By Lizzy Johnston
It’s hard to leave me speechless. I have words for every occasion and witty comebacks are my forte. I recall only a couple incidents I’ve been speechless in my life, one being this past summer while visiting my sweet friend, who I’ve known for nearly all 19 years of my life. We were casually walking through the Scheels parking lot when she said, “Oh, I wanted to tell you—I’m pansexual.” Tripping over my words, I brilliantly said, “Oh. Uh huh. No prob.”
Driving back after that weekend I had a whole two hours alone with my thoughts (and tight jams), confused why this was rattling me. I have other friends in the LGBTQ community, all wonderful people. I concluded this particular ‘coming out’ situation was overwhelming me because of how close my friend was to me, and now the pressure I felt to respond in the right way to one of my best friends.
For my whole life, most Christians have told me this is one of the worst sins to commit— in my experience, I have seen condemnation for LGBTQ people come quickly, with little room for forgiveness and grace. I even will say I have been taught that it’s okay to judge and dislike those who identify as LGBTQ.
How was I supposed to treat this? With support and pride for her even though Christians tell me I would be approving of something extremely sinful? Slowly cut her out of my life to avoid dealing with it? What do I do when she begins sinful relationships? She abandoned her faith long ago, which made this even more complicated. How was I supposed to show Jesus and his love to someone who has rejected him? I was totally lost.
This October—after months of struggling with how to approach this—I realized Jesus was telling me to study a book of the Gospels, so I listened (I should definitely try that more often). I’ve been going through Luke, trying to comprehend the radical way Jesus loved while on Earth. One thing about Jesus: he is a colossal rule breaker. He sought out the men and women that the “righteous” people in society rejected or labeled as untouchable and that no one wanted to love, and he loved them. He went to the outcasts of society, the despised and the abandoned—sound like LGBTQ people?
As the issue of sexuality literally rips society and the Church apart, Jesus reminds me to simply love everyone. Not judge or hate or condemn. Just love. And not just love with my imperfect human love, but to allow him to pour his own love into others through me. My friend will have enough people judging her. What she needs is a friend; someone who loves her fiercely. This doesn’t mean ignoring the truth of God’s design for our sexuality and blindly excusing something that Scripture calls out as sinful (including the many sins I’m entangled in). It means spending a lot of time talking to Jesus about my friend—this person we both love—and praying for His clarity and guidance in walking through this as a Christian in a broken world. What I am confident of is that Jesus is telling me to be there for her, to show up for her and to care about her. Her identity is significantly more complex than her sexuality; she is lovingly and meticulously created by God and deserves to be loved as such. I completely trust that if I begin by simply loving others, especially the outcasts, Jesus will handle the rest. He will show me how he wants me to handle the entire issue of sexuality, holding to both grace and truth as he did. It all begins with the love of Jesus—his sweet and pure love that I’m praying my friend receives through me.