After an incredibly embarrassing loss, I decided to shore up the courage to go comfort my friend in his dorm room. I signed in at the front desk and memorized lines of what I would say if someone caught me walking to his room, aka “the forbidden place.”
The entire football team was in a mood, somewhere between dismay and anger. One of the star players managed to get his dig in at the last moment, as if defeat to another team wasn’t enough.He turned to me and said, “Hey you, what are you doing at this dude’s room? Everyone knows he’s gay.”
I looked at my friend, clueless as to what to say. As he turned towards me, I could feel his heart being ripped to shreds. I was incensed. “Why didn’t you speak up for yourself? He gently closed the door and said, “Because, you never respond to ignorance.”
As we grew closer, his “friends” grew more interested in his love life, continually asking, “Are you guys dating now?” So, maybe he’s really not gay?” Eventually, my friend lost interest in the sport that garnered him a full scholarship and placed his focus on music.
Sometimes we would go off campus away from the dorms to write and record. One day, he finally began to tell me why those other players said such cruel things, but I was not convinced. I was sure he was leaving something out. He was one of the most sought after players by girls on campus, and yet he chose to spend time with me.
That day, he pulled out a red, hardback book and said, “Turn to Romans chapter 12, verse 1, and read it aloud.” He explained that the reason he never responded to the rumors, never dated anyone, and would only hold my hand was because he respected his body as God’s temple and mine.
Whoa! A football player that handsome was actually teaching me how sacred sex was? That was the first time I heard a guy talk about God. He said, “In my religion, we do not believe in being around the opposite sex without others present. That’s why you and I are never alone. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness by my mother and Baptist by my father.”
In one intriguing evening, I learned so much about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believed. My friend earned my respect for taking the time to teach me the why behind the lie.
Several years later, I had a similar encounter, this time in another country with a woman named Ana. I was serving in Mexico at the time, and that night, tired and hot, I purposed to understand her while the rest of the missions group stood impatiently outside as the sky grew dark.
“I feel like God is playing tricks on me,” said Ana. “We prayed for two years to God, begging for a home for our growing family, and I walked outside after you all finished and saw this house—with a cross on it.”
Decades past of lessons from the “red bible” flooded my mind. She refused to do any of the traditional celebrations of receiving a home. I knew here was no way that I was left alone with her on that dusty hill in Mexico simply because I was bilingual. Before she could utter another word, I rattled off everything I knew about what she was dealing with. Tears flooded our eyes and she thanked me. I said, “Ana, if that cross offends you, I will go take it down myself because Jesus didn’t die for division. You’re being loved by God.”
We peered out to the group and one of our colleagues said, “Talk about culture shock. First the language barrier, and now the religious barrier. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The difference is, we “knocked on their door” to show the love of Jesus. Someone is knocking at the door of your heart. Will you let the foreigner in?
God did not break down barriers so that we would rebuild them to fuel our own prejudice.
Love showed up to a football game and traveled to Mexico decades later to let the world know that asking questions is much better than making assumptions. We have not understanding because we ask not. Has love become so foreign to us that we have lost our innocence, becoming rigid and brute in our beliefs instead? There are no “coincidences” in Christ. I am a witness to that.
A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Natasha Stevens is passionate about humanitarian efforts ranging from empowering girls and women through education, writing, counseling, and speaking engagements, to hands on mission’s work in various places, including the eradication of forced child labor and early marriage through human trafficking. She loves a hearty laugh in summer gardens as much as a healthy bowl of oats in winter. She enjoys interacting with people from all walks of life, giving back where needed, and ministering the love and grace of Jesus without a title.