In this current political climate, gay marriage supporters and Christians often find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. In Facebook discussions or on comment threads especially where you don’t know those with whom you are disagreeing, it can get ugly and personal. I know that in discussions I’ve had, it sometimes feel like we are enemies. Some of the one-sentence, against gay-marriage Facebook forwards can truly push gay people further from the reality of Jesus’ heart of love. Whether or not this is truly the case, many gay people feel like we hate them. This is bad. Very, very bad.
If you are serious about being biblical, this is my challenge for you, Christian reader. When you find yourself in a heated situation, please treat the gays in your life as enemies. (No, you didn’t read that wrong.) As believers, there are commands about how to interact with our enemies. Use Romans 12:9-21 as your guide: Feed them. Give them water (or lattes) to drink. Bless them. Pray for their specific needs. Have them over for dinner. Cry with them when they have to put their dog to sleep. Help them paint their house. Go to see them perform at the civic theatre. Take them out for tea. Listen to their hearts. Genuinely ask for their advice in matters where they have insight.
And if Romans isn’t weighty enough for you, Jesus had something to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not let how others treat you dictate your behavior. American culture tends to make decisions based in this order: Feelings drive choices and then we find some principle to support what we are already doing. Biblical Christianity turns this model on its head: We seek to understand biblical principle, make choices accordingly, and much of the time our feelings will fall in line (but not always). Feelings are not the barometer of Godly action. I don’t care whether or not you want to extend mercy and care to those who embrace the gay lifestyle. If Jesus is your Lord (the boss of you) you will reach out to the gays in your life with love.
We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Bob Briner writes: “It’s time for lambs to roar… What I am calling for is a radically different way of thinking about our world. Instead of running from it, we need to rush into it. And instead of just hanging around the fringes of our culture, we need to be right smack dab in the middle of it… The best way to testimony is through credible engagement…”
Make no mistake, rushing into the world and showing genuine love while holding on to orthodoxy can be messy. Whether you are walking with a family through a marital breakdown, seeking integrity within a work situation or pursuing long-term engagement with the poor, there are countless times when the biblical Christian will cry “what on earth am I supposed to do now?” But the messiness is no excuse for detachment.
Years ago, two women asked me to travel with them while they adopted their second child. Like today, I held the view that a home headed by a married man and woman is the best place within which to raise children. I did wrestle through whether or not my going with them would amount to tacit approval of same-sex relationships. But I loved them. And I thought that maybe I could offer support and empathy to their girls if they were harassed for having two moms (cause I was). And did I believe that these two dear women would offer a better life to their daughters than an orphanage? Without. A. Doubt. So I went. Have others questioned my decision? Yes. But I erred on the side of sacrifice. Engagement is messy, but a necessary part of the true Christian life.
Jesus has told us to love our enemies. He did not tell us that we had to agree with our enemies. Biblical love has never meant permissiveness. (Jesus was clear that sexual immorality defiles us- Mark 7:20-23). Love is expressed through meaningful action: lend without expecting repayment, turn the other cheek (give up your personal rights for recourse), bless those who mistreat you (harbor no hatred). Do good to them.
Christians, God does not want His truth to bend. He wants you to bend.
What does that mean? It means that in our methodology and in our communication, we need to bend. We need to adapt. We need to reach out. We need to sacrifice.
So how can we love gay people practically without bending God’s truth? Here are some ways that I’ve found, and I’d love to hear your ideas too.
- Refer to them as they refer to themselves. If they identify as “queer,” then that’s how you should refer to them. I don’t refer to my mom as a lesbian, she doesn’t self-identify as that way. Rather I say that she is “in a relationship with a woman” because that’s how she describes herself. If your friend is offended by a certain term, don’t call him that. Let your terminology bend according to your friend’s sensitivities.
- Don’t keep your gay friend, family member, or co-worker at arm’s length. Invite them into your world and you children’s world.
- Share your heart with them on everything that matters to you and listen, if they are willing, to theirs.
- Do not speak ill of them to anyone. If you have a problem or conflict, speak to them alone.
- Meet their needs. Buy them groceries (even if it means you will have to stretch your own food further). Offer to help with childcare when they’re in a pinch. Host them when they come to town. Ask them how you can love and serve them better.
- If you have contributed (in any way) to them being abused, excluded or rejected, then on your knees, with tears, repent with your whole heart and ask their forgiveness. Tell them that you are turning from that behavior and follow through by demonstrating love-in-action to them.
- If you choose to speak with them about your disagreements on gay marriage, do it only after you have proved your love to them through friendship and sacrifice.
People, this is Biblical Love 101. And it holds true for anyone with whom we have a disagreement. Christians, it is right to hold tightly to the orthodox truth that homosexual practice (like all sexual sin) separates us from God. But you had better hold equally as tight to the orthodox truth that the gay person next to you is of immense worth, because Christ has ascribed worth to them. And you had better go into any conversation with the recognition of your own depravity and position of need before God.
If you are a Christian who talks about the evils of gay marriage but who is doing nothing to reach out to the lesbian across the street, please, do me (and Christ) a favor and stop talking. If you keep talking without love-in-action, I pray that my mother never meets you. Also, take a look at your life and doctrine, because you may not be saved and you certainly will not save your hearers.