A troubled Christian writes:
I have some good friends of my wife’s that are a Lesbian couple. They have been together for 6 years and are honestly some of the most generous friends that my wife and I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. My wife has made it clear that we do not agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle, but we love them as people and respect them as friends. There really isn’t a whole lot of conflict over this point most of the time, and they have never brought it up since that conversation. However, the couple has decided that they want to become parents and are now actively attempting fertilization with some material from the sperm bank.
More and more Christians are having to face this trial. They have gay friends but are increasingly uncomfortable with all they are expected to accept to remain friends. What should they do?
They should rethink their friendship — and reflect on the difference between liking and loving. Friendship is based on liking. Our friends are our friends because of a mutual likeness and liking. We like them and they like us because they are like us. They enjoy what we enjoy. They see things the way we see things. They understand our humor. We can therefore spend time together pleasantly and pleasurably, sharing the same joys and sorrows.
Love is something else. When we love someone, we will what is truly good for that someone regardless of our pleasure or theirs. Loving someone means doing what is good for them whether they like it or not. True love is therefore sometimes unpleasant for both us and others.
If you have raised children or owned a dog, you know this. If you haven’t done either, here’s an example: Years ago I let my youngest daughter buy a dog with money she had earned walking neighbors’ dogs. She bought a cute little Boston terrier pup and quickly proved incapable of caring for it. At thirteen, she was not emotionally able to discipline the dog. “I want him to like me,” she would say, not understanding that by making him like her, she was making herself more like him, conforming her happiness to his happiness.
That’s what we do for friends because their happiness is our happiness. But if what makes them happy is actually bad for them, we do them no good by sharing it with them as friends. Instead, we do them harm. We do ourselves harm as well, polluting our lives with their evil for the sake of their friendship, their kinship with us. Instead of making them more like us, we make ourselves more like them.
Sometimes for love’s sake, we have to keep people at a distance so we aren’t obliged to become more like them and so they are convicted to become more like Christ. We have to show them that their sinfulness separates them from both us and Christ. This is hard to do, especially when others judge us “judgmental” and condemn us as hateful for not accepting their sin. But it is what the Fathers of the Church advise. They warn us not to have unbelievers as friends. They tell us to love them, pray for them, do good to them, but not keep them so close, sharing with them all the things friends share with each other, conforming our lives to theirs instead of conforming their lives to ours or our lives to Christ.
The Fathers do not counsel shunning unbelievers altogether, “for then must ye needs go out of the world,” says the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 5:10), but they do counsel separating ourselves from the wayward, both for our sake and for theirs, per the Apostle:
“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” (1 Cor. 5:11)
Of St. Paul’s example, St. John Chrysostom said:
“For it is the part of humanity not to humor the sick in every thing nor to flatter their unseasonable desires. No one so loved him that committed fornication amongst the Corinthians as Paul, who commandeth to deliver him to Satan; no one so hated him as they that applaud and court him; and the event showed it. For they indeed both puffed him up and increased his inflammation; but [the Apostle Paul] both lowered it and left him not until he brought him to perfect health.” (Homily 14 on 2 Cor. 7)
Today we call this “tough love,” but we could also call it “true love,” for he who puts his fondness for friends before his love of the truth, also puts his fear of rejection before his love of his friends.