There are certain things I believe that go beyond the Nicene Creed basics.
I believe that the Bible has much to say to us today but needs to be read in the context of the time it was written and with an understanding of the lives of the people it was written for.
I believe we cannot pick and choose which parts to work with and which to ignore. We must take the Bible as a whole but, like any text (even God inspired) it can be interpreted in different ways. There will be as many different understandings of scripture as there are Christians, even if it just a matter of nuance sometimes.
I believe God still speaks. The Bible wasn’t the end of God speaking to his people. There are still people moving in the prophetic who hear from God directly in some form. There are still musicians and artists who express what they hear from God in their own ways and connect to the hearts of others. There are still people who hear that small still voice guiding them in their lives.
Above all I believe God is love and our job is to show love to all and leave the rest in God’s hands.
What has this got to do with the title at the top of the page? Good question and let me tell you now. I think one of the things God does is he puts different groups of people on our hearts. Some he calls to work with the homeless, some with toddlers, some with broken families, some with migrants, some with the terminally ill, some with sex trafficking victims, some with their neighbour or the people in their street, some with prisoners and the list goes on. I think God calls us to people in need who we can connect with.
The thing that these and other groups have in common is that it is easy to pigeonhole them, easy to put them in boxes and apply prejudices to them. How many times have you heard someone say “don’t give to beggars on the street. I heard about one who goes home to a three bedroom detached house after his wife picks him up in a brand new VW Passat” or “They’re all run by Rumanian/Polish/Ukrainian gangs who take all the money”. How many times have you heard a group of people stereotyped into being a danger to society. It’s easy to hold prejudices when you’re dealing with a box. It’s easy until you encounter human beings and see that they are people. All of us find some groups easier to sympathise than others. Where’s this all leading?
Well a few weeks ago my daughter asked my wife if she would colour the hair of a friend of hers. My wife agreed and a date was made. She duly turned up with her girlfriend and the house filled with a frenzy of female hormones as they discussed haircuts and hair colours and my wife cut and coloured hair and they discussed fashion and make up and 1001 other thing. The thing that made this “unusual” if you like wasn’t that they were both girls but that they were trans-girls who were pretty much at the start of their journey to transition to women. They were, essentially, men who identified as women and were trying to live as women. Both were still living with parents and getting a hard time over their choices and decisions and both were four or more years away from being able to complete their transition on the NHS.
These were two lovely, polite and honouring women who we made welcome in our house as visitors, accepting their decisions to be identified as women and relating to them as women. They were human beings who wanted to be loved and accepted for who they are, something all of us can relate too.
A couple of weeks later they had stayed over on a Saturday night and my daughter had invited them to come to a baptism at our church on the Sunday morning. To her surprise they said yes. They came and everyone made them feel welcome, one woman invited them to join her at a fantasy gaming convention in London next year and one of the leaders tried to recruit them to help her with the toddler group when it restarts. Afterwards one of the girls said it was the first positive experience of religion she had ever had.
Why have I chosen to tell this story? There’s a lot of talk going on still about God in Love Unites Us, about same sex marriage and where the church stands on it. All I would ask is that, whatever side of the discussion you stand, whether you are upset about the Conference decision or the possibility of the Anglicans following suit, or you are in favour of the church fully accepting and connecting with the LGBTQIA community you remember that these are people we are talking about. They are not labels to bandy around as part of your liberal or conservative ideology or theology so please take the time to encounter people who identify as LGBTQIA+ as people. We are called to love. LOVE, not judge so let’s do what we were called to do in the way Jesus would. Love people and let God work on their hearts for anything He wants them to change.