I am more than thrilled to share this blog post with you. It is a beautiful response to the Nashville Statement. It has really been on my heart this week, and I’m sure on the hearts of many. This guest blog post is by one of the most brilliant-minded, Jesus-focused ladies I know. Her name is Vania Ratliff. She is a law student at William & Mary, who just filed her graduation paperwork this week. (Congratulations – w00tw00t) PLUS, she found time to share her heart with the world in an amazing way. This girl has got it! Read, know, meditate, pray – most of all Love First. ~ Dawn
Love Over Statements
By Vania Ratliff
Recently, I took the time to read what has been called the “Nashville Statement: A Coalition For Biblical Sexuality.” At first, I expected to be angry. For so long, I have heard “statements” from the church about so-called biblical sexuality which have been degrading, humiliating, and in some cases downright wrong. Thus, to be fair, I started reading with an air of superiority expecting the worst.
And honestly, my lack of anger surprised me. Instead, strong sympathy arose in my spirit. I could sense the honest attempt to stand by a belief system, while at the same time trying not to isolate others. For example, Article 8 says this:
WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in the purity of life.
At least, they conceded that people of the LGBTQIA+ community can be Christians (albeit with conditions, but still there is an attempt). Even though I don’t find this statement as hateful as others, I have seen adverse reactions to the Nashville statement. The evangelical community that signed this statement intended it for public use to combat society. But in return, it has continued a legacy of rejection and hurt deeply felt within the LGBTQIA+ community. For that reason, I believe another Christian viewpoint needs to be on the table. I wouldn’t call this a “statement” because I honestly don’t think we need any more of those. Instead, I will call this viewpoint a promise. A promise from Christians to other people that we will treat, recognize, and act like you are human beings made in the image of God. My friends in the LGBTQIA+ community, I love you, God loves you, you are cherished, you are worthy, and you belong.
As you read further along understand that I am not proposing a biblical view on the LGTQIA+ question. In fact, I am not even sharing my own view on the issue. Instead, I simply want to provide a viewpoint that asserts a positive way to interact with people who are different than you through actions and not just words.
The Promise: Our position is love, everything else is a conversation
Okay, I must be honest. I took this phrase from my pastor, but I think it holds so much truth, if you want to be a Christian who truly loves people, especially people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Love is an action. Stating that your position is love first requires effort to get to know the other. Here their stories, befriend them, know what it is like in their shoes and go from there. There are two positives that come from this approach:
1. It makes it harder to see people as “other” on your end and
2. It opens the door for conversations with people.
I want to highlight the difference between positive point number two and releasing a public statement. Releasing public statements that are not the result of conversations with people who have different viewpoints can, and usually does, produce isolating results. Knowing people enough that they open the door for you to have a conversation with them, is productive. Don’t get me wrong, this process is harder. It is not as safe as coming up with a statement in a room full of people who think like you and agree with you. It requires getting down from your safety zone and reaching out to people who may have lifestyles that you cannot understand. But often the harder path is the better.
Often, the immediate response that I hear from people on this viewpoint is that, telling people what they are doing wrong is love. The idea is that the Bible tells us to be a light to the world and part of that is telling people of their sin. And my answer is always the same. Yes, conviction is a pillar of love, but grace is a stronger one. There is so much more to loving people enough to give them grace, in the same way that God gave us grace. The Holy Spirit convicts and does a great job of it on its own.
There is another popular critique to this viewpoint that at first glance seems like a concession and not a critique. Christians will often say – and they do in the Nashville statement – something like, “Of course, we still love those who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We hate the sin, not the sinner.” But in fact, this is a critique. It is easy to say things like “hate the sin, not the sinner” when people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are not in your community. This is what I like to call, phrases that make us feel better about our inclusivity. There is no desire to branch out and know people, because we have already said we, “hate the sin, not the sinner.” It is as if that gives license to keep our identity as Christians close to our chest and not reach out to anyone else, while always vocally leaving the door open for them to come to us.
But, having a position of love first – regardless of anything else – turns this around. It requires active pursuit of those made in the image of God, not simply leaving the door open for them to come when we have deemed them worthy of coming. It means showing them you care, by not holding your “rightness” so close to your chest that you can’t see the suffering and hurt they receive from being constantly rejected by others. It means showing that being what you think is “right,” is not more important than their reality. Listen closely here, we have to love people more than we love being right. Let me repeat, WE HAVE TO LOVE PEOPLE MORE THAN WE LOVE BEING RIGHT. It is only then, that you can build a relationship with people who are just as made in the image of God as you are. It is only then, that you earn the right to have a “statement.” And believe me, THAT statement will probably be more inclusive, more Christ-like, and more understanding.