Proximity is a crucial issue for politicians, actors and knife throwers.
In Washington, the closer one is to power, the better–in Hollywood it’s about the same. And in the illustrious world of throwing knives, being close to one’s target is essential (especially if the target is an apple resting on a friend’s shaky head).
But I believe proximity is equally important when considering how to best exemplify God’s love on this deeply damaged orb we call Earth.
During the Equality Ride’s visit, many folks talked about loving the sinner and hating the sin. This seemed to be the overarching theme of Repent America, and some students seemed to share their views.
But the kind of love referenced frequently seems distant, sterile and fearful of contamination.
When the Equality Riders visited Oral Roberts university, the school declared: “We love you. Don’t come on our campus.”
But it is difficult to truly love one’s neighbor without a willingness to engage that neighbor (regardless of the perceived depravity in which he or she might be living) face to face, with a hand on the shoulder, over coffee or lunch or a game of Scrabble.
I believe Eastern tested out a more radical kind of love by inviting a group on campus whose views many in the community vehemently opposed.
Yet many in the community, regardless of their theological persuasion on the issue of homosexuality, were willing to engage the Equality Riders in genuine conversation and friendship.
Speaking as a person with a sincere belief in doctrine and a high view of Scripture, I think this is a model based on the example of Jesus, who seemed perpetually unafraid of contamination–either by lepers, prostitutes or pagans.
When I asked Michael from Repent America whether or not he could be in friendship with a homosexual, he insisted he could be “friendly” with a gay man or woman, but never in friendship.
And I think that distinction is key.
A call to repentance among homosexuals will be taken far more seriously (and with far less damage) by Christians who are willing to explore a theologically tense relationship, who are willing to listen, who try to understand the deep struggles and fears, hopes and pain of a community almost completely estranged from the church.
This kind of proximity doesn’t require theological compromise or watered-down doctrine.
Instead, I think the kind of hands-on love exemplified by Jesus is a more biblically-sound way to approach the issue of Christian homosexuality.
Real love happens far more effectively over coffee and conversation than from behind a megaphone.