Let me back up.
My neighbours are gay. Not all of them, just the two ladies living (almost) next door. And, like any group that has been cast out by the church, they’ve been on my heart. I like to think that God put them there. So, with that in mind, I’ve been looking for a way to befriend them. This, however, is not a post about lesbians or barbecues (to the disappointment of many of my readers). It’s a post about mission and our understanding and embrace of it.
For weeks I had been trying to plan this barbecue. It’s a delicate balance. I don’t know Emma or Kate very well, and I understood that our conversation could be very awkward if it were just the four of us. Problem was, who could I invite that would understand and embrace the mission of what we were doing? Mind you, the purpose of the barbecue was not to ask this couple where they would spend eternity, but simply to give them a glimpse of Jesus, if only by letting on, in some subtle way, that we were Christians. I’m burdened for the homosexual community. They’ve been cast out by the church yet are as desperate as any of the rest of us to be loved. I want to be about loving them. Still, I didn’t want them to see an agenda in those burgers, even though, in fact, there was one.
As Jamie and I began to discuss the possibilities, we were surprised and saddened at just how few there were. Don’t get me wrong, we know a lot of good people over here. A lot of good people who are truly about the mission. But this was an entirely different beast, and we knew it. Finding that balance of people who were, in fact, deep in their faith, yet who understood that salvation is a process and who, furthermore, weren’t homophobic. We thought and thought. The other problem is that Jamie and I don’t drink and I just knew that this couple would bring wine (they did). In addition to mission minded, grace filled Christians, we also, frankly, needed some people to drink! We didn’t want this couple to feel awkward about their gift.
We thought long and hard about this and finally decided on four people. One is a teacher friend of ours who grew up Anglican. Those people have no problem with alcohol. Her husband, unfortunately, is a Salvationist…so he was no good to us. The other two are a couple of goth friends I met a couple of years ago. He is in a metal band (hallelujah) and she is a youth worker. Their church affiliation is non-denominational and, in addition to being very cool and edgy, they have no problem with alcohol. And thus our barbecue was complete.
Still, I found myself wondering about all the others. What would they do if they knew they hadn’t made the list? If they knew that we were concerned about their ability to relate to and embrace our neighbours. Would they be embarrassed? Angry? Would they disagree with our assessment? Furthermore, would I make their list? Have I presented myself in such a way as to gain their confidence in the mission? Would they choose me to fight in their spiritual fox hole? Who knows? Nobody’s asking.
In the end, the barbecue went well, but only Emma came. Still, I think it was a good start. I had my 80’s playlist on (over five hours worth of music and counting!), grilled up burgers, wings, and lamb, and spent the evening arguing the fact that Genesis were, in fact, a decent little pop band in their day (along with why Billy Idol’s White Wedding should be played at Olyvia’s wedding, the fact that Heart are one of the most underrated bands of that era, and why Korn’s cover of Word Up was a huge mistake.)
Now, how many barbecues does it take to convince somebody that Jesus loves them?