I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrificial love lately. It’s just kind of been lurking at the back of my brain for a while, poking it’s head out occasionally. I blame St. Patrick.
Let me explain.
I am a proud, Irish girl, so, as you might expect, St. Patrick’s day is one of my favorite days. For me this holiday is not only about having a few drinks and being proud of a cultural heritage, though it is that (Green beer? Guinness? YES!), but it’s also about celebrating life, love, and friendship. I look forward every year to going out with my good friends and laughing and enjoying the friendship and community we share. It is also about remembering the story of an amazing man.
So last week, amidst the drinking and the laughter, I read a little bit about the life of St. Patrick, and I was reminded of how at the age of 16, he was captured, taken to Ireland, and made to work as a slave for 6 years. After he escaped, he studied to become a cleric. Legend says that a man Patrick believed to be from Ireland appeared to him in a dream and pleaded with him to come back to Ireland to help them. Patrick took this as a call from God to return to the land of his captivity – to people who enslaved him, oppressed him, and devalued his basic humanity – to serve his enemies. And he did. He chose love. He chose to see them as people created in the image of God who were loved. He chose the way of grace. The way of Jesus.
I find this beautiful. And extraordinary. And challenging. So it’s been on my mind. What does that look like for me, in my life, in my context? How can I love like that?
So, Monday, when World Vision announced that they were changing their hiring policy to include gay Christians, both single and married, I thought it was a great step forward toward reconciliation with people who have been hurt and rejected by many in the Christian Church. The announcement seemed to me to be respectful of individual churches’ theology while at the same time offering openness and inclusion to those who wanted to serve the world’s poor with World Vision.
However, within 24 hours, due to pressure, it seems, from evangelical groups and individuals threatening to pull their child sponsorship funding, World Vision leader, Richard Stearns announced that they had made a mistake and were reversing their decision and keeping their hiring policy they way it is.
So, I have been grieving and heartsick.
There are many questions that I have for World Vision. Was it really just a “mistake”? Were they just unprepared for the level of backlash they received? Could they not have waited it out a bit longer? Because I truly believe there are people who would have rallied to their side and filled in the gaps where revenue & sponsorships were lost. I am disappointed that they bowed to misguided voices, but I understand that they have real children and families around the world whose livelihoods they are trying to protect. I just wish they had handled this better and that so many people had not gotten hurt in the process. It seems there are people within the organization that want to show more equality and inclusiveness, though, and that gives me some hope that maybe one day change will come.
I am far more heartbroken over the fact that part of a faith community that I have been a part of all my life responded to this without love or grace to the point where I don’t even recognize it as having anything to do with the way of Christ. I know that not all of that response came from a place of hate, but the end result of hurt caused is the same either way. I can’t help but feel that there is something profoundly wrong when having the “right” theology trumps our love for people. Jesus said we will be known to be His followers by our love. This week, we failed.
Jesus had nothing, zero, to say about homosexuality in the Bible, but he had A LOT to say about how we are to treat and care for the poor. In fact, there are over 2000 scriptures that talk about how much God loves the poor, is on their side, and wants us to be His hands and feet to serve them. It’s one thing to disagree on the issue of homosexuality, but making a theological or political statement at the expense of “the least of these” is not the way of Jesus. And it makes me so incredibly sad that there are some who would take food from a child simply because the person giving it to them might be gay. That I cannot even pretend to understand.
Sometimes we don’t even know how broken we are.
So, I have felt a little bit adrift, to the point where, though I am a follower of Jesus, I honestly don’t even want to call myself a “Christian” right now because of the baggage that word carries. And if I’m really, really honest, it’s been difficult to find love in my heart for some of my brothers and sisters in faith.
But then I think about St. Patrick. And I think about Jesus forgiving us as nails are driven into hands and feet. And I am reminded again of my own brokenness, and I am so grateful for the grace that is extended to me, that I am called to give to others.
So, I am praying for those with whom I disagree because I know that they too are loved by God. I pray that they would see that love is “the more excellent way.”
And I am choosing, as some very wise friends reminded me, to try to tell a better story in my own life. To do my best, imperfect though it will be, to embody the love and compassion of Christ in the world around me. To, as Sarah Bassey says in Jesus Feminist, “Live counter culturally when the culture, baptized or secular, does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice.” (A friend sent me this quote yesterday, and I LOVE it! This book is next on my “to read” list.)
I am choosing love, even when it is difficult. Because in the end, love wins.
And if I may say to my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community, I am profoundly sorry for the anger, hurt and confusion you may be feeling because of this, and I am so sorry that you were met once again with rejection where there should have been love. Please know that those voices do not have the last word. You. Are. Loved – unconditionally and just as you are. You are beautiful, and you are made in the image of your Creator who has written your name on the palm of His hand and Who rejoices over you with singing.
May we all strive every day to choose the way of love.
If you have made it this far, my dear readers, thank you for listening to my ramblings. I have no intention of using this blog as a soapbox, but this was something I needed to get out. I hope you will show grace to it’s imperfections. I love you all and wish you grace and peace.