There's a young guy at work that I love to hang out with. JM and I have gotten to be good friends, we tease each other mercilessly to the entertainment of everyone else, we stop and have five minute conversations when we both end up doing stuff in the dairy cooler room at the same time. He's one of my favorite people at work and we've actually developed quite a good friendship. He's dynamic, outspoken, hilarious, silly and he's known for constantly saying outrageous things. But he works hard and everyone knows that if you need help with anything, JM will be right on it. He's the kind of guy that it's impossible not to know is in the room with you.
JM is also a homosexual and an outspoken one at that. He's a cross-dresser and frankly, it took me a couple weeks to determine whether “JM” was a she or a he. I wasn't the only one a little confused. The initials of “JM” wasn't much of an indicator either.
I'll be honest and say that he and a couple other gays at work are the first gay people that I have actually personally been friends with. I'm a firm believer that homosexuality is wrong and it's an abomination in the sight of God. But I'll tell you what...I love my gay friends.
But it's been my interaction with JM and Emilio, another gay guy I've spent a lot of time with at work, along with just the dozens of other unsaved people that I've grown to love like they're my own family, that have taught me one of the biggest spiritual lessons that I've ever learned in my entire life.
And that's love. The unconditional kind. Love without limit, without restriction, without judgment, without condemnation, without prejudice or pride, the I-love-you-just-the-way-you-are kind of love. Not a love that says I approve of what you do, but a love that says I will love you no matter what you do or who you are.
Because that's the way that Jesus loves. Jesus love unconditionally.
It can be hard to hate the sin but love the sinner and I think that in this, the church (God's people) have miserably failed. We see sin and we grab our children and quickly hustle them out of the way. We cocoon ourselves in our safe churches and wait for the sinner to pass by. We're so preoccupied with keeping ourselves pure and undefiled, safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, that we place concrete-and-barbed-wire fences around ourselves, saved on one side, sinners on the other.
But how will they know we are Christians? By our love. They know we are Christians by our love. What is love? Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not boast (ie. does that think higher of oneself). Love does not hold record of wrong. Unconditional love gets down in the gutters of sin, wraps up the lost in a firm, never-letting-go embrace and holds on. Unconditional love holds on no matter how inappropriate, how weird, how disturbing and how dirty the subject is.
I have been given a whole new grace to love my gay friends. I talk to them, listen to them talk about relationship issues, ask them questions about their boyfriends, don't look disgusted when JM brags on his sex-transformation and just give them the same kind of love that every single person needs. And a little extra more. I never say I approve of what they do, I never encourage them their lifestyles in my words or in the things I say but they're in my life and so I'm going to be in their's.
When the moment comes that I get to fully share with them that I'm a Christian who believes the Bible and everything that it says, I want them to be able to look back on every single moment that I've been with them and never once see even a hint of me holding myself off in judgment. That may not mean that I don't lose a friend or have an uncomfortable confrontation, but at least they'll hear the name of Jesus from someone's who never failed to love and value them for exactly who they are.
Love truly is one of the greatest things on earth and I'm really learning that these days. In fact, love has changed my entire world. When you find yourself loving, truly loving, the people that the Lord died for, there is no way that you can stand unchanged. Love changes everything.
There is a reason that "the greatest of these is love."