Whenever Jesus commands His disciples to love others the word agapao is always used. Agapao is putting another’s interests and feelings ahead of your own, regardless of how you feel about that person. Agapao is distinguished from the other types of love: eros that is pleasure-seeking, and phileo that is love based upon reciprocity. Phileo operates by saying, “I’ll love you if you love me,” or “I’ll be kind to you if you’re kind to me. Most of the world operates on the basis of eros and phileo.
The Christian is enjoined to operate on the basis of agapao! That means we don’t necessarily have to like the person, but we seek to do him or her no harm. We are to be kind and helpful to him or her, regardless of how he or she treats us.
Even homophobic people are to be treated with dignity and respect, yet we are not to roll over and play dead in their midst. We must stand firm in our desire for full inclusion of GLBT people in secular society and in the life of the Church.
It must be remembered that homosexuality is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, the prophets never wrote about it, and Jesus never spoke about it. The “clobber” passages used to demonize homosexuality are in the context of idolatry and exploitation, and have nothing to do with sexual orientation or love between members of the same sex. Indeed, the term “homosexuality” does not appear in any of the biblical manuscripts as the term was coined in the late nineteenth century.
Keeping these facts in mind, we are to realize that homophobic people are sinners just like the rest of humanity and must be confronted with their sins when the occasion arises. There is an organization I just found out about called Rainbow Sash, which are GLBT Roman Catholics and their allies who wear a rainbow sash during mass and seek to take communion. Many times they have been refused and that refusal is non-Scriptural and hateful as nowhere in Scripture is closed communion advocated. All Christians should be able to partake of communion in any Christian church!
GLBT people and their allies must speak truth to power and confront those who view them as enemies. Yet we are to do so with respect, doing our best to see in them the image of God.
On the same token, homophobic Christians are to see GLBT people as being made in the image of God, as well. If they don’t, they are missing the whole message of the Gospel! It is empty to say we love the sinner but hate the sin as that is rarely the case.
Homophobic Christians have been in the vanguard of fomenting hate crimes against homosexuals and they offend Christ when they give their pious platitudes of hating the sin but loving the sinner. The fact is that they hate homosexuals and hate homosexuality! GLBT Christians are denied communion, denied ministry in the Catholic Church, and ostracized in and out of most churches.
Same sex love is not a sin! Yet, Jesus hung out with sinners, the marginalized, and loved them. He told them not to willfully sin, yet he loved us so much He died for us, taking all of our past, present, and future sins with Him to the Cross. They have been nailed to the Cross and now righteousness is imputed to us. This is the good news of the Gospel!
Homophobic Christians must be confronted with the good news of the Gospel as it applies to God’s GLBT children. This confrontation may take the form of what Rainbow Sash is doing, writing articles in magazines such as “Whosoever,” writing letters to the editor of one’s local newspaper, or picketing homophobic religious “leaders” who make millions of dollars and millions of hate-mongers by demonizing GLBT people.
Jesus calls us to love all people, call sin for what it is, and let that person and God deal with the sin in a person’s life. Moreover, GLBT Christians and their allies must become familiar with Scripture so they can answer the attacks made by homophobic Christians, thereby enabling God to work in them as He seeks to work in all of His creation.
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.