Just Love Them


by Marsha Inman, Friends and Family Director

When communicating with friends and family about how to interact with a child or loved one who has walked away from their relationship with the Lord to embrace a gay or transgender identity, we often hear, “I’m just going to love them.” What exactly does that mean, and what does it look like?  Love can mean different things to different people, so it’s worth looking to God’s word to see what He says love is.

First, 1 Corinthians 13 is almost too familiar to most of us.  We’ve heard it from pulpits, at weddings, seen it on plaques, and been quoted it by Christians and non-Christians alike.  The danger of anything so well known is that we don’t give it the attention it deserves.  Since loving each other is supposed to be a hallmark of a Christ follower, let’s go back and see if we’ve absorbed what it tells us.  Maybe there is a lot more we need to learn about love.

The first three verses list wonderful activities a person could do and receive praise and recognition for doing – speak in an unlearned language, prophesy the deep mysteries of God, have faith strong enough to make physical things move, or even give all their worldly possessions to the poor and live a life of deprivation.  Each of these things could bring worldly acclaim, but if they were done to promote self and without love, they would mean nothing.  God takes our motives very, very seriously, and as we all know, it’s difficult to have entirely pure motives.

Love Is An Action

Next, in contrast to the previous list of kindly deeds, Paul spells out specifics that illustrate what God’s type of love looks like.  If you love someone, you will be patient with them.  We only need to exercise our patience when someone behaves in a way we don’t like or annoys us.  We should be kind – and when do we need to be reminded of that?  We need it when that other person is being unkind to us, and our impulse is to respond likewise.  Love will not be envious of the good fortune of others, even if it highlights something we lack or would love to have for ourselves.  We need to rejoice with them when God has blessed them, monetarily or in harmonious family relationships.  Loving with godly love will not promote our accomplishments or make us feel impressed with who we are or what we’ve done.  Instead, our focus should be on others, not comparing what we have done with what they have accomplished or have been given.  If we avoid comparing ourselves with others, it won’t matter whose accomplishments seem bigger or more visible.  Love never dishonors someone, makes them look less than others, insists on having their way, or exhibits hair-trigger anger.  We are tempted to engage in those behaviors when we are being dishonored, made to feel small, and feel like our requests are ignored or treated harshly.  Our instinctual response is to respond in kind to others, even if it is less than Christlike.  As if the list were not difficult enough, Paul adds that we should not keep a record of how we have been treated wrongly.  A person who loves will not be delighted when evil befalls another, regardless of how that person has treated them.  We are not to affirm or celebrate unrighteousness but instead focus on the truth and delight when it prevails.  True love always protects its object, always hopes for the best, and always perseveres through difficult times.

Real Love Isn’t Natural

In each description Paul uses to illustrate love, we are asked to do the opposite of what we would normally desire to do in these difficult situations.  Contrary to what our culture would have us believe, love is not enjoying a warm feeling when life is going as we would like it.  Real love instructs us to respond to difficulties completely differently than what we would do if Christ were not helping us.  Love is responding in kindness when times are hard and persevering in doing the right thing for as long as necessary.  1 Corinthians 13 is not a warm, fuzzy description of romantic love.  It is a description of obedience over time when things aren’t easy.

How do we, as friends and family, put the guidelines of 1 Corinthians into practice with the person in our life who is struggling with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria?   We practice it when we see them not “getting” the truth we are trying to share with them.  We can’t respond with exasperation, irritation, or anger.  When we pray for them, we must trust God to be at work and trust His timing.  The same thing is needed if they are angry or hurtful towards us.  Responding in kind will do nothing but cause more dissent and drive a bigger wedge between you.   When we have friends whose children seem to have it all together, we should not be envious but rejoice with them in those marriages and grandchildren.  Their happiness does not need to drive you to compare parenting skills.

Producing Perfect Children

The parents who come to Living Hope are the ones who have taken their responsibilities seriously.  God doesn’t give us a guaranteed formula for producing “perfect” children…just look at His children, the human race, to dispel that myth.  The Lord may be accomplishing something more important for you and your child through this unwelcome development. When verse six tells us to “…not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoice with the truth…” that includes refraining from condoning or accepting the lies they have believed about themselves or affirming choices that oppose a biblical understanding of sexuality.

This memorable chapter ends with the charge for us to “grow up.”  Loving others is not something a believer can muster up through determination and grit.  It develops as we mature in Christ and learn how to lean on Him to help us act in ways contrary to our feelings but in line with His will.  As we grow in our understanding of His type of love and our ability to live it out, we are doing something of eternal value.  The three hallmarks of Christians – faith, hope, and love are all important, but only one will continue into heaven.  There, our faith will be realized, and our hopes will be more than fulfilled, but we will only begin to discover the amazing depths of God’s love for us through Christ.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Ps. 23:6