Romans 13:10 (NIV)
“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
I am sure somewhere in this blog ministry I have brought up Romans 13:10 before. Today though I want to revisit it. Recently I have been contemplating and planning to undertake baptism at my local church. At my church, I am Rachel through and through– at least so far as I can do so within my meager means. I am always Rachel in spirit if not in appearance.
My goals for baptism are many. For one, I wish to make more concrete my commitment to God and to Christ. I wish to make it known that Jesus is my guide in life. Two, I wish it to be known that yes indeed, I am coming closer to Christ as a transgender woman, named Rachel Conlin McLeod. Third, I am letting those around me know that yes, someone who is in the LGBT community can be Christian and can be baptized without feeling they must sacrifice who they fundamentally are and who they love to be so.
The thing is, as I have planned for this baptism and taken classes and been in consultation with my pastor, it has been brought to my attention that some members of the church we all attend here in Willimantic take offense at the notion that I would be baptized. There are individuals who feel compelled to leave the church if I should happen to be baptized– on the premise that my being baptized goes against their beliefs and challenges their understanding of the Bible and would be an act against God. They see my choice to be sincere and honest with God as Rachel to be an abomination or sin. They see transgender and LGBT people at-large as sinful and as abominations to God and to enable these people and I to worship in the church or to receive baptism or communion crosses too many lines for them.
This is all very interesting and overwhelming to me. While these few individuals are opposed to enabling me to become a baptized Christian, they claim they love me still or at least respect me as a human being. Yet they struggle with their beliefs and interpretations of the Bible. And it is questionable if they truly love me for who I am– as opposed to loving the person they wish I was or hoped I would be through their prayers.
What disturbs me is that they would rather leave the church they loved than communicate their concerns or fears or questions with me. What disturbs me is the attitude that, “If I don’t get my way, I am leaving.” As if churches were products or commodities. As if churches needed to be custom fitted for each and every member as though the pastor was the head of a customer service department and each member was a customer threatening to take away collection plate money if they don’t get a good product.
Because I seek to be an honest Christian and an honest person, these people would rather withdraw from the church and bring it down than find a means to meet middle ground or respect each other’s spaces or make room for each other to worship and grow spiritually.
These individuals would blame me for killing the church dead– by being an embarrassment or an affront to God or by presenting an image that they would rather keep from the church and from the public.
In an effort to try and prevent disaster or conflict or to see this situation unfold to some messier proportions, the pastor and I have brainstormed and we plan to host a Table Talk discussion on LGBT issues and identity and Christianity. The pastor has also planned on hosting a special Bible Study for those who are conflicted about these issues or would like Biblical clarification. I am not invited to this particular Bible Study because as subject of the conflict, the pastor feels it would make sense to give these folks a chance to state their cases or reconcile their beliefs without my input or any triggers for further conflict. Which seems wise. I don’t need to hear their arguments– for I am well aware of them already– and I do not need to feel their anger. Nor do I wish to provoke their anger or awkwardness either. And it gives the pastor and these individuals a space to assess their beliefs without triggering any response in me.
I think it is wise this way. During the Table Talk, I will have the opportunity to provide information about what it is to be transgender and what that means from my own experience. I will also be able to present my own Biblical based arguments in defense of God’s love for the LGBT community and state my beliefs and position on these matters.
I come back to Romans 13:10 because while the Old Testament and portions of the Epistles from Paul indicate condemnation of homosexuality, Jesus has said often enough that He was the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law and that His new covenant had freed us from the now obsolete Mosaic Law. Jesus has established new law and paid the price for our inability to live up to the Mosaic Law of Moses and the Old Testament. The new law or new covenant commands us to do two things: Love they God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and secondly, love thy neighbor.
Now it may be argued that in order to love our God, we must adhere to all the laws and provisions and restrictions of the Old Testament– but that is not what Jesus is explicitly telling us! He had made it clear through Paul’s letter to the Galatians that it is not by the Law that we are saved, but by the grace of God and through our belief in Jesus as Christ that we are saved. When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, when we let the Spirit enter within us and we open ourselves to the teachings of Christ, we become wholly new people. We accept that Jesus saved us from the burdens of the old laws and restrictions and has lifted the burden of all those sacrifices and that weight of feeling unworthy.
Love for God and for each other is the new Law– and we can live up to that Law. Underneath all other laws and regulations and restrictions, there must be love behind it. We are promised everlasting life through Jesus. Our sins– big and small– can be forgiven–all our sins!
It is no sin to be honest. It is no sin to be true to God and one’s self. It is no sin to love and care for someone who is of the same gender as yourself any more than it is a sin to love and care for someone of the opposite gender. It is no sin to come to God and let Him in your heart. It is no sin to be proud of what God has made you. It is no sin to express what is in your soul and give thanks to God for the person that you are. God gave you the heart, mind, and soul that you have. You must choose how you use those gifts. But it is no sin to love and want to be loved.
It is however, a sin to hate. It is a sin to build walls between people and encourage hatred and bigotry and discrimination or persecution.
My church claims to be a church with no walls. It may not explicitly be an open and affirming church– but it has as its motto that it is a “church with no walls”. I pray that it truly is– because then it would be an example to other churches about the inclusiveness of God’s love.