This is the fourth part of my “Church Angst” series. In Part 1 I asked to where I can turn in the Church as a sexual minority. In Part 2 I shared my frustration with affirming Christians, and in Part 3 I shared my frustration with conservative Christians. Now to finish off this angsty series (for now) . . .
While I have had many wonderful, supportive Christians in my life, I find many more who just don’t want to meet me where I am with my sexuality. This isn’t a childish lament about how life isn’t fair or how people in the Church have the audacity to disagree with some of my thoughts or opinions.
No, this is an honest observation that the Church has done and continues to do a poor job of helping gay or same-sex attracted (SSA) Christians continue to walk in their faith with Christ. Instead of being a great cloud of witnesses encouraging me onward, some act as a voice of the enemy telling me I have no place at God’s table.
Two particular positions really get me feeling angsty and frustrated.
The first says same-sex relationships are permissible and encouraged by the Lord; further, this position often extends the claim that those who believe and encourage others to believe that God does not allow same-sex relationships are acting harmfully, both to themselves and others.
The second says that same-sex orientation is sinful, and as such God requires believers to seek a change in sexual orientation. Those holding this view do not feel that remaining celibate is enough; a “gay-to-straight” shift must also follow.
Both of these positions harm gay/SSA Christians who seek obedience to the Lord — and they harm the Church as a whole, too.
What do we do with these frustrations though? How do I move forward from here? How do any of us move forward from whatever our specific frustrations with the Church?
As with any familial relationship . . . it’s complicated.
First, it’s important to understand that the Church is our family — chosen or not. We are all siblings as children of the Lord.
The bad news: we are stuck with these siblings, whether we like it or not. The good news (as any of us who have siblings know all too well): siblings have been known to be wrong sometimes.
Just because we are family does not mean we cannot call each other to do better; in fact, being family means holding each other accountable in love and grace.
I do my best to think of my relationship with the Church as any other relationship, aiming to be slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to listen. I have the tough conversations when they are needed (and trust me, they are often needed), but I’m also quick to forgive, recalling the forgiveness with which Christ has forgiven me.
When things cannot be resolved sibling-to-sibling, I turn to our mutual Father and ask Him to advocate on my behalf. Thank the Lord we have a good father, and while some of His children may be quite stubborn (myself included), He has the final authority to determine how He works in my life and what my standing is before Him in Christ. He also has the authority to discipline His children as He sees fit.
My frustrations in this life are many. As I’ve written over and over again, I remedy my frustration of what I see by proclaiming and fixing my gaze on that which is unseen.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 16-18 (ESV)
I continue to fight the good fight — not only to vent my angst, but also to make an active difference in the Church, lessening that angst both for myself and others.
In the meantime I look to the eternal unseen, and that, for me, is enough.
Have you been able to overcome any previous angst with the Church? How have you taken any of your angst with the Church and directed it toward positive change?