“Any dates lately?” I ask.
The sunshine skitters across the waves. A biker speeds past us.
“A couple,” she says. “Nothing serious, though.”
“Guys or girls?”
I wait for her answer. Uncertainty swirls around me. What if she says girls?
Photo courtesy of Daniel Santalla via stocksnap.io
I’ve talked with my friend about her same-sex attraction before—at the local bakery between bites of cherry pie, over steaming bowls of tikka masala. Some months, she fights against her feelings. Other months, she slips into the ache and finds a girlfriend. But, she loves Jesus.
Sometimes, when talk about her struggle, it’s like a tornado siren blares in my head. I fight the impulse to run for cover. Other times, I’m tempted to make a few authoritative statements and, like Jesus in the boat, watch my nuggets of truth silence her storm. But, loving people is more complicated than that.
For some reason, we treat same-sex attraction differently than other types of brokenness. When a friend struggles with lust, worry, or overeating we show compassion. We weigh our words. When they fall, we kneel beside them until the bleeding stops. (Except for gluttony—we’re not even sure that’s a real sin.)
But, when it comes to same-sex attraction, we hone in on it like radiation on cancer. We stand at a distance and, using a megaphone, give people instructions on how they can straighten up their lives.
Jesus, though, got close to broken people. He went to dinner parties with tax-collectors. He spent time with drunkards and prostitutes, and the religious leaders criticized him for this. Jesus was too soft on sin for their taste. Apparently, they wanted him to call down fire from heaven or, at minimum, give those sinners a five-step plan for cleaning up their lives.
Instead, Jesus turned on the religious leaders and said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matt 9:13).
Jesus is clear—our focus on morality should never get in the way of mercy. If it does, we’ve lost sight of what matters most to God. All the heavyweights of the Bible agree—whether Jesus, Moses, Peter, John, or Paul—God’s top priority is love (Matt. 22:37-40, Deut 6:5, 2 Peter 1:5-7, John 13:34-35, 1 Cor 13:1-3, 13).
So, how do we love broken people? Start with mercy:
1. Listen to their story.
2. Ask questions about their journey.
3. Communicate that we love them, no matter what.
4. Commit ourselves to journeying with them.
5. Talk about other things, too—their work, hobbies, and dreams—not just their struggle.
6. Pray for them often.
7. Ask the Holy Spirit to show us when to listen, when to speak, and when to simply give a hug.
How do we love broken people? The same way your friends love you.