I was recently asked this question:
“Me and my husband have close friends who are gay. Should we confront them about their lifestyle or mind our own business? We don’t want to lose their friendship and we don’t want to be judgmental. How should we act?”
You should act in love.
Don’t nod your head too quickly; acting in love is not as simple as it might seem. Responding “with love” has become a Christian catchphrase for leaving things alone, ignoring harmful lifestyle choices, and letting God handle all the corrective elements in life. Parents instinctively know how such an idea of love in the structure of a parent-child relationship would be nothing short of abuse. It is the parent who loves little that ignores the times when corrective language and action is needed. The same is true for husbands and wives – for how loving would it be for a Christian husband to knowingly watch his bride turn from the things that please the Lord? Or vice-versa. The same is true for God’s relationship with his children, he corrects because he loves. In spite of this, we deny this instinctive understanding of love when it applies to friendships. For whatever reason, Christian love in those contexts turns into doing nothing.
What I am getting at is this: To act in Christian love means we will at times need to judge. That is far different from being judgmental. Let me explain.
To say a person is judgmental means that at their very core is a determination and predilection to cast judgment. It is a lifestyle. Judgmental hearts will do whatever it takes to hide their own by pointing out the deficiencies in another. This is typically accompanied by highly vocalized expressions of disappointment to multiple people or even groups. It shows up in social media when readers know more about the things you are against than the blessings you give thanks for. This is what the Bible means when it speaks of refraining from judgment – don’t be on the lookout for things that are wrong in order to puff up your own identity. It is a heart issue.
On the contrary, to judge based on love is only a small part of what it means to be filled with the love of Christ. To live a complete lifestyle of Christian love demands we are attentive to all the things Jesus says about it, things like feeding the hungry, encouraging the weak, giving to the poor, building up, lifting up, serving, and thinking about others before we think about ourselves. Then, along with those actions of love is the need to judge correctly. Jesus says, “stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). But notice that correct judgment is only a part of the greater lifestyle of love. If judging becomes the dominant player in the way we love, then we are not loving at all. We are just judging. See the above paragraph. Nevertheless, correct judgment is a part of Christian love and Christian love is not complete without it.
So, if correct judgment is not happening among relationships, then I would say those relationships are not fully experiencing Christian love. Congregationally this means our churches are filled with Christian relationships that are not yet living the love of Christ to its fullest. We hate accountability. We hate confrontation. We hate sounding “churchy.” We fear being judgmental. Our hates and our fears are causing us to fail one another in our journey of faith. This is a heavy word for pastors who want nothing more than to be all-loving to their flock. We might fall just short of this noble goal for our refusal to judge correctly when needed. Church discipline, although making somewhat of a comeback, is still mostly dead in our congregations. (Princess Bride quote alert for those who enjoy those things).
Now, to your specific question about your friend. I would first want to know if your friend claims to be a Christian. If not, then your first concern is the power of the gospel to save and transform. Apart from Christ in their life, your concern will never connect. If they do claim to be a Christian, then I would want to know if they are struggling with their sexual identity. Do they feel tension between their sexual orientation and the words of Scripture? These are questions that would color the way you would want to engage them in conversation. But engage them you should. Not every time you are with them. Not in ways that are petty or cheap. Not by throwing guilt on their shoulders. But out of genuine love and concern for their well being. There is a time to judge correctly. But then, when that time comes, you do so in a way that highlights the other elements of love – building, encouraging, serving, humility.