Let’s be honest, there is always going to be something we don’t like about our friends and family. No one is perfect and we all have flaws, but what I’m interested in is how we love people despite their imperfections. I know it must be possible because I’ve felt it; I’ve experienced genuine love from people who knew my flaws and failures. Sometimes it seems like this is a result of ignoring or overlooking these seemingly small issues and choosing to see only the good in people. Other times it can be accomplished by choosing to see flaws as quirks or alternative life choices instead of deep moral failings. That’s not what I’m talking about, though, because people can tell the difference. People know when there’s a silent “but” at the end of your “I love you.”
I think a key component is realizing that you can’t really love someone if you are overlooking their flaws. Turning a blind eye to something potentially harmful isn’t love and neither is harboring anger and judgement and simply avoiding the topic. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying to just modify your feelings, thoughts, beliefs etc. in order to make space for other people’s hangups. This is where the difficulty lies; as with most things, I think the key is hidden somewhere between the two extremes in some mythical middle ground.
While I wanted to discuss this in a more generic way without relating it back to LGBT stuff, I think it’s important to note that in many cases, the “agree to disagree” approach just isn’t sufficient. When the topic is something external and relatively innocuous, this may work, but when talking about something as personal and emotion-laden as a person’s sexual or gender identity, a key aspect of who they are as a person which touches nearly every aspect of their past, present, and future, simply agreeing to disagree often times just won’t cut it. I think they key to this conundrum might lie in our definition of love which my pastor always describes as “willing the other person’s good.” If you are truly and honestly seeking the best that God has for your friend or family member, you should be able to convey your disagreement in a way that doesn’t make them feel attacked, ashamed, rejected, or insufficient. You should be able to make it clear that this minor point of contention is nothing when compared with the overwhelming affection you feel towards them.
As I mentioned in a previous post, this has been a tough piece to write, primarily because the questions it asks are at the heart of the conflict that has raged within me for the last few years: the place where my desire to love like Jesus meets my futile attempts at living as a righteous child of God. Matthew 5 concludes with the impossible directive to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” and that is a command I have tried to take very seriously in my life despite the fact that I’ve never been anywhere near achieving it. However, I think it is also important to note what is said just before this, a reminder that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” That’s God’s way of showing His love for us: no matter how badly we’re failing at living up to His standards, He set a flaming orb in the sky to give us heat, and life and light and He causes droplets of moisture to condense in the air and fall down on us to our delight and dismay. Wherever we are on that continuum from perverse to perfect, we all experience the same rain and the same sun.