Friday, January 6, 2017

#LoveIsLouder: My Thoughts on the Kim Burrell Controversy

Gospel legend and pastor Kim Burrell was supposed to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week with Pharrell Williams to promote the film Hidden Figures, which features her song "I See a Victory," but after video emerged of a sermon she gave condemning the homosexual lifestyle, her appearance on the show was canceled. In her sermon, Burrell said, "That perverted homosexual spirit is a spirit of delusion and confusion and has deceived many men and women, and it has caused a strain on the body of Christ" (The Guardian). As expected, DeGeneres, who is openly gay, and other members of the LGBTQ community were offended, and a slew of LGBTQ celebrities and allies, including some of Burrell's gospel music contemporaries, spoke out against her anti-gay comments. I love Kim Burrell's music and I personally do not condone the homosexual lifestyle, but I have family members and friends who are on the LGBTQ spectrum. I tried to think about how they'd feel about this. After reading a plethora of articles covering the controversy online, I've realized how important it is, especially as Christians, to check our rhetoric. In efforts to reach others, it's not just what you say, but how you say it.

Ellen DeGeneres and Kim Burrell (Getty Images)

First of all, Kim Burrell called homosexuality "perverted." No one that I know of, regardless of sexual orientation, would respond positively to being labeled a pervert. That word, in addition to the negative connotations associated with "delusion and confusion," is weighted in stigma, and would especially be a turn-off for someone who is probably already feeling ostracized by the Church in general, a Church that constantly reminds them that they are committing the 'ultimate sin' by being gay. Most members of the LGBTQ community I know who were raised in Christian households stay out of church for two reasons: fear of judgment and fear of Hell. Some of them don't know God at all. Either way, the majority of them do not feel delusional or confused, and they certainly don't feel welcome in God's house. That needs to change.

According to Leviticus 20:13, "'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads'" (NIV). The New International Bible calls homosexuality "detestable," and the King James version calls it "an abomination," which are (obviously) anything but positive; however, the verse also says "their blood will be on their own heads" (NIV). In other words, those who have committed the sin will be the ones held accountable for it. On Judgement Day, each individual will have to stand before God and give an account of the sins they've committed. As a collective body, the body of Christ, we are held accountable for how we represent Him. We are not God, so we should not expect anyone to have to answer to us or agree with everything we believe in. As Christians, it is not our responsibility to hold sins over the sinners' heads. It is our responsibility to love them with the love of Christ.

1 John 4 (NIV) shed a lot of light on this issue for me. Verse 4 tells us, "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." The spirit of God that is in us is greater than the spirit of homosexuality that is in the world. The spirit of God must be present in order for the things that are not of God to be eradicated, but watch this: Verse 8 says that God is love. Why is this so important, you ask? If God is love, and He's in us, then we must also be love. Verse 9 reads, "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." The Word says God sent his Son to die for US, not just the holier-than-thou Christians, but also those who are still dirty, even after multiple washes (AKA all Christians!), and those who don't know God at all. We hear sermon after sermon about what goes against God, but we need to do better about acting on what He stands for. Actions speak louder than words.

God doesn't discriminate, and neither should we. I'm not saying we have to agree with how the LGBTQ community lives, but it is not up to us to punish them or make them fear the Church. The Church doesn't (or at least shouldn't) do the judging. God does. 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment" (NIV). They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, so if we love God, we have to love them. We are all God's children, made in His image, but we all have stained glass mirrors. In order to help sinners fix their hearts, we must first fix our hearts to see them as humans separate from their sin. We should not try to justify the sin itself, but rather to change our approach to it. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Instead of pointing fingers and condemning others, we should strive to help them see God as the approachable, accepting, forgiving, merciful Father that He is so that they will come to Him and be saved.  We show them who He is by reflecting His love in our own lives. Together, if we speak and act love loud enough, maybe one day, we can drown out all the noise.

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