jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

Character Counts

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Let’s say you’re friends with Sally. You’ve known Sally for ten or twenty years. You’ve been to her house, sometimes even dropped by unexpectedly. You’ve looked after her kids, and she’s looked after yours. You’ve called each other late at night, when you needed a friendly ear, and you’ve prayed for each other as hard times have come and gone.

One day, your Aunt Matilda asks you over for tea. As you sip from a cozy cup of jasmine tea, she says, “It’s a shame that Sally beats her dog.”

Stunned, you sit speechless while Aunt Matilda munches on a scone. Finally, you say, perhaps a bit too forcefully, “You don’t mean my Sally?”

“Oh yes, one and the same,” she says between bites. “I’ve always known she does. Ask around, and I’m sure you’ll find everyone knows Sally abuses that poor animal.”

You barely keep up with the rest of Aunt Matilda’s gossip, distracted as you are by this revelation. On the way home you ponder the news. You think over every interaction you’ve had with Sally through the years. You consider how gentle she is with her children and yours, how loving and compassionate she is. You can’t remember ever having seen her lose her temper beyond a muttered, “Oh for Pete’s sake,” here and there. You’ve played Frisbee in the yard with Sally and her dog, and once, when you were running errands together, she dragged you into the specialty pet store so she could buy the expensive canned dog food. “Rover will eat the grocery store stuff, but he’d rather have this,” she told you.

You’ve known Aunt Matilda all your life, and you trust her, but it just doesn’t seem possible that Sally abuses the family dog. You know Sally, you know her character, and that is out of character for her. You know it cannot be true. There must be a misunderstanding, and you’ll talk to her and get it figured out.


“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

Do you know the character of God? Just like our fictional Sally, we understand who God is by knowing Him. And by knowing Him, knowing His character, we can determine what is and is not true about Him (and unlike Sally, there’s no chance whatsoever that He’s hiding who He really is).

The God I know, the God I see in Scripture, from Jesus’ ministry here on Earth, and even from my own experience, is full of grace and mercy and love. He is holy and just and good. He loves us like a mother hen, sheltering us under his wings. He encourages and builds up and gives us hope. Relationships are of utmost importance to Him–so important that they merited Christ’s sacrifice to maintain them.

So I ask you, is this the God you know? And if so, does the church’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people fall within his character? Knowing who God is, does it make sense that He would want people turned away from their churches, friends, and families? Is it reasonable that He would wish entire segments of humanity to spend their lives without love, without a partner? Would He teach us to hate parts of ourselves that we cannot change? Does his Word build despair, the kind of despair that drives people to suicide in ever-increasing numbers?

Or could it be that the prophecy that is on everyone’s lips–what “everyone knows” about homosexuality–is hogwash? Could it all just be an awful misunderstanding?

Test everything. Hold fast what is good.



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