Who is our neighbor? In God’s world, our neighbor is more than the person who lives in the house next door. Our neighbor is the stranger in need, the student in our class, our associate at work, our parent or grandparent, and our child. Our neighbor may not think and act the way we do. We may feel awkward with them because our beliefs are polar opposite. But, in God’s world, they are our neighbor.
What are we to do with our neighbor? Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This love is second only to the love we are to have for God.
I am thinking right now of four Christian friends. Each one is the parent of a son or a daughter who has admitted they are in a gay or lesbian relationship. These parents love their children but, with the desire to live under the character and authority of God and His Word in Christ, these parents cannot accept the behavior and lifestyle of their children.
My friends, and others like them, agonize, asking: What can we do? How do we embrace our child but not their behavior? How do we nurture a godly relationship with our child? In fact, how do we even engage in conversation with our child on some kind of common ground?
Glenn T. Stanton, author of the new book Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, offers six truths* that he defines as “mere Christianity.” These points, writes Stanton, “are the great equalizers of humanity, putting us all in the same boat for good and for bad, proclaiming that no one person is better or worse, loved more or less, nor more or less deserving of love than another.” These truths are:
Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions.
Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
Unfortunately, everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God’s boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing, and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions.
Because we live in such a sexualized culture, there is need, I think, to explain what it means to be a “human person.” In this culture, sexuality is “central to being human.” But the Christian parent is called to see their neighbor—indeed, their child—differently. Parents of a son or daughter who struggles with any kind of sexual desire (for the opposite or same sex) will best love that child in light of how God sees them.
To be human means to be male or female created in God’s image. Although fallen from that perfect image (and burdened with the terminal illness called sin), God still wants His people to reflect His holiness. Nowhere in Scripture does God say: be sexual for I the Lord your God am sexual. What He says is this: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16). Sexuality is not the central part of being human. Sexuality describes feelings, desires, thoughts, and physical intimacy. Because of sexual procreation, life goes on. We have birthdays and anniversaries. But sexuality is not the sum total of who we are as male or female persons.
Our human yet holy identity is the common ground for even the most awkward discussions between one neighbor and another, between parent and child. Failing to see our neighbor or child as God does will ultimately affect the way we fear, love, and trust God. It may cause us to love conditionally rather than unconditionally or close doors rather than open them.
It’s true that I am not facing the same challenge as my four friends. If they said to me, “You speak so easily of all this, what can you possibly know,” I would have to confess that I know only what Jesus tells us all: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How we see our neighbor—indeed, our child—matters. It changes the way we approach them, welcome them, speak to them, serve them, and endure with them.
*“Six truths” is excerpted from “The Odd Couple” by Glenn T. Stanton in CITIZEN, March 2015. Linda Bartlett, former president of Lutherans For Life, strives to help mentor biblical womanhood through Titus 2 for Life