I am frequently asked by sincere Christians how they can “reach out” and love their gay neighbors, friends, and colleagues—as if there is some sort of trick or special way of doing it. It’s like a person’s sexual orientation automatically qualifies them for a special category all of their own and therefore some special type of love is required. Yet there is nothing fundamentally different between a gay and a straight person, certainly nothing that requires a different genre of love. There ought to be no essential difference in how we treat anyone (in the faith or without).
You Are My Neighbor?
When we begin to categorize people and push them into the “different” box, we inevitably push them further away from the obligation of neighborliness all disciples of Jesus are called to show. Remember Jesus’ take on the question “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25–37). Disciples are to understand themselves through the lens of the neighborliness exercised by the Good Samaritan and not the religious folk in the parable. Those of us who have gay friends, family, or the like, already know that the homosexually oriented person is our neighbor—they always were—the rest of us just need to catch up.
Nonetheless we must admit that differences do remain; otherwise we wouldn’t find it so hard, right? There are cultural disparities that we need to be aware of, so sensitivity does need to be cultivated. This is not dissimilar to learning to love someone from another culture, socioeconomic background, age, gender, and the like. In order to communicate lovingly we need to appreciate this, or we risk our love not being received in the way we intended.1