When called to youth ministry, many people talk of longing for teenagers to know Christ. To know that there is a place where they will be accepted no matter what. For a long time, Young Life even had the motto “Every kid, everywhere.” I can’t help but wonder if we really mean this. Or do we mean we will welcome you into our group as long as you either a) already look and act like you belong here or b) quickly change to look and act like you belong.
I have long loved the passages of scripture that talk about Jesus pursuing us. The ones that talk about His longsuffering and unconditional love. I then think of Ephesians 5:1. Our imitation of Him has been poor at best. At least when it comes to loving those who are deemed by some as less than worthy. I have written a great deal in the past about issues surrounding racism, sexism and teens with disabilities. We still have work to do on inclusion in each of these arenas. Sexual orientation must be included in the conversation. Our young people are having the conversation, the question becomes whether they are having it with or without us.
There is (at least) one important difference between these important issues and that of sexual orientation. Regarding racism and teens with disabilities, for example, I have never met, heard of nor read about any young person saying they would rather kill themselves than share who they believe themselves to be with their youth group of church. Regarding the issue of sexual orientation, I have heard this repeatedly in the past two years. By no means is a struggle with sexual identity the only reason teens are attempting and completing suicide, but it is one, and knowing one that is preventable is a sin if we do not seek to prevent it. “Anyone,then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.” James 4:17
There are news stories replete with the grim realities for many young people today. Rolling Stone offered a particularly poignant word picture of one communities struggle earlier this year. Suicide is on the rise. It is currently the third leading cause of death for young people. Even more alarming is the rate at which LGBT young people are choosing to attempt and complete suicide.
There is a new album scheduled to drop tomorrow from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis tomorrow called The Heist. In particular there is a song named “Same Love” (see below) that has been getting a lot of attention. There is no shortage of critique and reference to faith throughout the song and in particular the video. It however, does not bash of the church, but rather offers a picture of how the influence of faith weaves into the life of one man from birth to death swirling around his life and homosexuality. It is offering a positive ending, a snapshot of a life that is wholesome and faithful. It offers what many of our young people are looking for.
With the portrayal offered in this video as a norm for many of the teens in our youth groups and for even more teens who are not a part of any ministry where we serve, how then do we enter the conversation?