-Ashley Detar Birt
God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. -1 John 4:16-21
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I’ve heard that phrase more often than I’d like to admit. People who I care for very much – who have acted as my friends – have repeated this line to my face in regards to my sexual orientation. As a person, they may find me funny or charming or warm or smart. But my sexuality, one aspect of my life, doesn’t mesh with their expectations or what they’ve been taught about God, and so they feel they must reject it. It’s okay to love me as long as they separate out my good parts and the parts they deem unacceptable or even “hate.”
This isn’t how God loves us, though. It isn’t how any love that comes from God works. Love isn’t about identifying certain parts of someone to love and throwing out the rest; it’s about loving without fear, without hatred. We are all created by God, all loved by God, and all called to love God. In order to do this, we must show each other love, for that is how God is revealed. Not only does this connect us to one another through God, but it reminds us of treatment and care we deserve. We all deserve the kind of love that allows us to see God. One cannot give that love if they’re busy figuring out how to “hate our sin.”
What’s more, to “hate the sin” of a sexual orientation is to hate love itself. As John says, “the one who loves God should love his brother also.” Although it uses masculine language, this sentiment applies to all people. May all affection and affirmation be shown between parents, siblings, friends, and significant others alike.
As your week continues, remember that the love in your life, regardless of what it may look like, is not sinful but rather inspired by God. Celebrate the blessing of your capacity to love!
About The Author
Ashley Detar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. She obtained her Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, an MA in Theater Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. She serves on the board of More Light Presbyterians and blogs on the intersections of race, sexuality, and faith for Believe Out Loud.