This letter is to all of you, as you are facing these same trials in your schools.
You are something else, something different, something special. Last week at youth group you shared a bit about how difficult school is. You shared that even your friends do what I would classify as bullying. You are pushed around and harassed for beliefs that you may or may not carry - either way, people assume they know you, they believe the worst, and let you know they think that you are quick to judge, quick to condemn, quick to hate. They have a false picture of who Christ is and they then cast it on you, because you wear the name Christian. And to be fair, we have not done a very good job of representing Christ - but we imperfect humans are working on that. (Well, He is working on that in us.)
Those hot topics bring you fear and anxiety: abortion, marijuana, homosexuality.
Your peers throw into your face what they think you believe - you are fully expect to hate, judge, criticize. And you are left without a voice, without a stand, knocked down feeling unheard. Worst of all, they don't have an accurate picture of Jesus. My Dears, the fact that this breaks your heart is what makes you so different, so special, so...radiant. The fact that you care about how far they are missing Jesus. The mark has been missed, and we are left wondering if it can ever be right again.
*Before I get into the meat of this letter, I want to recognize that this is heavy stuff. This is touchy, this is a road of sharp edged egg shells, and this is one hot topic. You know what? It is okay if you are still finding solid ground on what you believe. It is okay if you are unsure of what you are supposed to believe versus what you are told you already do believe versus what your heart is shouting. I am hoping this letter may bring you a little closer to Jesus's heart. And remember: I am hereby stating that I don't think I have all of the answers. I by no means am a genius on this, in fact, I am far from it. I love you and I want to explore these tough things with you - I don't want to shun or push away your questioning hearts. Though I am no genius on this topic, I know a few things: I have had two close friends fall into the category of "homosexual." I know many who fall into that category, and I know that I love them and cherish them as I cherish you: as a human that is part of my life. I know that Christ is all about freedom - not criticism.
Can I remind you of a few things? Here we go:
1. Err on the side of grace. This does not mean you compromise Truth. I never mean to suggest that, ever. Truth is Truth and we can firmly stand on it. Truth says that we are each created and each loved dearly by Jesus. He sees us as His children; some of us just don't know that yet. So when being bullied, harassed, or teased about being a Christian, remember to walk in grace. Remember to stand firm in Jesus's Truth, that He loves all, He cherishes all, He covers us with GRACE. Grace says, "You don't know how badly you're hurting me, but I am going to forgive you and continue to love you." Grace says, "I don't have all the answers, neither do you, can we explore them together?" Grace says, "I see you as human, and I am human, and I know how badly I need grace (and patience), therefore I will also give you grace."
Remember: Why would we hold a standard or belief over someone who does not believe in it themselves? Rules and laws don't win people to Christ, His love does. His invitation to a life of freedom, where peace and joy are always accessible.
**2. Don't limit people's value, worth, identity to who they are attracted to. This is a big one: this society as a whole tends to place identities on people based on who they are attracted to. How cruel, how inhumane, how unlike Jesus is that? Jesus strips down the walls and barriers, removes the labels and stereotypes; He sees people as human, regardless of anything.
Love never fails - patience and kindness towards others, selflessness and hoping for the best of others...those things will never fail you. View people as people; not as objects or labels.
Genesis 1:27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
1 Peter 2:9 -- our identity: But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
3.You don't go unseen. While being harassed and bullied and seen completely wrong...He sees you and He loves you and He knows your heart. He knows the amount of love and grace you crave to pour out over all people. He is storing treasures in Heaven for you with each insult and false accusation thrown.
Matthew 5:10-12 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
It's not about right and wrong or them and we or you and me. It's about our hearts. We, we are humans: a team seeing each other with eyes of Grace.
In conclusion, I want to point to Colossians chapter 3. We, as Christians, get to put on a NEW self. With this new self we are invited to avoid lying, put aside anger, wrath, slander and malice and abusive speech. All of these are important, beautiful and freeing. But, ABOVE ALL OF THAT we [as Christians] are to put on love that binds us together in perfect harmony.
And remember: we are not defined by who we are attracted to, but defined by Who created us.
Learning what grace & truth really mean,