Jesus teaches us to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength” (Mark 12:30). Furthermore, he teaches us to “love our neighbor as ourself” (Mark 12:31). This command to love our neighbor is rooted in God’s love for us. We take our cues from God when it comes to how we demonstrate love to others. Therefore, when it comes to loving those with whom we disagree or with whose lifestyles we cannot condone, we must look to God for our example.
The following points represent a brief survey of some biblical truths from the writings of the apostle Paul that will help us love our gay neighbors well:
1. Love your gay neighbor fearlessly
“...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Timothy was a young, timid minister who needed encouragement from the seasoned, mature Paul. Just like us, Timothy had to be reminded that God had given him a spirit of power, love, and self-control. Regardless of the circumstances, we are called to love our gay neighbor in the strength of God’s power, which drives out fear and increases our faith. Fearless love takes risks. It steps outside of its comfort zone. It breaks down stereotypes and demonstrates trust in God.
God’s compassion serves as the paradigm for Christian compassion.
2. Love your gay neighbor compassionately
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12-13).
God’s compassion serves as the paradigm for Christian compassion. When we seek to show compassion to others, we begin by considering how God showed compassion to us. When it comes to our gay neighbor, we show compassion and offer forgiveness on the basis of what God has done in Christ to redeem us and demonstrate his love toward us. Compassion is the clothing of the Christian. It is the scent that should linger when a Christian comes around.
3. Love your gay neighbor truthfully
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).
Biblical love is inextricably related to the truth. If the source of love is God himself, then our expressions of love must not neglect the truth of God. Love and truth are the two sides of the Gospel we share with others. People will never see how loved they truly are until they understand who they are apart from God’s love and redemption. When Christians conceal the truth about sin from their neighbor, it may appear loving, but it is not loving at all. Loving our gay neighbor in the truth means not only addressing the reality and consequence of the sin, but it also means faithfully declaring the grace and freedom that are found in Christ Jesus. Christians should speak the whole truth to their gay neighbor, which means truthful speech about both God’s just holiness and God’s redemptive mercy.
4. Love your gay neighbor redemptively
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7).
The “loving kindness of God our Savior appeared” to save us! In other words, God’s love has a salvific purpose. The end goal of his love is the redemption of the sinner. We are told this in no uncertain terms in John 3:16, where we read that God’s love for us compelled him to send his Son, Jesus, into the world for the salvation of sinners. He does not love for love’s sake, but for the sake of his glory in salvation. Our love for our gay neighbor is incomplete if its end goal is not their full redemption. We are called to adorn the gospel with our good works, but we must be careful that we do not neglect the gospel on account of our busyness.
5. Love your gay neighbor patiently
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
“And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
Very few people respond to the gospel the first time that they hear it. As those who have been saved by a patient God, we need to be patient with our gay neighbor. Furthermore, while our love must be redemptive, it must not be dehumanizing. What I mean by this is that our gay neighbor is not some salvific notch in our evangelistic belt. We must not view our neighbor as a threat to be neutralized, but as a human being created in the image of a loving and patient God. We should demonstrate love to our gay neighbor regardless if they ever attend our church meetings. So when we start loving our neighbors redemptively, we must do so with patience and longsuffering. Often, repentance will be messy and we must be willing to walk alongside them, discipling them to follow Jesus. We must not give up on the gospel. In due season, God’s message will bear fruit if we do not grow weary in doing good.
In conclusion, God’s Word is clear that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. This necessarily includes even those with whom we disagree and whose lifestyles conflict with God’s Word. God’s intention is to use Christians to demonstrate a love for their gay neighbor that is marked by a fearless hope in the transforming truth of the gospel, which declares the compassion of God toward all sinners with the aim of bringing about their full redemption. This love is a patient love that rests in the sovereign kindness of a loving God. It is a love that looks strikingly similar to the love that God has poured out on us through Jesus Christ.