A short homily for Gay Pride Sunday, June 3, 2012
1 John 4:7-21
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. It would be hard to find a clearer message than that from the scriptures for this Pride Sunday. When we march, when we celebrate all kinds of love with our community, we affirm this message. Not just that God loves everyone, which is something we talk about pretty often, but that when we love one another, we are abiding in God, we know God a bit better through our love for one another.
The Greeks had three words for love, eros, philia, and agape. Romantic love, love for family, and unconditional love. The love referred to in this passage is agape, unconditional love. When a community comes together to celebrate gay pride, we are affirming that all kinds of love are good and Godly. The love partners have for one another, the love families have for their children, and the love friends have for those who stand beside them in solidarity.
There is one aspect to this charge to love unconditionally that is the hardest for most of us to practice, but perhaps the most crucial in the Christian message, and that is love for our enemies. For most of us, practicing this kind of love is a life-long struggle, and many never get there. It’s hard even to comprehend what it means to love an enemy. Does it mean befriending them? Accepting their actions that hurt us? Ignoring their faults? I don’t think so. I do think it means recognizing that each of our enemies is also a child of God, also a person who loves and is loved.
When we sing the civil rights Hymn “I Love Everybody,” and we come to the verse about Hoss Manucy, who was a particularly violent racist, I like to change the name I sing to be more relevant to my own struggles with this concept. Lately I’ve been singing ‘I love Rush Limbaugh,’ because the misogyny he spews out over the airwaves is so despicable to me, that it is easy to hate him. But I am called to love my enemies, and so I pray for the ability to do that. Loving Rush does not mean I agree with him, and it doesn’t mean that I accept his actions. Frankly, some days I don’t know how it’s possible to love him, and that’s why I have to pray.
I speak a lot to queer youth in this county about the Bible, and Christianity, and about how scripture is often used to bully them, but that there are Christians who disagree with that. One question that always comes up is about the people who stand on corners or protest events with huge signs saying God Hates Fags. These teenagers have all encountered this explicit message of hate, and they want to know what to do about it. My simple answer is this, pity them.
Think of what a sad, fearful life someone must lead that they feel compelled to tell other people that God hates them. That they are so afraid of God hating them, that the only way they can allay their fears is to point the finger at someone else. In fact, at the Salt Lake City Pride parade, their signs read, God hates fags, and Mormons and Jews and feminists! Basically, anyone who is different in any way from the guy holding the sign! When I am confronted with someone like that, someone who is so convinced that he is my enemy because of what I believe or who I choose to partner with, I pray for him. Pray that he eventually finds security in the unconditional love of God. Often, loving our enemies simply means praying for them to heal.
Every year, In June, people all over the country celebrate gay pride with parades and festivals and parties. We march with joy and celebration in remembrance of an uprising at a tiny gay bar in New York City called the Stonewall inn. We march because one night, the patrons of that bar stood up against the harassment and abuse they suffered at the hands of the police and they demanded equal rights. Sometimes, getting angry and standing up in protest is the most loving thing we can do. Think of Jesus throwing over the tables of the money changers in the Temple. He was angry, even a bit violent, but it was because he loved the people and had to show them that they were perverting a Holy place.
Sometimes we still have to rise up and march in protest or the rights of GLBT people to love one another freely and openly, and for the right to marry and raise children in secure families, because the fight for equality is far from over. Every day, children get kicked out of their homes for coming out, partners are denied access to each other in hospitals, people are denied jobs or housing, and some feel so alone and unloved that suicide seems to be their only option.
Today, we march for all of those people who cannot. We march as a prayer for those we love and for those we disagree with. We march in celebration of God’s love that makes all love possible. We march with the assurance that the love we have for one another, for lovers, family, friends and community, is a direct extension of God’s love. And we march because we know that when we abide in the love of God, there can be no room for fear. AMEN.