Patient, humble commitment to those in our communities
Written by Stephanie Massicotte
I still remember sitting across the table from a dear friend and Bible study partner two years ago as she shared her news. She told me she had come out as genderfluid. Eventually she started identifying as transgender. In the process, she cut all ties with anything she considered to be Christian.
My friend, who was a Bible college graduate, felt like she had to choose between the Church and the LGBTQ community. It was one of those moments where words fall short. We both sat there in the heaviness. To this day, her hatred for anything Christian is unwavering due to the pain and rejection she has felt.
To my surprise, our friendship was the exception to her Christian blacklist. She still reaches out to me occasionally and even allows me to pray for her “because I know you love me,” she says. I was in the process of writing this article when she texted me out of the blue, asking me what I was up to these days. As I told her about this article, I could not help but apologize that she has ever felt unloved by Christians.
Sadly, this attitude of rejection extends to our culture as well. Despite growing public awareness and larger numbers of people identifying as LGBTQ, reported hate crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation increased 41 per cent from 2018 to 2019 in Canada, according to a CBC article by Nick Boisvert. This is worthy of attention.
In fact, in addition to facing rising hate crimes, individuals in the LGBTQ population “are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, suicidality and substance abuse than their heterosexual counterparts,” according to a health report published by Statistics Canada in 2019. The health report concluded that overall “poor mental health outcomes were more prevalent.” The reasons for these negative outcomes are nuanced, yet one contributing culprit is thought to be the “stigma, prejudice and discrimination” they experience.
With hate crimes toward this community increasing, I can’t help but wonder what might be different if the Church actively loved our LGBTQ neighbours. What might happen if the Church loves in the same way Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery? He did not change His view of sexual sin, yet He chose not to condemn her, but to show love instead.
In the Bible, Jesus tells us that we are called to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem […] and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). But what does that mean exactly? For a better understanding of a witness’ job description, we can look at a court of law. In court, a witness shares what they know—what they have seen or experienced regarding the topic in question—and they answer questions to the best of their ability.
A witness’s role is very specific and clear. The Bible does not compare us to lawyers or judges or juries. If a witness was to act like a lawyer, presenting a case and arguing with the opposing side, or like a judge or jury delivering a verdict, there would be complete chaos in the courtroom. Similarly, the job of a Christian is to be a witness.
By embracing this God-given role, we find freedom from carrying the weight of an entire courtroom on our shoulders and we find simplicity in the responsibilities we do have.
Love is the main focal point and our highest aim as Christians. It is not an elective class or an option we can drop if we so choose. For a Christian, love is mandatory. We read in 1 John 4:8 that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
What a challenging and convicting verse! How easily we can be distracted and focus on the speck in our neighbour’s eye and miss the log (or the lack of love) in our own eyes. We are called to love others, and doing so proves we are Jesus’ disciples, as John 13:35 says.
One of the bigger challenges we face as witnesses is balancing truth with love. I once heard it said that truth without love is harsh, if not mean, but love without truth is weak and insubstantial. Both uncompromising truth and unconditional love must be entirely rooted in Scripture without being watered down or else they become lesser versions of what God intended. It is a daunting challenge, but no one did this better than Jesus—the one we are meant to imitate.
We face these tricky conversations daily. A friend recently called me to vent about the hardships she was facing. She expressed her doubts in both God’s goodness and His existence. Her pain and discouragement were great, and I paused to acknowledge them with her.
I also reminded her that truth does not change like the weather. Our emotions do not make something true or false. It was a challenge to balance both love and truth at the same time, to love her without sharing her doubt. But it produced good fruit in the long run. A few weeks later, my friend’s circumstances changed drastically. She called to tell me joyfully that her prayers had been more than answered.
Balancing truth and love demands humility. Loving God and others well is a high calling and an incredibly challenging one. Romans 13:10 tells us that “Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” And yet, who among us has never harmed anyone? We have all fallen short of our heaven-mandated assignment to love our neighbours.
But there is hope! Although our human default mode is often to seek a quick fix, God is in the business of redeeming, healing, and restoring. This work usually requires a lengthier process than we aim for with our clumsy attempts to love and speak the truth. Facing our own judgmental attitudes or the ways we withhold love can be uncomfortable, to say the least. Doing so calls attention to the areas where we are no longer in step with God. But this can lead to something fresh and beautiful because it shows us where we got off track and how to draw closer to God once again.
We can move toward being a more authentic and loving Church by humbling ourselves, repenting from our unloving ways, and turning to God. By inviting Him into our broken relationships, by asking for His wisdom and help, and by trusting Him with our neighbours, we might see a very different and healthier landscape emerge. But will we come to Him and trust Him with this?
Fortunately for us, God is not discouraged, scared, or deterred by any of this. None of these struggles are too much for Him. He can take our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh—hearts that are deeply rooted in love and moved by compassion toward our neighbours.
Out of love, we can create a safe place for others to belong and experience God’s goodness personally, while continuing to work out their beliefs and wrestle with sin—right alongside the rest of us. This is not the easiest path, but we gain the privilege to point others to Jesus when our neighbours can say “because I know you love me.”