Jon Noyes gives advice on how to love others when we disagree with their ideologies and lifestyles.
People used to say, “What happens in my own bedroom is in my own bedroom. Why are you forcing your morals on me?” Well, the scales have completely flipped. Messages of equity, and inclusivity, and LGBTQ+ pride are being pushed on us, and that’s why it’s important for us to be equipped and prepared. That’s why it’s important for us to slow down and think introspectively.
Paul tells us to live vigilantly, for the days are evil. What he’s saying is that we want to live circumspectly. We want to be eyes-wide-open towards the world, and we want to be thoughtful—not only about what’s happening out there, but about what’s happening in our own hearts, in our own minds, and our own souls. Secular ideas are pressing in on our worldview, and we want to stop and slow down and kind of introspect and say, “Why am I feeling this way? Do I have an understanding of the issue? Do I understand the people behind the issue? And are my reactions knee-jerk? Or am I actually thoughtful in my reactions?” And then, when we slow down, we’re able to respond much more effectively.
I don’t ever want to get in a battle of slogans, throwing mud at each other, because you both just end up getting dirty. Number one, we can’t ever win, because the world can go places that we can’t in that kind of game. We don’t ever want to be vindictive, and we don’t ever want to be cruel or harsh. And, if there’s no love, then our message—even if it’s the correct message—is just white noise.
We all know this Scripture, too—this is Paul in Corinthians: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Paul goes on. “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
On the other hand, if we focus on developing deep relationships with people we disagree with, our responses will become multi-dimensional instead of one-dimensional, and they’ll come from a place of love for the actual person. What happens when we form these relationships is we become engaged with a person, and we become loving of that person. Instead of just pressing against an ideology, we become for a person, and then we also understand the context that they find themselves in a little bit better, and that kind of presses into our own shallow understanding of maybe where they’re coming from.
Jesus focused on developing deep relationships with sinners. If you think about it, many of his harsh words were actually reserved for the religious establishment who ignored or even shunned the cultural outcasts. Are we being like the religious establishment? I’m being hard on us. I know I’m being hard on Christians, up front, but I think it’s a good thing. When we slow down and review our personal understanding of the issue here—for example, Pride Month—and move toward the individual instead of offering pithy memes and Twitter responses, we see movement in the lives of the individuals, which is gospel work.
Remember, the gospel is relational, and God saves individuals, not movements. Social media comments—guys, let me remind you, also, social media comments—that’s not relationship. It’s not helpful to remain in our Christian bubbles, complaining to each other about the sin of the world. At some point, we have to get outside of those comfortable circles and actually engage the people behind the issues we disagree with, which leads me to my next point.
Jesus told us to love God and to love others. These are the two greatest commandments. Unfortunately, there are two ways people misunderstand what it means to love someone. First, many people think loving others means affirming or accepting all that they do. According to a lot of people, those who don’t affirm LGBTQ+ values and/or celebrate Pride Month are unloving. Taking a step further, many people think just because someone speaks out against an ideology or construct in the culture, that therefore the person is not only unloving, but actually hateful. This is just blatantly false. Total acceptance is not love, and just because someone speaks out against the idea—or ideology or any other aspect of someone’s life—doesn’t mean they hate the person. In many instances, total acceptance can be the opposite of love, and offering a critical word of encouragement, or a critical word in general, or advice is the loving thing to do.
I have a perfect example from my own life. I used to be friends with a young lady who had a best friend, and when I asked her—and I was an atheist at the time—”Why are you friends with this girl? She seems to be getting you in trouble all the time and is supportive of really awful behavior.” She said, “I’m friends with her because she loves me no matter what I do and she encourages me in it. She supports me no matter what I do.” And I remember thinking in my mind, even as an atheist, “Well, that’s not loving, because you’re doing really harmful things to your own body and the people around you. That’s not love at all.” So, first the first misunderstanding of love is it’s not total acceptance.
This is the second misunderstanding: Loving someone is not merely tolerating them. We don’t tolerate someone we love. We might tolerate their ideas or behaviors, but we’re called to love the person. This is genuine love that finds its beginning in the fact that every single person is made in the image of God, and for that reason, and that reason alone, they’re of infinite dignity and value and are worthy of being loved. Reminding ourselves of these things helps us have the right motivation or motive to confront the false and harmful ideas out in the culture.
Lastly, with love as our motivation, now we can confront the lies of the culture. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” So, he’s going to be talking about what it means to love somebody here in Romans. But then, right smack dab in the middle of this passage, he says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” The key concept of love is confronting evil. Love doesn’t boast at all in anything, and it most certainly doesn’t boast in evil. Sin is unacceptable to God, and therefore, the Christian has a deep responsibility to confront sin out in the culture, to confront evil out in the culture. Paul confronted the sexual sin of the Corinthian church. He said to them, “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” The loving thing to do is to hold fast to the truth even when it’s hard—especially, guys, when it’s hard. This includes our sexual identities and behaviors. Love does not celebrate sin. So, love does not celebrate gay pride. It does not attend gay pride parades. Love does not go into and support these types of things. That’s not what love is.
Oftentimes, we get the issue right, but the way that we address it, or the tactic, is not loving. But I want to be clear. It is impossible, friends, for the Christian to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride. The Christian doesn’t encourage aberrant sexual behavior. Any sexual identity outside the male-female paradigm is outside of God’s plan for human flourishing. Any sexual activity outside of the context of one man, one woman, for one lifetime is outside God’s plan and design for sex. These things are not good, they’re not righteous, and they are not true. The Christian calls his neighbors to their true identity as image bearers. How do we confront the lies? We call people higher. We remind them of who they are.