You’re an abomination! God hates fags! Your lifestyle goes against nature!
Now that I’ve got your attention, let me first emphasize that is not how I feel toward LGBT people. Unfortunately, there are still far too many people who do, and I’m sure most of you reading this have run across some who were more than willing to share those feelings with you. Even worse, it may have come from a loved one (spouse, parent, child) or someone you respected (pastor, close friend).
It’s one thing if you suspect someone has those attitudes, but it’s much more painful when they express them verbally, either to your face or behind your back, but within earshot.
Let’s face it, the old childhood saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is only half true.
Words can hurt.
Now, let’s take a different approach.
I love you. God made you in His image, so you have value. All of us who come to the cross can be saved.
I actually believe that group of statements. I suspect some of you have never heard them directed at you from a straight person before, and I believe people withholding that love and acceptance are acting outside of God’s will.
Some of you, however, have heard those words from a straight ally. Once you got over the shock, I bet it felt pretty good, didn’t it?
Words can also heal.
One of the most important lessons Jesus taught us during His time on Earth was the power of the spoken word.
Matthew 17:20 (NIV): He replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
That’s a two step promise; first we must have faith, then we must speak to it.
In John 11:43 (NIV), Jesus spoke His command to Lazarus’ lifeless body “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Because of the faith and power behind those words, Lazarus came to life and walked out of the tomb.
In Matthew 8, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant by saying “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would,” yet late in the same chapter we see that he healed Peter’s mother-in-law from her fever with merely a touch. If Jesus didn’t HAVE to speak to perform miracles, then why did he?
It was part of the example He set for us to follow. The Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
There are people who have corrupted this ideal, molding God into their own image, one of anger and judgment, and claim His power while twisting His words to fit their own agenda. The phrases I began this essay with are examples of that, and there’s no question they do have power.
The Devil is a powerful foe, and he also uses the spoken word, sometimes even that which is written in the Bible, to confuse, mislead, and denigrate people – to get between them and God as something like a roadblock, causing the individual to fall out of or never enter into fellowship with the Lord. In Matthew 4, Satan even tempted Jesus by quoting scripture! The idea of the Bible being used as a weapon of Satan is hardly a new one.
The wonderful news we can all share is that God’s power and His words are stronger than anything the Devil can muster. Satan’s ability to inflict damage, even using Christians to do his work, is no match for God’s ability to repair it and bring healing and reconciliation.
We see this in Romans 10:8-10 “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
If you really take ownership of that promise, hateful words might bruise you, but they can’t break you.
Jim Johnson and his wife Brenda host the online ministry “Straight, Not Narrow” where they seek to bridge the gap between straight and gay people in society and the church.