Compassion without Compromise: Three Tough Questions about Showing Jesus’ Love to our Gay Friends
By Adam Barr
In preparing our book Compassion without Compromise, my friend Ron and I collected questions from lots of people—too many to cover in a short article. Some of them arise from people’s own experience. Some are hypothetical “What if?” queries that set up scenarios any of us would find daunting. Like you, we are learning the complex balancing act of reaching out in love, speaking truth with compassion, opening the doors for the Gospel and trying to be a good friend or family member.
I hope these practical responses will be helpful in your context. Even more—I pray that you will be able to grow in discernment, able to exercise biblical wisdom in real life situations. As you seek to exercise compassion without compromise, try to keep two key principles in mind: a) mission; b) true love.
Mission—Jesus came to seek and save lost people, and he has sent us out with that same mission. We can never forget this. He did not call us to a “bumper sticker” mission, where we are content to advertise our convictions without ever entering into the sometimes messy world of relationships. When we are facing a tough choice, one essential question should be, “Will this help or hurt my call to witness in this person’s life?”
True Love—The “true love” concept is at the heart of living out a life of compassion without compromise. In our day, people often act as if love and truth are at odds. Sometimes, people do live that way.
Let’s face it, there are “truth” people who dispense facts without any hint of love. “Truth” people are like guys who use a sledgehammer for every conceivable household task that includes hammering something. They might be trying to drive a stake into the ground to stabilize a sapling (good application), or a small nail into the wall to hang a picture (bad application). In the extreme, “truth” people do things like question the eternal salvation of a friend’s grandmother while visiting them in the funeral home. Or respond to a gay coworkers wedding invitation by looking up and saying, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Truth people need to grow in true love.
Then there are “love” people who refuse ever to speak a hard truth if they feel it might hurt someone’s feelings. They are like an over-indulgent, willfully blind parent who refuses to believe that “my little Johnny” would ever hurt another person, despite a track record of terrorizing his classmates, or like a doctor who would refuse to give someone a hard diagnosis if the treatment might inconvenience the patient.
A “true love” person understands that trying to sustain love without truth is like trying to breathe underwater. We are not showing anyone love when we encourage them to live out of phase with reality. At the same time, acknowledging the truth that it’s potentially dangerous to dive below the surface does not prevent us from jumping in to save someone we love! Love drives us forward. Truth helps us chart a safe course towards the destination.
We won’t pretend the answer is easy. Sometimes, the “right call” will only be known in eternity. With that said, here are a few of the questions we have received. We pray you find the answers helpful as you reach out with the Good News.
1) How can I have a meaningful conversation about this issue without getting into an argument? How can I turn an argument into a meaningful conversation?
-Submitted by “Brian,” a 30-something youth pastor, husband and father of three.
Paul was no stranger to difficult conversations. Sometimes, they ended with incredible conversions. Sometimes, they ended with him being stoned! His words to the Colossian church are relevant:
“[Pray] also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6)
Here are five simple applications we can draw from this passage:
1. Have the right mindset: If you enter a conversation with “win-lose” mentality, you’ve lost already. Our goal is not to win a debate, but “open a door.” Creative questions are one of the best ways to open doors. “What do you believe? What’s led you to care so much about this issue?”
2. Speak your convictions clearly: We’re convinced God has revealed truth it in his Word. In some ways, that removes the pressure—this isn’t just our private hobby horse. It is what the Bible, God’s Word, teaches.
3. Pay attention your conversational context: Paul said we should “walk in wisdom.” Wisdom is applied righteousness—knowing the right steps in the real world.
- Don’t “yell in the library”: Are you at work, in a Bible study, on the street? These factors will determine just how the conversation proceeds. Let the context of your conversation help set the way you go about it.
- Discern who are you speaking to: Is he gay? Does she have an ideological axe to grind? Has he just learned his daughter is lesbian?
