Perspective: When Will We Stop Judging and Start Loving?

MY BROTHER

It’s been a long time coming—this sharing of a sad, sad story, but now it needs to be told. Not that it will do any good at this point, but I can no longer sit by and say nothing amid self-righteous, judgmental, and condemnatory attitudes that so often now pervade the church I have loved all my life. It is not easy or pleasant to remember—less so to share, but I will share in hopes that someone will begin to understand what a significant number of people experience in the Adventist community.

He invited me to dinner, something he'd never done before.

He was my big brother—about two and a half years older than I—and as children we played together, or at least were in each other’s company most of our growing up days. We lived on a small island with the beach close at hand. I often combed the beach for precious pieces of smoothed glass, agates and tiny shells. He caught flounders and bullheads and crabs and transferred them to “holding ponds” shaped by the retreating tides behind barnacle-encrusted rocks.

Now he was catching my attention with the words "all my life," in response to my question, "how long?"

I was just a few months into a graduate program, some days commuting the 75 miles from home, and on others, staying overnight at a friend’s home. This was one of those days I was staying at my friend's. I had been pleased when he called to invite me to dinner because we didn’t see each other often. Somehow over our adult years we didn’t interact much except for the requisite holidays at our folk’s home. But then, we hadn’t lived in proximity that would allow for frequent visits either.

I knew he had recently come to live in the city, and I assumed his family was going to join him shortly. He seemed burned out from pursuing the profession that had been his passion for so many years, and I assumed he was seeking new opportunities. Little did I know.

Just a few days before, my hostess-friend shared with me her concerns over the music teacher at the academy her grandson attended. She was concerned because she thought he might be homosexual. It was the early eighties and the appellation “gay” was not yet widely used.

That evening as my brother and I visited, it was mostly me talking—chattering really—trying to fill the silence. He seemed subdued. I shared my friend’s concerns over the music teacher, knowing my brother had dealt with many difficult issues in his career as a teacher and principal. He didn’t say very much, but after awhile he stopped my babble to say he wanted to tell me something, but I must promise not to tell anyone, even my husband.

That was a hard request, something that was not easy for me to do; I didn’t keep anything from my husband. What could be behind such a request? I wondered.

It must be very important or he wouldn’t have prefaced it that way. Reluctantly, I agreed not to tell anyone.

He told me I may never want to speak to him again, and then he read me a poem. It was about someone who tried to commit suicide. As he finished, he said, “That’s me.” My shaken response was, “Why?” He reminded me of our conversation earlier about the music teacher and indicated, almost without saying it, that he was in that group. It became clear to me that he was saying he was gay.

It was then I asked, “How long?” Such a question implied that gender orientation could be changed or could be different at different times in one’s life. His reply, “All my life,” challenged that assumption.

As I look back on that conversation, I am so thankful that I did not walk away from him, hard as it was for me to try to understand. But I did try. I was taking a graduate biochemistry course at the time and after the section on fetal development I began to wonder how any of us are born what we call “normal.” I began to see the possibility of things happening in utero that could affect a person’s gender make-up and orientation. I will never ever forget my brother’s anguished question, “Why would anyone choose this?” Nor will I ever forget the comments and insights of several Seventh-day Adventist pastor/counselors who told of the extreme pain they had seen among gay persons, pain inflicted by the persons closest to them and by many calling themselves Christians.

My brother experienced such pain. When he finally was able to tell our parents, both were deeply distressed. The pain for both parents and son was palpable and profound.

My brother left his wife and adult children and a decades long teaching and administrative career in Adventist education. But that was only after years, seemingly unending years of trying to find a way to change, to become “normal.” As far as I know no one knew he counseled for years with Dr. Harold Shyrock, an academic guru of Adventist sexuality. All to no avail. And when he did leave his family, no one from the Adventist church sought him out or visited his family. After all those years he was a modern day leper. He was a wounded traveler on the road of life and the Pharisees and Levites passed by on the other side. They wouldn’t talk to his also-wounded wife, either.

Choice. Yes, I am glad I chose to remain a sister to my wounded and bruised brother. The “righteous” among us want to think that gender orientation is a choice. I would not deny that there are some who did not “start out that way” but for various reasons chose such a lifestyle. I have no idea what that percentage is, but undeniably there are those who had no choice. My brother was one of them. His daughter, my niece, wrote a beautiful piece about choice. With her permission I am sharing it with you. She called it “Choice Words.”

Choice Words

1984. Carl’s Jr. San Bernardino, CA.

I already knew, but he had to say the words. I sucked down the root beer, giving him time to find his courage. I was nervous too. Would he exit my life after this? How would I cope if he was just going to disappear? What would become of him?

