They will know us by our love…?

“They will know us by our love…” I grew up singing that at campfires, youth group worship sessions, even on family vacations. And this week I keep wondering what happened to that idea. What happened to the Biblical concept that those who call themselves Christ-followers should be known primarily by their love for others?

This week (especially because today is Trans Day of Visibility) I’ve been feeling so disillusioned, disappointed and disheartened by the ongoing political and personal attacks by people identifying as Christians on people whom I dearly love. Beautiful, lovely and loving people (many who also identify as Christians) who are just trying to be their genuine selves, to show up in the world in a way that makes them – and all of us – more healthy and whole.

I keep thinking that the people at the heart of these attacks must not know any actual, flesh and blood trans and non-binary people; they just can’t possibly know my dear friends and the children of my dear friends. If they did, how could they possibly think that trans people somehow pose a threat to anyone? It is, at best, an absolutely ludicrous idea, at worst, a life-threatening one. Literally.

The last thing I want to do is to demonize and attack the attackers – that just adds to the endless cycle of emotional, verbal and political violence, and doesn’t solve anything. As MLK famously said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I couldn’t agree more with MLK. When I am grounded in the confident light that I am truly Beloved – 100% and unconditionally – and I know that I am safe in that knowledge, my defenses come down. I don’t need to be in fight or flight mode, defending my rights by taking others’ rights away.

When I am grounded in Love, my arms open wide – both to those who are in my community and to those who aren’t.

When I am grounded in Love, I am not afraid to speak up on behalf of all the beautiful and beautifully gender diverse individuals in this world – those I am honored to know and all those I don’t. Their well-being is my well-being. I remember that we are all deeply connected.

When I am grounded in Love, I can be curious about the people I don’t understand, rather than being judgmental and condemning.

When I am grounded in Love, I remember that those who reject our trans family members aren’t doing so because they are evil, but because they, for some reason, aren’t able to rest in the power of Love for themselves or for others. The old cliché can help us to have compassion: hurt people hurt people.

When I am grounded in Love, I can stand up with loving courage on behalf of the “least of these” among us, using my voice and my vote on their behalf. And make no mistake, right now our trans family, especially those who are Black or Brown, are the least of these among us. If Jesus was here, He wouldn’t be hanging out with me. He’d be hanging out with them.

When I am grounded in Love, I can respect another parent’s right to make decisions for their own child. If my conservative friends refuse to use their child’s pronouns or to get them gender-affirming care, it may grieve me, but I don’t have the right to set rules for someone else. I can continue to volunteer my time, though, in helping parents understand what is really at stake when we refuse to embrace our children with truly unconditional Love.

When I am grounded in Love, I can also calmly recognize that nobody else has a right to make decisions or to set rules for me and my family, nor for anyone else and their families. In America, we are supposedly allowed to make our own medical and parenting decisions. That is one of the human rights we are so lucky to have in this country.

When I am grounded in Love, I know that when we try to control other people, it isn’t about Love. It isn’t about trust. When I catch myself trying to control someone else, it is a red flag for me that I need to do some deep introspection, because I am usually acting out of fear, rather than Love.

While I am a passionate, vocal supporter of trans rights, this is why I also fully support my LGBTQ friends who hold a more conservative view of their own sexuality and gender identity; it is their right to decide, in context of their own faith and convictions, how to live their own lives. In spaces where everyone is truly welcome, everyone is truly welcome.

If you are like me, you’ve got your hands full with your own baggage. I’ve got a long list of things I am working on, chewing on, learning, repairing, etc. I hope others will join me in doing much more self-examination and much less other-criticism.

When I am grounded in Love, I know that perhaps, if I hadn’t had a gay son myself, I might still be one of the evangelicals who views the rest of the world with fear and suspicion – thinking that all of the “non-believers” and “woke liberals” out there are threatening my way of life.

If I hadn’t learned, deep in my bones, the tragic harm of allowing the fight or flight response to be in the driver’s seat, I might still be in the group of people who are trying to legislate away their fears and discomfort. Maybe, if I hadn’t been so lucky to be surrounded by LGBTQ people for the past decade, I wouldn’t understand that there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to lose, but so very, very much to gain by loving people who are different from us.

When I am grounded in Love, I simply grieve for all the people who are hearing this horrific anti-trans rhetoric and who will, perhaps, respond like I did to my own child when he came out – with fear rather than with Love. I am grieving for those children, as well, who will, like Ryan, feel utterly rejected by God and by the parents who he had trusted so much. I am grieving because I know that more parents will lose their children, and, like us, will be left with nothing but memories and regrets.

When I am grounded in Love, I am determined to keep doing my part to make this world a place where Love wins. Where Love rules. Where the thing that matters most is Loving connections with others. Where Love, not fear, leads us to lay our lives down for the other.

Where we can sing, once again, that they will know us by our Love.

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