What Does Christian Love for Homosexuals Look Like?

Debates about gay marriage and gay rights are often cast in terms of love and hatred. Dan Cathy’s remarks about “traditional marriage” have been roundly condemned as hateful to gays. The thousands of people who flocked to Chick-Fil-A restaurants on Wednesday have likewise been criticized for communicating a message of hatred toward gays. I have seen a number of blogs in the past few days complaining that by participating in this event, Christians have missed yet another opportunity to show the love of Christ to the homosexual community.

The problem with these criticisms is that they fail to articulate what Christian love toward homosexuals should actually look like. As we discussed in a previous post, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) activists see anything short of unqualified acceptance as “anti-gay.” Thus, they would regard any disagreement with their worldview or opposition to their agenda as “unloving” and even “hateful.”

Yet sometimes real love must manifest itself in ways that the recipients of that love regard as unloving. For example, I have a nephew who died of leukemia at age nine. His father often had to hold him still while he underwent incredibly painful treatments, and I am sure little Chad wondered how his daddy could love him and let him experience so much pain. Yet it was precisely because Chad’s father loved him that he subjected him to the pain he hoped would save his life.

A friend addicted to alcohol might think that the best way you could show love to him is to buy him a drink. Yet if you really love him, you’ll do the very thing he regards as unloving and deny him that drink. What’s more, you’ll do everything you can to help him break his addiction, even if he comes to hate you for it.

If Christians take the Bible seriously when it says that homosexual acts are sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9), and that all sin leads to death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23), then the only truly loving response is to call homosexuals to repentance and offer them the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Merely letting them embrace their sin with our tacit approval is the least loving thing we could do. In fact, it is the ultimate act of hatred.

This does not mean, of course, that Christians have not often condemned homosexuals in an unloving and unredeeming way. All too often we have acted as if homosexuality is the height of depravity or a somehow unforgivable sin. We have forgotten our own sinfulness and need of a Savior and voiced our disgust at sins to which we may not happen to be tempted. In contrast to such moments of judgmentalism, we are called instead to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

When I was in my early twenties, a dear Christian friend of mine grabbed me on my way into church and said he needed to talk. He was obviously upset, so rather than going into church, we walked to a nearby lake. When we got there, he said, “Last night I went over to someone’s house for the express purpose of sleeping with them.” We were both single at the time, and we both believed the Bible teaches that premarital sex is a sin. My friend was confessing a sexual encounter that did not merely involve unexpectedly succumbing to temptation, but which he had purposefully chosen to pursue.

But there was more. I could hear the fear in my friend’s voice as he asked, “Do you love me, Dave?” I assured him that I did. He then blurted out, “It wasn’t a woman!”

My friend took an awful risk that day: that I would react with disgust, condemn him, reject him, or tell him I could no longer be his friend. Yet on the contrary, I admired the courage it took him to leave the man he had slept with, come to church and seek me out, and confess a sin he feared I might regard as unforgivable.

The first thing I did after he said this was to reach out and put my hand on his shoulder. I wanted him to know that I was still there for him, that I didn’t reject him, and that I didn’t regard this sin as somehow making him unclean or untouchable. He was still my friend, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

I then listened as he told me things about his past he had never told me before: about the male camp counselor who had molested him when he was in his early teens. He then tried to assure me that our friendship had never been about same-sex attraction. I brushed that aside as something that would never even enter my mind. We talked for a long time, encouraging each other with the truths of the gospel and praying together for forgiveness and renewed strength.

My friend knew that day that I truly loved him. Yet I never told him that what he had done was okay. I never encouraged him to embrace his same-sex attractions as his true sexual orientation. I never soft-pedaled the fact that what he had done was a sin. I simply assured him that I understood what it is to be a sinner and that what he had done didn’t make him any more a sinner than I am. Together we asked God to “have mercy” on us as sinners, and together we went away “justified” (Luke 18:13–14).

I understand that those who see same-sex attraction as something you’re born with and can’t help will regard my actions that day as terribly unloving. However, showing someone the love of Christ doesn’t mean leaving them to die in their sins, but offering them the hope of deliverance from sin which can only be found in Jesus. After all, the same Jesus who said, “Neither do I condemn you” also said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He then offered us the hope that only His love can give:

I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

That is the love that Christians have to offer homosexuals. It is not a love that leaves them groping about in darkness, but one which enables them to experience the light of life. It is not necessarily the kind of love they are demanding, but it is the very love they need.

In fact, it’s the very love we all need.

Posted on August 3, 2012, in Bible, Faith, Family, Worldview and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. So one of the first things you do is compare adult homosexual people to children who can’t understand why they’re being held down and treated for painful cures?

    What’s next, shock treatment?

    Homosexuality is not a disease.

    • Dave, if you want to offer an opposing viewpoint and have it be heard, you must be careful not to distort and caricature the view you’re opposing. My point in bringing up my nephew was simply that “sometimes real love must manifest itself in ways that the recipients of that love regard as unloving.” Not once did I suggest that homosexuality is a disease or that homosexuals are children who need some paternalistic cure they can’t understand. On the contrary, I said that they are sinners in need of a Savior. In other words, I said that they are just like me.

      • I didn’t distort your view. You made what you presented as a seamless comparison. It is not.