“I’m gay,” his voice was steady, but thin. And that was it. After 50 years of trying to be what other people wanted him to be - and after 20 years of pretending to be a straight, normal, dad – my dad was putting down the first piece of solid foundation upon which we might be able to build an honest relationship.

The remainder of the conversation I don’t recall in detail, but the gist of it, yes, I can tell you about that. It was about choice, acceptance, family, and love. He said he would understand if I didn’t ever want to see him again, that he would accept whatever choice I made, that he wanted to always be a part of my life, and that I should have some time to think about it.

“Time? Time for what? To decide if I want you in my life? Why wouldn’t I want my dad in my life? What kind of insanity is that? How is this even a question? You’re my dad. I can’t live my life without you. Why would you think that’s even an option?” I didn’t say any of these things, but my mind churned through them in about two seconds. And then the realization struck. My fears were baseless. He wasn’t going anywhere. He was giving me the choice. He would always be there for me. It was he who was afraid that I would exclude him.

It was a freeing moment. My dad had given me an incredible gift and lesson, but it wasn’t until today (the day the Supreme Court made gay marriage lawful nation-wide) that I understood the dark tangle of choice and how it has been misused. When we believe non-heterosexuality is a choice, we put the onus on the other person and side-step having to make a choice for ourselves. It becomes their fault that we can’t welcome them into our home, our church, or our club. In effect we demand that they bear the burden of choice while simultaneously freeing ourselves from having to make a choice. It’s lazy, ugly, unkind, unloving, without compassion, and if you’re a Christian like me – unchristian. The choice is not about sexuality or preference, but about acceptance, kindness, understanding, and love. Choice rests not with the gay person, but with the straight person.

Decades of debate and frenzy cannot be undone by a high court ruling. That change remains to be worked within each person. Take a cue from my dad and put down a foundation that understands choice is not an option when it comes to sexual preference, but a state of humanity where we have the opportunity to convey love and acceptance.

Thanks for the lesson dad. I wish you were here so I could take you to lunch and celebrate the choice you gave me at a moment when you had no choice.

Choice. Yes, like my niece, I’m so thankful that I made a choice to stay in my brother’s life, difficult as that life became. I cannot affirm her words strongly enough. All too often so-called Christians forget the beams in their own eyes and try to pull out the specks in the eyes of others, often with the biggest slip-joint pliers they can find. There’s no healing, only damage, great damage.

After a few weeks I had to tell my husband. He treated my brother kindly and over the next several years he stood by me as I spent time with my brother. We did whatever we could to support him even as his life was spinning out of control. In a throwback to our childhood years my brother and I visited the beach, a different one albeit, but a beach nonetheless, walking and talking, trying to understand each other. He said, “How come your view of God is so different from mine? We both grew up in the same home, we went to the same schools, we heard many of the same sermons.” He was angry with God, very angry with God for “making me this way.” I didn’t have a good answer then. I wished I did, but I didn’t. I just knew my view was different from his. He shared the pain he had experienced, not just in the present, but all his life. It was a story of hearing family members making judgments of others like him, of fear, of disappointments, some in himself. He told of being “hard on my kids,” of being a perfectionist in everything he could because he thought if everything else was OK, maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem; maybe it would be overlooked.

As time went on I watched my brother’s health deteriorate under the onslaught of AIDS, the purple sores, the pneumonia, the mental decline, interspersed with multiple hospitalizations. One day I went to a most trusted and beloved teacher and mentor, Elder Paul Heubach. I told him of my brother’s circumstances and my concerns. As we concluded our conversation he said words that ring as loud and true in my mind and heart today as they did then: “Don’t close the gates of heaven on him.”

Recently I read again the Sermon on the Mount. And I wonder about that beam in my own eye. Then there’s Jesus’ statement, “You have heard it said, . . . but I say to you.” I would invite those who support a more strict rendering of the fundamental belief of Adventists stating that marriage is “between one man and one woman” rather than saying “partners” to think about the issue of divorce. It was not in the original design, but Jesus said because of the hardness of men’s hearts, it was given. Because of what has happened in our old world it was given as a way to deal with a difficult problem.

We have another even more difficult problem today. What would Jesus say? I think He would say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you. . .” I believe He would express understanding for what genetics, deteriorated over millennia, has determined and offer a way to meet today’s problem.

When will we stop judging and start loving, really loving? When will we follow His example and become an inclusive, not insular and exclusive, body of believers, known by how they treat others in loving, kind ways? Who welcome anyone into their churches, their potlucks, their Sabbath School classes? I remember a pastor telling the music committee not to invite a certain person to sing very often. You know why.

