Thirty years ago this month, I stood at an altar and pledged my love and life to my incredible spouse. We chose a song with this closing line: “They will know we are Christians by our love,” to testify that day of our love for Christ, for each other, and for a hurting world. We believed that our marriage would multiply our ministries, our lives of service.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that concept this summer so many years later and the scripture it is based on: “By this shall all know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another” (John 13:35). I pray others have seen Christ’s love in us. I am concerned that, as part of the church, the body of Christ, it sometimes seems that the church is not really known for love these days as much as for judgment, for elitism, for condemnation, for rejection, as though it is ours to do the sorting of wheat from chaff, or goats from sheep. I am also guilty of judging more than loving.
I was in our nation’s capital this last week and attended a workshop presented by two pediatricians whose specialty area is adolescence. They taught about assessment and intervention with suicidal teens and substance using teens and GLBT teens. And the physicians taught the strengths perspective model, not the traditional medical model of identifying pathology. They included alarming statistics about suicide rates, particularly in GLBT youth. One said that he had been an ER physician and an ICU physician and that he had saved more lives by being a gay affirming doctor than all of the patient lives he had saved in the ER and ICU. He defined gay affirming by saying that he loves each patient, just as they are. He listens to them without judgment. He identifies their strengths, what is right with them, their resilience, their care for others, the things about each one that is special and admirable and he tells them that. So they trust him to tell him their pain and health risks and concerns. His instruction to the interns and residents who train with him is that every medical work up and consultation they bring to him starts with an identifying sentence, i.e. “Michael is a 17 year old white male with pneumonia and”…..then the second sentence….”and I love him because…” Years go Dallas Holm sang a song with the line: “I saw the Lord…and He saw me.” These teens are seen by their doctors; really seen, not judged. Loved, just as they are.
As I prepare for the NACSW conference in November and presenting with my colleague, Jon Singletary, a workshop on best practices with GLBT persons, I have been nervous about the controversy this conversation may generate. NACSW is interested in generating more light than heat. I have worried that I might be judged for not being “Christian enough” or not representing my University with integrity. My husband has worried about incivility at the workshop….i.e. harsh responses from my peers and colleagues.
One participant in the DC conference I just attended, a conference for persons concerned with military connected children, noted that the doctors I mentioned earlier presented the first such workshop at this conference and thanked them for their courage. There was applause. At military child education conference included a presentation by doctors in the armed services where love was the theme and where there was courage speak about their care for persons who have been judged and marginalized by….me….and perhaps by you.
Jesus is my model of courage. He ate with sinners and saints, tax collectors and poor fishermen, prostitutes and priests, lepers and leaders. His courage cost him. His courage gave us….everything…including courage. Let the conversation of love begin.
Helen is a social worker with experience in child care, foster care and adoptions, and hospice and grief. She is celebrating 44 years as a Christ follower and believes her relationship with Jesus Christ to be the most important information about her. Helen is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Baylor University where she teaches advanced practice in the Physical and Mental Health Concentration. She has been a member of NACSW since 1999.