This was the first time I went to a club on Saturday night and wasn’t overwhelmed with guilt and shame on Sunday morning. Standing in the crowded club that night, the smell of cigarette smoke wafting in from the patio as music blasted in my ears, my friend and pastor leaned over and said, “We should do this more often.” He didn’t necessarily mean we should party on a more regular basis, but that we should be in the community, our community, the gay community, more consistently. We should stop separating our lives from theirs.
Radical Hope is a church plant in the heart of our city. Our goal is to leave our masks at the door, tear down religious walls, and discard labels that both the Church and the world have put on us for years. It’s the only way I can work in a church again. We purposefully have our main service at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, hoping those who have partied Saturday night will have a better chance of making it to the service. We are a gathering place for rebels, misfits, and outcasts: the people turned away by Bible Belt Christianity until now.
As I scanned the horizon last weekend, I couldn’t help but think that my friends would have been Jesus’ friends. This would have been exactly the place where Jesus would have hung his hat. He took a drink of water from a woman who had been married multiple times. He was anointed for burial by a prostitute. He ate with tax collectors (who were about as socially progressive as Donald Trump). And Jesus never let the cultural norms of his day or the loudest voices of dissent intimidate him from preaching a gospel of inclusion for all people.
Jesus taught us how to #resist.
Jesus came to offer an invitation. He promised that the underdog would have a front row seat in His radical new kingdom, where the last are first. Jesus and those who followed him were square pegs who refused to fit in a round hole. Whether they realize it or not, the friends I met at the gay bar understand what the disciples of Jesus discovered long ago – that it is okay to rebel against the status quo, when the status quo is doing more to keep people out, than to draw people in.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
– Jesus Christ, Luke 4:18-21 ESV
The message of Jesus was revolutionary because it was a big “hell no” to the way things had always been.
When we, the Church, stop expecting people to fit our mold, agree with our politics, or live up to our social expectations, we extend freedom and joy to all of God’s people. And isn’t freedom and joy what we all want? Isn’t that what Christ offers us?
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
–Jesus Christ, Matthew 11:28-30
For a group of people so disenfranchised from the Church, the gay bar is a place where everyone is an equal. It’s a place where “Love is Love” isn’t a cliché’ slogan on a rainbow bumper sticker. It is believed and lived. Love is universal. And the most rebellious thing a disciple of Jesus can offer another human being is love.
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