Joel 2: 12, 13
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
This passage in Joel shows up in the lectionary readings for Lent because it reminds us that God is not looking for ritual or mindless obedience. God is looking for deep heart change.
For a long time, I was very afraid to express my unconditional support for LGBTQ+ people in the church. I was afraid that my theological reflections might be wrong. I was afraid of disappointing God. I was afraid that what my heart was leading me to was actually disobedience – for that was surely what lots of church leaders told me. The deep love, compassion, and longing for justice that energized me after years of building relationships with LGBTQ+ people was made to feel untrustworthy by church teaching that prioritized particular historic interpretations over the plight of the people right in front of me. Part of the rending of my heart, my act of repentance, was learning to trust my heart again. Learning to trust that when my heart broke for people, I could count on God’s heart breaking for them too.
Perhaps you’ve seen the meme that has made its way around the internet: (by Bixby Knolls Christian Church)
THE BIBLE IS CLEAR. Moabites are bad. They were not to be allowed to dwell with God’s people (Deut. 23) BUT THEN comes the story of “Ruth the Moabite” which challenges the prejudice against Moabites.
THE BIBLE IS CLEAR. People from Uz are evil (Jer. 25) BUT THEN comes the story of Job, a man from Uz who was the “most blameless man on earth.”
THE BIBLE IS CLEAR. No foreigners or eunuchs allowed. (Deut. 23) BUT THEN comes the story of an African eunuch welcomed into the church. (Acts 8)
THE BIBLE IS CLEAR. God’s people hated Samaritans. BUT THEN Jesus tells a story that shows not all Samaritans were bad.
THE STORY MAY BEGIN with prejudice, discrimination, and animosity, but the Spirit moves God’s people toward openness, welcome, inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation.
One thing we can be sure of, is that the God of the Bible is always, “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” When we’re not sure how to respond, what interpretation is right, or what people might think of the stand we take, we do well to remember that if we trust our heart and act in a way that is gracious, compassionate, and abounding in love …. we’re on the right track!
- When people tell you, “The Bible is clear on LGBTQ+ matters” how do you respond?
- When your heart breaks on behalf of another, do you think God’s heart breaks too?
- In what ways might you need to re-learn how to trust your own heart?
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