This is the fifth installment in a series of reflections on LGBTQ+ matters.
The CRC Synod of 2016, and in particular its decisions around same sex relationships, cause me to wonder about my tradition’s strong emphasis on rules and on “knowing our sins and miseries” and what sometimes appears to be a de-emphasis on love and mercy. Why do people have such a compelling desire to name sin, when we are told so clearly that God loves us while we are yet sinners? I don’t mean to deny the reality of human sin or the importance of naming it, avoiding it, repenting of it, and seeking forgiveness. And let me be clear, I am not ceding the argument that same-sex behavior is sin. But even if you believe that it is, does that specific “sin” fall under different rules than other sins? Are those who engage in such “sin” somehow undeserving of the patience extended freely to those who sin in other ways?
Part of the reason for a strong emphasis on sin may be psychological. Lots of folks like life to be clear, especially about our ethical choices. It’s so much easier if we know exactly what we may and may not do. Tell me the rules and I will try to live by them perfectly, and woe to those who make it obvious to me that they are not following the rules. God hates sin, right?
Such binary thinking about right and wrong easily can become distorted. For example, because none of us follows all the rules perfectly, our personal imperfections can become, in the recesses of our minds, self-loathing. And if we can’t forgive ourselves and fully take in God’s forgiveness, how will we ever extend forgiveness to anyone else?
A truth about us is that we are God’s beloved. Even though nothing about us is hidden from God, God loves us anyway. That’s such wonderful news that it’s hard to absorb. Furthermore, it’s humiliating to have our imperfections seen. Our embarrassment makes us want to hide. Yet, God’s mercy washes over us like a waterfall. The drips of our baptism are but a tiny symbol of the deluge of grace that God extends! Because we are lavishly loved, we no longer have to worry about putting on some sort of disguise of righteousness.
Once we are conscious of this reality, it becomes unnecessary to look microscopically at anyone else to find their flaws and call them to perfect living. Recognizing our own need for mercy and knowing in our bones that God’s mercy is already available to us more completely than we’d ever imagined, allows us to be compassionate with others rather than judgmental.
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