The following post is by our friend Jimmy from Tennessee, a teacher and professional musician. You can check out his blog at http://queerconfessions.wordpress.com/.
I have asked myself one question in the thirteen years I have walked with Christ: do I, as a gay Christian, belong in God’s church? I was teased and bullied at my Christian middle school for being the quiet, shy, and sensitive one. While I excelled in Sunday School, knowing the right answers did not give me a sense that Jesus cared for my life. I was a confused 13 year-old boy who felt alone in the world, who had no friends, and who had never known another gay person in his life. It would seem that, as a young boy, I did not have a place in God’s family.
Even my early days as a follower of Christ were difficult. By the time I was entering high school, I had no idea what the Bible said about homosexuality, so I took it upon myself to look. I’ll never forget the first words I read from the Bible as a young Christian. “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites…none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor 6:9-10, NRSV). Sodomites won’t inherit the Kingdom of God? Who exactly is a sodomite? I had never had sex with a man, but I had looked at gay pornography. I lusted in my heart, and that made me an adulterer according to the words of Jesus. Paul was telling me that I, an adulterous sodomite, could not inherit God’s Kingdom. I was confused. I also had no one to talk to; I was locked into my closet of fear and solitude.
I carried that fear with me for a long time, but I finally broke my silence when I was a sophomore in high school. I came out to a straight senior in my church youth group, and I will always cherish the words he said to me that night. He said, “Thanks for telling me, Jimmy. You’re still my friend, and this doesn’t change who you are.” You mean this older kid – the jock, the most popular person in our youth group – wasn’t going to beat me up? Gossip about me? Judge me? That I could freely be myself around another person? Fifteen year old me was ecstatic! Jesus taught me an important lessons through my friend’s words: my sexuality is not my entire being. I, like every living person, am a complex soul with a personality unique unto myself, and above all, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
As I came out to more people, the answer to my foundational question – do I belong in God’s Church – began to change from a timid “no” to a resounding “yes.” When I shared my sexuality with my youth minister and other friends from my high school youth group, they all replied quite similarly to my first confidant and trusted friend: you’re still the same guy we love. I met some amazing men on a church retreat during the summer before I moved to Tennessee for college, and they welcomed me into their fellowship when I came out before them. Those three men – Billy, Byron, and Michael – are my dearest brothers nine years after that church camp. They are all straight Christians, yet we have sharpened one another as iron sharpens iron. And many of the people I met in college also welcomed me, all of me, into their churches and campus fellowships.
I have been told by some more progressive people that those who hold a traditional view of Scripture and homosexuality can never truly love gay people, but I know for a fact that they are wrong. Dozens of people in my life prove those people wrong; so many of my closest friends are straight, evangelical Christians. They are also my roommates, my colleagues at work, my neighbors, and my friends. They support me during times of great joy and times of great sorrow. When my father passed away four years ago, this conservative Body of Christ went to great lengths to care for me and my family. They expected no payment or favor in return.
Do I have a place in God’s church? Yes, but not because people welcomed me in the church. I belong in God’s church because it is that same God who ruled that I have a place in this church through Jesus Christ. It is His body – the Church – that has turned God’s edict into incarnate, genuine love.