27 June 2008

Do Not Be Afraid

by David Paul
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 10:24-39

We have become really good as LGBT people at paying close attention to the world around us. When we feel out of place or notice something different about the way we experience the world from others, our senses are heightened. Perhaps it is our anxiety of feeling out of place that injects a bit of adrenaline into our blood streams, making us pay acute attention to the world.

This feeling of heightened awareness often reminds me of sitting with my Grandma at her Free Will Baptist church in eastern North Carolina. I was always hyper-aware of the people sitting around me, listening intently to the pastor. I would hope and pray that his sermon entitled, “When Were You Saved?” did not lead down the path to the sinfulness of homosexuality. And I am not sure why I got so anxious, because it had never happened. In all my visits to her church, not one of the pastors had ever condemned homosexuality from the pulpit. Yet that feeling of being out of place certainly got my heart racing, as fear crept into my psyche.

A consistent message throughout the Bible is this proclamation: Do Not Be Afraid. It appears in this passage from Matthew as Jesus instructs his disciples about the potential danger they will encounter as they spread the good news. Jesus tells the disciples to speak freely about their faith convictions regardless of the consequences. I can only imagine how isolated the disciples must have felt as they entered cities and villages spreading the word about Jesus. And they had real reasons to be afraid! I am sure their hearts were racing just as fast as mine as they encountered clear resistance and outright hostility from others. It is almost impossible for us, modern day Christians living in the US, to really grasp the jeopardy that many early Christians encountered by proclaiming Jesus as Savior. If you happen to be LGBT, however, perhaps this passage resonates a bit more profoundly with your own experience.

Jesus was well aware that truth-telling was often dangerous work and had severe consequences. Shining the light on places of darkness can bring both joy and fear - an experience LGBT people know all too well. Claiming our own identity, sexuality, and spirituality often puts us at odds with the church, our families, and even our own LGBT brothers and sisters. And yet, we are told time after time – Do Not be Afraid.

In a passage that almost normalizes the consequences of truth-telling, Jesus calls on us to have courage as we disclose our truth to the world around us. What an appropriate message for Pride month! Do Not be Afraid. Instead, go forth into the world armed with the courage of Jesus Christ who knew all too well the consequences of truth-telling.

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