In my first year of university I was part of DICCU, the Durham Intercollegiate Christian Union.*
DICCU is part of UCCF, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, which is one of the more stridently conservative organisations that operate in universities. Each year we did an evangelism week. The aim was generally to a) entice our friends to our rooms or various locations around college with food and then b) hit them with the Gospel whether they had signed up for it or not.
The actual evangelism was mostly done by people called CUGs – Christian Union Guests (Oh yes they loved their abbreviations did DICCU!), who were older people who sort of showed up around evangelism week and did talks and answered questions. But we simple members were also required to do a certain amount of evangelism. In order to help us with this, we spent a couple of weeks before the big event learning about how to talk about Jesus. One might assume that students at one of the top universities in the country would be well enough equipped in the brain area to cope with understanding about Jesus, but the general assumption seemed to be that the people we were talking to were numpties. Because of this we were encouraged to learn a sort of diagram called Two Ways to Live, which featured a little stick man being saved, in order to help our friends understand what Christianity is all about and why they might want to join in.
Here is my attempt to remember/reconstruct the diagram:
You can see the whole thing explained properly by clicking here.
I learnt to draw it, dutifully, but felt pretty bewildered about why this was considered to be a more effective and easier to understand evangelistic tool than, well, just telling people the actual Good News. I don’t remember ever using it, although a non-Christian friend later described to me the strange and agonising process by which one of our DICCU leaders tried to use it on her (“…and then she started to draw this really random picture of a stick man…”)
But I digress.
Fast forward a few months and I was in all kinds of trouble as far as DICCU was concerned. I had been outed as an evil sinner of the homosexual variety by this point (read all about it!) and told (by the same leader who tried to use the stick man on my friend. Let’s call her Jen.) that my very presence was “confusing new believers.” It was pretty clear that I wasn’t welcome at DICCU meetings at my college (no-one said this, but my name was surreptitiously removed from the bible study groups lists for the new term and my email was taken off the mailing list). But I was invited out for coffee with one of my erstwhile CU friends. Let’s call her Lucy (NOT her real name.)
The conversation went along the lines of:
Me: SO, I guess we should cut to the chase and talk about the whole gay thing?
Lucy: Ok, but before we do can I ask you a question?
Lucy: Just to make sure we’re on the same page.
Lucy: Do you believe that Jesus is Lord and died for our sins?
Me: ??? Well, I wouldn’t be a Christian if I didn’t think that…
Lucy: You see, there are two ways to live…
[she gets out a piece of paper and proceeds to draw the above stick man diagram. I look on, flabbergasted.]
Words fail me even now. Had she forgotten that we had sat together in meetings, prayed together, evangelised and socialised together, not to mention learned to draw the damn stick man thing together? Or did she now believe that I had been pretending to be a Christian for a whole year for no particular reason?
During the summer vacation I received an email from Jen (the leader mentioned above – NOT her real name either) which clarified where Lucy might have been coming from. In the email, Jen (at that point a second year student of theology) wrote that “if someone is repentant, they can be called a Christian, but if they are not, then they are called a homosexual and their salvation is not assured.”
I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard that kind of statement since then. “You’re not a real Christian.” I have heard it on countless discussion boards, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, blog comments and, worst of all, I have heard it from the mouths of friends and (distant) relatives. I have “heard” it in the looks people have given me when I walked in a gay pride parade wearing a T-shirt saying “God loves LGBT.” I heard it in the voice of a man who came from seemingly nowhere to shout at my pastor in a public place that she was “a daughter of Satan” and “going to hell.”
The thing is, there are two ways to live. But the choice isn’t between being a Christian and being a sinner. In this life on Earth we can’t choose not to be sinners. We can chose to be sinners that seek out grace and mercy. And who can extend the same to others. We can choose to rely on God and to leave the judging to Him.
God DOES love LGBT people. In the way that he loves all people. To say otherwise is to deny grace, whatever you believe about what does or doesn’t count as sin.
There is one life in Christ, who IS the Way.
And if it weren’t for grace, none of us would be ready to walk that Way. Because we do make mistakes, but grace is big enough, extravagant enough.
Why else did Jesus shout out “It is finished!” when nailed to that Cross?
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*Yes yes, hilarious name to say out loud. We all privately giggled even back then…