Church = Family

Reverend Joseph Bae

  1. What points stood out to you from the sermon? What questions did it raise?
  2. Pastor Joe referenced author and biblical scholar Wesley Hill. He writes, “I imagine Christian communities in which friendships are celebrated and honored—where it’s normal for families to live near or with single people; where it’s expected that celibate gay people would form significant attachments to other single people, families, and pastors; where it’s standard practice for friends to spend holidays together or share vacations; where it’s not out of the ordinary for friends to consider staying put, resisting the allure of constant mobility, for the sake of their friendships. I imagine a church where genuine love isn’t located exclusively or even primarily in marriage, but where marriage and friendship and other bonds of affection are all seen as different forms of the same love we all are called to pursue.”
    • Wesley Hill is gay, but what he proposes in this article goes beyond just the gay person’s hopes for friendship. What about the quote above appeals to you? In other words, what do you long for from your Christian community?
    • Do you experience the deep, committed friendship that this author describes? If so, what contributed to that friendship?
    • Why do you think such friendship is generally so hard to find?
  3. Read Matthew 12:46-50. This event in Jesus’ life is shared among the first three gospels, which is a way of saying that it is an essential and greatly valued teaching of Jesus. Why do you think it was so important and meaningful to the first Christians? In what ways is this teaching deeply needed today? How is this good news to the gay Christian or Christians with same-sex attraction?
  4. To speak of family is to use the language of obligation and responsibility. We take care of one another. If we are to live this out and become a family that could truly extend friendship and welcome to anyone who comes to our church, what would be something you would have to change? How might your small group model that change? How can we all make sure that talk of ‘church family’ isn’t just talk?

Note: I am thinking that as Jesus talks about the community of disciples and followers he understands it in terms of family and friendship and in both terms, Jesus is calling us to something higher. For the purposes of this discussion, I use friendship and family interchangeably: Church is a family and a community of true friends (No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15:13-15)

RE: question 3 – For the early church, Jesus’ followers were persecuted, seen as outsiders in their communities and even families. As well, Jesus states in the passage and in John 15:13-15, faith and belief in Jesus is a matter of obedience, of doing. Encouragement and people to be with us along the way has always been necessary for living out faith. This is important as people face and consider alienation from community they’ve grown up with, as they face death, as they grow old, as they worship and do ministry together.
Today, not much has changed. But unique is the increasing value of independence as we also see and feel increasing loneliness and need for interdependence.

For Christians who seek to faithfully respond to same-sex attraction by living a life of celibacy, this is so important. Permanence and a belonging are greatly desired, things that many have always just assumed can or should be found in the bonds of family or marriage. Looking ahead at potentially a lifetime of singleness, the church is what Jesus has given to them and to us all because we all long for permanence and belonging and the privilege of also giving the love we have.