This is the fourth of a five-part blog series on same-sex attraction. Be sure to read part 1 (“Why we have such a problem talking about same-sex attraction in the church”), part 2 (“Is same-sex attraction wrong? If so, why?”), and part 3 (“What do I do if I’m attracted to people of the same sex?”), … and our conclusion in part 5 (“Concluding Thoughts”).
There’s an old saying: “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” And it’s probably the most helpful way to answer this question. How do you love your gay friend? By remembering how lost you were when Jesus found you. You start by remembering that you are a sinner and they are sinners.
Beyond that, I see three ways we can practically love our gay friends and neighbors:
1. Don’t judge them.
“Don’t judge.” This is probably the non-Christian’s favorite Bible verse. It’s quoted as a way of saying that we shouldn’t ever tell people that what they’re up to is wrong. But as I’ve explained before, it can’t mean that. Jesus spent his entire life correcting error, and he commands us to do the same.
But here’s the catch: even though Jesus was clear about what was right and wrong, he didn’t judge the world (John 3:17). How? By telling us the truth and then bringing us close. He made us—sinners—his friends. You judge someone not when you assess their position, but when you dismiss them as a person.
It’s not telling someone the truth that is judging them; it’s what you do after you tell them the truth. Judging, you see, assumes that you are righteous and they are guilty. Keep guilty them away from righteous you! But that’s not the gospel.
What this means for us practically is that even when someone disagrees with us, we don’t push them away. We draw them close. No, we don’t abandon our convictions. But our relationships with people can’t be contingent on their agreeing with us. We have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality.
I’ll confess, the Christian community has failed miserably in this regard. We have not often followed up our truth-telling with a Christ-like embrace. We haven’t defended the LGBT community from abuse as we should have. And to those of you who have suffered abuse in the name of Jesus, I want to be clear: that was not Jesus. That was Satan dressed up in Jesus’ clothes.
Sinners were always safe exposing their hearts to Jesus. We want the church to be a safe place for people with same-sex attraction to come as well.
2. Love them enough to tell them the truth.
People often ask me, “What if your son declares that he’s gay one day?” I cannot imagine a human being I love more than my son. But if I love him, I will tell him what God’s Word says, plainly. If I fail to do that, I am not loving him. And I hope I can teach him, like his daddy, to come to the feet of Jesus, broken and repentant—both of us broken men who need a Savior, repentant toward a wickedness in our hearts that we have no way of overcoming. If he was born with a proclivity toward same-sex behavior and I was born with a proclivity toward anger, pride, deceit, and unfaithfulness…well, we both need to be born again.
And if he and I don’t agree about this issue? Well, then I’ll do what Jesus did. I won’t judge him. I won’t send him away. I’ll keep bringing him close. But I’ll continue to tell him the truth, to warn him that the Bible says a day of judgment is coming. The righteous Judge will return and hold us all to account.
When we push someone away after speaking the truth, we have failed to represent our Savior’s love. But if we dare say “peace, peace” when there is no peace, we have failed in our responsibility to be faithful heralds of God’s Word.
3. Show them a greater love
Our sexual desires go down to our very core. They are so deep that it’s easy to want to define ourselves by them. But we need to realize that sex isn’t the answer to our soul’s desire; it’s the question. We’re all thirsty and starving for love. But the love that we need isn’t the love of another human being; it’s the love of God.
We are all captives to sin, and only the love of God sets us free. There is a beautiful illustration of this in John 8. A woman caught in the act of adultery is brought to Jesus, and what does he say? “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
I’ve always been amazed at the order in which He put those two statements. Most of us would have put change before acceptance: clean up your act and come back when you’ve gotten your life together. But Jesus knew she would never have the power to change until she had felt the weight of his acceptance. God’s acceptance is the power that liberates us from sin. It is not the reward for us having liberated ourselves.
That means I don’t just tell the girl who has lost her virginity about the dangers of venereal disease or the shamefulness of sleeping around. I tell her that there is a God who says to her, as he did to the women caught in adultery, “I never stopped loving you. Never. Not in your darkest moment or darkest desire. On the cross I took everything about you that made you unacceptable and died for it. The rocks of justice were pummeled into my body instead of yours.”
The only way we will ever break the stronghold of idolatry is by seeing that there is a Father whose attention is better and whose love is more steadfast than the arms of any lover. After all, Jesus’ last words on the cross were not, “Go fix yourself,” but, “It is finished!”
Only the weightiness of God’s acceptance can empower us to forsake idolatry. Our message is not simply, “Stop sexual sin.” Our message is, “Behold the grace of your God!”