We have been friends for close to two decades. Donna and I have enjoyed laughs, hikes, Bible studies, conversation, cross-country skiing and fabulous meals together with John and Jane Doe. It was the sort of friendship that all Christian couples long for, a sharing of life in the context of faith in Christ.
Their marriage ended rather abruptly, at least from the perspective of a friend experiencing it from the outside. Anger, frustration, distance, baggage, and eventually betrayal lead to the dissolution of what began as a Christian covenant more than twenty years earlier. In the midst of coffee and conversation with Johnand Jane, I learned there was a bit more to the story. It seems that Jane was struggling with her sexual identity. Thoughts, feelings, and desires that she said had lay dormant were beginning to surface. Jane had decided to live a lesbian lifestyle.
We talked, argued, and cried. Our conversations, which were numerous and protracted, were laced with grace and gentleness. Our dialogue traveled considerable distance. We spoke of past pains and hurts inJane’s life to how the Bible spoke of same-sex desire. I marshaled the best biblical thinking I could so as to deter her from the course she was on. This was not theoretical theology. I was talking to a dear friend that I loved In the midst of our conversations, I learned, painfully, that it is one thing to present a convincing case based on biblical truth and it is still another to have that truth translate to the will of the individual. Yes, the teachings of Scripture seemed clear enough, but for Jane not strong enough to deter her from pursuing her new lifestyle.
The tone of our discussions changed. The coffee seemed bitter. As Jane and I talked about our friendship, SBCC, the biblical teaching regarding homosexual practices, and the decisions that Jane was making, it was becoming increasingly obvious that we were coming to a dead end. Unfortunately, the language of our conversations was subtly beginning to sting. She began to use words such as intolerant, judgmental, narrow,not accepting, and unloving to describe my position. Jane had decided to go to a new church, one that wasopen and affirming of her newly chosen lifestyle. Her new church home would be a place of non-judgmental loving. You see, Jane wanted more than a dialogue with a friend. Jane wanted approval of the decisions she was making.
I want to be friends with Jane. I realize, however, that our relationship will never be the same. Jane and I do not share the same biblical convictions concerning sexual practices. These convictions go to the heart of how we interpret the Bible and how God created us. I want to be compassionate and yet still hold to biblical convictions. How can I be loving and tolerant about behavior that is sinful and intolerable to God? How can I be non-judgmental and still call sin what it is . . . sin? How can SBCC be an affirming and accepting body of believers and hold firmly to convictions that seem clear from the pages of scripture?
We live in an era where any disapproval of alternative lifestyles, restrictions of personal freedoms or Christian critique of homosexual practices is seen as bigoted and hateful. Everyone wants to define his own moral code. In our particular cultural and intellectual climate, it is seen as an insult to attempt to persuade others of universal truth. This mindset becomes especially stubborn when discussing religion and morality. What we end up with is personalized truth where the needs and desires of the individual rule the day. Moral decisions are based on subjective internal prompting rather than external objective standards.
Alongside this personalized view of right and wrong is a deficient view of love. Love becomes synonymous with kindness. To be loving of another human being and his actions and lifestyle decisions means that you must be accepting and kind to any choices he is making. To withhold complete acceptance is equated with a lack of love. This understanding of the nature of love has a profound affect on how Christians, and non-believers, understand Jesus and his teachings. It is this type of thinking that leads to a diminished view of Jesus. Philosopher Peter Kreeft puts it like this. Why have we reduced him to ‘meek and gentle’ Jesus? Because we have reduced all virtues to one, being kind: and we measure Jesus by our standards instead of measuring our standards by him.
I am in a dilemma with my friend Jane. How can I talk about same sex practices in a way that is both true and gracious? How can I love Jane? How can I love Jane and not be accused of hateful narrow-minded bigotry? How can I be a friend and still maintain my biblically derived convictions? Jane and I have deep differences. My understanding of the Bible prohibits me from condoning the lifestyle she has chosen. ForJane, however, love is predicated on an acceptance of her new lifestyle.
So I remain resolute in my convictions and steadfast in my love. I am convinced that God loves Janeinfinitely more than I do, yet God is deeply grieved by her behavior. I want to see Jane with the eyes of Christ. The Russian novelist Dostoevsky was correct when he said, To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.