And so I say, don’t close our hearts; don’t close our minds to new understanding; don’t close our church doors on those who want to worship with us; and don’t close the gates of heaven.

The author of this article requested to remain unnamed in order to protect those whose experiences are described here.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7139
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Heart wrenching but much needed message.

“Don’t close the gates of Heaven on him” is beautifully expressed.

Let’s not do that to anyone.

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I think this Revelation brings up an important affirmation.
There are many Adults in and out of the Church who are attempting to live lives contrary to their Born-With Nature, and having a difficult time. They are attempting to live the “normal” for us life: married, kids, job, but struggle with the Natural Born Nature.
There are also those who late in life – late 30s, 40s, 50s who suddenly become AWARE of their Natural Born Nature, and what to do? Sometimes these persons when they do name that they are “Gay” or “Lesbian” are told by others, “I – We always thought you were Gay or Lesbian”. Others had a sense, the person did not.
One of my best friends a number of years ago came out near 50. Was a bright star in our church. Head Elder for a number of years. Preached wonderful sermons. Played the organ for church each month. Great family. 2 kids. Came out when they were hitting their teens. Divorce.
But our Church did a wonderful thing. They still love him, still love the family. He is on Facebook and has many Church members as friends.
As Anonymous states, most are not as lucky. Most are allowed to go away. Not only them, but their family. At a time of crisis when they NEED people the most. When they Need to hear from God the most.
And this from the CARING CHURCH. The church members who love to sing – You will Know them by their LOVE, by their Love.

But SA2015, by its overwhelming Vote, has told local church groups to be careful, dont be accepting of those who are suddenly becoming aware that they are “Different”, or have been struggling all their lives knowing that they were “Different”, but the pain NOW is too much, and they must accept the Reality.
Yes, the SA2015 Vote, has said — The Caring Church has to be very careful for whom the Caring is provided, to Whom the Caring is exhibited.

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Wow, so much good here, but this statement says it all. I would reword it for broader application, “Don’t close the gates heaven on them.”

What do we lose as SDA Christians by joyfully and fully accept gay and lesbian couples into fellowship? What do we lose by telling them that God loves them and saves them just the way they are, and that they do not need to change their core selves, which is impossible anyway, short of a miracle? What do we lose by fully accepting intersex and transgender individuals into full fellowship and treating them the same way we treat all other members? What do we lose by opening our church doors to the queer and unclassifiable diversity that is the human family?

Maybe the question is not what do we lose, but what do we gain when we do open our arms wide with no condemnation, or even urging that they need to change? We gain new members of the body of Christ. We broaden our ability to show love and compassion. We become more Christ-like, and the church becomes even more like Jesus body on earth.

And what do they lose when we reject them? Or accept them and put unreasonable restrictions on them? We may be locking them out of the Kingdom of Heaven. Dare we do that? I think Jesus has the answer to that:

"“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Matt. 21:31.

Maybe it is not them we are shutting out, but ourselves. Think on this.

LATER EDIT:

The root of the problem is that although the Bible addresses same-sex sex acts sporadically, they are always addressed as something happening outside of a monogamous relationship, and most often as an extra-marital act. In those contexts of course those acts are wrong. The problem is that the Bible never addresses same-sex marriage, since it wouldn’t even have occurred to anyone in those cultures that such a thing even makes sense. In our modern culture, same-sex marriage makes a lot more sense, since marriage is no longer primarily an economic and family pact for carrying on the family name and retention of assets. This is a case where the Bible has little to say, and we need to approach it as a modern problem with modern solutions.

Encouraging monogamy among LGBT individuals and accepting their marriage choices would go a long way to preventing the very problems with which many SDAs have long been concerned, i.e. promiscuity and premarital sex. Granted, many heterosexual couples engage in pre-marital sex to various degrees, and extra-marital affairs still happen, and then there is divorce. At least if we acknowledge the viability and, I would say, holiness, of same-sex unions, we would stem some of the problems of sexual immorality.

It should also be acknowledged that same-sex unions are less about sex and are actually just like the reasons for marriage among heterosexuals, i.e. love, intimacy and life-long commitment. The church far too often fixates on the sexual aspects of same sex attraction and relationships.

