Take Your Next Best Step

Hebrews 3: 12 – 19

“So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

These words keep ringing in our ears:

Today, please listen;

    don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.

For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren’t they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn’t it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness? And when he swore that they’d never get where they were going, wasn’t he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there because they never listened, never believed.”

Recently I was invited into a private FaceBook group for former leaders of ex-gay ministries. One thing I found very interesting about the group is the non-dualistic way they hold several things in tension. First, it is clear that the group is fully affirming of LGBTQ+ people. Yet, they are also clear to welcome people wherever they are in the process of disengaging themselves from ex-gay paradigms. Some folks have been out of ex-gay ministry for a long time – some much more recently. There is a lot of unlearning to do – and the group makes sure that people have the space to do it – and at their own pace. Secondly, they are a group that is both working to prevent any SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) and that extends personal support and encouragement to its members – recognizing that some are simply not in a place where they can participate in that kind of advocacy. What I think is really beautiful about the willingness to hold these kinds of things in tension is that it allows people to take their next best step.

Lent is a time of reflection, prayer, fasting, acts of kindness, and repentance. It is a time of preparation and purification. It is a communal practice that each individual engages. Lent gives us the space to take our next best step.

For some of us, engaging the Lenten invitation to tell our church leadership of our support of LGBTQ+ people, is a terrifying internal process of reflection. We have theological wrestling to do. We’re being confronted with figuring out what we believe about LGBTQ+ affirmation – and why we believe that. We may need to do some more homework. Maybe we need to get some skin in the game – and take all of this more seriously. Maybe we need to risk getting off the fence. Take your next best step.

For some of us, we have deeply considered, well studied convictions that prevent us from fully affirming same-sex relationships. For some LGBTQ+ people this is very personal as we live out our commitment to sexual abstinence through celibacy. For some LGBTQ+ people this means that we remain faithful to marriage vows to our opposite gender spouses. For straight cisgender people, such deep convictions are best held with the humble recognition that they don’t affect the decisions we need to make about intimacy and family. If this is where we are at, how can we step up and speak out in support of LGBTQ+ people in the church? Can we acknowledge the harm the church has caused? Can we acknowledge the interpretive differences that faithful Christians have? Can we urge our church leadership to intentionally equip and resource our congregations to be genuinely and deeply hospitable to LGBTQ+ folks, gratefully receiving their spiritual gifts? Take your next best step.

For some of us, we know in our heart of hearts that God blesses self-emptying, committed love regardless of gender. We’re pretty sure that our pastor doesn’t share our convictions. We don’t feel like we have the knowledge to explain or defend why we believe what we do – and the last thing we want is to get into a debate. We worry that talking to our pastor will only cause tension, conflict, or break-down in relationship – with very little positive change for LGBTQ+ people. We wonder if this is really what God is asking of us – or whether seeing the “Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming” stuff is just making us feel guilty. We’re not sure if we’re just scared or feeling convicted. We’re feeling bad about not speaking up – but wonder what difference it could make anyway. No one can tell you what you should do – only you can discern that. Maybe you need to talk to some other trusted people in the congregation and seek their input. Maybe you need to do some reflection on the privilege you have that allows you to remain silent. Maybe you need to get to know more LGBTQ+ people or invest more in the relationships you already have. Maybe you need to share some resources with your pastor. Since fear paralyzes us – we encourage you, whatever it is: Take your next best step.

For some of us, we have tried to talk to our church leadership before – but no concrete action has been taken. We’re personally known as someone supportive of LGBTQ+ folks – and perhaps people have come out to you or shared with you about their LGBTQ+ loved one. But you feel frustrated that your congregation still has a stained glass ceiling. It’s still not a place that would welcome full participation of LGBTQ+ Christians, no matter how mature or gifted they are, and their marriages and families will not be honoured and respected as blessed by God. Maybe you’re struggling to know if you should stay and keep trying to catalyze change or whether you should go to an affirming church that is consistent with your convictions. No one can make this decision for you – but the Holy Spirit will accompany you in your discernment process. This Lent, press in to discern what is being asked of you. Take your next best step.

Today – don’t ignore the nudging. Don’t turn a deaf ear. Don’t give in to despair or hopelessness.

Today, take your next best step!

Reflection Questions:

  1. When faced with uncertainty about what decision to make, how have you discerned which way to go?

  2. Fear paralyzes. What are the specific fears that you think are holding you back from taking your next best step?

  3. How have you dealt with fear in the past? Who can support you in this process?

Visit the Tell Your Pastor #ImAffirming Page here!

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