        Moreover, your position MIGHT apply to homosexuals who believe in the teachings of your particular religion, but they most certainly DO NOT apply to anyone who doesn’t believe in your religion, and certainly CAN NOT come from the government of the United States.

      • Dave, I made a point about love not always being perceived as love, then supported that point with two examples. You wrenched the first example out of context in order to contradict a point I did not make. If that’s not distortion I don’t know what is.

        Now you’re attempting to argue other points which have nothing to do with the flow of my argument. I have written nothing in this series of posts about government involvement, so I have no idea where that is coming from.

        As for the argument that my position only applies to homosexuals who “believe in the teachings of my particular religion” but not to others, it completely misses my point. I wrote nothing about applying or imposing anything on anyone. I am not talking about their behavior at all, but about their perception of my behavior. My behavior—namely, the kind of love I have to offer—is informed by my worldview and religious beliefs. If I believe that homosexuality is a sin, that all sin leads to death, and that all sinners need salvation in Jesus Christ, then the only loving response I can have is to speak that truth as gently and as winsomely as possible.

        Now, those who do not accept my worldview will naturally disagree with my actions, but if they understand the worldview out of which those actions spring, they may at least be able to recognize that those actions are an expression of love rather than hatred.

  2. What that comes from is the fact that you’re talking about LGBT activists. Well, they are activists because the government doesn’t grant them equal rights.

    Look, I understand that you think you’re showing love by trying to convince homosexuals that they should somehow convert to heterosexuality. But are you making any effort at all to see why your actions are coming across as hateful and hurtful?

    • And bear in mind that I only ask these questions out of love. You might not understand that, because sometimes when someone is trying to help you, you don’t see it, but, you know, trust me …

      • Dave, I’m reading this as sarcasm, though it’s my hope I’m misreading your tone.

        As for your question of whether I am “making any effort at all to see why [my] actions are coming across as hateful and hurtful,” this whole series of posts has been an attempt to examine why the two sides are continually talking past each other. I have done my best to cut past the inflammatory rhetoric to look at the underlying assumptions and worldviews driving this debate.

        The thing you don’t seem to understand is that just because someone perceives an action as “hateful and hurtful” doesn’t necessarily mean it is. After all, the folks who flocked to Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday obviously felt strongly about actions they perceived as “hateful and hurtful” toward them. Are you honestly trying to understand why they felt that way, or are you merely dismissing them as bigots who simply want to deny rights to homosexuals?

        I hope you can see my point. Both sides feel misunderstood and attacked, so perhaps both sides need to stop shouting and start re-framing the debate. That’s precisely what I’m attempting to do in this series of posts.

  3. It seems to me you’re asking someone else to see your actions through your eyes and understand your intent, but that’s simply not realistic (and often, as you admit in your essay, not true among your fellow Christians). Rather, wouldn’t it be better to simply communicate your intent more clearly in the first place?

  4. As for Chick-Fil-A … yeah, I’m pretty much dismissing them as bigots, yeah, because I don’t see any way that my marriage is harmful or hurtful to theirs.

  5. You do understand that people don’t choose homosexuality, right?

    • Moreover, surely you don’t think Paul’s word is infallible, do you?

      I mean, why is it that we still fight this battle over homosexuality, based on one line in the New Testament, but we don’t fight the battle over women speaking in church …. which came from the same letter from Paul?

    • Dave, this question really gets to the heart of the matter. My whole point is that this debate centers around conflicting worldviews. We each have differing assumptions about human nature and sexual orientation, and those differing worldviews drive our differing ethics. You just made a dogmatic assertion that homosexuality is somehow predetermined and not something we have in our power to choose or avoid. If that understanding of human nature is correct, then your ethical assertions flow logically from that. But if that understanding of human nature is incorrect, then your ethical assertions are without a logical foundation.

      Christians who do not accept that view of human nature and sexual orientation are reacting strongly to the push for gay rights precisely because they sense that they are being forced to adopt ethical standards which flow out of a very different worldview. That ought to sound familiar, because it is the very complaint non-Christians make about Christian beliefs being legally “imposed” on them.

      I’ll address this whole idea in another blog post, but for now, suffice it to say that the focus of the discussion must not merely be on what is right and what is wrong (ethics), but on the underlying beliefs which drive our notions of what is right and wrong.

      Again, I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming post. Until then, I hope you have a good weekend. Oh, and Go Noles!

      • Predetermined? I’m not convinced. So far there’s been no scientific evidence to suggest that it’s genetic. But that’s not the same as saying it’s not a choice. Whether it’s genetic or sociological, it is most certainly not a choice. I know this because I’m gay. I cannot choose to be attracted to women anymore than you can choose to be attracted to men. Moreover, if I could have chosen to be attracted to men, doesn’t it stand to reason that you, too, can make that choice?

        Our sexual urges are involuntary. When you see a woman naked, you have certain physical reactions that I don’t have. You don’t choose to have them. I don’t choose not to.

        This should be a good year for Florida State football. If E.J. Manuel can stay healthy, I think the Noles should be the clear favorites to win the conference.

  6. I think you both discussed your points very eloquently, and were for the most part fair and unbiased. I think conversations about this topic often disregard respect for the other person, which, of course, isn’t proactive.

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