I know what it feels like to act with conviction. And to “know” I’m on the “right side.” And to believe I’m doing God’s work.
I, too, use my faith to guide my choices and actions.
And so I see where Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is coming from and why she feels so strongly.
It hurts me that the Christian faith is being interpreted, though, to diminish people and their love for one another. How is it that among us spiritual folk, there is such disagreement about what the Bible teaches and what God desires of us?
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The church I preach at uses Micah 6:8 as a guiding principle: “What does God require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
As straightforward and clear as it seems to me, I understand that even among Christians, we have vastly different understandings of what it means to “do justice.” Religion often comes down to how one human or another has interpreted a line. We tear each other down over verses that we are just doing our humanly best to understand.
Perhaps Jesus foresaw this and for that reason clarified with one, simple, straightforward, Golden Rule: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. ... The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Here we can agree, I believe. And this is what I ask of Davis: To love this neighbor as she does her God and herself. I’m Nancy Petty. I have a beautiful wife and daughter. My life’s work is to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with my God. A large part of my calling is to accept and affirm all of God’s people who arrive at my church doors. Many of them come with broken hearts at having been battered by their home churches. Many come with the extraordinary amount of faith it takes to still seek communion with God and acceptance from a faith community, even after a pastor has told them that they’re going to hell.
Congregants come because they know love. And they know that God is love. And they simply do not believe in a God that does not love their love.
To deny someone the right to wed their beloved is hateful. LGBTQ youth and adults alike are suffering from abuse, neglect, depression and even suicide. These beloved brothers and sisters are hurting for want of being loved and accepted. As people of faith, are we not called to offer our unconditional love and acceptance?
Davis and others like her may not ever agree with me on the issue of same-sex marriage. But I do pray that they can love us – their neighborly brothers and sisters in Christ – as God has commanded. And loving us looks like accepting and affirming us. A person is truly loved when she is fully accepted as who she is in the eyes of God.
At Pullen Memorial, all are welcome. Come be who you are.
The Rev. Nancy Petty is the pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh.