The Abandoned are Closer to Christ
I saw a meme circulating around the internet of a rainbow-colored sheep being brought back to the flock, and the other sheep in the flock shouting back, “He wasn’t lost, we kicked him out!”
This, of course, is a play on the parable of the lost sheep found in the Gospels that shared the story of a shepherd leaving his flock of sheep to find the one sheep that was lost in the wilderness. The question found in this play on the parable is obvious: what do we do with sheep who weren’t lost, but who were actually kicked out of their own flock?
This is a common experience for queer people in the church. They lost faith, not necessarily because they immediately stopped believing, but rather because their own people kicked them out of the community they loved.
I cannot count how many close friends and loved ones I know who have been banished from their church communities solely as a result of their gender or sexual identity. And when they are removed from these communities, their former churches often look back and say things like “They walked away from the faith,” insinuating that the people in the church are closer to Christ than the queer folks they removed.
The irony here is that the opposite is true. The abandoned are closer to Christ.
Christ is one with the abandoned, the outcasted, and the marginalized. The abandoned may no longer recognize Christ as their God because of the hypocritical and harmful ways that Christ was presented to them, but the abandoned know more about the suffering and redemption of Christ than those who have left them out to dry. Those places and people that kicked out these beloved queer children of God do not tangibly identify in Christ’s suffering, abandonment, and need for community in nearly the same ways as the queer people themselves.
There’s not much left to say besides this: if you have been abandoned by the Church, no matter where you are now, you know Christ because you know his suffering. Christ loved people through the lens of suffering. You have loved people through the same lens because you, too, have suffered.
I learn so much every single day from those who have “walked away” from the Church by forceful removal. I cannot hear them or love them as anyone other than a dearly beloved sheep who has been brutally stripped from their flock, never to be wanted by those who were supposed to love them.
Christ is with those people. Yes. Even those people.