In the wake of all that Christianity brings, I believe it is safe to say that claiming to be Christian is beneficial while simultaneously unfavorable, which in this case sounds oxymoronic, if you would ask me. Among the benefits that Christians gain is a life filled with blessings. However, among the risks that one encounters are attacks on every hand as a result of those very blessings. “Christians who are living blessed know that the more they have, the greater the attacks on them can be,” says Dr. William H. Curtis. This is the life which those claiming Christianity as their faith have grown to embrace, often a difficult walk, and sometimes even a fight. For those who struggle with staying afloat, Good News comes by way of the resurrection. Despite disappointing experiences, Curtis encourages us all to, “Embrace the good in life and celebrate your blessings because they do move you closer as opposed to further from God as some would have you believe.”
You will discover that many of the forerunners in the early church endured similar attacks because of their beliefs. As an authoritative messenger and interpreter of the gospel (1 Peter 3:13-18), Peter writes to those Christians who were forced into exile, forced to lose benefits, and forced to undergo a great suffering. Many were persecuted because of their naysayers’ non-scatological feelings about the message and ministry of Jesus. Truth told, those naysayers even threatened to split the church with their religious dissensions. However, Peter lays out a classical culture pertaining to those who have been coined as “outcasts.” He argues that you have been chosen by God while at the same time expelled from the very same place God has called you, simply because others have told you that you possess less power because of your doctrine, your gender identity, your vocal tonality, or your sexual orientation. Peter’s message suggests that during times in exile, your suffering requires you to reflect upon the cross as a symbolic message of your equality.
First, what the cross says to you as an LGBT individual is that your suffering will pay off. As Peter writes to encourage those Christians who were placed in isolation and regarded as underdogs, he emphasizes that these Christians who were ostracized from their homelands were indeed still laborers of Christ. What this tells you is that many of you may be or may have been persecuted because of your progressive theological beliefs. However, what you have suffered, some people are not willing to endure for the sake of Christ. Thus, 1 Peter 3:14 explains, you will triumph in your suffering.
How does one triumph in suffering? According to Peter, that triumph comes by overcoming your fear. David Walls and Max Anders argue that, “Opponents often attempt to intimidate believers to change their “right” behavior or to deny their “right” beliefs. . . . In the midst of suffering for what is right, believers are sometimes intimidated into running from their belief system or running from their circumstances.” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, resisted fear by lobbying for LGBT civil rights, and the movement ultimately won marriage equality. Griffin is a great example of how Christ calls you from your complacency of unconcern and disinterest in the welfare of others and bids you not to turn a blind eye to oppressive behaviors affecting your community. Being a slave to Christianity summons you into righteous living; prompts you to be unafraid; and requires you to stand when no one else wants to stand, speak when others don’t want to speak, love when others hate, accept what others reject.
Curtis explains that fears have caused a lot of people to be held up, held back, or held still. He further adds, “…the moment you allow fear into your spiritual life, you run the risk of arriving late to achieving your potential.” Fear diminishes the faith of the believer and makes what seems possible impossible. Had Peter not written to those who were in exile, they may not have believed that they were still a chosen people of God. Sometimes, having the courage to overcome fear is an act of disobedience to man but of obedience to God. Going against fear is utilizing your faith, which Curtis calls spiritual defiance: “It is a righteous rebellion against your own ‘messed up’ reality.” In organizing the Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis, Inc., I would have succumbed to fear had I not listened to the voice of God. I lost some engagements, lost some family, lost some friends, and endured folks’ efforts to discredit my integrity — all for my premise of establishing a church for all people. Yet God is still blessing our church. We are growing. Lives are being touched, people are being healed, relationships are being mended, and souls are being saved simply because I found confidence in the word of God.
Secondly, you triumph ethically (1 Peter 3:16). “Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:14). Over time, countless anti-Christian haters have dishonored God’s chosen people. However, Matthew Henry says, “It is sometimes the will of God that good people should suffer for well-doing, for their honesty, and for their faith.” Some people may boycott, protest, and speak evil about anything that you stand for. For instance, Rev. Edwin Sanders of Metropolitan International Church (MIC), Nashville, TN, started a First Response Center, a primary care clinic that provides HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, prevention, and education to the community. At one point, many Black churches disassociated themselves from MIC due to social stigma. But over time there has been a shift in theological perspectives regarding the LGBT agenda as understanding has spread that just as heterosexual individuals are God’s chosen, so are LGBT individuals. When one does right as Rev. Edwin Sanders and MIC have done, then nothing that the world throws can inflict harm.
Finally, you triumph in your exaltation with Christ. Peter illustrates later in the text that Jesus becomes the model for rejection, and yet He is still exalted. Much like Him, many of us have been rejected on every hand. Bishop O.C. Allen, III, Presiding Prelate of the United Progressive Pentecostal Church Fellowship and the pastor of the Vision Cathedral, Atlanta, GA, was once alienated by the church because of his theological stance on inclusivity. But now as a social justice advocate, Bishop Allen serves on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS for the White House and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If Peter was here today, he would argue in conclusion that Bishop Allen’s unwarranted rejection was a means of obtaining glory, just as Christ’s underserved rejection had been. Christ endured his suffering, overcame fear, and stood up against wicked mistreatment. He suffered on behalf of the unjust and the unaccepted. He hung, bled, and died for the sake of rejection — for the purpose of being abandoned. He died so that you and I could be free. He died to disrupt society’s protocols. He died to dismantle theological beliefs and individualistic theologies. And because he died, Christ was exalted — exalted above hatred, oppression, disunity, fear, and bigotry. Therefore, we must walk in truth knowing that Christ died and rose just so we can live as openly, lovingly, and earnestly as we truly are.
notes: choice of pronoun “you” often throughout, structural/organizational issues throughout (main idea-supporting detail deviations) which may possibly be rectified by cutting out unjustified word count to streamline the message from start to finish, especially regarding full page to address first point versus a half for the next two feels unbalanced as flow for readability; anticlimactic conclusion that deviates from main point to sum up with the same ending as any typical sunday sermon… should perhaps ride a more original point on home through to that ending, preferably pertaining more directly to the aftermath theme and main idea?…