As more of us are becoming vocal about calling the Church to love our gay brothers and sisters, I’ve noticed that the first response we typically receive is: “Well, the most loving thing I can do is tell them the truth about their sin.”
I’m pretty sure not a single homosexual in the Western world is unaware that most evangelical Christians believe their desires and/or lifestyle to be sinful.
If an entire history of persecution weren’t quite enough, the last few years of advertisements, books, sermons, billboards, protest signs, television and radio programming, “Fag!” name-calling, and hateful Facebook rantings would have done the trick rather nicely. So it’s a safe bet the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual, and/or queer community have noticed the fear and loathing directed their way as “telling the truth” by the people of God. (And I highly doubt most felt very loved by that experience.)
That sentence? It is one-dimensional bumper sticker lower-case truth. It’s not the whole Truth, is it? And it isn’t tough love as I understand it.
I believe that statement is almost always a cop-out. After all, my Bible talks more about the sins of not caring for the poor and orphans of our communities, about our pride, about idolatry, than it does about homosexuality, yet I can’t see a lot of to-scale “truth-telling” on those topics. And, then we call it “tough love”, this truth-telling, as if that phrase, excuses our lack of grace. It’s a too-small band-aid on a complex issue representing real people with real stories and real lives with political and daily life implications we can’t even guess from our gated communities.
No, I believe that tough love means going down deep, to battle our own selfishness, our own anger, our own frustrations, our fears, our temptations to choose being right over being gracious, to give up on having he last word, to stop convincing by arguing and harsh invectives, pinches and pricks, to win at all costs.
Tough love means Christ will win in me.
So sure, absolutely, it’s time for some tough love: it’s time to walk in the ways of love and truth together – and, yeah, that’s tough.
(The greatest irony of tough love I’ve found is that it’s only found in relaxing. It’s only found in releasing control. Love is the relationship you relax into living. It’s only found in surrender, in living in the moment, in contentment with being and knowing the truth of enough – that He is enough and Love is enough and what I can do/offer/be is enough, too. Tough love is not found in trying harder to be more kind, more gentle, more disciplined, no, tough love says, you do not need to be right or perfect or without flaw to be loved.)
Let me lay a bit more truth on us: truth and love are not mutually exclusive.
Truth isn’t the heavy-handed Papa here to lay down the discipline. Real truth sets free, truth invites, truth locks hands with grace, kisses love, and outlasts all of the fashionable Facebook rants and fear-baiting rhetoric, all of the splinter-spotting by the plank-in-the-eye crowd.
Besides, we aren’t telling the whole truth, not yet.
Are we telling this truth, too?
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.You are cherished.You were chosen even before creation. Your hairs are numbered. You were knit together in your mother’s womb.
No one is righteous, no, not one. God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to reconcile us all to Himself.
God is not distant or angry; he is Love. God desires to lavish love on you. He loves you with an everlasting love. His plans for you are good ones, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.
God is close to the broken-hearted. He is not counting your sins.
Nothing can separate you from God’s love.
The most loving thing we can do is tell the truth, absolutely. So let’s tell all of the truth.
And then let’s live that truth, love together, learning together every day, with real people in our real walking-around lives, without judgement or withholding or fear or stereotypes or who’s-in-and-who’s-out rhetoric. I highly doubt anyone will see Christ in another bit of drive-by “truth-telling” of that nature. No, the time for simple slogans is over.
The community of God are the ones who can stop worrying about telling the truth, and start living the whole truth out – the glorious, gorgeous, lavish, wild, unfair, and love-filled truth of the Gospel.
This post was stirred up by my friend Heather of the EO’s letter to her lesbian non-Christian friend, and her friend, Vikki’s, gracious letter in return, as well as the responses and repostings I’ve witnessed.