“Christians hate gay people.”
That succinct message defined most of Caleb Kaltenbach’s childhood. He learned it from his lesbian mother … and from religious people whose behavior seemed to confirm her declaration.
While in elementary school, he marched with his mother in a gay pride parade. Along the route some protestors held up signs conveying hateful messages against homosexuals. They also sprayed water and urine on the marchers as they passed by.
When Caleb asked why people would do something like that, his mom said, “They’re Christians. Christians hate gay people.”
It would be easy to dismiss his mother’s perspective out-of-hand. “She’s painting all Christians with the same broad brush,” we might say. But many in the homosexual community feel Christians do the same thing toward them. I believe there’s a lot we can learn about the conflict – perceived or real – that has existed between the Christian and homosexual communities.
I’ve often said, “It doesn’t do any good to win an argument if you’re losing the character of Christ in you.” If you’ve “won” an argument by demeaning other people, or by being harsh toward them, you’ve really lost your core.
A.W. Tozer said, “Always it is more important that we retain a right spirit toward others than that we bring them to our way of thinking, even if our way is right.”
That perspective comes right out of Scripture. In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you.”
In verses 32-33, He says, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”
If that strikes you as difficult to do, it should. We can’t do it in our own human strength. Loving people with whom we disagree takes the Spirit of God working through us.
Over the last couple of days, we’ve been having a very interesting conversation about how Christians should interact with those who think differently than us. Caleb Kaltenbach has been our guest, and as you can tell from what I’ve already shared about his life, he brings a unique perspective to this discussion.
Both of Caleb’s parents were university professors at the University of Missouri in Columbia. When he was two-years-old, his parents divorced, and both came out as homosexuals. They were politically active and joined the local board of directors for GLAAD in Kansas City. Activist events, gay parties and clubs, and pride parades were a regular part of Caleb’s childhood.
And ingrained in his mind was that singular message: “Christians hate gay people.”
So when in high school he got invited to a Bible study, he agreed to go for one reason: to dismantle Christianity. What happened instead is God dismantled his worldview and showed him that Jesus was not like the people who threw water and urine on homosexuals in pride parades. Jesus touched lepers, reached out to people who others shunned, and spent time with “sinners.” Caleb also resonated with Paul’s message in Romans 2:4 that it’s God’s kindness that leads one to repentance.
I always try to keep that passage in mind when I meet with people who disagree with me because I’ve never seen anybody beaten or insulted into the kingdom of God. It’s always through God’s grace and truth.
Some believers hear this sort of talk and rush to assume our discussion is some sort of call to be soft on sin. But that’s not the case. It is about changing the tenor of the conversation, however. Not only can we not reach people by diminishing God’s truth, we can’t reach them by conducting ourselves with a critical spirit or an attitude of meanness toward them.
People are complex, a mosaic of their experiences, their upbringing, and their hurts and joys. People are not an issue to be solved; they’re to be loved and cared for in grace and truth.
Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus demonstrated that “acceptance” and “approval” are not the same thing. Love pulls someone who’s all grace closer to truth, and it pulls those who are all truth closer to grace. Christ’s love isn’t about grace or truth; it’s about grace and truth.
Caleb Kaltenbach is now the Lead Pastor at Discovery Church in Simi Valley, CA. I hope you’ll tune in today to your local radio station to hear more of his story and what he has learned about loving those around us without sacrificing our convictions. If you missed the first half of our program with Caleb, catch it anytime online or via our free, downloadable mobile phone app.