Love Happens Here
Love Happens Here
Last weekend saw a bright display of colour splashed across the city of London. Shop windows displaying the rainbow, buildings along the Thames decked with colour, bunting lining the streets. Skittles have given up their rainbow for the cause, Facebook profiles are changed, the colourfully dressed people of the capital filled the streets; thousands of people joining together in solidarity to celebrate and fight for equality for the LGBT+ community - declaring that 'Love Happens Here'.
It's a compelling cause, one which showcases society's great dreams of tolerance, freedom, acceptance. How could anyone not wholeheartedly give their support for the LGBT+ community?
And yet as a Christian, I felt I could not identify with this cause. I'm aware that this will inevitably lead many to label me as a homophobic, judgemental, self-righteous, outdated, religious freak. Yet before we jump to these conclusions, amidst this celebration of freedom of opinion and lifestyle, let's not prohibit Christians, and others, the freedom to have their own convictions.
Love Happens Here: God's Love and Acceptance
I want to start by saying that those who follow Jesus Christ should be strongly against violence, hatred, discrimination or bullying directed towards anyone. The slogan of the last few weeks has been 'Love Happens Here', and of course rightly understood this is the message at the heart of the Christian faith. Here are three reasons why Jesus Christ compels us to act with love and acceptance.
First, because as followers of Jesus we follow the example of Jesus, who showed remarkable love to those around him. He went out of his way to reach out to the marginalised, the outcasts, those despised by the rest of society. Jesus demonstrated love to people irrespective of their background, culture, social standing, or even public sexual history.
Second, the Bible teaches us that every human being is created in the image of God. This means all people have an incredible value and worth. This is a powerful reason to compel us to treat others with a profound dignity and respect.
Third, I must remember the love and acceptance that has been shown to me! The very entry point into the Christian faith is an understanding that I am not good enough, that I need a saviour! I must realise that I am so flawed that the only thing which could save me was the King of the universe stepping into the world and dying in my place - and yet so loved that he was willing to die for me. How then can I think I am better than anyone else? And how could I not show that same love to others?
In the life and death of Jesus, ‘love happens here’. His followers must therefore lead the way in showing love and acceptance to all those in our society.
Love Happens Here: The Greatest Love of All
So the question still stands: given the above, why then am I not fully in support of a movement whose stated aim is to fight for equal rights for a marginalised group in society? Surely Jesus would have been first in the parade!
The same three reasons that I gave above also compel me in love to hold to the received biblical teaching on sexuality despite severe cultural pressure in the West to capitulate.
First, as stated above the example of Jesus. It has been helpfully said that whilst Jesus met people where they were at he never left them where they were at. The woman caught in adultery was called to ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11). Paul was called to stop persecuting the church (Acts 9:4). Tax collectors ceased their extortion and returned the money (Luke 19:8). The problem is that our culture puts before us only two options, acceptance and endorsement of all lifestyle choices or judgmentalism and bigotry. But Jesus resists both caricatures, he loves people regardless of what they have done and he calls all of us to change. The bible calls this faith with repentance. The one cannot exist without the other. It is worth asking how we hope anyone will change if every lifestyle option must be approved (and perhaps more specifically why some lifestyles are still not approved of e.g. polyamory, and others are considered cultural ‘no go zones’).
Secondly every human being is created in the image of God. That makes God the creator, and myself the creature. That makes him the designer, and me his masterpiece! This means that he knows me better than I know myself. It means that he knows the best thing for me. Therefore when the Bible teaches that the proper expression for sex is within lifelong, heterosexual marriage, I know that it must be the best thing for me, especially when my culture or feelings are telling me otherwise. Putting it another way if culture carries more authority than God when they are in conflict, then really I am saying “culture is my god.”
Thirdly, the love and acceptance that has been shown to me! In Christ I have all I need, which enables me to live wholeheartedly for him. It means that giving up sex, marriage and lifestyle is a plausible way to live because all of the desires of my heart are met in Christ. But who am I to say that as someone who is blessed to be married? Well in one sense there are many other areas in which I am called to deny myself for the sake of Christ - the path of every Christian is to live a life of sacrifice. But don't take it from me. I have often been moved by the testimony of individuals such as Sam Allberry, who is a Christian minister, attracted to people of the same sex, yet will not act upon those desires because of his Biblical convictions. Here are some of his words, but do take a few minutes to listen to his story here.
'Knowing Jesus is what it is all about and that's the greatest gift God can give us. And as long as that gift is being offered, and it is, God cannot truly be said to be anti-anyone'. And despite all he has given up, he can still say: 'It's never a bad deal to follow Jesus'.
The cross of Christ changes everything. It shouts out to the world 'I love you'. As Jesus cried out with his last breath we can see that he knows what it is to suffer, he knows what it is to be rejected, to suffer inequality. The open arms of Christ crucified beckon all people to come just as they are, and find love and acceptance. Anyone who embarks on the journey of faith with Jesus needs to be open to change and there will necessarily be things to be left behind. But we find true freedom in a relationship with Christ - the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.
So as a follower of Jesus, I am compelled to fight every day of my life for equality, for freedom, for acceptance. And I am compelled to show the kind of love that he showed through his Son for me:
'Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends'.