A story for the evangelical Church.
On a busy street of a major city, a man began walking back home. There was nothing odd about Scott; his attire was normal and his skin color blended with everyone else. The only noticeable thing of difference was the saying on his t-shirt, “I [heart] my boyfriend.”
As he turned the corner, Scott passed by a large church and then another on the opposite side. Walking past some apartment buildings and store fronts, he entered a park and continued his normal route home.
Scott was lost in his own world, with a smirk and a tune in his head. Today was the first good day of many bad ones. Situated between popular streets, the park was regularly busy with families, lunch crowds, tourist, and even various demonstrations. Today was no different; while it wasn’t the normal craziness, the park still had pockets of crowds. Little did Scott know, he was being followed.
Ahead of Scott, a church group had gathered to protest the newest rant, “gay marriage.” The guy with the megaphone was getting the crowd riled up about the dignity of life, sanctity of marriage, and how they need to reclaim America for Jesus. Scott was passing by, shaking his head, “Here we go again.”
The megaphone guy spotted Scott and moved in for his debate. “And here we have a prime example of an abomination brothers and sisters. This man – this animal – represents all that is wrong with America. It is our mission from God to take back this country from these faggots. Who’s with me?!” With that, a mighty cheer arose from the protesting congregation.
Scott tries to push past the people and noise. “Not today. Please, not today.”
Megaphone man tries to stop Scott, but looses in his attempt. “That’s right, homo. Run away from the truth.” Then screaming into the megaphone he went back to preaching. “The church must rise against the homosexual agenda. They must see their sin, and that eternal damnation is their destiny. Repent! God hates faggots! Repent or burn in hell, faggot!”
Scott stopped. Standing with multiple things rushing through his head, he turned and continued walking away. Rounding an area in the park that caused him to be out of view from the protesters and others, the guys following Scott rushed to attack him. He didn’t see them coming. He didn’t see the bat aiming for his legs. Before he knew what happened, Scott was on the ground, getting kicked in the face, stomach, and back.
The three guys attacking Scott noticed him walking by their church, as they were leaving. Noticing the shirt, and noticing Scott, a former classmate, they decided to follow him and have some fun. Two years before, when Scott was a senior in high school, he was bullied for being openly gay. One group of bullies were the guys now beating him up. They had gotten in serious trouble in school once for picking on Scott; now they were paying him back for the trouble he once caused them.
Scott didn’t mean to come out during high school. It happened by accident. A note was found in the hall that Scott’s friend had dropped by accident. In it, Scott revealed to her that he was struggling with his sexuality and that he didn’t know how to reconcile it with his faith. This little bit of news was soon the talk of the school. Most classmates just avoided Scott altogether, while a few select friends stood by him at the Christian school. Other students made his remaining school years hellish. Most days he was simply known as “the gay.” By now, Scott had come to terms with his sexuality and faith, and he was open about everything. He was trying hard to move on. Apparently, others weren’t.
After kicking him back and forth several times, the group of three stood over Scott laughing. Blood poured from his nose, a gash above his left eye, cuts over his hands and knees. One of the guys knelt down to Scott’s ear, “I hate faggots. I hate you even more. Pay back is hell, sissy-boy. Better change your ways, Scott. You don’t wanna find out what happens if we catch you alone in the park.” With that, the guys dashed into the nearby trees and disappeared. Scott laid stunned and in great pain. “What the hell just happened?” he thought. Trying to gain his bearings, he rolled onto his hands and knees. Attempting to stand, Scott pulled himself onto a park bench. “Someone help me … please.” Coughing and spitting out blood, Scott tried to raise his voice but couldn’t. “Help! … Please, someone help me!”
Around the corner came megaphone guy with some friends. When he saw Scott, he stopped and smiled. “Well, well, well. What happened to you?” “I need to go to the hospital … please.” “I would help, but, uhm, you’re bleeding. I don’t want AIDS.” “I don’t have AIDS … I just need help.” “Yes, you do, homo. You need lots of help,” megaphone guy shot back. “I’ll tell you what, man. You accept Jesus and repent of your ways, then we’ll help you.” “What …,” Scott said trying to sit up better, “Forget you. And forget your Jesus.” Turning away with his followers, megaphone guy shook his head, “Sucks to be you.”
Kelly was the last to leave. She knew being gay was wrong, but wasn’t sold on the idea that God hated gays and lesbians. Being new to the church group, though, she didn’t feel it was her place to speak out against the others. She was confused and didn’t know what to do. Kelly pulled out her phone and called 911. She said there was a man lying on the park bench badly beat up, she gave his location, and hung up while the operated was still asking questions. “I hope that helps” she said before going back with the others.
