This totally changed my life. Before that I experienced Christians as hypocritical people waiting to judge my every move and condemn me to hell for the things I was, or wasn’t, doing. So when I was introduced to a nonjudgmental, unconditional love it was totally life changing. And it was through that love that I came into a relationship with God. I remember being a young zealous Christian and wanting everyone to experience my new found joy. In that zealousness I know there were times when I became pushy in my tactics in trying to share it with others. I do know that this was out of a pure place; truly wanting others to share in what I had experienced. But looking back, I can see how though some may have been touched by my experience, others may have been pushed further away from God by my aggressive tactics in trying to “win them over”.
Fortunately, we all make mistakes and always have room to grow! The more I read about Jesus the more I saw that He really lived a radical life of just loving and accepting people. I saw that accepting someone for who they are does not mean that I have to agree with or accept the things they are doing, or their lifestyle choices, but accepting a person for who they are, and purely loving them has greater power than trying to convince them of something else, or push them to change. I am moved by a quote that is often used from St. Francis of Assisi when he said, “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.” I realize that if we are living lives according to God, loving Him and loving others, we don’t actually have to talk all that much. And often, when we do talk too much, our actions sometimes have a way of negating the words that we speak.
A few months back I attended a gay film festival with a friend. Yes, my friend is gay. And yes, we went to dinner and a movie. We have been friends for almost ten years now. When we first met he was dating women. A few years into our friendship he shared with me a terrible secret that he had never shared with anyone. As a child he had been sexually abused for more than ten years. Now, in his adult life he is socially and sexually confused. Those are his own words, in a summed up form. In the past few years he has been “experimenting” in homosexuality. This did not change what I know about him as a person, and who he is to me as a friend. He knows where I “stand”, and what I believe, and he greatly respects me for it, but I also know that it is not up to me to “change” him. I do feel it is important for me to continue to be his friend and support and love him in the best way I can.
Anyways, so I went to the gay film festival with him and we watched a documentary called “The Bible Tells Me So”. It was basically about the “Church’s” response to homosexuality. I must admit that I sat through much of the film feeling ashamed at what I was seeing. Many of the Christians in the film were angry and aggressive about homosexuality and towards homosexuals. There were even specific cases highlighted where radical groups of “Christians” beat up, and even murdered homosexuals, just because they were homosexual. Sitting there, I had a picture of Jesus walking on the earth in modern day times and instead of meeting up with an adulterous woman about to get stoned, he would meet a scared, young homosexual man about to get beat up and murdered by an angry mob at an anti-gay protest. It makes me sad to see Christians as an angry mob, ready to beat up and kill people over their beliefs!
I looked at that angry mob of people, holding signs with hateful phrases and screaming things like, “YOU ARE AN ABOMINATION IN THE EYES OF GOD!!!!” and “GOD HATES YOU!” and I wondered if they really and truly believe that that approach is effective in the slightest way. I guess they do or they wouldn’t be so dedicated to spreading that hate. When I see that it makes me not want to have anything to do with the “God” that they are speaking of, and I am a Christian. Of course, we as humans like to put “sin” on different levels saying one is worse than the other. So the angry mob feels justified in shouting out horrible stuff to homosexuals because homosexuality is “sooooooo bad”, and yet the hate that they display in expressing themselves to the homosexuals is “totally justified”. I guess they haven’t read the part of the Bible where Jesus evened out the playing field and said that even if you look at another person with hate in your eyes it is the same as murder. I know the angry radical mob is an extreme example, but we are all guilty of this to one degree or another.
I guess my point is, I wish we were quicker to love than to judge. I wish we were quicker to give hugs than throw stones. I wish we were quicker to lovingly accept than to cast out and shun. I wish we realized that anger and aggression are not successful “marketing tools”. I wish we realized that acts in love are far more powerful than any words we could ever speak. I wish we knew how to love without “strings attached”. I wish we had the capacity to love people until it hurts, and when there is absolutely nothing to gain from it. I wish we did not compromise our love when we feel that our beliefs are being challenged. I guess the greatest thing is that these wishes are not some far off fantasy. They are in fact achievable. Because in each and every single situation we encounter, love is a choice. And I choose love.