By Dr. Elizabeth Hendrix
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most im-portant?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (NIV, Mark 12:28-31).
Often, I ask myself why some Christians interpret Jesus’ words here (and the greatest commandment) as “Love your white, straight neighbor as yourself”? We are called to love everyone, even our enemies, as Christians. However, in the year 2010, we still seem to have a problem loving our neighbors—gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals—as our-selves. Most churches are not loving and accepting of everyone, and they truly are not “open” either. Heterosexism (the “ism” that gay, lesbian, and transgendered people face) is rampant—especially in the “church.” One easily can observe this heterosexism in the “Christian” actions of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas and its leader, Fred Phelps. Members of this church protest at the funerals of gay community members, and in-stead of comforting and loving those who are grieving, they add to their pain. Supposedly, that is what God wants them to do and supposedly that is His commandment. I disagree. Jesus commands us to love all of our neighbors and not just the white, straight ones. Whether or not you agree with everyone’s lifestyles, as Christians, we are called to “love” and not to judge.
One of my nephews is gay, and one of my nieces is a lesbian. I would hope that in-stead of discovering hate and pain in church that they would find love and compassion. Also, I would hope that grieving families could find comfort from Christians in their times of need instead of more pain. Now, our church is deciding whether or not to be an open and affirming church. I would hope that we decide to be open and that we choose to love our neighbors as ourselves and not to be a part of another “ism” (heterosexism) as a church. Does Jesus ask us to love or hate our neighbors? In my opinion, gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals find more hate than love now—especially from Christians, and we have to change this. We have to learn to love ALL our neighbors.