Scott laid on the bench, bleeding, moaning for help, while people continued to pass by for several minutes. Then Tommy ran up from the opposite direction. “Daddy, this man needs help!” “Tommy, get away from him. He’ll be fine.” “No daddy, his eye and nose are bleeding. He needs our help.” “Tommy …” his dad said walking towards Scott. It was then that Josh noticed his son was right, this man did need help. “Are you alright, man,” bending down to Scott’s eye level. “No … I need to go to the hospital. Please.” Joshua pulled his phone out and called the police.
Upon entering the emergency room, Josh asked where the beat-up man from the park was being held. The ER nurse disappeared, then came back and said the patient was being treated. She told Josh he could sit and wait, or he could come back later. Josh grabbed a seat across the room. A half-hour later, the nurse guided Josh back to a small room, where Scott laid cleaned up and receiving medical attention. He had lost two teeth, a broken nose, a gash above his left eye, three broken ribs, and a mild concussion Scott tiredly looked at Josh, nodding his head. “I was concerned about you. I don’t want to pry, but I wanted to make sure you were ok.” Scott gave a thumbs up. “I don’t even know your name.” “It’s … Scott,” he said through bloody gauze. “Nice to meet you, Scott. I’m Joshua. My son, Tommy, found you. Is there anyone I can call for you.” “My … boyfriend … Mike,” Scott said pointing to his phone. Making sure he heard correctly, Josh asked, “Uhm … your boyfriend?” Scott nodded. Picking up Scott’s phone, Josh looked through his contacts until he found a Mike. Checking with Scott to make sure it was the right person, Josh called Mike and informed him that his “boyfriend” was in the hospital. After giving the details, Josh hung up, put the phone down, and backed away a bit.
“Look. I’m gonna go. Your friend should be here soon. I hope you get better.” Josh turned and walked out. At the elevator he felt God speaking to him, asking him what he was doing and why he didn’t pray for Scott. Arguing with himself, Josh opened the elevator door, stepped in, and stood there. The doors reopened and Josh walked back into Scott’s room.
“Can I pray for you?” Scott shook his head no. Puzzled, Josh asked why not, “most people don’t refuse prayer. Even some atheists.” “Hate Christians. They … did this … to me. God … hates me … anyways.” Thinking for a moment in silence, Josh apologizes to Scott and asks if he could come back tomorrow, to which he agrees. As he leaves, Joshua prays silently for God to bring healing and a chance to talk with Scott again.
The next day, Josh arrived to find Josh and Mike checking out of the hospital. Exchanging smiles and handshakes, Josh offers to buy lunch. “Uhm … I can’t eat anything solid right now,” Scott answered. “Duh, yeah. Stupid question. How about coffee or something, then.” “Nah, I’m good.” “Well, hey, Scott, hear’s my number. I would love to meet up again sometime and chat. Uhm, with Mike of course!” They both thanked Josh for stopping by, and Mike put the number in his pocket.
A few weeks later, Scott called Josh and met for coffee. In their conversation, Scott talked about what happened, and why. Josh listened intently to his story. When it was Josh’s turn to answer, he told Scott how him and his wife divorced after 6 years, about his boy Tommy, and that he’s studying to be a pastor. Intrigued, Scott wanted to know more, so Josh told him about his encounter with Jesus and how things had spiraled down to that point. “I’m not perfect that this thing called Christianity. But I know God loves me, and I’m trying my best to love Him and others.” “Well you’re a rare breed for helping a homo like me, Josh. Most Christians would have walked the other way.” “Guess I’m not like most Christians.,” Josh smirked.
“I don’t see the Church being called to walk away from those that need help. In fact, Jesus tells us to go towards those who need help. The gospel is about bringing life, restoration, wholeness, and purpose to people’s lives. It’s about pointing people to Jesus – the source of all those things,” Josh continued. “Yeah,” Scott said, “but Jesus isn’t for the gay community – people like Mike and I. Or at least that’s what I’ve been taught growing up.” Looking out the window, Josh responded, “What makes me any better than you, Scott? As it goes, ‘at the cross is level ground.’ Jesus died for everybody. He told us to love our neighbors … our straight and gay neighbors … just like ourselves.” Pausing and looking at Scott, he continued, “Look, I don’t understand everything. All I know is that I am called to love like Jesus. And that’s all I’m trying to do.”
From then, a friendship was formed. And while Scott and Mike stayed together, Josh and Scott remained good friends.