Love is the antidote for homophobia. The church, by the commandment of its Lord, stands tall as a custodian of this high love. If the church decides to hoard the love, hate will have a field day and brood unfettered.
Where hate abounds, hurt does too. It would be a contradiction if the hoarding of love by the church is the reason for a community’s hurt. The priest is a love coach. The church does not exist to innovate and sow strategies of hate.
True, we are to hate what is evil. But this has to be done within the larger cardinal instruction to love even our enemies. Hate’s mission is to discolour life. Love’s mission is color every heart with a touch of divine beauty. This is the complexity that the church must navigate.
To love people who oppose and contradict your faith is a prime mark of Christian maturity. The world’s version of love channels love only to those who give it back. Jesus’ love is not that shallow. The Jesus kind dares even dead ends. It persists even whether hate boomerangs.
Enemies especially are a prime target of the Jesus’ love. Until the contemporary disciples have constructed an outlet that supplies our enemies with love (with a permanently open gate valve) our operations will remain below capacity and our returns way below target.
The cross crucified love but love never gave up on its killers. Love never died. No wonder “Love never ends.” No more questions as to why it is the greatest! Doubtless love is the most excellent way. There can never be a more distinctive mark of the church.
The church should never ask whether to love. Its question should always be how to love. In the current heat around the gay community, the church cannot abandon its nature as God’s love agent and take up arms! As offended as it may be, it must maintain its role as a love factory. God’s love has as many accents as there are people. Christianity must precede the love conversation with a discernment that tailors God’s love to versions based on the needs of the people.
Love must always be the constant. Even as we express our disagreement, we must not suppress our love. This is the Christian paradox. But many Christians do not know how to uphold this tension. Instead they uphold extremes – love or hate. But life presents more complex situations that such extremes cannot serve. This is mirrored in the straightforwardness of Proverbs and the realism of Ecclesiastes - both from the same author!
Jesus was seen to dine with tax collectors and prostitutes. The existing thinking then was “You do not do that!” But Jesus did it. Why? Because His love was larger than the transactional kind and outsiders had access too. Jesus knew that all people - excluders and the excluded- needed what He had. Religious leaders had boundaries that marked who to love and who to despise. Jesus did not play by these demarcations.
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Such a boundary-based representation of God was faulty. No one was technically disqualified from accessing the love of God. So Jesus broke the boundaries. He did not reject those his society had locked out as outcasts. It was the people to reject Him and not Him to exclude them. So when Zacheus welcomed him to his home, Jesus honored the acceptance. To the religious leaders of the day, the response to such an invitation was plain and simple – black and white – ‘No!’ When a sinful woman washed the feet of Jesus with her hair, Jesus had a simple and straightforward ‘Yes!’
To reject the gay community for the reason that they are gay is to utilise boundary thinking. To intentionally go towards them is an act of obedience that uses mission thinking. To give them a technical “knock out” is to shut out even the ones who could be willing to accept the church’s transformation message. The church will be taking up powers than do not belong to it if it predetermines and sifts who deserves to hear the Good News and who does not. As long as the church is sent to “all,” discrimination is a sign of hate, fear or pride.
To Jonah, Ninevites were outsiders who did not deserve God’s grace. But Jonah’s nightmare came true – the outrageous grace of God rained on humble and repentant Nineveh! If we choose to see the gay community as a mission field, our attitudes change. Compassion begins to build and displaces the shallower emotion of hate. Love begins to ascend to its rightful centre place.
To blanket homosexual practices as “Western” is to ignore the existing divide in the West concerning this practice. The West has been and still is on a journey on the degrees of acceptance of the gay community. As we fire up and passionately cheer the “No to homosexuality!” it matters to know that the church in the West began with an ultra high resistance - similar to the one we are experiencing in Kenya today.
The African church must bear in mind that the premise on which to base its rejection is critical. What may be a strong ground today may be of little weight tomorrow. For instance how long will the argument that homosexuality is not African stand? This argument is confronted by the reality that contemporary, Kenyan has a generation of young people who lean more towards Western ways and only attach a museum value to traditional African culture.
As time progresses the push for mainstreaming the gay community escalates. Their advocates never give up. They know the value of persistence and have reaped great gains – such as the recent Supreme Court judgment in favour of the right of all people to associate. Will the Kenyan “No!” last? As the church launches superior arguments to challenge homosexual practices, one premise is unchallengeable – the commandment to do so in love.