Luke 6: 43 – 44
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.”
Generous Space is a posture in which we seek to love across difference. We’re keenly aware that, “If I diminish you… I diminish myself.” (Desmond Tutu) And we remember Paul’s words that one part of the Body of Christ cannot say to another part, “I have no need of you.”
In light of this, we intentionally welcome people into our shared life who hold a variety of theological perspectives on matters of gender and sexuality. This can feel like risky business – and we’ve had lots of people challenge us on it over the years. It is risky, not because we’re afraid of getting it wrong or somehow disappointing God. No, it is risky because our theological positions on gender and sexuality are deeply personal, intimate, and touch our most vulnerable parts. The potential to harm each other is significant – particularly because so many of us have endured shaming messages about gender and sexuality for most of our lives.
A campaign like, “Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming” could be perceived as promoting a monolithic view of these complex questions. And I’ve had celibate LGBTQ+ folks question our language usage. My response has been that it is hard to capture much nuance in a hashtag.
But in these daily reflections, we want to acknowledge that nuance is exactly what is needed at this time in history as we work together towards LGBTQ+ justice.
Our text reminds us that there is something deeper than mere theological positions to consider when we encounter those who differ from us. What fruit do we experience in their presence?
In the “Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming” initiative, we are asking people to step up and speak out in support of their LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ. The good fruit we’re looking for is simply this: A love that risks one’s own reputation and status in solidarity with another who lacks the privilege the majority enjoys. We’re looking to see who loves in a tangible way. We’re asking people to challenge the heteronormative status quo and celebrate that LGBTQ+ folks are created in God’s image and called Beloved children – no if’s, and’s, or but’s.
Truth is, you can tell when people are well acquainted with Jesus. You can sense it in the compassion, empathy, attuned presence, longing to understanding, genuine care and kindness, and warm embrace that transcends dogma and doctrine. It’s the grandmother who says she doesn’t understand it all – but loves you no matter what. It’s the elder or deacon who affirms the spiritual gifts they see in you – regardless of what church policy says about leadership inclusion. It’s the Sunday School teacher who is giddy with excitement when you come home to visit – telling you stories of the precocious 4 year old you once were. It’s the pastor who humbly prays with you for God to keep opening their mind and heart as you dialogue together about questions of sexuality and gender identity.
Good trees don’t bear bad fruit.
Good trees don’t pretend to be LGBTQ+ positive but hide the truth of policies about leadership or marriage. Good trees don’t invite LGBTQ+ people to worship, to build relationships, to serve, and then kick them out for coming out or telling the truth about their partner. Good trees don’t ask someone to suppress part of their personhood. Good trees don’t expect you to change something intrinsic about yourself. Good trees don’t presume to know more about you than you know yourself. Good trees don’t obliterate someone’s autonomy. Good trees don’t use shame and fear as motivators. Good trees don’t threaten, coerce, or make someone their project. Good trees don’t silence or erase someone’s carefully discerned convictions.
Good trees bear good fruit.
Is your church bearing good fruit in their embrace of LGBTQ+ people? If not, are there steps you can take to address it?
If your church isn’t bearing good fruit – and you know there is very little you can do to change that – why do you stay?
Where hesitation prevents us from bearing good fruit – forgive us.
Where we turn a blind eye to harm – forgive us.
Where we stay for our own comfort despite injustice – forgive us.
And in your forgiveness, empower us to choose the necessary pruning to bear good fruit.