First published on April 7, 2017.
Years ago, my mother had numerous friends who worked at a supermarket florist in Anderson, SC. They were all gay, quite sweet, and quite talented. This was during the mid to late 1980s. We began to notice, one by one, that they were either no longer working, or appeared to be quite ill. To said that AIDS was decimating the gay population in that area was a misnomer. Decimate implies the execution of 1 in 10. This was more like Ninecimate, with 9 out of 10 dying.
Not long after we opened our gift shop, the Mill Gallery, one of her friends came out to visit. He returned a few months later, looking horrible. The disease was back, with a vengeance. He came out again, this time too weak to driver. His mother brought him. He enjoyed visiting with my mother, who made a pot of tea. They sat out on the porch, in rocking chairs, visiting.
He was shocked that she gave him tea in a mug. “You’d better use something you can toss.”
“I don’t want to contaminate you.”
She simply shook her head. “You don’t pass it from a clean dish. I’ll wash the mug and it will be fine.” She did and it was. He wasn’t, dying before the end of the week.
A month later his mother came out, just a total wreck. She had to tell my mother that, because of her kindness, and the way she talked to her son about Christ, the morning before he died, he accepted Christ as his Savior.
What if my mother had turned her back on this man, saying that he was gay, a vile sinner, and was paying the price for his sins, with AIDS?
If she had done this, would he have turned his life over to Christ?
After that, we acquired a large and very loyal gay clientele. Word had begun circulating that we didn’t care if they were gay or if they were ill. They could come shop with us, have a glass of champagne, sit on the porch, visit, and be treated decently.
One by one, they stopped shopping with us.
About a year later, I saw a gay friend in a store in Anderson. I asked why his friends were no longer shipping with us.
They were all dead. Only he and a few other had survived the AIDS epidemic.
Thanks to my mother, who, like her mother, was quite tolerant of the human condition, my sister and I were raised to be friends with men who were/are gay. I have never been able to understand the objection to our friends being prevented from knowing the same sort of familial happiness that everyone else knew, just because they preferred someone of the same gender. What I do know is that I have had gay friends who were together for nearly 35 years before one died.
Contrary to the way popular culture would like to portray them, my friends were the epitome of Family Values, taking in nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, sisters, mothers, anyone from their family who needed help and love. They were always there. They even made the commitment to help a family member with her family, if she were to get away from an abusive spouse. They did. She has created a very good life.
After my friend’s death, his nieces and nephew were discussing his memorial with their minister. What sort of service did he want? What verses did he want? What did the kids want? My friend wanted a service where Salvation was preached. He wanted it to reflect the Love of Christ. His nieces and nephews were so well trained and so well educated in the Bible they chose quite remarkable passages for the readings. They were readings and passages my friend had read with them, as a family. They wanted his favorite prayers read.
If you try and tell me my friend, who believed very strongly in Christ as his Savior, did not go to heaven because he was in a 35 year, committed gay relationship, I think I would suggest you don’t know much about Christ’s love, John 3:16, and Salvation, do you? I might even question your relationship with Christ.
It’s all quite simple, to me. Either you love Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior via John 3:16 or not. Gender identity and proclivities have nothing to do with it. We all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. Whoever sins, well, you throw the first stone. If not, go read 1 Corinthians 13.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels,
but do not have love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers,
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love,
I am nothing.
If I give away all my possessions,
and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,
but do not have love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient;
love is kind;
love is not envious
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing,
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.
But as for prophecies,
they will come to an end;
as for tongues,
they will cease;
as for knowledge,
it will come to an end.
For we know only in part,
and we prophesy only in part;
but when the complete comes,
the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult,
I put an end to childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part;
then I will know fully,
even as I have been fully known.
And now faith,
and love abide,
and the greatest of these is love.
So much of this is about love, pure and simple. As Christians, we are expected to project Christ’s love to all. We are all sinners, told that, if we were without sin, we could cast the first stone. If not, then sit down and basically shut up and treat the so-called sinner with basic human dignity and decency.
Decency’s a funny thing, depending upon the beholder. One person’s version of decency may be pornography to another, so let’s just leave it at that and deal with Christian Charity = love.
You can’t show the love of Christ if you condemn a person simply because they prefer a certain gender or race as a life partner. I don’t see much difference in the way some religious leaders view gay/lesbian relationships than with mixed race relationships in the past.
Also note, when I talk about ‘relationships’ I am talking permanent, long term gigs, not rank promiscuity, which I deplore no matter what the gender mix. While we’re at it, I don’t like seeing two men kissing and making out in public no more than two woman doing the same thing. For that matter, I don’t want to see a male/female couple doing that, either. I think standards should apply all around, and be just that – standard. I don’t like trashy behavior no matter what the gender or racial mix is, period.