Todd A. Ponczoch
In our society today the LGBTQ community exists, and that community is composed of people—people who are no less valuable to God than you or me. Jesus said the two most important things were to love God and Love others.
I often wonder about how we as people assign value to things, how we say what is good and what is bad. I wonder because I fear that I myself might get it wrong way too often. For example, the other day as I sat at my desk, I was overcome with thoughts of anger toward my chair. You see, I do not like my chair; you could say it offends me. It does not fit within my body’s comfort parameters. It rubs me the wrong way, the sight of it is unnatural, it is in a word an abomination among chairs. The truth is though there is nothing wrong with my chair, it is not broken, it does not fail in doing its job of holding me off the floor and in front of my desk. I just don’t like the way it looks or how it functions. I can find textbook reasons and state medical facts to prove that it is a less then valuable chair. But I wonder if chairs could talk, what would it say in response to my assessment of its value—would it find me fair?
I am humbly ashamed to admit I’ve been even less fair to my fellow human beings than I was to my chair. I have judged them to be less than valuable based on my own personal views of what is right and what is wrong with them. Because someone made me feel uncomfortable, I have felt they didn’t belong. Because I didn’t understand them, I have felt they were misguided. I have become angry because they expected to be treated fairly. I became defensive because they would not tolerate my assessment of their value. I felt justified because I had scripture to back up my opinions. I was okay not living in peace with them because I had scripture on my side. I professed to have faith in the Prince of Peace but I was okay not being at peace with ALL people. I delivered a message one Sunday from 1 Corinthians chapter 13 where Paul is telling the Corinthians, in a nut shell, “It doesn’t matter what you know, what you say, or what you can do. If it’s not known, said, or done in love, it’s worthless.” In preparing that sermon, I felt my heart break as I considered my own value.
I committed on that day to make Love my guiding principle, to affirm a person’s value based solely on their being a child of God created equally with me and every other man and woman on the planet. I decided to stop using scripture to judge a person’s value, and instead I use the scriptures to elevate people’s value, to make them feel that the most important thing about them is them. I affirm them because they exist. I believe The Church of the Nazarene should fully affirm our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I think it’s time we find a way to move forward and let the love of God move through us—heal the wounds and renew the relationships damaged by our need to be right. I in no way want to condemn a person’s conviction, that would make me such a hypocrite. What I am asking is that we align our convictions behind our Love. We claim to seek Holiness and I agree that is right. But who is Holy but God? I have never in my life done a holy thing apart from God. In fact, when I call the shots they are way off target. Holiness has to be defined by something more than personal piety. It has to be more than what we don’t do. It must be balanced by what we do. To be filled with God is to be filled with love. To be filled with Love is to love God’s creation as God does. A Holy people must learn to wholly Love others.
I acknowledge it will not be easy to change our narrative on what is right and what is wrong. I know that getting beyond our personal biases can be very disruptive to our identity. For some, a lifetime of teaching will be hard to overcome. But if our identities are truly in Christ, it should be an easier transition. I feel strongly that to affirm the LGBTQ community is a witness to our belief that God Loves them. It is a statement that we are open to dialogue and fellowship, that we don’t have it all figured out, and that we trust God to lead us through to understanding. It is no secret that the Church in America is struggling to be relevant to a society that sees us as elitist and close-minded. Many within the church—and without—read the Bible and see a disconnect between the message of the Gospel and the actions of the people. This inconsistency is not attractive, and we are losing our ability to influence people for Christ. It is difficult to influence anyone if they will not talk to you. People will not talk to you if they don’t trust you. Trust cannot be earned in an atmosphere of condemnation. Therefore, we as the people of God need to find a way, build a bridge, offer an olive branch, and open our hearts to a segment of society that we have not always been to kind to. Remember we are to go throughout the world sharing God’s love and we have nothing to fear, because perfect love drives out fear.
As for my old chair, well I’m going to quit complaining. I’m going to appreciate its existence. I’m going to adjust how I engage my seated position. I’m going to consider that my chair might have just as much of an issue with me as I have with it. I’m going to learn to be fair to my chair.
Todd Ponczoch is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene and co-pastors with his wife Lisa. Todd earned his bachelor’s degree in Christian Counseling from Nazarene Bible College. He is the father of four and the grandfather of ten.