“He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”
— Psalm 18.19b
In all of our lives, there are moments when God unexpectedly breaks through and reaches us directly. These moments stay with us for years. They serve as reference points for us — signposts we look back on to remember where we’ve been and how we got to where we are now. I’ve had a few such moments, including my conversion (obviously) and, several years later, an experience of God’s love so real and so overwhelming that it is for me a second conversion experience. They are always unexpected, and somehow gain more resonance as time goes on. They are the moments when we hear God speak directly to our hearts, and as such they are moments that change the direction of our lives.
One of those moments in my life came while reading Psalm 18. In the psalm, King David is in trouble, and God is so angered by those who would harm his servant, that the earth shakes and its foundations are laid bare. And in the midst of all the thundering, God rescues David:
He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me. (vv.16-19)
As I finished verse 19, I put my Bible down and thought, “That’s all nice for David, Lord. But I wish this psalm could apply to me.” And immediately God shot back, “Why can’t it?”
And everything changed.
You see, even though I had once heard God whisper the words “I love you!” I didn’t fully understand the nature of that love. What God was telling me through Psalm 18 was that he doesn’t just love me in some abstract, “Yes I love you but only when…” sort of way. God’s love means that he delights in me. Yet until then I had never made the connection. I easily saw my unworthiness and so assumed that God merely loved me in spite of all that. What I hadn’t yet seen was that God was, in fact, head-over-heels crazy about me!
About us! For I believe this verse applies not just to King David and myself, but to all of us, as children of God. Our heavenly Father/Mother is, as all good parents are, totally nuts about us — irrationally so, as it were.
So what does this have to do with our friends on the Religious Right?
Everything. For they tell us they love us, but do we feel loved? Do they give any signs that they delight in us? Do they share intimately in the joys and trials of our lives, rejoicing when we rejoice, and mourning when we mourn?
Or do they keep themselves at a distance, as though they’re afraid they might get dirty if they draw too close to us? Does their love for us include any palpable sense of delight? If not, I don’t think they really love us. How could that be love, when Love himself walked directly into the most scandalous situations and loved those whom the rest of the world hated? No, I think their “love” for us is false, or at best, a failure.
And that’s where we must provide the example.
You see, as queer Christians, it’s very easy for us to be put on the defensive, so that we spend a great deal of energy trying to prove our opponents wrong. We spend so much time hashing out doctrine that we forget the command to love one another — including our enemies. We forget Saint Paul’s admonition that if the world is to see the difference between Christians and everyone else, it will be through our mutual love for each other: slave and master, husband and wife, citizen and foreigner, native and immigrant, conservative and liberal — all putting aside the culturally-expected and socially-approved antagonism and loving each other as equals.
So if we are to show the world that God is truly in love with us, I think we must take the difficult step of loving our enemies — delighting in them, letting them see just how crazy God really is about them. And fighting to ensure that nothing separates them from God.
And that means saying NO to their sin.
That means saying NO to all their legalism, their self-righteousness, and their hypocrisy towards us.
That means saying NO to the way they have turned the church into an instrument of politics and NO to the way they have turned it into a marketplace.
That means saying NO to the idols they have made of our culture, our country, our history, our economic system, and our constitution.
It means saying NO to every wall they have built to protect themselves and to every plan they make to ensure their own safety and prosperity; NO to all the ways they refuse to trust in God’s love, God’s provision, and God’s dream for the world; and NO to all the ways they substitute their own images of God for the Living God, the God who always travels down the unexpected path and opens up the unexpected hope.
Therefore, if our brothers and sisters in the church are unable to show us love, the kind we can feel in every fiber of our being, then it is up to us to show them what love is. We must let them know that God is truly, madly, and deeply in love with them. But we must also let them know that God will not resist them forever. If they continue to put him off, he will eventually leave them be. And then they will have no love at all.
Yes, as queer Christians of all stripes, we must let our brothers and sisters know the real, palpable love of God. They must be able to feel it in the deepest parts of their souls. They must be able to hear it in every word we speak, and to see it in everything we do. It must spring to their mind every time they think about us. We must be so closely associated with Love that they cannot tell where we leave off and Christ begins.
And this means they must know that we will not tolerate any behavior that would distance them from God. We must be willing to move heaven and earth to make their paths straight before them, to move every obstacle out of their way. If we are to love them, then we must truly despise everything that keeps them from God’s love. For has not God done the same for us?
Steve Pearson is a Protestant mutt and failed theologian who has a Ph.D. in Literature and teaches at a midsize university in the South.