Following a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone about a subject I touched on in that blog. The subject being, how Christians talk about love and acceptance, but in practice, we don't always live up to those standards. The example I gave was of church visitors and how church members react differently towards LGBT visitors than a 'wholesome' looking heterosexual visitor. Both would likely be acknowledged, only the blatantly bigoted among us would completely ignore a visitor, but the heterosexual would be more warmly and readily accepted into the fold than the LGBT visitor.
As I was talking to this other person, I reiterated that I thought this was a wrong that needed to be righted - to which the person I was talking to asked - Why do you care? Everyone has preconceived notions about people based on all sorts of things, from the way others dress to their sexual orientation; that's just the way things are. Why do you care so much what other people do or how they think?
I was taken aback by this question so much that I was rendered speechless. At first, I admit, I thought - okay, maybe I am over thinking, and perhaps over stepping and I shouldn't care how other people react and behave. Maybe I should just mind my own business and live and let live. I couldn't stop thinking about it though. I tried to puzzle out in my mind, first of all, why do I care so much, and second, should I just accept this as the way of the world and let it go? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that this is something it is okay to stick my nose in and my neck out and care about. Why? Because the status quo is wrong and I care about justice and equality for all. Nothing will ever change if we don't speak out against things we believe are wrong, even if, technically, it is none of our business.
I can't sit idly by and accept that people who are different should conform or be subject to inferior treatment, because this is basically what is going on. It should not be up to the people who are being judged to change to fit into the mold their judges have outlined for them. That is totally backward. It is the judges who need to change their attitudes and break down the ideas and stereotypes they have in their minds. Especially in church. If we, as a faith, cannot overcome our biases, then what is our mission? Why are we sitting in our pews in the first place? What is it we hope to accomplish by coming together every Sunday to worship, if we are only willing to worship with those who 'fit in' with us?
Is this what Jesus would have us do? I don't think so. I don't think he would stand still for this kind of silent injustice. He was the type to step way out of his comfort zone to find a way to reach someone with whom he had nothing in common except the common bond of human kindness.
I know it is human nature to congregate with those we connect with - with those who are like us. I get that. I get it, but I don't accept it as right. I think it is something that we need to fight against instead of lean on. It's not easy to undo years of preconception and turn toward something we have made a habit of avoiding. It's not easy because we are afraid. We are conditioned to fear anything that is different, so getting past that fear is a hurdle, for sure.
There should be no fear within the body of Christ, only love. 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love (the love of Christ) drives out fear. It goes on to say that we cannot say we love God if we are not willing to show that same love to our fellow human beings. Our love has to extend beyond loving those inside the walls of our churches. Oh, a lot of us are very good at being charitable outside the church walls - at reaching out to those in need, and spreading God's love that way, but that is not the same as loving them as a brother/sister. That is a whole other type of love and ministry, one that we should continue. We can't stop there though, we have to stretch ourselves to love, and openly accept, everyone, regardless of their differences. He have to get over our discomfort and fear. Why? Because that's what we are told to do.
So, in short, I care because Jesus cared. I care because it's what I am asked to do as a Christian. I care because I believe we, as a church body, have to tell the world that snap judgments are wrong, hurtful and should be overcome. I believe we have to give more than lip service to the fact that Jesus accepts everyone, without condition. We have to act on that belief. And lastly, I care because if I don't, who will?
Believe Out Loud