What to do about one’s LGBT friends

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.

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11 Responses to What to do about one’s LGBT friends

  1. This is excellent, Deacon Patrick!

    “. . . we do not agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle, but we love them as people and respect them as friends.”

    This is the approach I try to take toward some of my college friends who live the homosexual lifestyle. I genuinely love them as human beings made in God’s image, and I treasure their friendship. For me, the hard part is deciding how open I should be with them about my own views of their lifestyle. Generally we avoid talking about it.

    They don’t criticize me for my choice to follow the Church’s teachings with regard to sexual expression, a *very* “counter-cultural” decision at today’s universities, and I don’t bring up active homosexuality, a lifestyle which my university is trying to normalize by institutionalizing it at all levels of campus life. My university uses students’ tuition to fund LGBT events on the quad such as “Pride Week”, and to set up a resource and ‘training’ center which supports events promoting homosexual normalization and reeducation programs which teach that gender roles and traditional sexuality are oppressive patriarchal societal constructs

    Despite working out a kind of modus vivendi with my homosexual friends, I can’t help but feeling that there is a kind of unspoken tension between us, in the sense that there is a major part of my life which my gay friends find to be strange and with which they disagree (Orthodoxy, which they understand is incompatible with their lifestyle), and a major part of theirs with which I disagree.

    Whenever politics come up among my liberal friends, I argue – always in vain – that I can love my homosexually-inclined friends while still disagreeing with how they live, just as they don’t understand or agree with why I choose to be religious, but still value my friendship. Homosexual lifestyles aren’t really forced on anyone at my university, but unless you want to be accused by liberal friends of being “narrow-minded” or “bigoted”, most people feel pressure to voice their acceptance of the lifestyle.

    What saddens me is the realization that, were I to tell my homosexual friends that I believe acting on their orientation is something which will ultimately cause them harm, they would accuse me of “judging” them and “not wanting them to be happy”. I wish I could better explain to them that, no, in fact, I’m not judging them, I could never put myself in that position of condemning them. But we look at the question of sexuality with different eyes.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    -Ryan

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your own experiences. May God bless you.

      Dn Patrick

    • rebelsprite says:

      Ryan,

      What’s even worse is when they don’t call you judgmental, but rather accuse you of “hating”. Nowadays, it seems that not approving of someone else’s lifestyle, beliefs, practices, etc. is not simply “disagreement”, but “hate”. I have to wonder if this has to do with our culture’s careless way of throwing the words “hate” and “love” around as well. But I find it frustrating that people label us as being “hateful” or promoting “hate” when that very distinct emotion is not being experienced in the least. Tolerance is not enough anymore – validation and embracing of differences must occur, otherwise, you are a hateful bigot. People jump from point A to point B so quickly that they don’t even consider the erroneous gap in between. I don’t believe in extramarital sex at all and don’t want to promote it. Does that mean I “hate” all of the people, including heterosexuals, who engage in it? Of course not. How can people claim that they want respect for diversity, when diversity of opinions and beliefs is not allowed?

      Thank you, Deacon Patrick, for your post. I have been struggling with these issues lately, and your perspective has helped clarify some things. It is no surprise that the meaning of true love has been lost and that people may misunderstand our stances and responses.

      • rebelsprite says:

        However, I must add this for consideration – St. Paul’s command to distance ourselves from certain people in the church who are embracing an immoral lifestyle pertains, well, to those within the church. In that very section, of course, he says he is not referring to those outside of the church, otherwise we would have to go “out of the world”. Most LGBT friends (for many) will already be outside of the church, so this section won’t really apply…

        • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

          There can’t really be any fornicators inside the Church, only penitent former fornicators because anyone who persists in fornication keeps himself outside the Church. That seems to be St. Paul’s point. I think what he’s saying in 1 Cor. 5 is this: “I wrote to you earlier not to keep company with fornicators (v.9). What I meant was not to keep company with fornicators as if they were brothers in Christ (v.11). Put them away from you (v. 13). Of course, you can’t avoid all company with fornicators as long as you live in this world (v.10). God will judge them, but you must hold those inside the Church to account (v.12).” Chapter 6 then continues this point about holding believers to account.

