With just two clicks from the homepage, friends up and down my timeline were overlaying their profile pictures with distinctive multi-coloured stripes. I say that in case you missed it, but even if you did, you can’t have missed the two huge events that took place to spark the novelty app: on Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled same-sex marriage to be legal in all states, and on Saturday, LGBT Pride celebrations took over central London for the day.
It’s been called the gayest weekend in history. So where were Christians in the midst of it? Where, dare we ask, might Jesus have been found?
Some of us took to social media, whether excited about the events or deeply concerned. We all know how easy it is to get drawn into debates and Bible-quoting matches, and how difficult it is not to have the last word on such an emotive topic. I hope Jesus was there with Christians on social media this weekend, helping us to type with grace and truth, reminding us to make sure our words were only doing good, not harm.
There were many other Christians though who went and got involved. A few, as you’d expect, were protesting at the side with placards, but hundreds more were on the other side of the fence – marching in the parade.
In purple, ‘Christians at Pride’ t-shirts – or dog collars, for the clergy among them – they were there to share a simple message among a community that desperately needs to hear it. Diverse Church, a group of young LGBT Christians, gave out flyers that said: “We’re sorry if anyone has ever told you that God doesn’t love you because you’re LGBT+. God loves us all – no exceptions.”
So many of us from across the Christian spectrum recognise the Church has caused so much pain in this area.
A few years ago, the Evangelical Alliance came up with some affirmations around this, which included the statement: “We affirm God’s love and concern for all human beings, whatever their sexuality, and so repudiate all attitudes and actions which victimise or diminish people whose affections are directed towards people of the same sex. We are encouraged many Christians now recognise and deeply regret the hurt caused by past and present failures in their responses to those who experience same-sex attraction.”
It strikes me as profoundly sad that so many people at LGBT Pride will never have heard the message that God loves them before. And it’s a tragedy that some have been told and shown the opposite, that they’re excluded from God’s love.
When I think about that fact, my instinct is defensive: “I’d never dream of telling anyone that! And nor would anyone in my church!” But regardless of how we personally have treated our gay friends, as Christians we have to face the fact that members of the LGBT community have suffered abuse and hatred from people purporting to follow Jesus.
That should bring us to our knees.
It’s not about whether or not our theology affirms gay relationships. Our absolute priority should be making sure that people know they are loved by God. People who’ve been ostracised and rejected for so long, people who have suffered violence and abuse, people who’ve been told they are not loved. Where there is pain and exclusion, Jesus ministers love. That’s how I know he was there at Pride this weekend: meeting with people who were daring to believe that God could love them too.
What if this was how we always approached LGBT discussions as Christians? What a powerful witness it would be if every time LGBT issues were on the table, people said: “Oh the Christians? They’ve always got something to say. They keep banging on about how God loves LGBT people.”
If we hate that people have been hurt in Jesus’ name, surely we can only respond by showing them love in Jesus’ name.
For David, a friend of mine, marching at Pride wasn’t about declaring any theological position. He says: “I don’t fully know what I think. I do know that I have gay and lesbian friends, some of whom are also Christians. I love and accept them as they are. The Bible calls us to love one another and look out for the marginalised over and over again, so this is what I try to do in my life.”
It really is that simple.