LGBTQ+ Pride Month can bring dilemmas for disciples of Jesus. We want to show our love for everyone, but we do not want to dishonor the teachings of God’s Word about sexuality and gender. As LGBTQ+ beliefs and practices take center stage during Pride Month, many of us may find ourselves in difficult relational and workplace situations. We want to love well in these situations, yet how do we love well when many will be pridefully flaunting rebellion against what God teaches in Scripture? (For a look at what God teaches us on homosexuality and polyamory, click here.)
In thinking through how to love well, we need to understand a major societal disconnect between two versions of love. (And we need to pick our definition of love wisely.)
“Love Is Love”
For our secular culture, the mantra is, “Love is love.” This is meant to mean that all kinds of love, especially romantic love, are equally love and that they deserve equal acceptance. This also means that if Christians truly claim to “love” everybody, then they need to be all-accepting and all-affirming of all sexual identities. In today’s climate of intersectional feminism, all-accepting and all-affirming means in particular that we must accept the claims and affirm the decisions of people who identify as LGBTQ+.
But “Love is love” is also a confusing expression. Even many secular people will acknowledge that we should not necessarily condone “love” if it means accepting incest or polygamy or pedophilia. So, is the expression “Love is love” a helpful guiding belief—or does it simply become an indifferent green light even to destructive sexualities and false self-identities?
“Is the expression ‘Love is love’ a helpful guiding belief—or does it simply become an indifferent green light even to destructive sexualities and false self-identities?”
Is it really loving for us to be indifferent to a person’s sexual lifestyle as long as we affirm the person’s current choices? Is the statement “Love is love” even meaningful, or is it more of a power slogan crafted to be impossible to argue against?
We want to suggest that there is a much better way to view love.
“Love Is Grace and Truth”
For the Christian, Jesus and his teachings define how we love. And like it or not, Jesus’ ethics never boiled down to affirmation and acceptance, even as he often spoke truth with gentleness. For example, even when he said of the woman caught in adultery, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7b), he followed it up by telling the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11b). For him, love went so much deeper than indifferently affirming a person’s beliefs and blanketly accepting their decisions.
In my home church (Bobby), we define love based on biblical teachings by saying “love is grace and truth in action, with grace leading the way.” So, love includes (and leads with) graciousness, mercy, acceptance, etc., but it also includes truth, which involves God’s truth and holiness, and it always keeps in mind eternal realities such as the final judgment at the end of our lives where we will be held accountable to God for our choices (more on these things below).
“Love includes (and leads with) graciousness, mercy, acceptance, etc., but it also includes truth, which involves God’s truth and holiness.”
We want to suggest that if you are a disciple of Jesus and you’re wondering how to love well when it comes to issues surrounding Pride Month, this article will be helpful and clarifying. Also, if you aren’t a Christian and can’t figure out why Christians who claim to be loving seem to be so unloving when it comes to LGBTQ issues, hopefully this article will be helpful and clarifying as well.
We want to suggest that these six Bible passages open our eyes as to how Christians can love well, with both grace and truth, during Pride Month.
1. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love Is Gracious, Yet Truthful.
For disciples of Jesus, we look to Jesus to define what love is (e.g., John 13:34-35) and we see how he lived it out as our role model (“As I have loved you, so you must love one another”). Consider the summary of love by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, as the Spirit of Jesus guided Paul. Remember, Paul was dramatically shown divine love when Jesus appeared to him as he was on his way to persecute Jesus’ followers. In his kindness, Jesus saved Paul from the destructive path he was on, and Paul never forgot this amazing love (1 Cor. 15:9-10), which we are to pass along as we have received it from God. Paul defines love as a posture we uphold and actions we take:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a)
This passage shows us—as Jesus’ life showed us—that love puts others first. Love leads with mercy. So, when conversations around LGBTQ+ matters come up, we want to be known for our graciousness, patience, kindness, etc. We want to lead with the grace described at the heart of love.
“Love is patient, love is kind.”
Yet love means that we also must live in truth. The above Bible passage says that love “does not delight” in what God calls evil, but rather “rejoices with the truth.” We will uphold God’s truth, including what it teaches about sexuality and gender. We will not act proudly about sin, nor will we affirm pride. And we will seek to protect from harm those we love. This dedication to biblical truth will be enough for many to call us “haters,” but that’s because they are using the “Love is love” view of love, not a biblical one.
When it comes to speaking truth, it’s important to remember that truth is always best given in the context of relationship. It’s in relationship that you can lead with grace. It’s in relationship that you can ask permission to tell truth—and to distinguish when it is an appropriate or inappropriate time. God honors our free will, and we need to do the same for each other. Remember that “love is patient.”
This is why, when the timing seems right within relationship to tell someone biblical truth, it’s good to say something like, “Would you be open to exploring what the Bible teaches on this topic?” That’s miles away from blaring Bible verses from a bullhorn at a pride parade. Again, truth is best spoken at the appropriate time in trusted relationships.
“Truth is best spoken at the appropriate time in trusted relationships.”
Again, as we like to say at our church (Bobby), “Love is grace and truth in action, with grace leading the way.”
