Church leaders from across the United States gathered at an ecumenical council to discuss the future of Christianity. Culture was changing, and they found themselves having to compromise their beliefs to remain palatable to the public. Much to their surprise, Jesus showed up to offer counsel. In the course of discussion, a leading theologian asked of Jesus, “What must one do to be a Christian?”
Jesus turned to him and asked, “How would you answer?”
The theologian replied to him, “First, to love the Lord your God with all your soul and all your strength and all your mind. Second, to love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Very good!” Jesus replied, “This is what one must do be a child of God.”
But the theologian inquired further, because there were issues where he wished to justify himself, “What does it mean to love?”
And Jesus answered him, “A gay man was traversing the Internet when a group of hateful people disparaged his sexual orientation. Verbally bruised and beaten, he did not know how to respond. Each of his replies only met with greater bigotry and demeaning slurs. This left him in a state of self-doubt and despair.
“As it would happen, a Southern Baptist preacher would to read the discussion. He saw the man, but he felt that the people taunting the man were in a sense right, even if their words were harsh, and God did in fact view the man as an abomination who needed to repent. Thus, not knowing what to say, he left the thread as it was.
“Also reading the comments was a Christian counselor for ex-gay therapy. He too saw the man, but he decided that this would not be the right time to speak to him, because the man would be too sensitive to hear anything about converting his sexual orientation. He, too, left the man alone.
“But an atheist had also stumbled upon the site. When he saw the man, and he read the hateful comments, he felt great empathy. Knowing that further comments would only make the situation worse, the atheist sent the gay man a message privately. He disparaged the conduct of the others and encouraged the gay man to be comfortable with who he was. The atheist pointed the man to several mental health resources which would help the man accept his orientation and live a healthy lifestyle. He even gave the man personal contact information in case he should ever need someone to discuss these issues.”
Then Jesus turned to them and asked, “Which of these three men has loved his neighbor?”
But the theologian could not answer, because he so strongly desired to justify himself. An argument began to erupt from within the gathering, and many demanded that the atheist had not loved the gay man, because he had encouraged him into sin. Jesus grew distraught, because he could see that their hearts were set on maintaining their beliefs even at the cost of harming others. He asked of them, “What causes the gay man grief? Why does he suffer?”
“He suffers because of his sin!” the gathering replied, “And he must repent to be healed.”
“Does the man not suffer because of those who were taunting him?” Jesus asked further.
“Yes, but there is a deeper pain which sin brings. The atheist may have made those feelings go away, but the gay man will now believe lies, and those lies will bring death.”
Jesus’ patience was at an end. He then pierced them with his eyes and said, “You hypocrites! By the beliefs you suppose will bring life, you bring only death. Any man who by his beliefs cuts himself off from empathy for his neighbor does not love God, for he hates what God has made. Go, therefore, and do as the atheist, who not being blinded by his beliefs has found true goodness and love.”
At this, many dismayed and contended further with Jesus and said, “How can we accept this hard teaching? How may we reconcile this with our faith?” But Jesus left them to ponder what he had taught.