By Revd Rowland Jide Macaulay, 22nd November 2009
In Jesus’ parables and analogy, Matthews’s gospel in Chapter 18:10-11 concluded on Jesus Saying on how we are to treat or indeed respect little children. This metaphorical illustration sync with the way we treat each other, Children are innocent, children are the best illustration of innocence and also said to be vulnerable. Many people today are innocent of who they are, and I hold out in this analogy to speak boldly of sexual minorities, who neither wanted to be or wish this on themselves in a world that fails to consider their innocence on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Jesus said, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my God in heaven”.
The same can be said of sexual minorities, same gender loving people, a warning that the rest of society should not look down on us in any way including disgust, prejudice and alienation. We all have angels in heaven that will intervene and intercede on our behalf, seeking the face of God in heaven to rescue us from our situations.
Jesus made this conclusion having spoken to his disciples about “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” I believe that innocent people will be considered innocent in the kingdom of heaven and the oppressors, including religious oppressors will be severely judged.
This finely leads to the Parable of the lost sheep, Chapter 18:12-14 says;
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety nine on the hills and go to look for the one (go in search) that wandered off (went astray)? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier (rejoices) about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your God in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost”.
It is clear that many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people can be seen today as the lost sheep from the Christian community, due to religious discrimination and other forms of ostracism.
Jesus said what do you think? A question that we ask fellow Christians, for every hundred heterosexuals in church, there is no doubt that they have lost one homosexual person, who needs a home in church, who is looking for a safe place in the sanctuary, but what most LGBTI people are faced with is oppression and intolerance. A homosexual for reasons of doctrinal and religious oppression has been forced to go astray, not willingly but through cruelty. Homosexual persons are no less of a sinner or in need of repentance as heterosexual people, the illustration of the lost sheep can be a conclusion on the lack of knowledge of the church in the matters of sexuality.
Many LGBTI people go astray, because they cannot identify with the selfish doctrines of the church, many are shrouded in self stigmatisation, hatred, many for these reasons and more, often wander off from church because of the inability to withstand the heaviness and fanaticism of the church. It is not surprising today that many continue to seek an inclusive Christian family, some overburdened with harshness of religious dogma.
In 2001, the Holy Spirit led me to find the Metropolitan Community Church in London, through a very special group of friends and evangelists from South Africa. The Metropolitan Community Church under the anointing and leadership its founder Revd Elder Dr Troy D Perry is a ministry established out of the goodness of the love of God in order that LGBTI people may find the heaven on earth, a welcoming congregation and thus many LGBTI people are now able to work towards reconciliation and restoration as ordained church workers.
Let me take you on an exegesis illustration of Jesus’ words according to Matthew 18:12-14 repeated in Luke 15:3-7.
“What do you think?
Do you think that LGBTI people should be part of the church? Do you think LGBTI people should be welcomed and ordained in to ministry? Do you think a place should be made available at the communion table of Christ in the church for LGBTI people? Do you think it is right to welcome and love LGBTI people? Do you think LGBTI people who are servers, pastors, music leaders, praise and worship leaders, should be displaced?
If we look in our churches, LGBTI people are missing, not physically but emotionally, spiritually, socially etc. We need not consider this analogy as lost in sin alone, we also need to consider this as lost in the ability to reconcile, settle, bring together, resolve and reunite. We need to also consider the fact that LGBTI people are lost in the inclusion of the family of God, the church. Now again, what do you think?
If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety nine on the hills and go to look for the one (go in search) that wandered off (went astray)?
There is no doubt that if the church consider LGBTI people precious and worthy of inclusion, the church will not hesitate to welcome LGBTI people, there was a time in history that the services of a woman as a Priest in church was frowned upon and in many places in our world the idea of a woman serving at the altar is not acceptable. There was a time not too long ago in human history that Black people were not allowed to worship in the same church building or seat in the same pew as white people, these evidences are still apparent in post apartheid in South Africa and several decades after the civil rights movement in the United States of America, and religious racial tension in some part of Western Europe. There is no doubt that the church struggles on the issues of inclusion to the peril of finding the lost sheep, even though many are amongst us.
Many LGBTI people are lost in our congregations and unable to become visible and fully enshrined in the celebration of the church. These no doubt makes God very sad. LGBTI people have not wandered nor gone astray in sin, but LGBTI people have been forced onto the margins and are simply lost in church, they are actually present in church but their spirit and souls wanders and have gone astray due to hostility.
Therefore, I say to the church look within your hearts and you will find the lost sheep yearning for inclusion, longing for celebration of their humanity and spirituality, a place they can truly call home and hear that still small voice of love and the victorious shout of triumph.
And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier (rejoices) about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
When the churches opens up and allow all people to be, then there will be no secrets on LGBTI people’s humanity, “if the man finds the lost sheep”, that is when everyone is accounted for and included in the growth and life of the church, the churches will be happier, the church will be able to see all the fullness of a joyful congregation, in high spirit, ecstatic, again and again, Luke 15:5-6 says;
“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost”
I believe that those called to office as Christian ministers have the responsibility to include LGBTI people in the life of the church, I believe that the church only rejoices when walls of hatred and discrimination are eradicated, dismantled and destroyed.
I believe that the churches with its history as a place of refuge need to consider these truths and open up a mission of welcome to the lost within the body of Christ. Then we can begin to heal those estranged from the church.
When the churches fail to include LGBTI people, it reinforces the spirit of exclusion, elimination, segregation and hostility, unfriendliness, resentment and aggression, who then are they going to call to rejoice over the ways they have treated LGBTI people? Who are the neighbours they are going to invite to support them in the atrocities, unfairness, inequality and injustices?
When the churches opens up for the inclusion of LGBTI people and make them more visible in the glorification of God’s name, then the church can truly rejoice, I strongly believe the church is hurting, missing out on the richness of the beauty of God’s people and needs healing from the pains and aches of exclusion and the way it has badly treated LGBTI people.
This is the time I believe the church need to repent. The church need to find LGBTI people who have over the years be cast off and made invisible, find them, place them on their shoulders and pronounce a welcome in celebration of inclusion.
In the same way your God in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost”.
It is not in the willingness of God that physically challenged individuals, or black or any ethnic racial minority people or women are discriminated against in the church, after all, the church is the body of Christ and all persons are members of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-15
“For just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body”.
The same is applicable, for we are all members of Christ body, heterosexuals cannot say to homosexuals that because they are not heterosexuals, they do not belong to the body of Christ, that would not make homosexuals any less a part of the body of Christ. The same principle applied in the history of racially excluded missions in places where racial or ethnic segregations were a huge problem, regardless of race or ethnicity, we are all still part of the body of Christ.
We all need each other to realize the core mission of inclusive gospel of Christ. We must adhere to the will of God that no one should be lost, no one should be alienated from the church, no one should be missing or ignorantly excluded from the communion table.
The next time, around the table when we dine, we must make room for any group or persons not included. This is the perfect will of God our parent in heaven. The church must adopt the all-encompassing standard of Jesus and accomplish the will of God on inclusion, we do this in consciousness of healing the wound of many and restoration of hope.