Guest Writer: Randy Pierson
I have followed with interest the recent debate on same-sex marriage. I fully agreed with, and was encouraged by, Eugene’s recent blog on the subject, “By Request.” And, I too have been shocked by the sudden, passionate, affirmation of the gay lifestyle by the mainstream media and by a surging majority of politicians. Eugene asked that I weigh in on the topic as a guest blogger.
This topic actually hits close to home. My interest stems partially from the fact that two of my younger brothers chose to live a gay lifestyle. I am the middle of five boys and the son of a Baptist preacher. This was a shocker, to say the least, for our family. I have often been asked my opinion on the various views of how someone becomes gay and my reaction to my brothers decision. I have studied the many theories. Whether it was biological causation (gay gene theory), environmental influence (Darwinian), or even a big brother effect (interesting Canadian study) it seems that for many there is a predisposition towards this lifestyle that can often be traced back to early childhood. Eugene addressed this predisposition in his recent blog and I heartily agree that due to our birth into sin we are all predisposed in some area of our lives to sinful choices. The gay lifestyle just seems to strike most as especially egregious. Many even describe their reaction as being repulsive. Certainly Christ knew this about us all. In fact, it was because of our sin, all of it, that He came. He died for the whole world.
As to my reaction, I was a music major and had several professors and classmates who had chosen the gay lifestyle. They made me uncomfortable and during my college years, I lived an arm’s length existence around them and simply minded my own business. With my brothers choices, suddenly it was my business. I had just started seminary when my mother told me about Terry. I was heartbroken and very concerned. My youngest brother was in the Marines at the time and after he was discharged, he made his decision public, a couple of years after Terry.
The late 80’s and early 90’s saw the escalation of the AIDS pandemic and along with it, a sharp increase in homophobia. Many saw this disease as God’s judgment on the homosexual community. My youngest brother said he remembered going to church services where the pastor suggested they, “round all of the homosexuals up and shoot them.” That scared him. In spite of this hostile treatment, my youngest brother has a wonderful story of salvation. He describes it as a long journey. While living at the beach, he remembered a lady who would stop by his workplace and visit him almost weekly. She knew his situation but she would invite him to church and generally treat him with respect and acceptance. He said this lady, “arrested my attention.”
In 1992, he moved back home and felt the power of the Holy Spirit moving in his heart. He described it as a period where God was drawing him toward Himself. He was in absolute misery for about a month. Finally, at a church service, he said he had reached the end of himself. He was ready to surrender. He doesn’t remember the message only that he gave himself to Christ and surrendered control of his life. A light went on. He went home that night and started reading the gospel of Matthew. Suddenly it all made sense. Over that summer he read the entire New Testament and his life was changed. He chose to leave the gay lifestyle. In 1995, he married and he and his wife now have six wonderful children. This is not a common story and among some circles it is not a popular story. Nevertheless, he fully credits the love of the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness he found in Christ and the unconditional love of people like my parents and the lady at the beach.
Terry’s story is not as simple. Terry contracted HIV in 1988. He came to Jackson for a visit in 1995 and told us. I remember he cut his finger while he was visiting and that scared me. He handled it well and I tried not to over react. For the next five years, Terry battled the disease as it progressed into full blown AIDS. His health was up and down until he died at age 36 in January of 2000. My brothers were holding his hands and my mother was holding his head when he died peacefully. Our family circle was broken. I preached his funeral later that week and we celebrated Terry’s crazy life and we mourned his poor choices that lead to his early death. Over the final year of his life, Terry made it clear that he had a personal relationship with Christ. He said, “that is something no one can take away from me.”
I have questions. How would Jesus handle all of this? How does the church today remain strong in our convictions and outlandish in our love?
The lawyer asked the follow-up question of Jesus in Luke 10:29 saying, “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus had just told him that the answer to inheriting eternal life was found in two things, loving God, with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus continues to define neighbor by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. In summary, the Priest and Levite passed by on the other side of the road when they saw the stripped, injured, half dead man in the ditch. The Samaritan responded with compassion. He crossed the street and did all in his power, using his own resources, to care for the man, a stranger. Jesus said, “go and do the same.”
Throughout the centuries, Christians have been marked by stories of their courage to cross the street and care for those in need with the same outlandish love Christ has given to each of us…. much like the lady and my parents who showed unconditional love to my brothers. How can we love this group of people, the gay community, in a Christ like way while allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work? I don’t fully know the answer to these questions, but there is a broken man in the ditch. Let us begin with compassion and step across the street and in whatever way possible, bind their wounds and share the transforming love of Christ.