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The question is not about loving or judging…if is how to respond to the demands of the person who states that if you don’t “love me as I am including my behavior”, then you don’t love me at all…Some how in this confusion of “love” the person conveniently forgets or omits…“go and sin now more”…from the lips of the same person who states “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you” Many times during the Prop 8 debate, I had never experienced the vitriol or the hatred of opponents of Prop 8 before…The demands that were made to accept their behavior as normal was astounding…It was not until I read the Gay Manifesto online did I realize that the goal of the dyed in the wool proponents of same sex supporters was the destruction of the church and all that is represented…

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No one is asking for anyone to accept another’s view on the issue of homosexuality. What I think this article is saying is that regardless of what you feel is “right”, it is our responsibility as children of God to behave like Jesus would and accept everyone into the fellowship of God’s people. Stop shutting the door…of the church and of our hearts! I can’t find anywhere where Christ asks us to do the judging for Him. He’s certainly not in any need of my help. But He does expect us to treat everyone the way He would. And by everything I have read about the example of Christ on earth, He would never close the door on any LGBTI person.

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We need to offer them the power of grace in the new identity in Christ that saves and transforms. We all need that power in His grace and that new identity. We are to be judged in Him and not by others. Jesus is the standard we must all seek to emulate and let Him do the convicting where each of us need it, and quit being the standard for everyone else. Jesus hasn’t given any of His children the right to be the gate to Him, and thus the determiner of Whom He is reaching out to. We are simply ambassadors of His message of reconciliation between God and man pointing sinners (that’s all of us) to Christ and asking that they keep their faith fastened upon Him, then step out of the way and continue to encourage their fixation upon Jesus. Let’s play our part and let Christ do His work.

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Who said this father “demanded” anything? That is an awful assumption, Ernest. Awful. Did you really read this? The father told his daughter that he wanted to be part of her life, but gave her a choice. No demand! Did you read with such prior prejudice that you failed to read the story accurately?

AIDS and death are not necessarily the outcome as in this story. I have helped minister to many gay Adventists who have come out in mid-life, found that their families loved them unconditionally, and rebuilt a healthy, happy life. Some remain Adventists if they have found a safe church that welcomed them.

Yes, when will we stop judging and start loving?

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I would hope we can all be loved by someone, even if only in some small way, no matter what our behavior.

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We love others as Christ loved us. Does Jesus stop loving one who sins?

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“I remember a pastor telling the music committee not to invite a certain person to sing very often. You know why.”

Yes, I know why. This happened to a close gay friend of mine who was invited to sing for church service with a group of people he had known for 30 years. There were some members who voiced their disapproval over his singing with the group because of his “lifestyle”. A visit to his home by the pastor to “disinvite” him is still intensely painful to my friend who now has great dislike for both the pastor and some of the church members.

My friend’s partner who was not SDA was certainly not impressed by either the “dis-invitation” or the visit by the pastor. There is nothing but a bad and hurtful memory…not love or kindness. And who could blame them for feeling this way?

All this hurt and pain because some church members were offended by a gay man singing with a group in church. Shameful. Judgmental. They had not love and Jesus was not present throughout all of it. Pride.

But to answer when all Adventists will stop judging and start loving? The answer is simply when they have the love of Jesus in their hearts.

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So do we affirm someone who leaves their wife and kids because they (come to the realisation or decision or admission that they) are gay? Where is the responsibility to these people? The Bible commands husbands to love their wives (not to marry the one you love but to love the one you marry). This is a command. Love is NOT a feeling. It is a principle.

He died of AIDS. There appear to be serious morality and lifestyle issues there. Is this because of love? This is something most LGBTIQ sympathisers don’t want to address. There is more to this story. Do we just “affirm” people who make negative lifestyle choices especially of this magnitude? Where is the rebuke and reproof? Where is the shock of “wake up to yourself” and “what are you doing”?

Let’s not whitewash this in the name of bagging the Adventist church over its response the homosexuality.

Some people close the gates of heaven on themselves. They follow their feelings in the hope of finding some utopia. It ain’t going to happen. Live the life of today and look after those nearest you. Western media (especially movies) have a lot to answer for in pushing people to “follow their feelings” rather than living by principle. Imagine if Jesus had followed His feelings rather than completing His plan…

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When someone doesn’t wish to live in harmony with the high standards demanded by Scripture, accusations of “judging” are often the only weapon at their disposal.

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Not to worry. When one denies the Spirit of Christ which has been given them does it not become arduous and unfinished work to pretend that that they ‘live in harmony with the high standards demanded by Scripture’?

Trust BEing!

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Thanks for sharing, this is a very emotional story. I do believe you love your brother my prayers are with you and your family. I would like to add that, We should be careful not to confuse Emotionalism with Love. Christian Love to my mind involves both compassion and truth.

