New Leaf Press
I firmly believe it is possible to stand on God’s truth at the same time that we love broken and sinful people. I believe there is a way to practice that which God wants us to practice. I believe, in other words, that there is a way we can love the sinner even as we oppose the sin.
Would you believe that such a conviction has gotten me into hot water with a lot of angry folks? These days, I find myself in the odd position of being attacked by both the right and the left.
On the left, secularists and liberals take exception to my clear opposition to the gay lifestyle. They tend to ignore the assistance that my church and I provide for gay individuals and their families.
On the right, some interpret any ministry to those involved in the gay lifestyle as “liberal” and “compromising.” But I never apologize for our stance that practicing homosexuals can attend our church; in fact, I pray that they will, because in time I believe the Holy Spirit of God will convict them of their sin, they will see the need to change, and God’s grace will transform them.
I believe the gay issue really comes down to the nature of truth and love. I don’t see how we can win without equally embracing both. If we serve a Savior “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), then how can we opt for one over the other? God does not call us to speak the truth without love, but to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
I maintain that the two must go hand in hand. But before that can happen, we first have to understand what we’re talking about.
What Is Love?
If you could count the number of grains of sand on a beach, you could count the number of definitions for love.
The entertainment industry presents “love” as adultery, lust, and sexual perversion. A sports enthusiast “loves” a particular athletic event or league. We “love” certain foods. And the definitions continue.
In a 2001 issue of Open Hands: Shaping an Inclusive Church, the Rev. Chip Aldridge invited young people to “claim and name”3 their sexual preference. Among the questions he asked: “How can you really know if you’re gay?” and “Can you still be a Christian if you are queer?”
Aldridge, director of admissions at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., is an ordained United Methodist minister. The theme of the Open Hands article is God’s love. Aldridge claimed, “God loves us queer folk, too!”
So much for Aldridge’s view of what love is; the Bible has a very different take on it. An often-overlooked passage from God’s Word tells us exactly what true love is:
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands (2 John 6).
Jesus said the very same thing: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. . . . Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. . . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:15–24).
Both of these New Testament descriptions of “true love” line up with the picture given in the Old Testament: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deut. 10:12-13).
Make sure you don’t miss the amazing claim God makes in that last passage. Why does God tell us what to do? Why does He give us His instructions? He gives us His “commands and decrees” for our own good. That’s what true love does; it wants only the best for the beloved.
Do we need to recall what happens to people when they don’t follow God’s commands? Did the Israelites know what real love was when they started worshiping the golden calf in the wilderness? Did young German men know what real love was when they fell under the spell of Hitler and began slaughtering defenseless men, women, and children? Do Hollywood actors know what real love is when they live or promote a gay lifestyle?
Because God loves us, He delights to walk into the lives of young girls who have determined that they are of a lesbian lifestyle. He loves to walk into the life of a young boy who determines that he is of a gay lifestyle. He loves to walk in when sociologists say that homosexuality is normal and that the world and the culture has accepted it. God loves to walk in and turn things around. He loves to do what looks humanly impossible. He loves to do what is best for us — and that includes directing us away from a homosexual lifestyle.
Do you know the main reason why the gay community is growing? It’s growing because children and students want to be accepted and loved. All of us hunger for love. We want to feel valued. We want to feel cherished. And I think God’s church has a lot of room for improvement in this area. We have a lot to learn about how to love those we may find unlovable.
What is love? I believe that to answer the question accurately, we must tie it to another famous query, from Pilate to Jesus: “What is truth?”
What Is Truth?
Former Senator Bob Dole is known for his dry humor. When he’s asked to comment on an issue, often he’ll answer with a laconic, “Whatever.” Now, I don’t think Dole is that uninterested; he’s just trying to get a laugh. But such a whatever attitude well describes the post-modern mindset of this country. And it’s dangerous.
Postmodernism has been described as a room without walls, floor, and ceiling. It has no boundaries, no limitations — anything goes. Such a “whatever” mindset says, “You have your truth, I have mine. You believe what you want to believe, I’ll believe what I want to believe.” In other words, there is no absolute truth. And that means that truth is up for grabs.