2. Romans 3:10-12: Love Doesn’t Look Down on Others.
Even as we acknowledge what the Bible teaches about sexuality and gender, we must also show humility and acknowledge that we all struggle with sin. We all fall short of God’s teachings and his description of what is good. All who sin, including each of us, need grace. Scripture leads us to reflect on how far each of us has fallen when it comes to God’s standards:
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12)
This is why grace is so important in the biblical framework of love. God loves us so much that he leads with grace in Jesus. As Scripture says, “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son” (John 3:16). So, while we uphold truth, we should ooze humility, because we are all nothing without grace. We know that God’s grace is everyone’s only hope. We will not look down on others and act like we are better than others.
“We all fall short of God’s teachings and his description of what is good.”
3. Luke 7:31-32: Love Chooses Wisely What It Celebrates.
It’s important to live lives which are attractive to outsiders (1 Peter 2:12) and try to always speak with grace (Col. 4:6). At the same time, we must also acknowledge that Jesus wasn’t always winsome. Often, Jesus did not go along with the cultural moods around him. He couldn’t in good conscience celebrate everything his culture told him to celebrate. Consider the following cultural observation he made:
Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’” (Luke 7:31-32)
“We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.”
Jesus did not celebrate everything the culture around him celebrated, even as he did not lose his joy when those around him had lost theirs. In the same way, Christians need to be discerning when it comes to what we will celebrate. (For a summary of how cultural toleration of LGBTQ+ beliefs and practices evolved into the expectation that we would join in with cultural celebration, click here.)
4. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Love Celebrates Stories of Redemption.
Because God loves us so much, he rescues us from our sin and sinful ways. The following verses make clear the stakes when it comes to sinful choices. Please read the vice list carefully and you’ll see not only sexual sins (see also Romans 1:26-27 on homosexual sin) but also sins that everyone of us struggles with (e.g., greed, idolatry):
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
This is the story we Christians celebrate most joyfully: when God rescues us from the penalty and power of sin and gives us a new identity. For disciples of Jesus, our identity is now grounded in the truth that we have been “washed” (i.e., in the blood of Jesus at our baptism), “sanctified,” and” justified” in the name of Jesus Christ. We are no longer defined by our sexual struggles or any other sinful struggle. We are defined by what God does for us in Jesus. So, we celebrate stories of how people have been redeemed by grace. We celebrate our new identity: we are in Christ and everything is new (see 2 Cor. 5:16-21).
“We celebrate stories of how people have been redeemed by grace.”
5. Romans 12:9: Love Is Sincere.
In Romans 12:9, the apostle Paul says this about real love:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9)
If we have real, sincere love, we will hate what threatens to destroy the person, and we will cling to what is good for the person.
It’s true that non-Christians typically don’t believe Jesus about the eternal danger of remaining unrepentant in our sins (see John 3:17-18). But we do. That’s why, if our love is sincere and not just an act, then we will confront what is evil in ourselves and, to the extent that we can, in each other, and we will cling to what is good. Real love means we view what’s good and evil through the lens of God’s eternal story, not just through the lens of what gets cultural approval. (For more on real love versus actor-love, click here.)
“Real love means we view what’s good and evil through the lens of God’s eternal story, not just through the lens of what gets cultural approval.”
6. Luke 7:44: Love Sees You.
When a Pharisee was hosting Jesus for dinner, a woman with a sinful reputation entered the house to anoint Jesus with an expensive perfume. When Jesus didn’t dissuade her, the Pharisee thought Jesus must not realize that she was a notorious sinner. Jesus knew what he was thinking and replied to him,
“Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44)
Do you actually see her? Can we see past people’s wrong decisions and unflattering labels—and see the actual person? That’s what Jesus did for us when he saved us from our sins, and that’s what we must do for others.
A major way of seeing people means really seeing the suffering they have faced. When we see sexual minorities, are we taking in the deep, often-unwanted desires many of them have had to live with? Sure, many of them might enjoy some cultural applause, but many have also been estranged from their families or bullied by unseeing peers.
“A major way of seeing people means really seeing the suffering they have faced.”
When we see them, do we think through the difficult implications of what following Jesus’ ways might look like for them? In inviting them to follow Christ, are we thinking through what we’re asking them to do? For example, are we really envisioning how we might be able to be an extended family for those who choose singleness over homosexual relationships?
And when it comes to seeing the actual person, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between us and the temptations we face. Consider the distinction the apostle Peter makes here:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)
If we truly love people the Jesus way, we will see them, make a distinction between who they are and what they struggle with, and love them with grace and truth regardless of anything they say or do or believe about themselves.
Showing people grace and telling them truth may not be the brand of love in vogue today (again, it may get you branded a “hater”). Yet it is the kind of love that has substance and power. It’s the kind of love which invited us to trust and follow Jesus in the first place. Think about it: We know Jesus because someone loved us enough to show us grace and tell us truth.
And this is the kind of love we will give others, if we really do love them. Pride Month shouldn’t be a time for disciples of Jesus to feel awkward and sheepish. Like every month, it’s a good season to practice loving well.
“Like every month, it’s a good season to practice loving well.”
And let’s keep our minds focused on the gospel of King Jesus. His kingdom of love and holiness invites every one of us into transforming, redemptive love.
- Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?
- Rosaria Butterfield, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.
- Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality
- Guy Hammond, Gay and Christian?