Church must offer redemption, not embrace judgment and spiritual violence
Apr 28, 2014 by Jennifer A. Yoder, For Queer Menno
How should Mennonite churches respond to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer? The feelings of entitlement to judge and the “rightness” of a heterosexual lifestyle that will rise up are strong, and they are hard to unpack and think about critically. Please pause, and pray, and breathe deeply when this occurs.
My decade of being a Mennonite out queer person making peace through social justice, practicing peacemaking to end sexual violence and advocate for survivors, working to end structural violence by providing access to health care to all people, advocating for people with mental health issues, and witnessing with existing queer communities and community members within the Mennonite Church provides me with some rich perspectives from which to converse with you, my community members living the heterosexual lifestyle.
This is based in part on what the Bible teaches us about the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And it is based in part on the simple and beautiful verse: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is love. God is love. Not God loves. God. Is. Love.
To work to understand love, and to understand God who is love, we must try to understand what love is. The Bible has some ideas about that.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
That last phrase contrasting knowledge and love is especially striking. Where there is knowledge, it will pass away. Where there is something we’re sure we know to be true, knowledge we’ve built a career on, it will pass away. Love, though, love never fails. If we have chosen to love someone, that is never the wrong choice. If we choose to use our tongues to give messages to a community that we have knowledge of their wrongs – those tongues will be stilled and that knowledge will pass away. If we choose to love, we will never fail.
1 John 4:18-19
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
When there is misinformation and lack of understanding and shifting knowledge, there is often also fear. When the very way we look at the formation of life partnerships and families is challenged, there is often also fear. How should we respond to fear? Should we hold firm to the ways that we have always understood things to assuage our fear? 1 John 4:18-19 tells us that perfect love drives out fear. When we are feeling afraid or feeling like we do not understand, or when we are afraid our very foundations might be cracking, we should love, love, love.
Profoundly, several verses state clearly that love is to be chosen and practiced over and above all else, and that love works as a healing balm.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissensions, but love covers all wrongs.
Colossians 3:14 And over all these virtues, put love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Legal protections exist for those churches who feel love is best expressed by using tongues (which will be stilled) to share knowledge (which will slip away) with communities who cause them to feel fearful feelings.
However, we will demonstrate the presence of Christ in our midst by offering the promise of love, redemption, healing and transformation, not by conveying messages of knowledge with our tongues. Christ came to restore the creation to himself (who is love). A church that is faithful to love – to God who is love – must actively live out love.
In response to Opinion Piece in MennoWorld