Loving Our Neighbors: The Tragic Consequences of Misdirected Longings

Our neighbors have the right longings, but those longings are misdirected by sin.

Same-sex marriage is thus rooted in a deep human desire to love and to be loved, to know and to be known. For whatever reasons, some people have an attraction to people of the same sex rather than the opposite sex. This is just one aspect of the fallen, broken nature of our humanity and our world. But beneath the brokenness is a right desire, the longing for intimate love.

 

Last week, I wrote that the church should not be engaged in partisan politics but should engage in cultural issues out of love for our neighbors. But how can we reach out to our neighbors in sincere love and hope for the truth to be heard when they disagree with our understanding of the truth so vehemently? This is certainly not easy, and I don’t have complete answers by any means, but here are some thoughts:

  1. We need to be constantly in prayer for our neighbors and for opportunities to speak the truth in love, because ultimately any heart-change of any real and lasting value is the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. We must seek opportunities to demonstrate love toward neighbors and enemies, as Jesus commanded, in ways that are faithful and a testimony to unbelievers. Practical acts of service and unexpected acts of compassion and support can help break down barriers of prejudice and stereotype.
  3. We must also be committed to loving one another in the body of Christ in ways that show sacrificial commitment to one another that transcends natural boundaries and barriers of denomination, race, cultural background, socio-economic or educational level, political affiliation, etc. This is what Jesus said would testify to the world that we are His disciples, the love we have for one another.

 

These three foundational commitments – prayer, loving our neighbors and loving one another in the body of Christ – are to be the constant contours of our lives. When we then have opportunity to speak to cultural issues, what should we say? How can we speak the truth in love?

 

In many cases where we have to deal with deeply divisive controversial issues, we can affirm and uphold the right, God-given longings that lie beneath all human sin. We can then seek to lovingly encourage people to find the fulfillment of these longings in Christ and in God-given gifts. We can also affirm that, in a fallen world, we will all be tempted to seek fulfillment of God-given desires in destructive ways.

 

Here are some examples:

 

1. Love. Human beings are made in God’s image and God is love. The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that God Himself exists in eternal loving fellowship and union with Himself in the three persons of the Trinity. Marriage is a picture both of Christ’s love for the church and of the relationships within the Godhead (1 Cor. 11:3).

 

Same-sex marriage is thus rooted in a deep human desire to love and to be loved, to know and to be known. For whatever reasons, some people have an attraction to people of the same sex rather than the opposite sex. This is just one aspect of the fallen, broken nature of our humanity and our world. But beneath the brokenness is a right desire, the longing for intimate love.

 

2. Freedom. God created us to be free and calls us to freedom in Christ. (“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” – Gal. 5:1) We have a deep and good desire to be free people, but we also do two things: We constantly submit ourselves to bondage and we seek freedom from God’s rule, which is the only rule that brings us real freedom.

 

When I think of people inappropriately seeking freedom, I think of abortion. Abortion thrives in our culture because, in the moment of panic and crisis of an unexpected pregnancy, women are deceived into thinking that having their baby would be bondage but having an abortion would be a way of escape, a way to find freedom. It’s a lie, of course. The same God who created the human life in their womb (through whatever means) is also able to provide for their needs and bring them deep fulfillment through the birth of their child.

 

3. Justice and righteousness. Made in God’s image, we see the fact that injustice and unrighteousness dominate our world. Because of our different backgrounds and personalities, we all see different aspects of injustice and unrighteousness in the world.

 

Some people who see injustice in the world react with violent protests and others get sucked into Islamic extremism and become terrorists. The violent protests and the terrorism are wrong, of course, but they are sinful expressions of a deep God-given desire to see wrongs made right and to see righteousness established in the world.

 

If we can understand the right longings being mis-directed in the sins around us, as well as in the sins in our own lives, we will see that we have more common ground with our neighbors and even our enemies than we know: We are all made in God’s image. We all have deeply rooted, God-given desires for love, freedom, justice and righteousness, and we all seek to fulfill these desires in sinful, self-destructive ways.

 

God calls us into a loving union with Himself through Christ and into fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. As He does so, He calls us as a community to live in true freedom and to seek to establish righteousness and justice through the Gospel.

 

Jason A. Van Bemmel is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. This article appeared on his blog Ponderings of a Pilgrim Pastor and is used with permission.