A good and genuine person recently expressed having feelings of wanting to return to the fellowship of the gospel, after having left years ago.
But just having the feelings to return isn’t like waving a magic wand and erasing all that had caused the rift in the first place. Her reasons for estrangement were based in love, not hate. That makes it a little harder to try and overcome, wouldn’t you think?
You see, in her past when a beloved family member had shared homosexual feelings and the need to pursue a corresponding lifestyle, the response was one of anger, and ostracism, and a severing of ties.
Watching people who faithfully attend church each Sunday turn so quickly on a loved one left a pretty bad taste her mouth.
Yet after all this time, she recognizes the honest feelings and yearnings in her own heart, drawing her back to the gospel of the Savior.
So, how does she reconcile what seems to be clearly conflicting messages of “love thy brother”?
As I thought about it, I would think that this is a scenario that has played out in many, many families.
I have heard of many parents who left the church because they wanted to support their children’s lifestyles. There just didn’t seem to be a clear path to love your children and still defend the notion that homosexuality is rebellion against commandments.
There seems to be a theme here, doesn’t there?
Anger destroys relationships.
Hoping that all of us have grown a bit in that time and learned to step back and ask in prayer how we should behave, perhaps the time has come to begin to heal some of these broken relationships.
I must admit my own shame when about 12 years ago I treated a family member in exactly the same way as my friend witnessed in her family. I was angry with him, I yelled at him, I turned my back on him.
However, fast forward to 2015 and I would think our relationship and friendship is better than it ever was before.
This dear nephew knows very clearly my position. I don’t feel that I have had to compromise in any way my firm testimony of the gospel. I am very upfront in defending what I know is truth and right.
I think this could be where we made so many mistakes in the past. All of us were wading into unknown waters – the terror of someone telling their family that they want something so against gospel teachings; the natural reaction of the family’s fear of the inconceivable and being at a loss of how to act. I think that there is plenty of blame to go around.
I have read and watched and listened carefully to the direction and counsel we get from our church leaders. As near as I can tell, what they are telling us rings true in my heart. Everyone is valued and important and unique and wonderful.
There are specific commandments that must be obeyed to be members of the church. We all have the freedom to choose if those are things we want to embrace, or if they are things that we don’t agree with. After we have made our choice, sometimes it may mean that being a member of the church isn’t consistent with that choice.
But that doesn’t change in any way the fact that this person is still valued and important and unique and wonderful.
I think that so many of us on the other side of the issue (ostracism, anger, hate, bullying, self-righteous in our treatment of people) are going to be in big trouble when we face our own judgment. This earthly mortal test is for all of us, and so far many of us are failing it.
Perhaps this reflects in some ways where my friend has arrived. Her soul hungers for the gospel but she has seen so many of us who frankly have not lived it very well. It is inconsistent to her, and understandably so.
The lesson that seems to be pounding into my heart is that in cases such as these, there really aren’t sides of “us vs. them”. All of us fit into the “us” category at times; at others all of us also find ourselves in the “them” camp.
Does that make any sense?
Kind of the mote and beam thing.
Each of us has things that we are pretty great at. Each of us has things that we are pretty bad at. For some reason we have made arbitrary decisions about what is an “acceptable” sin and what is an “unacceptable” sin. The bottom line is that perceived good members of the church often behave badly, and it makes some sincere, honest, and loving people see the inconsistency of it.
The hard part is realizing that these same perceived good members also need our love and forgiveness and acceptance. Everyone deserves a second chance (and a third and fourth – I know that I am on my millionth chance at this point).
The gospel of Jesus Christ would have us love the person who feels that homosexuality is their path, love the person who has made unfair judgments, love the person who is trying to obey all of the commandments but falls short, and love the person who respects the commandments but exercises their freedom to live a different way.
At the end of the day, the family member who is no longer a member of the church is loved just as much as our stake president.
One can be entirely consistent in filling their life with the fellowship of the gospel and its teachings and precepts, while loving those who don’t.
Really, wouldn’t that be truly living the gospel?
Loving is not condoning behavior. Loving is not accepting behavior. Loving is not embracing the behavior.
It’s just loving.
I know that my choice is one that my nephew has told me won’t work for him. His choice isn’t one that will work for me. He is not a member of the church and I try my best to be a member in good standing. We both love and respect each other and enjoy being together.
And we move on without saying “I love you, but….” It’s just “I love you”, period. There is no need to rehash the situation each time we are together.
But there is a need to be together.
Each family will have to figure out, prayerfully, where lines are drawn, what boundaries must be respected, how to always stand lovingly firm and constant in the truth.
I don’t know about you, but I really think we can.
So, if you are one who has left because of personal choices, we are here waiting when you understand that what you gain in the gospel is more than what you may be giving up through personal choice.
If you are one who has left because of perceived conflicts of loving one who has pursued another direction and being true to beliefs, please know that there is consistency in loving and believing. We just have to do it His way.
And if you are one who is on the inside looking out on those who have wandered from the fold, open your arms and welcome them back.
I guess what is important is that each of us knows that we can be loved, even if imperfectly by imperfect people.
That is good enough.
Because each of us is also loved perfectly, by the One who is perfect.