I’ve been ruminating on what it means to truly love. There is a slice of the evangelical fundamentalist pie who seem to want to love their LGBT neighbors but who still tow the party line as far as Biblical interpretation goes. I find this to be more harmful in some ways than outright discrimination and hatred. It hurts deeply to be reeled in by this quasi love, only to find that the love, acceptance, and respect aren’t genuine. This does great harm to a wounded soul whose heart has been broken multiple times by the church. It is often the final nail in the coffin as far as any hope of inclusion or real love from the Christian community and can turn a seeker away from God for good.
What a great shame this is.
Those who espouse the maxim, “Hate the sin but love the sinner” may be trying to come from a place of love, but it isn’t authentic. It is missing the qualities that make it real love.
One of those qualities is understanding. There is no depth to a love devoid of understanding. To understand a person, you must look deeply and listen deeply. This takes an open heart and mindful attention. When our hearts are open and we look deeply into a person, listening deeply to their words, understanding can blossom.
Another missing quality is compassion. To understand a person, to join in their joys and sorrows, will birth compassion. A compassionate heart loves without exception or limitation. A compassionate heart looks deeply into the suffering of another and not only empathizes, but also works to bring about change that will ease that suffering. And the change that is needed is most often in our own hearts.
When we love truly, our love will radiate authenticity. There will be a depth born of close looking and study, deep listening and compassion. The end result of this kind of love is the desire for freedom for the loved one – that they be free to become their best, most authentic self, that they have opportunity to become more open-hearted and able to also have understanding and compassion in their dealings with others. And that they not be shunned or turned away from the Love that conquers all hatred and heals all sorrows.
One more thought about the “hate the sin, love the sinner” fallacy. Our part is to love. Period. God reveals himself first and foremost as Love. Absolute Truth can only be known through love, for it cannot be grasped by the mind. Only the one who loves deeply and truly can be certain they are in contact with any kind of truth. If there be a longing to please and hold to God, we must hold to love, for God is Love.
We can veer off the path when we value knowledge over love. The overriding testimony of Scripture is that Love triumphs over knowledge. Some fear losing faith because of a lack of holding to knowledge, but we should instead fear losing faith by a failure to love. This is the testimony of the Word and of countless saints throughout the centuries and in every religion. Mankind has always failed his God when he failed to love his fellow-man. This simple truth can keep us humble and make us wise.
A little knowledge can puff up like a balloon and inspire us to believe we have a dimension of truth denied to others. The danger then is that we think it our duty to enlighten those who do not share our “truth” and punish them if they refuse to agree. All efforts to love soon become tainted by the imposition of our “truth”. Division, discrimination, injustice, and hatred then own the day, whether the other is black, a woman, gay, a non-Christian, or even a believer from another denomination.
These words of caution from one of the church fathers rings with truth and is as relevant today as it was in the fourth century: “As long as we remain sheep, we overcome. Even though we may be surrounded by a thousand wolves, we overcome and are victorious. But as soon as we are wolves, we are beaten: for then we lose the support from the Shepherd who feeds not wolves, only sheep.” ~ Chrysostom