Yesterday I had coffee with a wonderful new friend who identifies as transgender.
She and I were talking about the incredible damage done to so many people in the LGBTQ community at the hands and words of those in the Church, and what a barrier it’s been in their and her spiritual journey.
It was a fresh reminder of how much pain Christians have generated.
A little over and hour later I was online engaging a professed Christian man who was incensed at my support of LGBTQ folks.
After realizing that all his threats of Hell, his dire warnings of my impending meeting with Satan, and his admonishing me as ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, ‘false prophet’, and ‘apostate’ did little to dissuade me, he leaned back on the angry white Christian guy’s go-to Hail Mary closer: he outed me.
‘You support gays so much. You may was well just admit it and tell your wife that you are gay!’
(Yes, because that’s totally how that works.)
As I considered how to respond to such a loving, compassionate, and intellectually brilliant tactic, I realized two things:
One, as a fully-affirming LGBTQ ally, the accusation of being gay isn’t at all an insult to me – something which didn’t seem to cross his mind.
And two, he was using other people’s very identity to try and shame me.
The first realization amused me. The latter one really ticked me off. I thought of my new friend. I thought of so many people I know and love. I thought of people I love but will never meet and who might be following that thread, those for whom such wounds are a daily occurrence. I felt burdened to speak to them.
We often withhold saying simple words of encouragement because we take for granted that people hear them enough or that they don’t need them, but this of course is rarely true. Sometimes we just need to say everything.
If you’re reading this and you identify as LGBTIQ here’s what I really hope you know:
You are not an abomination to God.
Anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Bible knows that this is a completely irresponsible use of Scripture, and that using such a loaded word for another human being simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation or because of the person they love is a reckless bastardization of the Bible and distortion of the heart of God.
Refuse to wear this label. It doesn’t belong to you. You are far too great for it.
You are not a mistake.
The same God we credit for the stars and the sea and the butterfly’s wings created you. This means you are made of the same stuff God is and with the very same care.
Never allow someone to make you feel as though you are at all an error in need of correcting, that you are somehow less-than. You are intentional and perfect.
Even if it has taken you some time to figure out who you are, God has always known.
You are not broken.
Your gender identity and sexual orientation are not flaws or moral defects. They are not signs that you are damaged and to be repaired. Your intelligence and character, your humor and capacity to love, your gifts and passions, your goodness and humanity all comprise the sum total of who you are and it is a thing of beauty.
You don’t need fixing.
Know these things, friend, and know too:
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.
You are originally beautiful in ways that are entirely specific to you.
You are beloved as you are without alteration or achievement.
You are a walking freakin’ miracle.
And you are the Church, if you choose to be. You don’t need anyone’s consent or permission for proximity to Jesus. He is as close as this breath you take.
I’m sorry that you may not have heard these things enough by those claiming Christ, especially from those closest to you. That is their sin, not yours. It says more about them than it ever could about you.
Yes, you have missed out by being disconnected from spiritual community, but that community has dearly missed your presence too. And understand that just because people have hurt you in the name of God, doesn’t mean they speak for God.
The damage they have done was done to you without God’s approval. It is not of God.
And this is all true, not just because some white cis-gender pastor says so – but because these things simply are.
This is already your identity without me saying so of course, but if it encourages you at all to hear these words from a pastor and a father; if they make you feel seen or valued or supported and they give you a bit of hope today, then please hear me.
Let the words seep deep into the marrow of your spirit and live lighter today.
You are fully loved. You are enough. I hope you know that.
John Pavlovitz is a Christian pastor serving the North Raleigh Community Church. The original, full version of this article appeared on his blog, Stuff That Needs to Be Said.
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