- Control the thermostat: What is their emotional temperature (1-calm; 10-screaming mad). If it starts to get hot, acknowledge it and take a step back. What is your emotional temperature? Wherever you are, keep cool. Otherwise, you give someone the right to write you off. Your conversation should be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”
4. Don’t expect agreement every time: In this passage, Paul basically asks God for the chance to say again, with clarity, what landed him in the slammer in the first place! This isn’t a popularity contest.
5. Pray. Pray. Pray: Enough said. Just pray. A lot.
2) My gay brother has invited me to his upcoming wedding. As a Christian, of course, I don’t agree with what they are doing, but if I refuse to go to this ceremony or speak out against it, I risk any sort of relationship with my brother and his partner in the future. What should I do?
-Submitted by “Tim,” a 40-something married, father of three who works as a school counselor
This will be one of the most painful realities we will face in the coming years. Normally joyful announcements—engagements, showers, wedding invitations, adoption announcements—have become potential relationship bombs. As heart-wrenching as we find it to give this answer, we advise believers not to attend a gay “wedding.” The crux of the issue is summed up simply: We cannot celebrate what the Bible censors.
Weddings are a worshipful celebration of the God who made marriage. Marriage is not a man-made institution. It was designed by God as a source of joy for people and glory for himself. The marriage bond is not merely an emotional, relational connection between a husband and wife. It is an objective, spiritual reality created in heaven. (Genesis 2:24 ; Matthew 19:3-9) Ultimately, human marriage is a creaturely analog of Christ and the Church.
When we attend weddings, we are joining with the assembled congregation and the host of heaven to say “Yes!” We are not only agreeing with the decision of two people to enter into a holy bond. We are agreeing with marriage as a God-ordained institution. We are agreeing with the God who designed the marriage bond. We are actually glorifying the God who seals two souls together.
But none of these things happen when two men or two women determine to call their relationship “marriage.” Though they will it with all that is in them, their relationship is not marriage. It is, in fact, a thing that will destroy their souls if they insist on it. (Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) The “wedding” that takes place is a celebration of something that deeply offends our God. In a very real way, it is a worship service for a god of our own invention. How can we join such a God-dishonoring event?
We should not expect a gay family member or friend to understand these realities. From their perspective, our refusal to attend will be interpreted as a rejection of them. At some level, that feeling is inevitable. From their point of view, we are skipping out on a life-defining event. That is why it is important to communicate your love for them when you let them know that you’re are unable to attend. It is also important to remember that God is absolutely capable of rebuilding this relationship and will honor your decision.
3) I have a friend who is in a same-sex relationship. She says she wants to receive Jesus. Can she truly accept Jesus while she is still living this way?
-Submitted by “Ken,” an author and internationally known speaker
An old hymn, often sung as the preacher pleads with people to come forward and pray the “Sinner’s Prayer,” intones, “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee. O Lamb of God I come.” We all come to the foot of the cross just as we are. For some of us, the sin in our lives is buried deep below a surface appearance of moral uprightness and apparent success. For others, it’s blazoned on our chest like a scarlet A. But we all come sinful to the Cross.
Though we might sin in different ways, we all come to the Cross for the same reason. We have heard the Gospel and believed it. We have seen our sin and want it no more. We have felt some trace of God’s wrath and know we could never bear it. We have understood that Jesus, the perfect lamb, felt that wrath for us. And we now know, “He died for me. I will live for him.”
Can someone who is in a same-sex relationship be saved? Absolutely. However, that person will absolutely respond in obedience. She will understand that receiving Jesus as Savior means receiving him as Lord. True salvation is always accompanied by a transformed allegiance. Apart from that total surrender, we have no hope of true salvation.
Adam T. Barr is the lead pastor of Peace Church near Grand Rapids, MI. He’s been married for more than 16 years, has four sons, and is the co-author of Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Bethany House). You can connect with him on Twitter and at adamtbarr.com.
This material adapted from Compassion without Compromise (published October 2014) is used by permission from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
 See Luke 19:1-10 and 24:44-49
 For a great response from Pastor John Piper, check out this audio: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/would-you-attend-a-gay-wedding