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The Challenge of Acceptance

If you’re like me, about the only television I watch these days is Netflix. One of my new favorite shows that launched this year is Queer Eye. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or aren’t a millennial), you know that Netflix recently rebooted the series with an all-new cast. I recently met Jonathan Van Ness, a QE cast member, in LA a few weeks ago. When I asked him about Season 2, he said, “you won’t be able to make it past the first episode without crying.” I will definitely say – I couldn’t. The first episode features a woman named Tammye, who, through her love for the Lord, shares an incredible story with the cast. As I was watching all of this unfold, I began to think on some experiences I’ve had over the past two weeks.

Aside from being the month Apple releases new products, June is also Pride Month in the LGBT community. Until recently, I haven’t been fully familiar with Pride Events or the significance of them. I was in LA for a movie premiere which was also scheduled on the same weekend as LA Pride. Naturally, my friends and I were curious and checked it out. It was a melting pot of races, religions, and demographics of all types. It was the polar opposite of what I thought it would be. There was a sense of unity, acceptance, and freedom in which I’ve only ever experienced on a micro level in the LGBT community. Fast forward to the following weekend. NWA Pride. My home turf. My friends and I once again decided to join the masses and see what this was all about. The same feelings of acceptance, unity, and love were displayed all throughout Northwest Arkansas. It was truly incredible to see.

All this background information brings me to the point of this post. The Church and the LGBT community. I’ve only ever spoken about this topic briefly over the years, as I believe it’s clear what Christ commands of us. However, my experiences over the past two weeks put a weight on my heart to write about this. During all of this, my heart was in such a place of not just curiosity but true desire to hear from the Lord. My thoughts today are spurred by a quote from Jonathan in Season 2, Episode 1 of QE regarding this precious woman named Tammye:

She thought her faith told her to judge someone who was different, but she chose to see past the label and see the individual.

This hit me hard. It reminded me of Matthew 7 when Jesus is speaking during the Sermon on the Mount:

“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, ‘Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye’? Look at yourself! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye.

– Matthew 7:1-5

I don’t want to ruin the episode for you, but Tammye had a life change when she found out someone close to her was gay. Upon learning of this, she immediately judged them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve judged someone based off a label instead of getting to know them. I began to think about how Christ looks past the mess in our lives and sees us – the individual – broken, and longing to be loved and accepted… I had to pause. I reflected on everything that has happened in my life the past two weeks and why I was so thankful to have experienced it.

We all have a longing to be loved and accepted. That’s why there are pride parades, social clubs, churches, small groups, and NASCAR rallies. The desire to be accepted is in all of us. However, the one thing that kept coming to mind throughout this entire experience was, Jesus. How Christ lived his life to offer acceptance to the outcast, He took in those who had been rejected, He left the 99 to find the one – this is the purest form of unconditional love and acceptance. I am so thankful to know the power of this unconditional love, but there are many who don’t. Many are looking for acceptance through every lens except the only one that truly matters. Many have been fiercely turned away when they have sought out that love.

Why are so many turned off by Christ and the church? Taking a lesson from our friend, Tammye – I truly believe we misinterpret not only what the bible says about homosexuality but also how Christ lived His life. Decades of exclusivity and exclusion have caused many never to experience the love and acceptance that Christ commands us to show. We choose to judge based on the label instead of love based on the person. 

I believe Christ is very clear in his teachings. This isn’t a discussion of sin or not sin, it’s not an issue of affecting one’s salvation, and it’s surely not an issue of Christ’s love towards humanity. This is simply an issue of running towards Jesus. It’s an issue of running towards the one who offers unconditional love and acceptance. The challenge the evangelical world faces is not whether this is right or wrong; but whether the love and acceptance that so many are seeking will be shown to them through Christians who see them as a person, not a label.

Conversation rooted in love and acceptance is the first step to wiping away the labels and setting both people on even playing fields. Realizing we are all broken and in search of unconditional love helps guide real and genuine conversation. To my friends in the Christian community; have a conversation, be open, and put the love of Christ ahead of your personal preference. To my friends in the LGBT community; you are loved, most of you have been hurt, but that deep desire for acceptance can be filled.

I hope sharing my experience has shed some light on topics the church rarely addresses from an open and authentic place. Please feel free to comment or message me if you’d like to go deeper into this topic.

Mason

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