Loving All God's Children Equally

FILE - This undated file photograph provided by Joseph and Jane Clementi shows their son Tyler Clementi at a family function.
FILE - This undated file photograph provided by Joseph and Jane Clementi shows their son Tyler Clementi at a family function. Opening arguments are scheduled for Friday Feb. 24, 2012 in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. The case sparked a national conversation about treatment of young gays after Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010. (AP Photo/Clementi Family)

Today's church, the Body of Christ, is at a crossroads. Some denominations are trying to wear an accommodating mask under the guise of phrases like "hate the sin but love the sinner," but upon closer examination, we see that these words have a less-than-Christlike tone. How can love be a sin? The "sin" here is love, a love that people have no choice about. My hope and prayer is for the church to fully embrace all LGBTQI people. This will have a dramatic impact for many, but most especially for our youth, who do not need to be shamed, "healed" or merely tolerated but fully embraced and loved just as they are, beautifully created in God's image.

How should the church show Christ's love to all? What does that love look like for my gay brothers and sisters in Christ? How do we create a safe and inclusive faith community where all God's children can come together to worship? Today's church needs to address these questions.

I think all Christians can come together on the truth that God is love and God's whole Word speaks to His love for us and the love we should have for our neighbors. I know much about the outpouring of love: I was surrounded by a large outpouring of love from many after the death of my son, Tyler Clementi, most especially from the faith community that Tyler had called home for over 12 years. They showered our family with great love and support after Tyler's death, and I am so very grateful for that.

After Tyler's death, in the silence of my shattered world, as I looked deeply into God's Word and listened, God continually and clearly spoke of His unconditional love for all and how we should exhibit God's love to others with kindness and compassion, always seeking unity, giving life, being respectful and welcoming with hospitality and inclusion, always allowing everyone to be at peace with who they are and how God has created them, perfectly and wonderfully made in God's image. Why have we lost this message? The church must start to embrace these truths and stop preaching hate.

Sadly, as I look back -- almost as if through Tyler's eyes -- I see things so very differently now. Looking through the eyes of a far-less-mature believer, a child with many uncertainties, and a vulnerable youth with much less confidence in how his sexual orientation fit into God's plan or God's kingdom, I now see the harm and pain that is caused by the misinterpretation of scripture that homosexuality is a sin.

Regrettably, Tyler received a clear message from our faith community, whether it was in youth group, Sunday school, the infrequent short sentences that were spoken on rare occasions in the sermon, or maybe even the silence -- the shameful, silent disapproval and judgment of how God created him to be different. But Tyler got the message loud and clear, and clearly that is not a message of love for a young person sitting in the pews next to you.

I know Tyler received this message because when Tyler came out to me, he told me he could not be gay and a Christian. Sadly, I too had received this message -- almost without even hearing those few sentences occasionally preached. I too struggled.

I knew without question that Tyler was a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. God had showed me that long ago, so I was stunned, my heart broken, when he said, "That works for you, Mom, but not for me." Sadly, the only words I had to share with Tyler that night were, "I love you, and so does God." I said those words out of love, but it has been pointed out to me that Tyler probably perceived those words as rejecting, since Tyler was not seeing God as accepting of his sexual orientation.

Faith communities must stop being the bully, exerting their power and influence over their members with such harmful doctrines. The church must stop teaching that homosexuality is a sin. Causing people to feel broken and separated from God because of how God has created them has devastating effects on our youth, as well as on their parents, siblings, grandparents and friends. Faith communities must stop interfering with legislation that would allow all people to share in equal rights, benefits and protections. By not recognizing the love of our gay brothers and sisters in Christ, we tell them that their love is not valid or valued. This causes our gay youth to also think that their love and possibly even they themselves are "less than" and not equal to their straight peers. This is wrong. This message of disapproval is so very harmful. Please do not let another child hear this untruth!

The answer is simple: We must reexamine those six scriptural passages with open hearts and minds and understand that what Paul was saying to first-century Christians does not translate to what we understand today in 2014 about loving, committed same-sex relationships. We must stop judging; we must stop imposing shame. The church, the Body of Christ, needs to acknowledge that homosexuality is not a sin. The church should apologize, put up a rainbow flag on their church sign and welcome all to God's family. That is how to love our gay Christian brothers and sisters: Love them like God does.