Correction does not equal rejection. I feel like this is often misunderstood in the LGBT community.
A big misunderstanding in our society is that because God loves everyone, He also is okay with everyone’s choices. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Can you think of a time when a small child made a choice or engaged in a behavior that their parent disapproved of? Maybe this child hit their sibling, or burped loudly in a nice restaurant, or colored all over the walls of the house. This doesn’t always happen, but when the parent gave a disapproving look, or verbally corrected the child, or even punished the child, did the child burst into tears, mistakenly believing that the parent’s attempt to correct the behavior was actually the parent rejecting the child?
At that moment, if the parent yelled at the kid for crying and misunderstanding, it would only serve to fuel those mistaken feelings of rejection. Even trying to reason with the child, and explain that they still love them doesn’t always help. Most parents understand both of these things, and instead gather up the weeping child in their arms, and soothingly reassure them that it was the behavior, not the child, that the parent was communicating was not okay.
We as adults know that a parent’s love for their child does not diminish and does not change just because their child engages in an unwanted behavior. But, even though their love hasn’t changed, they will still chasten or punish the child in an attempt to correct that behavior. Why? Because although the child is too young to understand yet, that behavior is not going to serve them well in life, and could harm other people, and the parent is trying to protect their child from those consequences. What would happen if that child continued to hit people as a teen or adult? They could wind up in jail. What if the child continued to engage in rude behaviors? They may offend people or experience other social consequences. For example, as an adult they may not get a date! What if the child never learned to respect property? More social and personal consequences.
How many LGBT people mistakenly believe—like the child in this example—that God’s disapproval could only mean God’s rejection? And so they try to reason it out and conclude that because the scriptures teach that God loves all His children unconditionally, that must mean that He is also okay with all of their behavior. But, like the parents, God’s laws are not arbitrary. Although we are too young spiritually to understand fully yet, some behavior—including homosexuality—is not going to serve us well in eternity, and may harm other people as well. Just as parents disapprove of and strive to correct behavior that is harmful to their child and protect them from continuing in it and experiencing the unintended consequences, God is and will continue to do the same.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, explained it very well: “The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love.” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/love-and-law?lang=eng
God’s punishments and corrections are not rejection. They are a manifestation of His love and His desire to help us become like Him.
In Hebrews 12 we read:
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth…shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?”
“…he (chastens us) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/heb/12.6?lang=eng#5
Many mistakenly believe that because God loves us, “if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/28.7-8?lang=eng#6.
But this is false. Some blessings are predicated upon obedience to certain laws.
Just as parents may withhold privileges or rewards from children who don’t obey the parent’s rules. For example, they may tell their children that those who complete all their chores will earn a special outing or activity. If a child does not complete their chores, and the parent does not reward them, does that mean the parent does not really love them? Of course not.
Likewise, when it comes to the eternal blessings and rewards of God, only those who obey His commandments receive the promised blessings. God still loves His children who didn’t do the necessary steps to qualify, but the promised blessings of obedience only go to the obedient. The disobedient may cry out that that isn’t fair, and that that isn’t love. But when we let our emotions calm down and really think it through, God’s way makes the most sense.
How should Christians handle the person who misunderstands God’s love and God’s laws? Just like in the example above, visible frustration will only serve to reinforce the misunderstanding. Like the children, what LGBT people need is to be reassured that it is the behavior, not the person, that is not okay. They need to know that they are still completely and unconditionally loved. They need to know that they, personally, are not being rejected. Words alone are not enough. Christians need to show by action and behavior that their love is always there by “gathering up in their arms” those who are struggling to obey God’s laws. Christians need to be unconditional friends and family members to all of God’s children.
On a related note, I think one of the biggest misunderstandings that is happening in our society is that because religious people testify of their beliefs, they are “haters” of those who are LGBT or those who choose a gay lifestyle. For the vast majority of religious people, nothing could be further from the truth! Every Christian person I have told about being bisexual has responded with unconditional love. Sure, you will find haters in every group and organization. But most Christians strive to follow Christ and His example of love.
“Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/88.81?lang=eng#80
“the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/rom/10?lang=eng#
Just like parents striving to correct their children, Christians are trying to lovingly correct their brothers and sisters by standing up and testifying of their beliefs out a desire to help and save. They may not always do it in the best ways, but the LGBT community needs to see their intent, and not “hate them back” for being imperfect at trying to help.
But does that mean we as Christians should testify of God’s law of morality every time we see our friend or family member who is LGBT? Of course not! How would you feel if every time you saw your parent, they pointed out something you were struggling with? For example: “You know, you’re still not very good at mowing the lawn, but I love you anyway” or “I believe strongly that the bathroom needs to be cleaned in this certain way, but I’ll still be your mom”. These examples sound silly, and they are.
We need to share our beliefs and try to help others, but once they know where we stand, we need to leave it up to them when to talk about it and when to ask for help.
It is important to remember that the best way to help others has been clearly communicated by God:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121.43?lang=eng#42
I hope that greater understanding of the intent behind words and actions will occur between LGBT and Christian communities, and that those in the LGBT community will more clearly understand the relationship between God’s love and God’s laws. Correction does not mean rejection–from God or from Christians. Peace comes from understanding.