A 21st Century Stoning

My heart breaks into pieces as I listen to the words my sister-in-law has received since announcing her engagement to her girlfriend. Anger mixes with grief as tears line the rims of my reddened eyelids. Each of these messages blatantly tell her that what she is doing is wrong and that the people closest to her will not support her. Each message ends the same way: “…but we just want you to know that we still love you.”

In an attempt to silence my judgement of their opinions, I unconsciously bite my tongue. The sharp, steady pressure of my teeth break flesh and release blood. A metallic taste floods my mouth, and a single phrase echoes again and again in my mind:

A drive-by stoning, all in the name of Jesus.

The subject of homosexuality is a hot button topic in conservative, heterosexual Christian circles. It appears to be a very clear cut issue for them. I have witnessed so many people staunchly fight for the biblical rightness of their side while they are completely blind to the damage and devastation it causes to beautiful hearts.

My best friend and sister-in-law has been a direct recipient of this misguided, condition-based love.

The moral conversations surrounding same-sex relationships are of little importance to me when I watch how easy it is to walk on the other side of the road and toss shiny, pious stones labeled with the words “sinner,” “lost,” and “unwelcome” at our gay brothers and sisters. My heart is equally grieved when those stone throwers feel justified in their actions and words, as long as it is accompanied with a welcoming invitation to conform back to an acceptable and heteronormative view.

If you are still walking with me on this journey, albeit rather guarded, I would love to genuinely extend the invitation to set aside defensiveness and reactionary statements. My only desire is to invite friends, family, and strangers to sit in the uncomfortableness of a table where we all belong and support each other. Remember who broke bread with sinners, thieves, and prostitutes and who welcomed all to His table without prerequisites or conditions. Remember that He loved every single one of us sinners and that there is not a hierarchy of sin that keeps some people an arm’s length away.

His love is warm, welcoming, all encompassing.

That is the agape love we Christians all strive to see in our lives, however, we tend to shower “unconditional” love on people who look like us and who think like we do. When we brush up against the uncomfortable, the unknown, we retreat back into the safety of condition-based love. The shiny enamel begins to crack and splinter, revealing a scared, yet demanding, underbelly. Fear, not love, overwhelms the mind. This is where I believe Jesus gloriously calls us to more.

Misguided, conditional love is based wholly in fear. Fear of not understanding others choices, fear of the uncomfortable, fear of looking like a sinner supporting another sinner, fear of not being a shining Christian example, fear of losing the idyllic life, fear of losing relationships. Fear reacts in a self-protective nature and demands distance. It matters little how much you scream, “I still love you!” Fear will always push away and retreats into self-righteous isolation.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19 NIV).

Love courageously pushes forward and asks, “I don’t understand this, but how can I love you well here?”

Love asks, “How can I stay an active participant in your life even if I don’t agree with you?”

Love riskily admits that the path is new, maybe a little terrifying, but moves with intentionality into a place of intimacy and closer relationship.

Love crosses the road to join precious hearts and enters a space of connectedness, not conformity.

Is it possible to set aside fear and know that although our biblical views differ, we can still break bread and hold hands with everyone, regardless of ethnic, religious, and sexual differences?

I want this love for my sister-in-law and her fiancé. I want those around her to embrace her for who she is, regardless of whether they understand it or not. In November, my husband and I will proudly stand up and celebrate their union as wife and wife. We will love them and proudly welcome them to our table with open arms because, to me, there is absolutely nothing more beautiful than two hearts choosing to love each other.

Mal Arnold is a passionate Latina wife and mother who is a chaser of dreams and believes in living life with abandon. She writes to pour some of herself out for any who care to experience her heart, but is also an avid reader, lover of old movies and going on journeys with family as well. She has seen heartache and trauma in her past and is learning to let her Maker heal her broken places.