Last year, my church started a series called “Jesus Loves People.” The purpose of this series was to go through topics that we, the Christian community, are typically more quiet about, confronting the types of people we might potentially “hate” instead of love.
I knew the topic of homosexuality was bound to come up, but I thought it’d happen more toward the end of the series because it is such a hot topic, as the video points out. I’d been in my small group for several years to this point, and the people there didn’t yet know about my past. I figured I’d have a lot of time to share my story, including my struggle with sexuality and faith and how I came to the place where I am now as a person — or so I thought!
That day I went to church and was handed a pamphlet of what my local church is doing for the community, events happening, the sermon we will be studying, and so on. Once I got the pamphlet, I immediately looked at the topic we were studying, mostly because the previous sermons were so good!
I opened it, and the topic of Jesus Loves Homosexuals was right there. I looked up in a blank stare and walked to my usual seat. My only thought was, “AW CRAP!”
I sat there, listened to the sermon, took notes, and almost cried a few times. It was so good in my opinion! And yet that whole day, I was kind of freaking out that the topic of homosexuality came way too soon for me! I was caught off-guard, and soon I had to figure out a way to tell my small group that I was gay or struggle with homosexuality. So, all that day and the next day, I kept planning what to say to my group — and yet in the end, I didn’t use any of it.
Our small group was the next day. This was around when Renovate was still up and running, so my small group talked about what we’d learned both in the college ministry and the main church service where most of us attended. We discussed Renovate’s message, and then the next topic of “Jesus Loves Homosexuals.”
Nervous? HECK YEAH I WAS!!!
To put the icing on the cake, one of my co-leaders passed the whole topic onto me, because she saw that my leg was jittery. She probably assumed that I wanted to lead this discussion. Boy was she RIGHT!
Instead of doing what we usually do in small group, going through points our pastor made, I wanted to make this group very practical. So, I started the discussion by asking if anyone knew anyone else who was gay — whether in their families, work place, or friends.
Man, it took off from there, as everyone had his and her own stories to share in this discussion. Even my leader was crying because she couldn’t understand how people could hate and condemn other people with stuff we don’t understand! It was emotional, and kind of tense, but in a good way.
Everyone shared opinions and stories, and then it was my turn. I made sure I was the last to talk, because my story was going to be the big finisher.
“The topic of ‘Jesus Loves Homosexuals’ affects us all differently, but I hold this subject dear to my heart … because … I’m gay, or I struggle with same-sex attractions.”
Those were my first words as I opened up to them, telling them my story. I don’t think I ever looked up and into the eyes of the guys and gals listening.
By the time I finished, I looked up and all eyes were on me. The words that came from their mouths were basically, “I love you.” My group gave me hugs, told me they were glad for my sharing, and expressed the truth of God’s Word to me, encouragement all-around.
These guys who I call friends finally knew the truth about me, and they practiced what my pastor preached in “Jesus Loves Homosexuals,” which was:
L = Listen
O = Offer Support
V = Voice God’s Truth
E = Esteem
At the end of that group, my friends asked me if I had a life-verse that had helped through the years, and I gave them this:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
To my Connect Group, I know you all are reading this, and I wanna say I love you guys!
Have you guys ever come out to your small group or a large group of friends? How did it turn out? If not, do you hope to tell them in the near future?
* Photo courtesy fattytuna, Creative Commons.