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I don’t know what it is like to be black and carry the weight of years of oppression and racism on my shoulders. To pull myself up out of that oppression. To feel different and lacking simply because of the color of my skin. I am white.

I don’t know what it is like to be female and carry the weight of inequality and sexism on my shoulders. To walk down the street, alone, feeling all the lustful looks. To feel different and lacking simply because of my gender. I am male.

And I don’t know what it is like to be gay and carry the weight of hate, fear and isolation on my shoulders. To have strong, loving feelings for someone of my own gender. To make a choice to either repress who I am or to “come out”, knowing full well the discord my decision is going to cause. To feel different and lacking simply because of my orientation. I am straight.

I have never woken up one adolescent morning feeling guilty, dirty and fearful because something inside of me has awakened and I have feelings for guys, not girls. I have never seen the looks on people’s faces as I walk hand in hand with another guy. I have never had to wonder why God made me this way, allowed these feelings, just to say that I am cursed, damned and living in sin. I have never had thoughts of killing myself driven by all the fear, shame and guilt I carry because of a dark secret I carry around inside. I have never been kicked in the face and beat to a pulp simply because I was gay. I have never felt the oppression of an entire nation and religion cast upon me. I have never known what it is like to sit down with my parents, look at them in the eye, and tell them I am gay, only to see their entire demeanor towards me change within an instant. I have never known the feeling of having my significant other be rejected by people most important to me. I have not ever known what it is like to walk in my brother’s shoes.

I am not smart enough to know or declare such things as “Your feelings for Mark are a sin” or “You were not designed this way” or “You made this choice, it is not who you are” or “You need to deny these feelings and not act on them” or “God loves you but hates your gay actions and feelings” or “God cannot use you since you’re gay”.

And because I don’t know, have never known, and am not smart enough, I cannot sit in a seat of judgment and condemnation over you.

But I can love.

I can say that I love you as you are, without apology. I can say that you’ve suffered enough and have not been loved enough. I can say that God loves you, without clause, and longs for you to believe it so you can be free to live and love. I can say that yes, I will be your friend and not fear you.

And I can apologize.

I am sorry for participating in your oppression and abuse. I am  sorry for being quiet, allowing the atmosphere to thrive that has caused your fear, hate and isolation. I am sorry for not standing between you and your oppressors saying, Enough! I am sorry for not allowing your story to also become my story, your pain my pain, your oppression my oppression. I am sorry for not being God’s voice of love in your life. I am sorry for not bringing God’s embrace to you when you most needed it and instead watching from a distance as you get beat. I am sorry for allowing the Bible to be used as a .50 caliber aimed against you instead of God’s love letter written to you.

And most of all, I am sorry that I have misrepresented Jesus. The Jesus who ate with, healed, embraced those people the cultural and religious establishments shunned, cursed and damned.

If Jesus were here today, you would be the ones he would dine with, heal, embrace, love-on, and stand with.

Oh wait, Jesus is here today. I am sorry for not being Jesus to you.

Please forgive me and be patient with me as I learn to love as Jesus loved. From here on, I stand with you, hand in hand, brother to brother, brother to sister, as one human with another. We share the same blood. Our Papa is the same. God is as fond of me as He is of you. And God’s relentless love stalks you as it does me.

I stand with you, come what may.

Your brother with much love,
Jeromy Johnson

(Consider this my “coming out” letter)

Update: Here is a poem I wrote reflecting on the notes, comments, letters I have received from those who deeply resonate with this letter.                                                                                                                                                                                   

Be sure and visit Jeromy’s blog “A Mending Shift”