This is the blog post I was writing the day that I learned that my friend hung himself. He killed himself because the other guys in his barracks found out that he was gay and made him feel like he shouldn’t be alive anymore. Before you decide that my conclusion was biased by his death, let me assure you that I had written everything but the very last paragraph before I heard the news.
I was at my sister Emily’s house the other day while she was checking Facebook. One of her friends had just gotten engaged. That friend is gay.
“How am I supposed to respond to this?” my sister asked. “I believe that gay marriage is wrong, but I also don’t think the government should be allowed to take away anyone’s [right to visit the their significant other in the hospital].”
Some people are lucky enough to have older siblings with all the answers. Emily isn’t.
For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to figure this out and the only thing I’ve come up with is that this is a bigger deal than just a simple “like,” ignore, or comment on Facebook. My sister and her husband lead the youth group at their church and they have a baby boy. They’re role models. The way they respond to this engagement and the others that come after it is going to affect the way their son and those teenagers in their youth group respond to the world.
Let’s get one thing straight—the LGBTQ community is here to stay. It’s been around since Bible times and it hasn’t disappeared yet. Alternative lifestyles (and by “alternative” I mean “other than one male and one female of the same race, religion, and nationality”) are only going to become more accepted as time goes on. Christianity and other hetero-centric religions or belief systems haven’t changed that in the last 2,000+ years, and they’re not going to in the time we have left. As long as there’s an agreed upon norm, there will always be an alternative to the norm.
There are a number of different viewpoints on homosexuality within Christianity. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I believe that God gave us a model He expected us to follow when He made Eve for Adam and any time humans miss the mark, even by a little bit, it’s considered sin. I’m not likely to change my mind without hard scriptural evidence.) But whether homosexuality is right or wrong isn’t the issue here. The question I’m going to try to answer is how a Christian should respond to their gay friends getting engaged and married.
Let’s start out with a baseline and work our way up. No matter what you believe, one thing we can all agree gay and straight people have in common is that they are human. Right? No disagreement yet? Cool, let’s continue.
If you are a Christian, you believe that God created all humans in His image.
Still with me? Awesome.
The second thing all Christians should agree on—Jesus preached the truth while he was on this earth. If you believe that one thing he said wasn’t true, then you can’t believe anything he said—but that’s a post unto itself. If we believe that everything Jesus said was true, then we must believe that he wasn’t just kidding around when he said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it—‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Get ready to bear with me. I just spent three coffee-soaked hours in my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (“Strong’s—so you know it’s good!”). It’s about to get semantic up in here.
The word “love” that Jesus used is the Greek word agapao which means “to love in a social or moral sense” and is the root of the word “beloved.” The type of love is used in both Jesus’ command to love God with every bit of yourself and in the command to love your neighbor is the same love that Jesus commands us to love our enemies with.
Furthermore, Strong’s invites the reader to compare agapao to the word phileo used in verses like Matthew 6:5, about the hypocrites who “love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people” and the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21, where Jesus asks three times if Peter has agapao for him and each time Peter responds that he loves him, phileo-style. Phileo in Greek means “to be a friend to” or “to have affection for.” Compared to one another, agapao is the broader, stronger term. It encompasses duty, propriety, and the deliberate decision to love no matter what, whereas phileo is more of a fleeting feeling towards a person or object.
Did that digression into ancient semantics help us in any way? Let’s watch.
Okay, so if the second greatest command in the whole Bible is to love your neighbor as yourself in a way that’s deliberate, proper, and your duty as a Christian, and your neighbor is defined as any human being on the face of this earth (“Neighbor” is, by the way. I can Strong’s it for you, too, if I have to.), then the real question becomes “How should I respond when someone I love has good news, for example, that they’re getting married?”
If I truly loved the person, this is how I would respond—“WOOHOO! YEAH! GOOD FOR YOU! AWESOME! I WISH YOU A LIFETIME OF HAPPINESS!”
You may disagree with me. I welcome well-studied, scripturally supported arguments, but I won’t listen to is hatefulness. Gay, straight, male, female, or some other third thing—we’re all human. To hate any human is to deny love to another creature of God, a love that He gave you first, then commanded you to spread to the people in your life. People who He created in His image. To deny love to even one small part of God’s image is to willfully disobey the greatest command—to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
Maybe you disagree with your friend’s lifestyle. As a Christian, it’s still your moral obligation according to Jesus’s word-choice agapao to love your friend anyway and react appropriately.
And here’s something that I didn’t expect to find while researching this question: You’re not just supposed to agapao your friends. Jesus said to agapao your enemies, too.