Is it possible to love someone and not agree with their lifestyle?
With "acceptance" and "tolerance" being hot words in our culture right now, I don't think there has been a more relevant question than this. The world's favorite verse to quote is "Judge not, lest ye be judged," which was a quote from Jesus and they also seem to know Jesus following it with us noticing a speck in someone else's eye but having a plank in our own eye. They seem to not know that the next thing Jesus said is that once you remove the plank from your own eye, you will be able to see clearly to help remove the speck from your brother's eye...so we are supposed to pay attention to (and help remove) the speck in our brother's eye. Jesus also told us that we can judge a tree by its fruit (speaking of people). This begs a few questions, then. Can we judge or not? If we can, what are we allowed to judge and what are we not to judge? Also, if we are allowed to judge some things, how are we to do it?
A while back, Rick Warren made a powerful statement.
“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
To the Christian, this question of love and tolerance is a hugely important one because Jesus stated that the greatest commandment was to love God and the second greatest was to love others (Matt 22:36-40). So, how are we supposed to show that love? How did Jesus show it? One extreme that Christians have started taking lately is just open acceptance of everything, sin included, while at the same time, calling it love. One recent example would be that some pastors have performed gay marriages, even though scripture clearly forbids it. This is politically correct, but does not show love to God or to the people who are being told the sin is okay.
The other extreme is demonstrated in a man I saw on the college campus in Corvallis who was holding up a sign and a megaphone, while telling people they were all going to hell because they were sinners who needed to repent. Who were the ones complaining and standing up to him? The Christians. The sinners just watched and cheered him on because he was reinforcing every negative thing they had been saying about Christians. The Christians who told him that his methods were wrong were immediately told that they were sin-lovers and tolerant. This man believed that showing love to others meant showing them God's judgment. I vividly remember this guy, because I was passing out flyers for the church with our drummer while he talked. I just walked up to people, handed them a flyer and said, "I'm not with this guy."
So, which of these two sides truly shows love? I would contend that neither one does. One side embraces the person, but rejects God while doing it. Remember what Jesus said? The first commandment was to love God, then the second command was to love people. The first extreme gets this backwards. The second extreme is just as dangerous, because it completely ignores the grace of God and the second greatest commandment to love others as yourself. Instead, it focuses on legalism. Keep in mind that much of Jesus' ministry seemed to be fighting legalism and it was legalism that ultimately killed Jesus.
So, what is love? Forget all the philosophy for a moment. Forget people's interpretations of this and that. If God is love (1 John 4:8) and Jesus is God (Colossians 2:9), then it makes sense that we find out what Jesus says about love. Is the greatest form of love showing judgment? Not according to Jesus. Jesus said the greatest form of love is self-sacrifice (John 15:13). Jesus also said that we are to love others the way Jesus loved us (John 13:34).
How did Jesus show love to people? With judgment? Sometimes, but when Jesus was talking in terms that were "judgmental," it was almost always directed at legalistic people. How did Jesus treat sinners? He loved them where they were. He just loved them first (often by healing them) and then he dealt with their sin. That was Jesus' pattern. Look at Zacchaeus in Luke 19. He was a thief. He had cheated people out of their money and all the people there knew it. What did Jesus do? Did he walk up to him and tell him to repent? No. Did Jesus call out his sin? No. Did Jesus show this man love by expressing God's judgment? No. Jesus went to his house and had dinner with him. Nowhere in this story do we see Jesus even mention his sin. Rather, Jesus loved him and in the process, an encounter with the savior caused him to change.
Another story I think of is in John 8. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have caught a woman in the act of adultery. The law stated that the penalty for that sin was death and the legalistic people wanted to give God's judgment to her. Were they wrong about the law? No. They were speaking the truth, but they were not doing it in love. God's justice is always tempered by love and grace. These people didn't understand that. They were only interested in half the equation. Jesus looked at them and said a phrase that has become famous. "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." They all left, then Jesus asked the woman where her accusers had gone. She said they had left, so Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you." If anyone had a right to condemn this woman, it was Jesus, yet he didn't. He still told her to go and sin no more, but only after he had shown her kindness and love.
In this, we see the answer to our questions. If we are to love people the same way Jesus loved, then we must first show them that they have value to us by showing them kindness and love before we ever try to talk to them about a sin. This is not some kind of bait and switch or "tolerant" theology. It's the model of love that Jesus demonstrated and commanded us to copy. There's an old saying that goes like this: "People will never care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Regardless of who you are, where you are from, what your background is, what has happened to you, what you've done, what you're doing, or what you will do, please know that God loves you. Yes you need God's forgiveness, but the fact is...we all do. Not only does God love you, I love you, too. You have value and a purpose. You are specially created by God for a reason and Jesus was willing to die for you to hear this message. There is hope for your life. There is peace in God unlike anything you've ever experienced. There is joy in him that goes beyond your circumstances. Your current choices, sins, lifestyle, or anything else do not change for a moment how much God loves you with everything he is, because God is love.
I hope you found this writing beneficial. God bless.