Coming out while remaining Christian poses several challenges.The apostle Paul’s acerbic comments about gay and lesbian sex come to mind. After one makes peace with 10 or so biblical passages, one challenge remains: pride.
The Christian tradition long looked askance at pride. Pride made the list of the “seven deadly sins.” These were seen as the gateway to all debauched behavior. The Christian tradition taught humility as the cure for pride.
But I quickly found humility was no virtue when coming out. Humility causes us to think, “Who am I to disagree with the apostle Paul?” Humility leaves us silent when bullies make homophobic slurs or bosses discriminate. The humble don’t object. Humility keeps us in destructive relationships. The path to shame is paved with humility.
As a gay Christian I needed more than a rationalization for troublesome scriptures; I needed to find pride in my identity, pride in who God created me to be, pride to push back against the bullies, and pride to demand the best in friendships and relationships.
A friend pointed me to a line in the Bible: “You are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus, for good works prepared beforehand, which are to be your way of life.” It became my favorite verse, one that points to who we really are and how we are seen by God: a work of art, a masterpiece, worthy to be in the Louvre. How can we not take pride in ourselves when God takes such pride in us?
Imagine: Every human, in all our rich diversity, all our beauty and imperfections, every toned muscle and wart, every orientation from sensual to asexual – all of humanity in all our diversity treasured as God’s works of art.
The original word in scripture translated as “work of art” can also mean poem. “You are God’s poem.” Hearing the affirmation this way allowed me to see my life as a creative, playful articulation of God’s love. poets use words for their evocative power, a sense that stretches beyond the apparent meaning of a word to open up many different resonances. We are a poetic expression of God’s love, an unstructured lyricism of compassion.
The verse promises that who we are matters, and what we do matters too. How God put us together – our unique combination of all the gifts and flaws that make us up, shape that pur- pose. It may not be easy to find, it may not be clear, but everyone has a purpose.
It may be in lifting up a teenager overwhelmed with a negative self-image. It may be in comforting a grieving friend, caring for a neighbor who has trouble caring for herself. Your good work may be confronting racism, ralying for rights, speaking for justice, building community through action.
We all have pride and a purpose.
True pride comes when the poetry of our lives speaks to God’s great love. Take pride in this: you are God’s poem, give voice to God’s love.