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Learning to Love

February 22, 2015

I write this post with some trepidation, aware of the possible fallout, but I know in my heart I have no choice.

My heart is heavy this morning. I have just learned that Brandan Robertson, whom I mentioned in my last post, and whose opinions on many matters I have come to respect and value, has had his book contract cancelled because he is gay. Apparently the publisher was under pressure from Christian booksellers who were refusing to handle the book, though the personal account of the writer’s spiritual journey made only the slightest reference to homosexuality.

What was clearly at issue was Brandan’s homosexuality. Somehow some Christians have taken it into their heads that homosexuality (or whatever other sins de jour they select) gives them license to hate and harm people. They feel justified in denying these “sinners” fellowship, housing, employment and even, as I recently read, medical care.

Although there is controversy surrounding the language of the verses typically cited as condemning homosexuality, I will not muddy my boots in it at this time. Rather I will wait until the dust settles and a clear verdict is rendered. But even accepting those passages do condemn the practice, when we set aside those among them that clearly refer to prostitution and rape, references specific to the practice of homosexuality are sparse, only two in the Old Testament and two in the New.

In contrast, there are many, many verses that tell us to love one another.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

In fact, those verses, as Jesus contends, are the very essence of Christianity. But somehow there are some scriptural cherry-pickers who believe the few verses take precedence over the many.

For those who would ungenerously insist that Jesus is referring only to fellow Christians when he refers to “your neighbour” and “one another” (a ludicrous position since there were no Christians when he spoke those words), or would hold that homosexuals are not truly Christians, I offer another of Jesus’ teachings:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Jesus frequently sought out the company of sinners (the sexually immoral among them), defended them against the religious community who sought to judge them, and some would suggest gave them preferential treatment. Are we who call ourselves his followers not to follow, to emulate him?

Why homosexuality has been elevated above all other sins mystifies me. It seems to me that the materialism, greed and militarism in which virtually all of us participate are far more damaging to the Kingdom of God than homosexuality. Even more serious is the widespread indifference to the suffering of others. But no one is spewing invectives at us or discriminating against us for these sins.

Many years ago God taught me a lesson that I see as directly relevant. I had been involved in prison ministry for a while, but had firmly maintained that I wanted no truck with sexual offenders. One day the chaplain told me someone wanted to speak to me in his office. When I arrived there at the appointed time, I was introduced to a man I had never met before. This man told me he needed help, and hearing from others what I had done for them, believed I could provide that help. However asked that I hear his story before deciding whether or not I was willing.

As I listened to him, I was torn asunder. He was a pedophile, the worst of the worst in my opinion. I wanted no part of this! Yet I could clearly hear the Spirit within me reminding me that God had responded to my brokenness by forgiving my sins, pointing out that before me was a broken man who like me needed help, and that it would dishonour both God and myself to refuse him. Reluctantly, I agreed to work with the man.

That meeting changed my life. I developed a heart for men who had fallen into sexual sin, and in a short time they were the primary focus of my ministry. I learned that when I served them—gave them my time, a listening ear, an understanding heart and a helping hand—I learned to love them. I had truly become a friend of sinners. I am eternally grateful for that experience.

As Christians we must realize hurting and broken people who have been caught up in behaviours we find repugnant are not our enemies. They are our brothers and sisters who need our help, not our judgment and rejection. We need to welcome them into our company and love them as Jesus did. For they too are the Father’s children and he loves them just as much as he loves us.

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