Jesus Loves Me This I Know
An elder in the San Francisco presbytery asked me this in response to a recent blog post about the defeat of Amendment 08-B, the amendment that would have opened the door to allow GLBT faithful Presbyterians to serve as ministers. The question hit home for me as a pastor, a mother and as a lifelong Presbyterian.
At my church, Community of Reconciliation, we sing this song as the children go downstairs to the fellowship hall for Childrens’ Church before the sermon. You may also have known this song all your life:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world!
Or perhaps, like me, this was among the first things you learned as a child in Sunday school: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so!”
Now imagine yourself having absorbed this message as a very young child, singing it with your parents at bedtime and at the beginning of Sunday school with your church friends. See yourself at summer church camp during middle school around a fire on a starry night and the whole group joins in singing these songs you all learned sometime, arms on the shoulders of the kids on either side, swinging to the rhythm.
And imagine yourself to be a child who has had, for as long as you can remember, a sense of being a little different from the other kids. Sometimes classmates have teased you because of this, but the promise of Jesus’ love has helped you stand up for yourself in the face of this bullying.
Now you are in high school and you begin to realize slowly, tentatively, that you have a crush on someone of the same sex. Suddenly, at church, a message you might have heard before only registers now because you realize this is about you. The preacher ominously thunders that God judges homosexuality to be an abomination. And you really don’t know what “an abomination” is but you are certain it can’t be any good.
Suddenly, your church tells you that God, now, does not love you and maybe – you fear – never did since you know you have not changed. This is the way you are; this is the way God knit you together in your mother’s womb. You have no choice about that — but you do have a choice about church.
I am amazed at the faith of the GLBT Presbyterians who have so absorbed the Gospel message from the earliest days of “Jesus loves me this I know” that they are able to stand firm in the face of such a contrary message and still radiate God’s love, still find their church home in the PCUSA. Such courageous witness is built on the rock of this assurance that Jesus loves all the little children of the world.
May our churches remember to be ambassadors of His love. May we welcome our GLBT young and faithful into their callings, not turn them away in shame.