7 Ways to Love People Better

smgianotti@me.com  —  July 14, 2015

“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 1:5-7John 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.

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13 responses to 7 Ways to Love People Better

  1. What a great article. I was just reading this morning in the Daily Bread how “He was moved with compassion for them”. May we all have the Lord’s compassion.

  2. Excellent article and much needed in the church today. Too many are not following the principles of love and mercy. Thanks Shannon!

  3. Thanks for this idea Tom. Being honest about our own brokenness is so important.

  4. such a great post! this is exactly what I have been thinking about this topic. so glad you wrote about it

  5. But what about people who embrace their lifestyle and want people around them to accept as totally normal and not as a struggle?

    • Ah there in is the real challenge. The real question is why we treat this particular sin with such disdain, but ignore the other sins that seem to be prevalent in the Christian community.

    • Thanks for raising this tension, Estere. While Matt 18 might come into play within church membership, I still think everything else applies to the situation you’re describing. And, #7 is a necessary part of loving someone–praying for guidance when to speak and when to listen. I’m planning to explore these tensions more in future blogs, so thanks for asking the question!

  6. This is excellent. And seems like good advice that crosses faiths.