My wife is a therapist at a community heath clinic that primarily serves the LGBTQIA+ community. Many of her clients are queer kids, teenagers, and young adults. Because she’s a great professional with a lot of integrity, I don’t know peoples’ names or specifics about them, but like most people, we spend a fair amount of time talking about “how was your day” sorts of things in the evening.
I can’t tell you how many times she tells me stories of harm done to young people by their families, friends, communities, and churches because they are LGBTQIA+. Stories of suicide and self-harm attempts. Stories of deeply held shame. Stories of fractured family relationships and kids who are homeschooled because of how they’re treated when they go see people who once were their friends and people who still care about God but are no longer welcome in their churches. Stories of people with deeply held confidence that God doesn’t love them because they are trans. People who are hurting so, so badly.
I have tried to be a loving friend to and advocate for queer people throughout my ministry. To say and do things that are helpful to make a space for queer people in the church. I’ve tried to demonstrate to people faithful ways to read the Bible that aren’t “traditionalist.” And so I want to say something helpful and kind and hope-giving. But…
In most of the Bible studies I have taught and in every conversation I have had with people new to following Jesus and reading the Bible, we end up talking about, “But what do you say when it’s really bad?” They ask this because people have said things to them like “everything happens for a reason,” “God has a plan,” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These aren’t the right words, and they speak to a way of talking about God that places blame. So I’ll say the only thing that’s appropriate to say in situations of harm and pain:
Jesus loves you, I love you, and I’m sorry.