‘The one who loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘will keep my commandments’ and ‘this is my commandment, that you love one another.’ Therefore the one who does not love his neighbor is not keeping the commandment, and the one who does not keep the commandment is not able to love the Lord. -St. Maximus the Confessor*
Large crowds of anti-gay protestors gathered in the country of Georgia to disrupt a gay pride demonstration this week. Images and videos have circulated on my social networks and even one Orthodox priest on his popular blog hailed it as “taking action” to protect against the “disastrous consequences of ‘Gay Pride.’” All I can think about when I these images and read the accounts are the hundreds of same-sex attracted Georgians who have to watch their clergy, friends and families threatening to lash with stinging nettles and stones at people like them. Videos of thousands of men, women, and youth with numerous clergy mixed in show a terrifying scene. Over a dozen people were injured, mostly gay demonstrators and police. All of this makes me pause and wonder where Christ would have been in this scene.
Would He have been at the front lines carrying a whip like He did when He cleansed the temple, ready to cleanse the filthy sinners out of the city square? Maybe He’d be standing silent, holding a sign like some declaring “We don’t need Sodom and Gomorrah!” Perhaps He might even be one of the police doing their best to maintain order and protect both sides. I think though we would find Christ sitting outside the crowd weeping. Moved as He was for Jerusalem He weeps over the pride and pain playing out before him. Weeping, He demonstrates His love for them all not only through His words, but also by His actions. This reminds me of a scene recounted by John in his gospel.
Christ is in the temple teaching the crowds who gathered there when the scribes and the Pharisees bring to Him a woman caught in adultery. John even tells us that she was caught in the very act! The scribes and Pharisees remind Christ that according to the Law of Moses this woman is to be stoned for her sin. Rather than arguing with them, Jesus stoops down and begins writing on the ground. He then says that the man who has no sin should throw the first stone. He again begins writing on the ground and slowly the crowd departs in shame leaving just the shamed woman and Christ. After reminding her that none are left to accuse her He simply tells her that He will not condemn her but go and sin no more.
Like the scene in Georgia there is a crowd, there are members of the clergy who have all gathered to condemn and potentially harm some of their fellow Georgians because of their sin. Whatever it was Christ wrote on the ground was enough to convict every person in John’s account of their own sin and their own failures to live a God pleasing life. Likewise we too should pause before lifting the stone of our words, or before condemning others and stand in fear of our own due condemnation.
I believe that we as a Church and as individuals can witness to the truth of our convictions simply by loving and serving those who disagree with us. “There is nothing more compelling than an accusing conscience, and nothing more outspoken than a supporting one.” The framework that St. Maximus the Confessor suggests here looks rather different than the anti-gay protest as it played out in Georgia. If we as faithful Christians desire to profess truth, let us live our own lives according to our conscience and let that be our outspoken witness for its truth. May we all strive to live up to our own convictions and daily give thanks for the grace and mercy that fill in the canyon between them and our own sinful failings.