None with the exception of Christ, since the fall of Adam have not sinned, we are all prone to sin. It is through the righteous commands of God that we become aware of sin. (Rom: 7:7). Consider the precept, “Go and sin no more”. This is not hate speech or the shutting up of heaven.Think not that I come to destroy the law or the prophets said Jesus (Mat 5:17). God did not create any of us Covetous, Liars, Adulterers, murders nor do I believe that God created anyone as a homosexual.

I empathise with persons who are struggling with the temptation of homosexuality. I once heard a testimony from a young woman who described in poetry her experience in choosing to follow God and the word of God over her homosexual desire/feelings/urge, and the line that stood out to me was " With feelings so strong they seem natural". She is now married to her husband for several years and I pray that by the grace of God they will remain faithful to each other. I know that some will discount her testimony as being false, but I believe her and I also believe that there are many others like her. On the other hand there is the man in this story , was his relationship with his wife (a woman) false or was his homosexual relationship? Did God created Him to be in a relationship with another man as with a woman?
Let us remember that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from God, does man live. This is a spiritual matter a question of the righteousness of the commands of God. In no uncertain terms so we will not be confused on this issue the word of God describe a man lying with a man as with a woman as an Abomination, (lev 18:22) this is the strongest language used to describe a way which is not of God. Let us not be deceived on this issue.

It is loving to encourage our brothers and sisters in the word of God. We observe the Sabbath because we trust God and believe His word. I do not hate this man nor do I believe most Adventist hate him. Let us not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor 6:9-10). Trust God.

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Without even addressing the issue of homosexuality, there is a flaw in the title and premise of the article. One does not need to stop judging in order to love, nor do they need to stop loving in order to judge. The Godhead is love according to scriptures, yet also judge over all. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but in actuality are in many ways dependent on each other. Some examples:

If I discover a friend of mine is having an affair with their spouse. Love for my friend and love for their spouse would drive me to talk to that friend and point out their errors and the damage it has done and will do to their marriage and would motivate me to hold them accountable for ending the affair and to begin the process of repairing the marriage if the spouse is willing. I am capable of judging their decision, and would be doing so because I love them! Would I involve myself in the marriage of someone I don’t care about? Probably not, unless asked. But the people I love? Absolutely.

If I had a child develop an addiction to pornography, love for my child is what would drive me to confront them and support them in changing their ways. How could I sit by and allow them to suffer, when I would love them so much? Everyone who has loved an addict of something has faced this challenge. I don’t know anybody who would have a problem with a family member or friend intervening on behalf of an addict.

If I can address these situations that the Bible describes as sexual immorality and still love someone (and specifically because I love them), then why not other things the Bible describes as sexually immoral?

That being said, clearly homosexuals are treated poorly by many in the church, and we need to improve how we speak to and about them. The problem is the implication that because I believe God did not intend for people to commit physical acts of homosexuality, that it must mean I don’t love people who are homosexual. To me that is a harsher judgment and more damaging than the former. The first is judging an action, the latter is judging the heart. God permits us to judge the actions of who have chosen to be in the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 5 especially in regards to sexual immorality, but he does not permit us to judge the heart, because we are not capable of accurately judging the heart.

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I was unaware that judging was unloving. The title of article is philosophically incoherent. The story told is tragic and painful on many levels. It contains much good counsel. But lack of judgement is not a panacea for loving.

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You loose the right or ability to call any sexual practice out of bounds. Any. If homosexual behavior is acceptable, then any sexual behavior is. You cannot tell a young person (or anyone for that matter) that sex outside of marriage is wrong, or any other sexual practice is wrong, for you have let go of the mooring of scripture. Quite simple, actually.

And they will call you on it if you do try to restrict sexual behavior, having accepted homosexual behavior as normative.

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Heartbreaking as well as touching.

I choose the way of love not judgment.

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I just read this article and started to go through the posts. But I quickly quit, thinking: It’s all the same discussion we had so many times before.

My point is also the same I made before: Until people get educated on the homosexual issue they will keep repeating nonsense on an unlimited basis. With this I mean, until people learn about the distinction between nature vs. behavior, they will keep judging the gays based on their nature only.

It’s just the power of ignorance at full force and speed, and there is no significant point in arguing with those who base their “expertise” on their own lack of knowledge.

Thus, the “gods” already judged and condemned those who God created but didn’t judge yet. So, how can we, mere mortal human beings, contradict what the “gods” already condemned? We should not be disputing their verdict!

Lack of education, faulty knowledge, excessive sainthood, and sick judgmentalism are the core problems of those people who know nothing about loving certain individuals that God created. They are judging God’s creation, giving God a big “F” score!!!

Tired of discussing with ignorance! :tired_face:

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