Peace, Love, & Pride
We live in a world of division, fear, and anger. It doesn’t require overly keen powers of observation to discern this. Every conceivable form of media funnels thoughts and images of strife into our ears, eyes, and minds almost constantly. Even the Church is not immune; brothers and sisters get swallowed up in the same division, fear, and anger as the world around us…to our shame.
At the same time, the world around us is increasingly hostile to the truth of God’s Word. That is seldom more overtly punctuated than during the month of June, now designated as “Pride Month.” Various forms of sexual immorality are literally paraded about in ways not imagined by previous generations.
The Bible is abundantly clear about God’s design and intent for human sexuality, but the prevailing mores of our society no longer reflect that truth. How are we to live as reflections of the reality of Christ in this “post-Christian” world, in which the Bible and Christian values are so often held in contempt? The same way Christians have always been called live: as aliens and strangers in this land, as salt and light in a dark and decaying world, as ambassadors of
a different kingdom.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)
As Christ-followers, we are called to promote peace. Jesus called the peacemakers blessed, stating that they would be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Yet Jesus Himself died at the hands of enemies and spent His public ministry embroiled in controversy. He clearly could not have had some form of pacifism in mind, but rather an attitude that sought peace whenever peace was to be had. The same Jesus said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34) Standing for what is true and right—such as the Gospel itself—will often preclude peace.
In Romans 12:18, the Holy Spirit guided Paul to clarify that our call is to live at peace, but with caveats. Peace is not always possible, and you and I are not able to control the thoughts and actions of others, so even if we do everything right, peace may remain unattainable. Nonetheless, we must not be the cause of undue division. Christians must avoid having a quarrelsome attitude, engaging in gossip or salacious talk, developing a critical or judgmental spirit, and stirring up controversies (Ephesians 4:29; 2 Timothy 2:14, 23-26; Titus 3:9-11; James 1:19-20, 26). All these things are appealing to the flesh and accepted in the world around us, and they have become far too readily excused among Christians—especially with the widespread use of social media. Such behaviors and attitudes are not fitting for children of God; they do not reflect the reality of Christ in us.
We must do all we can to maximize peace and minimize strife, both with other Christians and with those who disdain our worldview, while never compromising truth. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 ESV) Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV)
The Lord said that love would be the hallmark of His disciples (John 13:35). Love of neighbor was at the heart of God’s Law for Israel as the outworking of the greatest law of all: to love God with one’s whole being. That remains the call for all who would follow Christ.
Biblical love is very different from the forms of love commonly recognized in the unbelieving world, and understanding that difference is too often neglected in the Church. Worldly love tends to be rooted in emotion and reciprocity—“I love you because you love me, and because you make me feel good.”—or in a perception of worthiness on the part of the one being love —“You deserve to be loved.” The form of love to which Christ-followers are called transcends these lesser loves. We are to love with the redemptive love that our Lord demonstrated by laying down His life for sinners (Ro. 5:8) who were utterly unworthy and were not yet capable of loving Him back.
Love is not the same as tolerance. Love is more than accepting our differences and moving on. Love invests in the beloved. It seeks the very best for its object. By its very nature, love cannot live by comfortable lies. Love speaks truth for the good of the beloved. Unfortunately, speaking truth in love is not always received as love; it can often be perceived as intolerance, bigotry, and hatred.
Love seeks peace whenever peace is available within the context of truth, because dishonesty is harmful, and love does no harm to a neighbor (Ro. 13:10). Peace and love are connected, but they are not synonymous.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 NIV) Every single person—you, me, everyone—is dead in sin until God, who is rich in mercy, saves us by giving us eyes to see and hearts to trust in the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf, which is only by His grace (Eph. 2:1-9). Even after we have been saved, we continue to struggle with sin of various kinds, though sin no longer condemns or defines us (Ro. 7:14-8:1, 1 John 1:5 2:2). No matter who we are, we are personally and intimately familiar with temptation and sinfulness.
It should be easy, then, for us to identify with the sinful tendencies in others, even if they might be of a different stripe than our own. The radical corruption of our being is the common denominator we all share. Who are we to look down our noses at others and fail to have compassion for them, especially since we are of the same sinful stock. Jesus is the only sinless human, the only one fit to judge, yet He demonstrated His love by laying His life down for wretched sinners like us. We cannot claim to follow or reflect Him if we lack compassion for those who sin differently than we do.
To that end, we should—we must—love our neighbors who identify as LGBTQ with the active love of Christ. That is simply what Christ-followers do. There is no loophole, no “out”. We love. We love sinners. We love people who sin in ways that don’t make sense to us. And we love them enough to speak truth to them about sin, judgment, and the Good News of God’s grace given to us in Jesus. Because we love, we want every sinner in the community to come discover the real life that we have found in Christ.
However, love does not—it cannot—celebrate sin. We cannot love our neighbors by participating in “pride” events or supporting “pride” movements and organizations. To do so is to promote lies that do harm to our neighbor, which is a direct violation of love. If we love those around us who have been led into such disordered thinking by the enemy of our souls, we must reject the pull of our culture into supporting the celebration of sin.
The very idea of “pride” in identifying with that which the Lord condemns is exactly the kind of pride that God opposes (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). It is the sort of impudence that is condemned as “high-handed sin” in Numbers 15 and exemplified in Numbers 25 with the flaunting of sexual immorality by Zimri. It is haughty insolence to celebrate what God forbids, to embrace it as an identity, to flaunt one’s own autonomy as a rebellion against what is considered the Lord’s “oppressive” rule. Those who do so will face His judgment, being handed over to their own evil desire in this life (Ro. 1:18-25) and separation from God in the next (Ro. 6:23). Loving Christians cannot participate in normalizing, let alone celebrating, that which leads others to death.
In our time and place, the Church is not yet suffering to the point of shedding blood, but we do exist in a hostile environment. We must remember that we are ambassadors here (2 Cor. 5:20), on a mission to represent the Kingdom of God among people consumed and ruled by darkness. To the extent that we are able, we must live as peacemakers, but loving people enough to be honest is all it takes in this hostile environment to create division, strife, and opposition. We dare not stand against the Lord by celebrating or participating in the normalization of sin. If we do, we are failing to love our neighbor; we are actually harming them. Let us love others enough to reach beyond our comfort zones to come alongside them in their pain, darkness, and confusion. Let us love them enough to embrace them when they are hurting. Let us also love them enough to speak truth in the face of cultural opposition, praying that the Spirit of the Lord will bring them to repentance.