It sounds like something straight out of an Orwellian universe: government leaders demanding that clerics turn in their homilies to be inspected under threat of prosecution. But this isn’t some dystopian novel. This is modern-day America, and that is exactly what’s happening in Houston. The nation’s first openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, is making a name for herself by singling out Houston-area ministers who were vocal in opposing the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance which allows for, among other things, the use of opposite sex bathroom facilities as long as you claim to identify as that gender. She has subpoenaed any sermon having to do with homosexuality, the new ordinance, or her. Needless to say, this has stirred the evangelical hornet’s nest that is the deep south, and the stingers are poised and ready. “Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons,” said Tony Perkins, the head of The Family Research Council.
Now, I don’t live in Houston, so I am well out of Ms. Parker’s jurisdiction, but I feel compelled to offer a sermon of my own. I promise, it won’t be as long as my typical sermon, but I pray it is more effective.
Jesus loves you.
He doesn’t love you because you are good. He doesn’t love you because of your accomplishments. He doesn’t love you because you are such a wonderful person.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. He loves you in spite of yourself. He loves you when you fail. He loves you when you are spiteful and prideful. He loves you when you behave horribly. In short, He loves you when you are unlovable.
And He loves you so much that He’s not willing to leave you alone.
He invented humanity, relationships, gender, and sex. He also knows how they best work. So when He places boundaries on relationships and sex, He’s not doing it to be a killjoy; He’s doing it to protect us and guide us into holiness. In other words, He knows what is best for you and wants you to live and thrive in that.
I know, it’s unpopular, and you most likely will reject this truth. But He still loves you.
And because He loves you, His followers should too. I hope they don’t seek out civil disobedience just to make a point. Instead, I hope they reach out to an entire city with such radical love that the city itself rejects anything that smacks of religious persecution. I also hope His followers love you and pray for you and find a way to reach out to you.
But I also hope that God emboldens His followers to preach the truth, no matter what the consequence. That truth is that He loves you. But that truth is also that He is the very definition of righteousness, which means He makes the rules, not us. And the truth is that He is absolutely just, which means unless you accept the forgiveness He offers, there is no hope.
That’s not just true for you. It’s true for all of us, which brings me full circle to my original point.
Jesus loves you. The question is, will you love Him in return? I hope you do.