          That said, there is something to what you say. We do have special reason to avoid the company of immoral former or pretend Christians, because keeping company with them might make it appear to them and others that we approve of their immorality and don’t believe it separates them from Christ. But the reason to avoid company in that case (to avoid the appearance of approval) also pertains, though perhaps to a lesser degree, to the case of others who live immorally. Some separation is still needed, no?

          • rebelsprite says:

            Hmmm….I think if I was concerned about something like this, I would take the specific concern/situation to my priest and ask about how and when to apply the “distance” rule. I do think there’s a time and place for it, but I’d ask my priest for guidance on a case by case basis if that situation were to come up.

            You know, I hear of people saying they only surround themselves with “positive” people, they avoid “toxic” people – and our present society would say that they are totally justified, healthy, and smart in doing so. Well, we’ve got our own spiritual reasons for the company keep as well, though our present society would call us intolerant for it. But I think it’s really important to be acting out of humility and love while navigating within our boundaries – rather than out of fear or the sense of being scandalized. Which can be really tough, imho, in certain situations. But perfect love is supposed to cast out fear, and a priest once told me that being scandalized was really a sign of pride. So all of this needs to be balanced – I’m still learning…

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            Of course, what anyone does in a specific case will depend on the nature of the relation. A lot of factors come into play that cannot be decided on the basis of a simple rule. The need not to appear to approve of immorality and the danger of being drawn into condoning, enabling, or participating in it are two such factors. If one is in doubt, it only makes sense to seek spiritual guidance.

            And of course our relations with others should be based on humility and love, but that can’t mean that we should proceed without due caution, assuming ourselves to be perfectly humble and loving and therefore spiritually able to handle anything. Humility would mean admitting that we may not be able to handle everything, and love is one of the reasons for not simply keeping close company with the immoral.

            There is more to being scandalized than a prideful, judgmental reaction to the failings of others. All failings are not scandals. A scandal is a failing that threatens the faith of others by discrediting those representing the faith, causing the faithful to be discouraged, confused, misled, or outraged. Nothing the world does should do that, since sin is what we should expect in the world.

  2. Michael Bauman says:

    …and again, we but ourselves in positions that compromise our own integrity because we don’t really understand the significance of sexual sins (of any type). Chastity is the first step. If a person is not intentionally chaste originally or through repentance, one cannot understand or participate in the unique and special gift that is our sexuality, a gift that is ontologically impossible to experience between two males or two females.

    So, yes, you want them to be happy, but it is impossible to find that happiness without being chaste. One has to have a deeper conversation with them or let them go while still praying for them and deepening one’s own chastity.

    My 26 year old son fights this battle all the time: the most common response is jealousy and anger. He is distressed by the isolation his commitment to Jesus Christ and chastity in particualar seems to bring him.

    “We are to be in the world, but not of it” “They will hate you as they hate me”

    Older folks don’t have to face such isolation, jealousy and hatred as do our children. It will be worse for our children’s children.

    Their is a rule in economics that bad money drives out good, meaning that a counterfeit or debased currancy will drive the good currency out of use as both trust in and the value of the currency is diminished. So it is with friendships and marriage in the nihilistic counterfeit of homosexualism.

  3. Alexis says:

    I commend your son, Mr. Bauman, of sticking to his moral guns. It seems young men of his ilk are few and far between these days when “anything goes.” Anything contrary to perversity in the clever guise of “diversity” is quickly rendered intolerant, bigotted, and/or as bigotted. Your son’s holiness is a direct reflection upon you, and you sir are to be commended as well. IC XC NI KA!

    • Alexis says:

      Correction follow-up. “Anything contrary to perversity in the clever guise of “diversity” is quickly rendered as intolerant, bigotted, and/or hate speech.”

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