It’s LGBT pride month. As I write, there are LGBT pride parades and other festivities happening across North America and abroad. And every year more and more people are joining the celebration. In fact, many Christians and whole church congregations are using this as an opportunity to demonstrate their love for the LGBT community.
Unfortunately, most people in our society—including some Christians—are confused about genuine love. They conflate acceptance and affirmation with love. Therefore, the people who do not affirm LGBT values are, by definition, unloving. But this is clearly mistaken.
It is possible to truly love someone, but not accept and affirm their ideas or behavior. We do this all the time. We all have friends and family members that we love dearly even though we disagree with—and even oppose—their behavior or ideas.
Let me give a very personal example. A friend of mine is in the midst of divorcing his wife. His actions are having detrimental effects on his wife and young daughter. I think what he’s doing is wrong; therefore, I cannot support it. However, some people in his life are supporting—and even celebrating—his decision.
Does it follow that because I don’t affirm his actions, I don’t love him? I don’t think so. In fact, it is precisely because I love him and his family that I cannot affirm his decision.
We are called to love our neighbor—including my LGBT neighbor. This isn’t a mere toleration of the person. No, this is genuine, heartfelt love. The kind of love that is kind and gentle, not arrogant or rude.
We should be the first to defend the LGBT community against mistreatment, abuse, and unjust discrimination. Every member of the LGBT community is made in the image of God. Therefore, each one is intrinsically valuable and should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Anything less is wicked.
Shame on anyone who professes to be a Christian but gives the impression—by their words and actions—that God doesn’t love those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Let me say unequivocally that God loves them. In fact, He died for them.
So, what does genuine love look like?
Love by Abhorring What Is Evil
Writing to the Church in Rome, Paul says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:9-10). Please don’t miss what Paul does here. Right in the middle of describing what genuine love looks like, he inserts a crucial command: abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.
At first read, this insertion may seem out of place. It isn’t. We need to be reminded—even commanded—that genuine love doesn’t merely affirm or celebrate wrongdoing. We all have the inclination to accept sin rather than abhor it. And it’s that acceptance that is wrongly championed as love.
For example, the Corinthian Christians were proud of their acceptance of a couple engaging in sexual sin. They didn’t abhor this sinful behavior; they accepted it. More than that, they were boasting in their tolerance (1 Cor. 5:6).
Does this sound familiar? It should. This is the stance of many churches today.
Now notice Paul’s response. When he discovered their sexual immorality, he didn’t accept it; he abhorred it. Paul writes, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing” (1 Cor. 5:3). And what was his motivation? He did this so that they might “be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5). Paul modeled genuine love in the context of making a right judgment.1
Paul reiterates this point to the Corinthians a few chapters later. He says. “Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6). Genuine love should never celebrate wrongdoing. It doesn’t go to parades for wrongdoing. It doesn’t wave flags, and shout and cheer at wrongdoing. On the contrary, it recoils and mourns at wrongdoing.
Love by Holding Fast to What Is Good
True love doesn’t support and celebrate wickedness. Rather, it holds fast to what is good. This is not an easy thing to do. The culture is working hard to pull you away from what is good. And it won’t stop at mere acceptance of evil. No, the culture demands that you celebrate it. And if you don’t, ironically, you will be called unloving and bigoted.
There is a price to be paid for standing for what is good, beautiful, and true. But there is also a reward. The apostle Peter says,
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Pet. 4:12-14)
In a world marred by sin, it will always be unpopular to abhor evil and hold fast to what is good. But this is what genuine love demands. Anything less is a counterfeit love because it communicates to the world that sin isn’t a problem and that repentance isn’t necessary.
This month, while the world celebrates LGBT Pride, choose to love your LGBT neighbor by being a light to the world. As an act of love, do something kind for them. Invite them over for dinner. Treat them to a movie or sports event. Laugh together. Spend time getting to know each other. But don’t compromise your convictions.
Jesus modeled this best.
What Did Jesus Do?
Jesus loved sinners. This is good news because we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Quite often Jesus would spend time hanging out with sinners, but He always called them to repentance.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ’I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
Jesus—the most loving person that ever lived—did not affirm people in their sin. Instead, He called people He loved to turn from their sin. Jesus loves us just as we are. But He doesn’t want to leave us where we are. He wants us—all of us—to repent. This is how genuine love works.
Sometimes we need to be reminded about simple, spiritual, bedrock truths. When you feel the world’s pull, remind yourself to abhor what is evil, cling to what is good, and then go out into the world and model Jesus.