Issues, Identity, & Indvidualism

The world we live in is rapidly changing, and this is creating anxiety among some people. What happens when your view of the world is suddenly uprooted, and you are forced to face a new reality? Although LGBT might be new lingo to some, it is something that has been around for a long time. What is changing is how our society treats people who are LGBT. Although these changes may be disorienting to some, it does cause us to deal with people rather than an issue.

For too long, churches have seen homosexuality as an issue to be addressed rather than a person to be loved. It is rare now to belong to a congregation where no one has a connection to someone who is gay. It is easy to use strong rhetoric and attack the other side when your opponent is absent or invisible. We can be confident in our beliefs, but this never negates our mission of loving our neighbor. We must learn to navigate the challenging waters of being convicted and compassionate at the same time. Thankfully, we have a great example in Jesus, who was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners, but was also a moral teacher.

No matter where people are in their lives, the first response they should receive from us is one of love. When we were sinners, God’s first response towards us was one of love (Rom. 5:8). We are to follow in God’s footsteps. We are to be like him. The power of love is stronger than any argument we will ever make. Love penetrates people’s hearts and carries with it the ability to transform lives.

At the same time, lines that were once black and white are now blurred. People are confused regarding important aspects of their lives like gender identity. In the past, religious and scientific communities helped people regarding these difficult questions, but more and more these communities are being rejected, and power is given to the individual. According to the Human Rights Campaign website, gender identity  is defined as “One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.” The individual has become the center of truth. One’s “innermost concept of self” trumps both science and Scripture.

One thing Scripture reminds us of over and over again is that we need others. Life is difficult, and we cannot make it on our own. When left to our own devices, it does not take us long at all to choose the wrong path or make a decision that is detrimental to our future. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way, “All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” (Prov. 16:2) Dave Bland commenting on the first half of this verse says, “The phrase depicts a person who sees no authority or power beyond the individual.” (The College Press NIV Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, & Song of Songs, p. 152) We need a community of faith, guided by God’s word, to assist us on our journey. We need to heed the expertise of faithful people who have spent time studying God’s creation. The answers these communities provide go way beyond ourselves. They point to truths that did not originate from within us but have been present since the beginning of time.

We love by being kind and compassionate. We love by listening to people who desperately want to be heard. We love by meeting people’s needs. These are the first loves that people need to encounter as soon as they meet a person who wears the name of Christ, but this is not the extent of our love. We also love by welcoming people into our faith communities and sharing the wisdom and knowledge that has blessed God’s people for thousands of years. We love by living life together. We love by inviting people on a journey that will require sacrifice but will end in a marvelous transformation into the image of Christ.

Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

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