or a half-hearted welcome with our body language or tone of voice. May God give us grace to be transformed in love– not just outwardly, but in our innermost being.

  4. Kristin Hamilton says:

    You have beautifully expressed the key to every relationship, Jenn – simply love. As you mentioned about our past treatment of unwed mothers and people who were divorced, we have often abandoned the call to love and left people wounded in the name of doing God’s bidding. I prefer your simple approach. Thank you.

  5. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Jen, just today my pastor touched on this very thing about loving others without a disclaimer. He said our job is to love them whether we agree or not. It is about love and building a relationship. He even used the example of how wrong the church has been for years for shaming and ostracizing women for having children out of wedlock and divorcees. This seems to be a topic that is not only on Marin’s heart but on those called to serve all of God’s children.

  6. Lynda Gittens says:

    Jen thank you for sharing your story and your church’s view. I appreciate your church’s view to openly welcome. We as a church have sat long enough and not taken a stand. We should take a stand with our brother and sisters when they are facing injustice.
    I agree that we need to love everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *