A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon about the story in John when Jesus stands between the woman caught in adultery and the religious elite who wanted to kill her with rocks. They pointed to a law from the Torah as justification. To kill a woman with rocks because she is caught in adultery was a normal thing to do at that time. It was the conventional wisdom of the day. It’s what God wanted. I love that story, because it captures Jesus’ willingness to stand with people, even when the conventional wisdom of the day says to do so is against God’s wishes. That story represents what Jesus was during his earthly ministry.
The love of God wrapped in flesh.
Right after I started here, we had a Forefront 1.0 meeting downstairs after the service. We only had 1 person attend. His name is Eric. He was new to Forefront, and he wanted to get more involved. He is a brilliant, kind, and faithful follower of Christ who had recently moved into the city from Connecticut. We chatted for a while and we found out that he had a lot of experience leading in churches and helping to develop small groups. As a pastor, I was loving what I was hearing. I pray for people like this to move to New York and end up at Forefront! I was excited to get him involved, And I was throwing out teams that needed help, and small groups that we could start, but Eric still had a look of concern on his face. This went on for a few minutes until we had to leave the Gramercy to make way for whatever Gore-Metal outfit was playing that night.
As we moved toward the door, he kind of winced, and then he spoke up. “I do have one question. I am a gay man, and my former church asked me to step down from my leadership roles because of it. I believe that God wants me to serve Him, can I do that here?”
Ryan, still seated and without hesitation, responded, “Of course. You can participate fully in our community.”
Eric is now my small group leader, and one of my most trusted and dearest spiritual mentors. He prays for me, speaks wisdom into my life, and teaches me how to listen to the Spirit of God as I lead in Ministry. The conventional wisdom of the American Evangelical culture says that a gay man cannot be a Pastor’s small group leader. But the spirit of God resides in him and flows out from him in profound ways.
We stand with Eric as Jesus stood with the woman in John 8, and now Eric stands with me as Jesus stood with the woman in John 8.
Eric is the love of God wrapped in flesh.
Conventional wisdom in American Evangelicalism says that say certain people are in, and others are out.
Conventional wisdom in American Evangelicalism says that say give financially to things that serve your agenda.
Conventional wisdom in American Evangelicalism says that say we should demonize people who believe differently than us.
Conventional wisdom in American Evangelicalism says bathrooms are scary.
I love Forefront, and for the first time in my ministry carrier I can honestly say that I believe wholly in what we stand for, because much like Jesus, we do not conform to conventional wisdom. We are a community of walking paradoxes. We are both Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. We stand with one another on a mission to be the love of God wrapped in flesh for all.
I love my church.