Something happened and it has left me worried. I have that niggling feeling inside me that tells me something, somehow, is wrong. That lets me know that this event will be churning over in my mind for days, possibly even weeks to come. Whenever I pause my mind returns to it all and the more I think about it the more I realise I really don’t know what to think about it.
I was away this weekend (17th-18th Dec), in Liverpool, for a stag-do. Although I had the, somewhat depressing, realisations that I now feel too old for night-clubs and that I am now so attached to my wife that I miss her, terribly, even if only separated for one night, I did enjoy seeing some old friends. These are the kind of friends that I have known for, pretty much, my whole life and that, even when we don’t see or speak to each other for ages, we soon feel right at home in each others company.
So what happened? Don’t worry, I know it was a stag-do, but I didn’t do go anywhere “inappropriate” (you know what mean!), do anything nasty to the groom or drink far too much and end up sick in a ditch. No, don’t worry, nothing like that. No, this is something very different and has left me much more confused. I guess I better start from the beginning.
The evening started with a meal in which I sat opposite a friend of mine (I’m going to call him “friend A” to help with the paragraph below!) that I haven’t seen for years. A person who I consider to be one of my oldest and best friends. Someone who, if we get together, I can guarantee I will end up laughing, often until my sides hurt. Within minutes of us being there he made a joke that made it clear he was openly gay.
Now, to be honest, this didn’t really come as much of a shock. While I’d never asked him and he hadn’t actually “come out”, I’d long suspected this was the case and I don’t really see what possible difference it could make to our friendship. No, the “event” in question came later.
After the meal we went to a couple of clubs and I took the opportunity to ask one of my other friends (let’s call him “friend B”) if he had known, before the weekend, that “friend A” had come out as openly gay (I hope you’re all still following!). And, this was the real shock, he said that he did, that he had come out during the summer and had text him to let him know. He had text him to let him know!
If “friend A” had texted “friend B” to tell him, why hadn’t he text me? I mean, we’re part of the say group of friends, we see each other about as regularly and we’re just as close. A major development had happened in my friend’s life and, for whatever reason, he had informed everyone, but me! Why? The only reason I can think of is … I’m a Christian. My other friends, in that group, aren’t people of faith … I am.
Maybe I’m being paranoid, simply jumping to conclusions. Maybe “friend B” and “friend A” are closer than me and “friend A”. But I don’t think so. No, I think one of my oldest friends was too scared to tell me he was gay, because I follow Jesus.
Now maybe I can blame the media. Afterall, one of the major things that the media “knows” is that the church hate gay people, right? Or maybe I could blame my denomination. Blame them for spending more time debating homosexual clergy than making it clear we love people? But, however I look at it, I feel that I have to blame myself. He’s known me for decades and didn’t know that he’d still be my friend whatever!
Later we were able to chat. He shared some of his story with me, some of the struggles he’d been through. I apologised for anything I’d ever done to make that journey harder for him and tried to make it clear that our friendship was unaffected by the development. But the whole thing has stuck in my head, endlessly repeating on a loop. He couldn’t tell me. He couldn’t tell me!! Just the fact that I’m a Christian was enough to make it so he couldn’t tell me!
I remember, a while ago now, talking to my best friend (“friend B”, as it happens, but that’s not actually relevant right now!) and him being shocked when I described myself as an ‘Evangelical Christian’. He replied that, in his head, evangelicals were homophobic idiots, how could I be one of them? This is what most people think we are: ‘anti-gay’, ‘homophobic’. We are known as people of hate. In fact we are so well know for this that my friend couldn’t speak to me. I hope that makes you want to cry. I hope it breaks your heart. How can the followers of Jesus have become known for something so alien to what he taught?
On the night our Lord Jesus died, he said to his disciples “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). We’re told that Jesus went around proclaiming “good news” (Luke 20:1) and that the first disciples also spent their time proclaiming “good news” (Acts 5:42) We’re suppose to be people who are known for our love. We’re suppose to be people who bring good news. And yet, my life-long friend couldn’t tell me he was gay. How did we get here? How has this happened? Lord, have mercy!
Now, let me be clear, I’m not making any kind of moral statement about homosexuality here, not one way or the other. I mean, why would I, on a forum like this? When, whichever opinion I hold, I would definitely risk upsetting and alienating half the people who read this. There are times and places to express these views. I have expressed them in the past, and, when the right time and situation comes up again, I will again. BUT this is not the time or place and this is not the point I’m making!
Instead, I think we need to start getting our priorities right. We need to start reading our whole Bibles, not just the bits we think our relevant!
How about these bits?
In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4.
“Value others above yourselves.” I assume you agree that includes gay people? I assume you know that includes my friend? I assume you realise that we’re supposed to value all people more than ourselves? Please, please, tell me you know that!
Or how about this verse:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15
Good news! Do you have any? Do you have any good news for a gay man? Or is all you can offer condemnation? Please tell me you have more to offer! Please!
Surely the way I act and the words I say should make it clear to my friend that I believe that God is interested in far more that his sexual conduct, God is interested in him, the whole of him. His ups, and downs. His gifts. His day-to-day life. He should know that I don’t think his sexuality is the only thing about him worth discussing! Surely we can communicate that, can’t we?
I know the church, as a whole, needs to debate these things. Needs to figure out the right way forward. I know we, as the law continues to change, need to take a stand on how we react to these things. I know that. But, please, on a more general level, surely our task is NOT to bring judgement to gay people, but to bring love. To come alongside them in their struggles and assure them that they are of worth.
Let’s just give the simple good news that God’s loves them, and so do we. Let’s love them, unconditionally, not just with words, but with actions.
My friend couldn’t tell me. He couldn’t tell me! I’m to blame.
Please God, help my actions speak louder that all the messages in the press, and all the preconceptions that are out there. Let my actions demonstrate my sure belief that all people, no matter what, are of worth. And God forgive me for any times I’ve failed.