National Coming Out Day… Love Regardless

Guys, this is big. It’s my daughter’s first article. She’s 19 years old, has her Associate’s Degree and is in her senior year of college for her Bachelor’s in Education at Liberty University. She works at Genesis Counseling Center as a Client Care Coordinator. Can I tell you how proud I am of her? It’s not because of what she has accomplished, but for her heart for Jesus and for the marginalized. She is fierce and creative, sensitive and strong. She is a waymaker and a worldshaker. She loves like nobody’s business, and God has given her a wisdom and maturity that is beyond her years. October 11th is National Coming Out Day. This has really been on her heart. Let your heart crack with hers. It’s only through our heart cracks that light can shine. ~ Dawn

Love Regardless

by Katelyn Sutherland

When someone steps out in front of the Church, raises their hands and says, “I love God, and I have a drinking problem”, we meet them at the altar with a multitude of deep and reassuring hugs. We bombard them with statements like, “You’re so brave,” and “I’m so proud of you.” Church-goers offer follow-up support in the form of meetings over an expensive brunch or during a one-on-one session with a pastor at some overly-hipster-coffee shop downtown. “We’ve helped another one,” we say silently to ourselves, filled with a sense of satisfaction. “We’ve done our jobs.” 

Following up though is not our strong suit as Christians. The chances of the Church continuing to reach out is often limited to a text and maybe another cup of coffee with a ministry leader (if that). The hard truth is that lately we have fallen short. We like to extend our hand, but when someone grasps it, we have a hard time holding on. People consistently fall through the cracks because the Church has become complacently content with surface relationships. We have to do better. Life change doesn’t happen because of a one time, drive thru peace, instant hand-raise of hope story; life change happens when we care enough to keep showing up.

An even harsher reality is that when someone steps up and simply says, “Hey, I love God, and I am gay,” we audibly and collectively gasp like self-righteous Pharisees who have our whole life perfectly together. All of a sudden, our extended hand turns into a fist. The loving and reassuring words that we gave to someone else become slurred hate speech directed toward a people group. Instead of love, we remove LGBT+ people from serving positions in the church. Coffee with the pastor turns into conversion therapy. Even when we don’t realize it, we shut our hearts down, recite cherry-picked Scripture, and tell people how awful their lifestyle is. Just check the news: “Christians” won’t bake cakes and boycott weddings. Church-goers hold up signs at pride parades that say, “God hates fags” and “You’re going to hell”.

It’s a horrifying picture. One of the biggest faiths in the entire world says you are an abomination. The very religion that is built off the idea that Jesus loved humanity so much that He died just so we could live… that religion says you are destined to burn in a fiery pit for all of eternity.

You see…we have a tendency to love everyone until what they’re going through isn’t like what we are going through. We conveniently overlook things like greed, caffeine-addiction, obesity, and lustful thoughts; we’re content to turn the other cheek. We can no more uphold the 10 Commandments or the laws in the Bible than the Pharisees could. That’s why Jesus came to fulfill the law and redeem us with His grace. That’s why His sacrifice covers all of our sin, and hurt, and pasts, and brokenness. Because we can not uphold all the laws, Jesus tells us the greatest commandments are: To love God and love people. Everything we do and say should be filtered through those lenses, like Jesus binoculars. He said, ...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)

In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (MSG)

He didn’t say, “only if…” He didn’t hesitate or stutter. He didn’t give some prerequisite that people have to obtain before they receive that love. There are no hoops we have to jump through, no benchmarks, and no standard kind of people.

He didn’t say, “love one another unless that person has a different color skin than we do.”
He didn’t say, “love one another unless that person wears a hijab.”
He didn’t say, “love one another unless that person has had sex before marriage.”
He didn’t say, “love one another unless that person has hurt you.”
And, He didn’t say, “love one another unless that person identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or non-binary.”

He simply said to love. That’s how people will recognize His followers, because we love regardless.

National Coming Out Day is October 11. It’s a day when hundreds, even thousands of people, “come out” as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, etc. Church, tomorrow let’s show love instead of negativity. Let’s fill social media and our lives with so much hope that people can’t help but see Jesus. Our desire to love must outweigh our desire to voice our opinion.

It’s time to step up as Jesus-followers, to put aside preconceived notions. It’s time to stop pointing fingers, putting down people, shoving Bibles down people’s throats before we even get to know them. Most importantly, it’s time to stop condemning people to hell with powers we don’t even have. It’s time to love, and to love regardless.

Dawn Sutherland

misfit-writer-speaker & social-justice-wannabe. I wander, but I'm not lost. I love Jesus not religion. My heart's cry is for every person to feel an empowered sense that they belong, and that we get to face the world wild and equipped with the love and hope of Jesus. I live in Suffolk, Virginia with my amazing husband, Louis and have four awesome kids: Katie, Ronnie, Selah, and Sami. I am also a passionate fitness instructor at the Suffolk YMCA. Subscribe to the blog, and stay tuned in for the book YOU BELONG to be published soon, which will talk about our desire as women to "fit in" and how we can harness that to change the world!