It is a scary place to find yourself waking up one day and realizing I have become one of those people–you know, a Christian! An all-in type follower of Christ. You have no idea the negative connotations of what being a real “Christian” meant to me. Going all in with Jesus implied I would become hateful, intolerant and lacking understanding or compassion for other gay identified people. Even worse, I was denying my authentic self. There are no words to adequately describe the angst deep within my soul. I was torn between who I was and who God called me to become. I didn’t want to be one of “those people.” I had labeled, stereotyped and outright despised Christians for their lack of tolerance towards my sexual identity. Moreover, I believed they got their hateful attitudes directly from the God they claimed to love. After all, to not accept and affirm who I was and who I loved was to reject me. One part of me led me down the path that one can still be a Christian and gay. After all, doesn’t true love = tolerance?
I was challenged to explore the meaning and concept of tolerance. Piece of cake, for a woman who spent her adult life advocating for acceptance and tolerance. Or not. Let’s look at the definition of tolerance itself: a willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own. OK, this was going in my favor; I could respect the differing beliefs of Christians and God on sexuality and identity. They were entitled to their opinion as long as I was able to express mine and be accepted for who I was. It became problematic for me, as I read through the books of Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul’s writings made me extremely uncomfortable. Romans chapter one and 1 Corinthians 6:9 were passages of scripture that were all too familiar to me. I had seen them on numerous protest signs at gay rights rallies and they generally were accompanied with signs stating God hated me and was sending me to hell. All for being born gay.
I knew intolerance well and it held me at an arm’s length from God for decades. In my young adulthood, I was falsely accused by Christian leaders of lusting after women in their organization. Quite the opposite was true; I had denied my feelings while I was involved with them yet on three separate occasions behind closed doors I was condemned and labeled a rebel. The last time was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With that, I rejected Christians and the church and fully embraced my gay self. I was incapable of changing who I was and my desires for women. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. What the heck, I already lived in hell and I might as well enjoy this life. I came to understand tolerance to mean this: my sexuality is equal to yours and I mandate you to accept who I am and who I am attracted to.
So there I sat with a boat load full of emotions and experience trying to sort through what tolerance really was. All I really wanted was to be loved and accepted, not rejected and condemned. Was God’s love incompatible with my form of tolerance? My viewpoint mandated not offending others. If I fully embraced my own point of view, it went a step further to say that all behaviors were acceptable no matter how offensive they were. That made me equally uneasy. Deep within me I screamed out, “God, you must approve of what I do. You must agree with me. You must allow me to have my way.”
In my experience, I have come to understand that God accepts me for who I am but will not affirm behaviors that are not in my best interest. True love and acceptance do not equal affirmation. The Bible is quite clear that all true believers are mandated to live a life that honors God. In fact, God is the only being capable of true tolerance. He loves us even when our behavior offends Him. Even when we embrace something other than who He created us to be. God speaks truth to us because He knows it is the truth that sets us free. He pleads with us to follow Him so that all will go well for us. He believes in us and says we are worth believing in. Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; God’s love takes risks without compromise.Tolerance glorifies division; God’s love seeks unity. Tolerance is self-seeking; God’s love is selfless. Tolerance costs nothing; God’s love costs everything. Jesus calls all true followers to be committed to truth, justice and love. That is a powerful trio of virtues. They demonstrate acceptance; they create healthy people who will live authentically in relationship with others with meaning and purpose.
Help, I’ve become one of “those people,” who is all in with Jesus and loves you without compromise!
Thanks for following my journey, feel free to engage in discussion or leave a comment