A few weeks ago I watched and read quietly while social media went hay-wire regarding a certain national chain store and its bathroom conundrum. As far as I can tell the frenzy has now passed, and everyone has moved on to the next thing and nearly forgotten about what it was we were all in an uproar about 2 weeks ago. Yet I’m guessing that many out there like me who are still pondering the right thing to do…now that the frenzy is over, what do we do in real life?
I’ll admit, I clicked on several of the articles that came through my news-feed that week. My concern was heightened and I very much wanted to know what others that are older and/or wiser were saying on the issue. Unfortunately, in true social media style, not much content proved helpful. I was either encouraged to boycott the store altogether, as if that store is the only store that’s ever going to adapt their bathroom policy, or I was informed that anyone struggling with this situation is a judgmental bigot and hater of people. That’s terribly unfair, unhelpful, and untrue. As a mom of four young children, two of them girls, I can’t say it’s a non-issue. It is an issue, and it’s one that is unprecedented by any other generation of parents. The store in question isn’t one that I particularly enjoy anyway, so it’s been a bit easy for me to sideline the question. But this particular struggle is going to continue, we are rightfully concerned, and we all need to consider how we will respond.
As my news-feed erupted over this issue, the question in my head was “So what exactly is the Christian woman and mother to do?” No matter what I feel about the issues at hand, I will absolutely not send my daughters into a public, multi-stalled bathroom that boys or men are also allowed to use. Despite what critics accuse me of, this has nothing to do with whether or not the men using the bathroom feel safe. Rather, it has everything to do with protecting my daughters, not just physically but emotionally and mentally too. If (or when) the issue begins to impact the bathrooms, locker rooms and showers of our public schools in ND, we may need to rethink our children’s education.
However, signing my name to a public boycott doesn’t seem right either. It’s one thing to personally and quietly choose to not shop at a particular place anymore…and we obviously all have that right. But is it wise to publicly announce that we’re not shopping there anymore? In the wake of what is so clearly brought on by spiritual brokenness and desperate need for truth, perhaps our loudest voice as Christians ought not be for something that we are against. The plain fact is that we live in this world, and this world is very broken. I don’t think it’s wise or helpful for us Christians to sound the alarm every time the brokenness around us deepens and intensifies. The brokenness is going to intensify a whole lot more before Jesus comes back, we have Jesus’ word on that. So, what are we to do? Romans 5:20 says that as sin abounds, “grace abounds all the more.” While it’s tempting to just lament in despair about how sin is increasing, perhaps we ought to choose to participate in God’s abounding grace.
This year I’ve been studying the book of Revelation, and it’s been breathtaking to see how God’s judgment intermingles in a perfect dance with his mercy. He is so very patient with us. God is absolutely going to right all wrongs…in His time. But between now and that day, he is constantly reaching out in immense grace to save his people, broken as we are, inviting us to respond back to His love. As John 3:17 says, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” God’s kindness is every bit as staggering as his justice. About a week after the social media storm about bathrooms and boycotts broke out, as I was reading the last chapter of Revelation with my sensitivities heightened due both to the bathroom conundrum as well as this ridiculously polarized election facing us, God showed me something that gripped my heart. In the closing verses of the Bible, Jesus tells us what the role of the Church is right now, in this day of abounding grace:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
Did you see it? The Bride is the Church – all believers in Christ – and along with the Spirit, the role of the Church is to invite. “Come!” Anyone who is thirsty. Anyone who is thirsty. Some will think I’m judgmental for saying this, but this whole bathroom issue unveils tremendous thirst. Pause for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of the person who feels internal turmoil and conflict simply when choosing which bathroom to enter. That is a deep, parched-soul kind of thirst. It’s a thirst that I can’t even comprehend. This doesn't mean I need to applaud the practices at hand, or that I need to financially support any particular store if their policies go against my conscience, and it absolutely doesn’t mean that I need to allow my daughters to share a bathroom with men.
But here’s what it does mean: It means I need to invite others to the One who can quench all thirst. It means I need to pray for those who are hurting and show them the abounding grace of the One who is patiently waiting for us. Jesus hasn’t actually called me to tolerance…he’s called me to love, which is so much bigger and better than anything the world offers. Because love rejoices in the truth, sometimes love means naming that which is wrong…yet doing so with invitation rather than condemnation. I know the only One who can quench unbearable, soul-turmoiling thirst. I know the Living Water personally. And my role is to simply invite. “Are you thirsty? Come. I know the Living Water, and His gift is free.” Not one person ever has to (or can) deserve or earn the water that quenches every parched soul. It’s a free gift for every single thirsty person on planet earth; all we have to do is admit that we're thirsty. But how will the thirsty ones know about the free gift if we’re busy boycotting instead of inviting?
So let’s invite. Let’s be known as extravagant, grace-giving inviters rather than boycotters.
Come. His name is Jesus, and he quenches all thirst.