There was a check in my spirit, a moment of annoyance mixed with sadness, much like the sense I've had on Facebook the last few days as I've looked at all the "rainbow-ized" profile pictures of many of my Facebook friends and acquaintances. And then it occurred to me, I still don't know anything about this neighbor with the rainbow flag. I could be tempted to think I do, but the truth is I do not.
There is a list of obvious possibilities-- it could be the home of a homosexual, or a homosexual couple who is excited about the court decision that they see as a victory, a blessing even. Or it could be the proverbial "screw you" from someone of the same persuasion. It could be someone who is not gay themselves but is simply celebrating in solidarity, or someone who wants to piss off a neighbor they have perhaps debated on the issue. I don't know, I can't know, and because I have no intention of walking up and knocking on the door to ask, I won't know. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter because they are still my neighbor.
I have another house in my neighborhood that I know is the home of a lesbian couple raising a teenage son. I've only had one actual interaction with them in the many, many years that they've lived five houses down my block, and it was in the midst of a neighborhood crisis many years ago that I no longer recall the details to. We used to wave as they drove past my house to theirs, but then a few years back we brought a "Say yes to Proposition 8" sign home from our old church and put it in our yard. I noticed within the week they placed a "Say no," sign in their own yard. And in all honesty, I was angry at the time, and I'm not sure who stopped first, but the waving stopped and angry scowls came from the front seat of their car instead. Looking back later, I just regretted putting up my sign in the first place, all it accomplished was making an enemy out of my neighbor.
As I walked past their house this morning, I looked to see if there was any outward sign of celebration, any rainbows to be seen, and I noted that there was none. But I honestly don't know why. Just as I can presume they were unhappy when Prop 8 passed, they were probably happy with the Supreme Court decision, but I cannot be sure by just walking past their door. And can I tell you a secret? I get it. I get why they would be happy. I get why they would be celebrating. I get that in their minds this is a likely HUGE victory, and a very good thing. And I can't even be angry with them for it. Why should they feel any other way?
OK, now everybody stop for a second and take a deep breath because I realize I may have pissed off a lot of my readers by now-- no matter where they stand on the issue. But right here, just now, I am positive that my most passionate Christian friends on the issue are probably ticked and completely questioning me, my sanity and most of all my Christianity. Can I tell you something? I get that too. There is a person who is not my personal friend, who I see through mutual friends on Facebook who turned her profile pic into rainbow colors, and from a distance I saw her make a deeper commitment to God this weekend, and the two things do not gel together in my mind. And it stirs doubts and concerns. But THIS is that place where the Bible tells me not to judge (condemn) another Christian. Standing over here gathering clues from the distance, I am no expert on her heart.
What a mess it is. The division is what I find so sad. In the church, outside of the church, from the church-- so many mixed messages. We have the adamant and angry who see the celebration of sin and it enrages them... I get it. You have those who want to debate scripture and rewrite what it says in the name of tolerance and peace, and although I don't agree with it, I can understand. And then you have all the people outside the church and the response is just as varied-- we Christians seem to have no better handle on the situation than anyone else. I get why they think so poorly of us all.
I do know this though, it is unrealistic for us as Christians to expect an unbelieving world to live according to a biblical standard. They can't even understand it, much less apply it. Yes, yes, I know (even if they try to rewrite history and deny it) AMERICA WAS BUILT ON JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VALUES!!! It doesn't matter. That's not longer the case. But this I do know, it is our mistake to make those who stand against our beliefs the enemy. People aren't the enemy, and to hate them for believing differently than we do completely undermines what we as Christians claim to believe. Like it or not, as hard as it may be, "Love your neighbor as yourself" is the #2 command. There's no out (excuse the pun) on the gay marriage issue, whether it's the celebrating gay or the sympathetic brother in Christ, we're called to love.
Now relax, I'm not saying you have to abandon your principles or let go of your beliefs, you just can't let that aspect of religion supersede the importance of relationship. I am not saying homosexuality isn't a sin, but ask yourself, are you as angry about the unmarried couple with two kids living down your block... attending your church... serving there even? Because if you're not, then that little issue of hypocrisy we all have to watch for is creeping in. Yeah, I get that suddenly the nation has legalized and authorized this sin you take issue with, but don't forget, God takes issue with all sin. That's why we are Christians in the first place, we at some point at least recognized we were sinners in need of a Savior-- and we still are. But sometimes we forget that after we've been doing the faith walk long enough to impress ourselves.
There is a lot of debate, discord, anger and outrage stirring about. It is coming from all sides, but in all honesty, the "side" that "won" seems pretty happy and content at this point, and the ugly seems to be pouring pretty powerfully out of the conservative Christian camp. That's not a good thing. I see lots of angry, hostile conversation, with hateful words spewed-- words of fear, words of judgment, words of attack. Then suddenly when we realize we've perhaps crossed the line we take a step back and try to settle a little and declare, "well, I love the sinner, I hate the sin." But hear my warning, when the sin is the identity of the person, they cannot separate your feelings for what they do from who they are. They are neither feeling nor receiving our love. Instead of pointing our finger at the sin and declaring our disdain, we as Christians have to figure out a way to look past the sin and love the sinner first. It is the hardest thing to do, but it is what Christ did, and what He wants to do through us.
As I walked past my neighbor's flag today, I realized part of my difficulty is that it's the rainbow that is the symbol that has been chosen to declare the celebration. "Gay PRIDE," they say. And it occurred to me, the rainbow belongs to God-- He is the creator of it, and He invented it for a very specific purpose, and it wasn't about any kind of pride, but rather it's about submission, submission to One Greater than self. It is first and foremost about a promise that God made to His people. It's meant to be a reminder of our all-powerful God's love and His covenant with us. And I suddenly felt the encouragement in my spirit that when I see a rainbow of any kind, that should be my focus-- God's faithfulness, His goodness, His supreme power.
I don't have to be afraid of things going on in the world around me; I don't have to be worried about what the world "is coming to," because I know that God is still sovereign, and He is still in control. Part of His promise is to work all things... ALL things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Nothing changes that, and nothing separates God's people from His love.
Sometimes when things are difficult or challenging and I don't know what to do in a hard circumstance, I always go back to the last thing I was absolutely certain God spoke to me. In this big picture challenge, let me encourage the brethren that one thing we know we can go back to that God said is "Love." Love Him and love others. And I would encourage you when you find yourself backed up against the wall of outrage or frustration, remember Who you represent, and remember what He would do. Think of the gentle Christ sitting along side the woman at the well. He didn't deny her sin, but He loved her more and that was what drew her to Him. That was the pathway He built into her life. As Christians I encourage us all today, have our hearts and hands ready to reach out to the world, it needs Hope, and we're the ones who know Him.