Recently three gay men in our community invited me to meet for coffee. It wound up being the best meeting of my week. Challenging, thought-provoking, enlightening—I’m grateful I said yes.
I’ll admit that as we all were getting settled around the small table in the downtown café, immediate tension was our common bond—not because any of us is an unkind person, but because there exist thick and longstanding stereotypes about them—gay men—and about types like me—evangelical megachurch pastors—as well as myriad assumptions to overcome. Would they lash out at me in anger? Would I condemn them for their sinful ways? Both parties were suspicious: where was this thing headed, anyway?
What follows are five lessons learned from that hour-long meeting, courtesy of one who stands today renewed in his hope that bridge-building still is possible, regardless of the chasm we’re trying to span.
One: Our stories are more similar than we think.
As I took in the tales of their upbringing—their families, their histories, their quirks—I realized that the details that separated my experience from theirs were grossly outnumbered by the uncanny similarities we shared. The truth is, none of us had perfect families.
Two: Truth isn’t always conveyed in love.
To a person, these three men explained to me that as soon as they came out as gay, they were treated terribly by Christ followers, all of whom wanted them to “know the truth.” Consequently, these men were well versed in the evangelical theories of marriage, family, and sexuality. They were also well versed in the art of being judged and scorned.
Three: Homosexuality is more bipartisan than we may think.
Two of the three men were Republicans, which spurred on more than a few laughs about how both straight and gay people like to keep their money in their pocket instead of adding to the government dole.
Four: Common sense points to common ground.
As we continued our conversation, it became apparent to me that while we may never agree on what the Bible means when it speaks of both sexuality and homosexuality, certainly we can agree that both the gay community and the evangelical Jesus-following community can do a better job of being kind toward one another. “Bullying is never okay,” I said to them, just before affirming my commitment to help stand up for everyone in our city—both gay and straight—who is being targeted for insults and outright violence. I shared my story of being falsely accused of being a “hater’ when, in fact, I have never felt that way about the gay community.
Five: Coffee tables are places of peace.
The four of us—three gay guys and a straight pastor—agreed that further dialogue held in neutral territory was imperative to our bridging a volatile gap.
Listen, I have not budged a bit on my theology regarding biblical marriage being solely between a man and a woman. I have not wavered in my belief that acting on homosexual tendencies remains an outright sin. I’m simply determined to live as Jesus lived. He had real relationships with people who believed and lived differently than him.
We are called to be people of peace. Join me if you dare.