*Yes I know this is a huge time jump, I just haven’t filled in the gaps and want to share what I have*
[Later when he is in eighth grade, as part of confirmation at his church they have to read their “faith stories” to the entire church. Israel comes out to his parents before this and they do not accept him and they do their best to keep it a complete secret. This infuriates Israel so he writes a fake faith story that he gets approved by his dad (the pastor) and then he reads this one in church.]
Hi, I’m Israel Benton, and my confirmation verse is 1 John 16 and 18. I chose this verse because it says something extremely important that a lot of people tend to hear and think, “Oh yeah, I know, of course!” but then they don’t act like it at all.
As most, if not all of you know, I’m the pastor’s son. So, naturally, my parents did a wonderful job of raising me in the church, and I am incredibly thankful for that. This church has done such a good job of creating a safe, fun environment for me and the other youth to grow up in.
The one problem with being raised in the church, and not all of them, and not just this one specifically, is that we hold a belief that goes against God. All of the people here who speak up most often hold in their hearts something that is not love. Something that is not God. I was raised with this belief too, and, over the years, I’ve really struggled with it because it doesn’t line up with everything else.
Why is it that the church hates the LGBTQ community? And some of you might be thinking, “Hate? I don’t hate them. I just… disagree with their choices.” And you say that, but what is disagreement, really? Hatred? Disgust? Fear? Why can’t you allow people to live in peace the way they truly are when it’s not harming you?
1 John 4:16 and 4:18 says “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
It’s all right there, guys. God is love! And whoever lives in love lives in God. The two are not separate paths. You can’t truly live in God without living completely in love.
Perfect love drives out fear.
Maybe you’re against gay people because you “don’t understand” or because it “just doesn’t make sense.” Being against something because you don’t understand it is a form of fear. What you’re saying is that you’re too scared to let go of an unfounded belief and take the time to get to know a gay person, or if you do know one, you’re scared that they’re never going to get out of this “phase” or be “normal” again.
I’d just like to remind you, even though it’s not my confirmation verse, of 1 Corinthians 13:5-8. “Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I think this verse speaks for itself and I think it gives really good advice. To not get angry. To protect, trust, and hope that, no matter a gay person’s future, they’re living in love. Living in God. Because with support, LGBTQ people can have happy lives, because love always perseveres.
Some of you may be wondering why I’m talking about this in my faith story, and some of you have already guessed. This truth is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, but since I know that God is love, I know that now it’s up to us as a community, as a church, to show that love to the world. The whole world.
I’m gay. Of course that label doesn’t mean that all I am is gay -- you all know that I’m also a Christian -- but it is a big part of who I am. I’ve had to learn to love myself and learn that God does love me, and always will. Since I learned to love myself, I know you can all learn to love me for who I am. I know nobody is perfect, because I’m definitely not, but I hope that you’ve listened to what I’ve had to say and, more importantly, what God has to say about love, and you can all accept me.
As most of you probably know by now, I’m about to leave my home and go to a place where there is no church for a whole year. That means two things. One, that you have a whole year to find it in yourself to love and accept me as I am, and two that I’m going to need your prayers to keep me safe more than ever. Thank you for listening.