For a long time now I, like many LGBTQ Christians, have felt a great deal of hurt by how some parts of the Church have treated our community. I talked a bit in My Testimony about how my upcoming marriage has ruffled a few feathers in my Church but for me, it goes much deeper than that.
I was first introduced to the darker side of Christianity when I stumbled upon various hate websites many years ago. I am afraid to say that social media has only made the problem worse in recent years. But it’s not just those who are openly hateful to the LGBTQ community that have caused me hurt, those who can’t acknowledge my partner and call him my friend, those who claim to ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ and the people who ask the pastor if it’s OK for me to serve in Church are arguably more hurtful that those who hold placards saying vile things. At least the placard holders are open about it.
I found David Anderson’s article on forgiveness really challenging, particularly his story of the South African lady who seems to have found forgiveness for her former Apartheid oppressors. My hurt is nothing compared to what she experienced and yet she has found forgiveness in her heart, and I am really struggling to do that. Jesus said that we should turn the other cheek, and I know he’s right, he is God after all, but for me the other cheek is also pretty bruised. But I know that my inability to forgive is hurting me. It keeps me in a cycle of depression and has a real effect on my relationships.
So how do I move on? That’s something that I honestly don’t have an answer to yet. I haven’t managed to reach that point although I desperately want to.
I listened to a non-Christian podcast on forgiveness that spoke about the four stages that we need to go through in order to truly forgive. They started by making the point that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. I may forgive those who have hurt me but that doesn’t obligate me to return to the place where I was hurt. They then said that the first stage is to understand what happened – how did I get hurt? The next is to allow myself to feel the pain and not ‘bury’ it. The third is to ensure that I am safe – that it won’t happen again. That could mean the person who has hurt me apologising or it could mean me ensuring I don’t open myself up to that hurt again. The last step is to decide to move on.
The last step is probably the most difficult for me. I have decided to move on with some people and if I am honest, with others I have decided not to. That’s a hard thing to admit as it is clearly against the teaching of Jesus, but I am human and fail at loads of things that Jesus teaches. But that’s OK because the beauty of the Gospel is that we don’t have to get it right all of the time. When we mess up, God still loves us and forgives us – because of Jesus and the fact that he took our sin. Although I am really challenged by David’s testimony and I do feel guilty about my difficulties with forgiveness, I also know that I am being much harder on myself than God is. God has already forgiven me, which is more of a reason why I must forgive others, but it is also a reason why I should forgive myself.