As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. - John 17:18
What do you think of when you think of being sent into the world? Do you think of packing up your stuff and moving to a 3rd world country? Perhaps you have images of feeding the homeless in an urban setting? Maybe you think of street preaching on the corner of a busy intersection? Or, maybe it is something more ordinary such as going to school, attending a neighborhood picnic, or joining the local cribbage club (15-2, 15-4, and a double 3 card run is 12)? It could be any of these things (and many more), but it is never less than leaving our comfort zones because our love for the other is greater than our love for security. Sent, as Christ was sent. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). And in Philippians 2, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:5–7).
Yesterday Scott, Ruthy, Addison, and I had the opportunity to attend a forum for church leaders thinking through the opportunities and challenges presented to the church as we engage an LGBT+ world. I share this in connection with the above thoughts on being sent because surely this LGBT+ world is a world into which we are being sent. The “sending” in this case may not be as much locationally as ideologically. In fact, there is little doubt that you have people in your orbit that are on this LGBT+ journey. From those who identify with this orientation to friends whose kids do, and to those struggling with the social and theological implications of LGBT+ ideology, we all encounter this reality, maybe daily. The invitation (or if you prefer, the call) is to leave our ideological and relational comfort zones, equipped with the truth and grace of the gospel, to love those who find themselves on a different journey of faith and life than we find ourselves. Some of our “going” will look like educating ourselves. What does the Bible have to say? What is science telling us, or not telling us? What does love look like for those on this journey? Much of the "going” will involve listening. Almost certainly we will need to apologize for assumptions made, cues missed, or bad behavior of those identified with the body of Christ.
Yet, Jesus doesn’t send us on a mission doomed to failure. According to Andrew Marin*, who closely studied the relationship between the LGBT+ community and the church, 83% of those identifying as LGBT+ were raised in the church. Perhaps surprising only 3% left church because of the church’s belief in a historically Christian view of sexuality (i.e. between a man and woman). Overwhelmingly, people left the church because they did not feel safe or relationally connected, because there was an unwillingness to dialogue, or in some cases they were kicked out. Obviously, these kind of experiences make our “going" an uphill battle, but the good news is that truth engaged with humility and grace will get a hearing.
It really is an amazing journey that Jesus has us, his imperfect community, on! Left to ourselves it would be hopeless. But, our hope is not in ourselves. We can never forget the potency of Jesus’ prayer for us. We must never underestimate the Gospel’s power to heal, restore and renew. Armed with this hope we really can engage the sending both personally and corporately. And, as we will be reminded Sunday (in John 17:6-19), like the Trinity we can expand the circle of our love because the Gospel truly is good news.
*Marin, Andrew. Us versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community.