One of my professors, Dr. Dwight Friesen, often speaks of how when engaging someone of a different faith in conversation, to truly engage them in honest dialog, we must listen so intently and ask such genuine questions that we, ourselves, are open to being converted. This idea has really stuck with me and I have been processing whether I agree with it throughout this semester, but following a conversation I had on Saturday afternoon, I definitely believe these words to be true and freeing in engaging another in genuine encounter.
Mandy and I were volunteering downtown at the YWCA yesterday and I had the opportunity of serving alongside two amazing, intelligent women whose heart for social justice astounded me. They were two homosexual women who were serving because of their Unitarian faith. I was truly blessed in the conversation. I asked them a myriad of questions about their beliefs, their alternative lifestyle, how being gay had impacted their relationships with family members, and how they had been treated by the Christian church because of their sexual preference.
My heart was broken as I listened to story after story of ways in which their Christian families and other Christian churches had failed to put grace on display, but had instead reacted in a spirit of judgment and condemnation. The one lady said that when her brother had told his mother he was gay, she responded by saying it would have been easier to hear that he was dead than to hear he was gay. That story crushed me.
As I continue to think through this amazing encounter, I truly believe that I was "open" to being converted. Now was I converted? No. Was I worried about being converted? No. But I approached these woman with such openness, honestly, and humility that everyone involved was impacted for eternity. They could sense I had no agenda and was not looking to preach. I was simply trying to be the good news of Jesus, that grace, peace, and reconciliation have come to this world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ...for everyone.
As we were cleaning up and preparing to leave, the women came up to me and asked for my contact information. They said they had loved our conversation and would be interested in continuing the dialog. I look forward to how our relationship might unfold and I pray that God would grant me the strength to stray from judgment and condemnation and continue to put the Kingdom on display through a message of grace and peace. Enough of the religiosity that only leads to people feeling estranged and bitter toward Christians. In the words of Meister Eckhart, "God, help rid me of God."