Joshua Ryan Butler is on the Collaborative Team for The Center and serves as Pastor of Local and Global Outreach at Imago Dei Community in Portland, OR. You can read his whole bio by clicking here.
Can I Belong?
There is perhaps no question more central to the human heart than this: Can I belong? We are made for communion with God and others. We are created for relationship, crafted to know and be known, designed to walk with others—made to belong.
This question is also at the heart of what LBGT+ individuals are asking of their churches. When they ask about membership, baptism, leadership, service, and communion, these are questions not just about doctrine, but about belonging. Their significance strikes to the heart of our humanity.
The Jesus Way
Jesus is our center. As we approach this or any question, we look to him as our highest priority. Faithfulness to his voice comes before every other consideration. Loving obedience to his command is our delight and joy. Our goal is not so much to be successful, but to be faithful.
Jesus embodies two characteristics that should help frame our goals as churches. These virtues, though our culture may pit them against one another at times, are gloriously held together in the person of Christ:
1) Radical Embrace.
Jesus embodies a posture of radical embrace, self-giving pursuit, and sacrificial love towards those pushed to the outer periphery of society. Jesus opens up the hospitality of God to people marginalized by the religious, political, and cultural authorities of his day. Jesus doesn’t just say, “You can come to my church,” but enters the homes of the rejected to fire up the grill, share a feast, and talk into the night.
2) Radical Obedience.
Jesus embodies a posture of radical obedience towards his Father, and calls all who follow him to a cross-bearing discipleship that raises the bar rather than lowers it. Jesus’s invitation is to die to ourselves that we might live unto God, to lose our life to save it, to give everything for the sake of the kingdom. We cannot compartmentalize things like sex, money, or power as “o -limits” to his reign—as King, he lays claim to all of our life.
This radical embrace and radical obedience can help frame our conversation around membership, baptism, leadership, service, and communion. Following Jesus, we strive to embody both his compassion and his conviction, both extravagant hospitality and devoted fidelity, both outstretched arms with our neighbor and worshipping love of our Creator.