International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
Gospel: John 17: 6-19 – Easter 7B
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The purpose of the day is “to promote a world of tolerance, respect and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientations or gender identities.
For people of all faiths and no faith, the day calls us to compassion. For Christians, Jesus in today's gospel points the way beyond tolerance and towards compassionate action. John’s gospel tells of a compassionate Jesus who, while on earth, both experienced persecution, hatred, and violence and protected his disciples from them.
The most prominent element of this passage is Jesus’ compassion. We see that Jesus and the early Christian community knew the pain of violence and persecution. Even though he is soon to be betrayed by one of his disciples and crucified, he prays to God on behalf of the disciples. He protects them on Earth and prays to God asking for their continued protection. We see a deeply incarnational God in Jesus—one who experiences pain and hatred alongside his followers, one who is deeply concerned for their welfare, and one who prays for their protection.
This compassionate Jesus stands too with all those who are at the margins. Jesus stands with all those who face hatred, violence, and persecution today. Jesus experiences their pain, is concerned for their well being, and hopes for their protection. The compassionate Jesus also lives among the persecuted African LGBTQ persons and LGBTQ around the world who are discriminated against because of their sexual or gender identity. Jesus invites us, his disciples today, to practice the same active compassion.
Another striking component of today's gospel is the way Jesus places the hatred of the world in the context of being “sent into the world” (v.18). Admittedly, this is a challenging part of the text. Although Jesus prays to God for the protection of his disciples, his desire for their protection does not override their commissioning to witness to the truth in the world. Even in his prayer for their protection, Jesus reiterates the importance of the disciples going into the world and witnessing to the truth.
As Jesus’ disciples, we too are meant to go into the world and witness to the truth. Whether it is the truth of our own gender and sexual identities, or the truth that it is not acceptable to discriminate against others on the basis of these identities, or the truth that religion can no longer be exploited for the use of violence and persecution, we are called to speak those truths publicly and actively into the world.
And, as Jesus acknowledges so must we, that speaking such truth means meeting face-to-face with opposition. Even so, to speak the truth means our actions must match our words. On the back cover of your Order of Service booklet there is a list of some of the global LGBTQ organizations. Whether we're an ally or identify as LGBT or Q, whether we're in the closet or out, we can take some time to learn more about the organizations on the list or more local organizations. We, as individuals and as a community, can find out how one or more of the organizations can use our support in advocacy and outreach. We can work to make our hearts and community more welcoming.
Standing up against the violence and persecution of LGBTQ persons perpetrated in African countries and around the world means facing a hostile world in which there are countries with hostile laws, in which there are individuals committed to homophobia and persecution, in which there are religious people with hostile ideas about sexuality, and sadly, in which there is apathy and silence among fellow Christians.
In spite of all this today's gospel reminds us that Jesus sends his disciples including us into such a world to witness to the truth. Today's gospel also reminds us that we go into such a world with God’s care and protection.
Please reflect a moment then, if you wish, share a sentence or two on your thoughts.
1Adapted from resources found on the Religious Institute website: Accessed April 10 2015. Retrieved from http://www.religiousinstitute.org/gilead/pray/sermon/Easter-7b/