Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.
Session 10 of Homosexuality & Transgenderism: A Bible Study.
Icebreaker: What is the greatest challenge you’ve seen yourself or a GLBT person you know face in your community because of their sexuality or gender expression? If you could do one thing to help change that, what do you think it would be?
Explain: Today we are going to be talking about different things we can do as Christians to combat the prejudice and bigotry GLBT people face in society for simply being who God made them to be.
Ask: What are some of the things that society does to oppress or discriminate against GLBT people? What are some things we as Christians can do to change things?
Explain that there are three main ways you as an individual can work for change in society’s treatment of GLBT people:
1. Celebrating Who You are as a Gift
Have someone read Psalm 139:13-16.
Ask: How can we apply these words in connection with our sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?
Explain that the first thing you have to do to change your world is to change yourself. This begins by accepting yourself as God made you. The heart of prejudice or bigotry is trying to say to others that they aren’t good enough as God made them. Society teaches people who are different, including you and me, that we are not a blessing but a curse, due to being different. The bible says differently – it says that our differences are gifts of God. Each of us represents God’s image in a different way and each of us, by being exactly who we are – be that bisexual, gay, straight, disabled, trans, whatever – can reflect God’s glory and character in a way no one else can.
You can’t truly help others to accept themselves until you accept yourself as beautiful, beloved, and accepted by God. You need to come face-to-face with your sexuality, gender identity, and whatever else about you seems different from other people, and realize that it is a gift of God to the world. You need to embrace it, welcome it, and surrender it to God’s glory.
Ask: How is this difficult? How can this make a difference?
Have folks read and discuss the Six Soulforce Beliefs About Myself:
- I believe in God;
- I believe that the primary goal of life is to know God;
- I believe that I am most likely to find God while I am serving others;
- I believe that I will not discover the purpose of my life or the power in my life until I seek God by serving others;
- I believe that when I seek God in serving others, my own life will be renewed, empowered, and made more meaningful;
- I believe that in serving others, it is as much my moral obligation to refuse to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good.
Ask them which of these they find difficult or easy to espouse. Have them join in reciting them together.
Explain that the next two points come from 2 Corinthians 5:12-6:2.
Have someone read that passage. Ask the group to share what messages 2 Corinthians 5 gives about how to change GLBT people’s place in society.
2. Recognizing the Prejudice Within You
Point out verse 16: “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.”
Explain that the starting place is recognizing your own prejudice against sexual minorities.
Discuss the various forms and expressions of prejudice and in what ways the influence our individual thinking and actions.
- Unaware Prejudice – Where you do not recognize the way you are treating others differently.
- Cultural Prejudice – Where the culture’s expectations of certain groups of people unfairly lumps people together and marginalizes certain individuals. At times this may lead to actions or systems that discriminate which people never investigate or change because “this is the way it has always been”.
- Stereotyping – This is assuming all people are a certain way, like all gay men are effeminate, or all trans people are gay.
- Internalized Prejudice – This is where someone looks down on themselves, believing false and derogatory messages of the culture about people in their sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or other minority group.
- Institutionalized Prejudice – This is where prejudice has been empowered through rules and regulations or programs that discriminate against the group in question. For instance, the army’s rules against openly gay soldiers or state amendments opposing gay marriage.
- Denial – This is where you deny that prejudice is a problem for you or your community.
Ask: How does this text connect with how we deal with the effects of prejudice on our own treatment of and view of others?
Explain that this shows us that, in light of how Jesus accepts all people, regardless of sexuality, gender identity, or anything else, as God’s children, we should no longer look at people according to our previous prejudices. We have to confront the subtle ways we have let the prejudice of society against sexual minorities affect our own view of and treatment of individuals around us. We have to confess that to God and begin to change both how we look at and how we treat those who are sexual minorities.
Ask: In what ways have you let prejudice affect your view of and treatment of people of different sexual orientations and gender expressions? In what ways can you change this?
3. Recognizing the Prejudice Around You
Explain that not only must you become aware of your own prejudice but also how prejudice is at work in the society around you, in others.
Review the different types of prejudice. Ask: How do you see these types of prejudice at work around you in your sphere of influence?
Working To Change Minds & Patterns One Life at a Time
Have folks re-read 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.
Ask: What does this passage say? How does it connect with working for change?
Explain that here we are told not only that we are to confront our own prejudice and the way it stands between us and God by clouding our perceptions of God’s children, but also we are called to be “ambassadors for God”, bringing the message of God’s reconciliation.
The key part of this is how people can be reconciled to God, but that includes the need to be reconciled to each other.
Have someone read 1 John 4:19-21.
Explain that, in order to relate to God properly, one has to be open to and accepting of all God’s children.
That means that folks who are living with prejudice and discrimination against people, whether people of other ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, etc., are pushing God away as well when they do that. You can’t both accept God the Creator and treat God’s creations as if they are junk.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it this way – “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
That means that people who mistreat gays are losing out on something essential God has for them that they can only find in relationship to gay people. They can’t fully discover all God has for them in their relationship with God and in God’s plan until they accept their GLBT neighbors.
Likewise, it also means that folks who are being oppressed for being sexual minorities have something God has for them that they cannot fully realize without connecting with folks in the straight community, something that can’t be found by staying in the all-GLBT cliques that sometimes people get involved with.
This means that being fully reconciled with God means confronting the prejudices that keep us from fully accepting others who are different so that we can be open to them and, by being open to them, being more open to their Creator.
Ask: Why might it be difficult for GLBT people to reach out toward non-GLBT people to help them overcome their prejudice?
Have folks read and discuss the Seven Soulforce Beliefs About My Adversary:
- My adversary is also animated by common dignity, worth, love and Spirit; we are both members of the same human family; we are people in need of reconciliation.
- My adversary is not my enemy, but a victim of misinformation as I have been.
- My only task is to bring my adversary truth in love* (nonviolence) relentlessly.
- My adversary’s motives are as pure as mine and of no relevance to our discussion.
- My worst adversary has an amazing potential for positive change.
- My adversary may have an insight into truth that I do not have.
- My adversary and I will understand each other and come to a new position that will satisfy us both, if we conduct our search for truth guided by the principles of love.
Explain that realizing that those who oppress or put folks down are also God’s children whom God loves – and whom God wants to see reconciled with God and with those they oppress – is a part of what this verse is teaching. Being ambassadors of God’s love – and fully receiving all God wants to make possible in our lives – only comes when we are able to also reach out in love to our adversaries, helping them become freed from the prejudice that blinds them to God, others, and themselves.
Being ambassadors of God’s reconciliation, then, includes reaching out one life at a time to help other people who are blinded by prejudice to be freed to see themselves and others from God’s perspective.
Ask: What are some ways we can do this?
Discuss the ideas in the resource labeled “ally-building”.
Quote these words of Mahatma Ghandi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Close in prayer.