We’re told that if your friend or family member identifies as gay or lesbian, then you face a choice: fidelity to your faith or fidelity to your friend/family member. If you stick with your biblical convictions about sexuality, then you reject (i.e. hate) your friend or family member. If you plan to keep your relationship, then you need to jettison your outdated theological idiosyncrasy that says homosexual sex is wrong. You can’t do both, we’re told.
But this is a false dilemma. Those aren’t the only options. A third possibility is to keep your biblical convictions and keep your relationship with your friend/family member who identifies as gay or lesbian. People do this all the time. It may get messy, but it’s possible.
In fact, most people understand this principle (disagreeing with someone but still maintaining a relationship) and live it out in their lives every day on other matters. Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend William Hamilton, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” Of course! We all have people in our lives with whom we disagree, and yet we still have meaningful relationships with them. There probably isn’t a person on earth with whom we agree on everything.
I’m sure most of us have friends or family who differ from us politically, but we still break bread with them. I know I do. I’m sure most of us have friends or family who hold to a different faith, but we still care for them and spend time with them. I know I do. I’m sure most of us have friends or family who have different philosophical commitments than we do, but we are still in a relationship with them. I know I do. Why, then, can’t this be the case for the Christian who has a friend or family member who identifies as gay or lesbian?
Consider this example. I’m a Christian who believes Jesus is the son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I believe Jesus chose me before time began, loves me, and died for me. I believe I’ve been bought with the blood of Christ, ransomed from my slavery to sin, and become a slave to righteousness. I wholeheartedly believe my identity is wrapped up in who Jesus is, living in me. But I can sit down over a meal with a Muslim, and that Muslim can believe that he is the true believer, deny the legitimacy of my relationship with God, think my Jesus is not divine, believe I’ve committed the unpardonable sin in Islam, claim I’m leading others on a false path to God, oppose my teachings and behavior, and think I’m going to Hell. Yet I don’t find myself thinking, I must either accept this man’s religious identity as a Muslim, his beliefs in Islam, and his religious behaviors or I must reject him entirely. That’s a false dilemma. Even though being a Muslim—in his own thinking—is everything, I can (and do) love him, accept him, and respect him but still disagree with his Muslim identity, religious convictions, religious behavior, and philosophical commitments. Our respective identities are completely at odds with each other, and I can still love him and have a relationship with him.
That might sound crazy to some, but that’s what I call civility. It’s also called love. It’s possible because of who God has made him (an image bearer of God and therefore valuable and important to me) and how God has called me to act towards others (loving everyone through the Holy Spirit’s power in me). Jesus, after all, calls us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). How much more, then, can we love our friends and family who identify as gay or lesbian? Christians have loved this way for thousands of years, but now we’re told by pro-gay advocates that such a third way isn’t possible.