What Do We Do When Loving God Conflicts With Loving Our Neighbor?

It is only by loving and honoring God that we can truly love our neighbor.

By Michael Brown Published on July 10, 2017

If you’ve read the Gospels, you know that Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are that we love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matt. 22:35-40).

What do we do when there’s a perceived conflict between the two and when it feels as if we have to decide between loving God or loving our neighbor?

On the one hand, the Scriptures teach plainly that allegiance to God always comes first, to the point that we have to side with Him even against our own families if they turn away from the Lord (in the Old Testament, see Deuteronomy 13:6-11; in the New Testament, see Matthew 10:34-37).

On the other hand, the Word warns us against hypocritical religion, challenging those who claim to love God (whom they cannot see) while failing to love their brother or sister in the Lord (whom they can see; 1 John 4:20).

James also defines true religion as caring for the widow and orphan as well as keeping ourselves unstained by the world (James 1:27).

Christians Conflicted

Why do I bring this issue up?

Many followers of Jesus today are deeply conflicted over the issue of homosexuality, knowing that the Word clearly prohibits homosexual practice and defines marriage as the lifelong union of a man and woman, yet they have friends or family members who identify as gay, and these are people whom they dearly love and do not want to hurt.

How can they say to their gay friends, “I love you and I want you to be happy, but I cannot affirm your ‘marriage’ to your partner”?

It is only by loving and honoring God that we can truly love our neighbor.

How can they tell a terrific gay couple that these two men (or women) do not provide the best parents for a child, even a handicapped, unwanted child for whom they would provide love and support?

How can they tell a young gay person who wants to follow Jesus, “You have to be celibate for the rest of your life unless the Lord changes your sexual and romantic desires”?

Recent polls indicate that among committed religious Americans, the vast majority oppose redefining marriage while, conversely, among irreligious Americans, the vast majority support gay “marriage.”

That’s not surprising in the least, and it really tells us something about the differences between a God-centered, biblical worldview and a worldview based on humanism.

Reach Out and Resist

Those same polls indicate that people who know a good number of homosexual men and women strongly favor redefining marriage while people who know few or no gay men and women strongly oppose.

Obviously, getting to know people personally often changes our perspectives, since we often stereotype those we don’t know (or, worse still, demonize them).

What happens, then, if you’re a committed Christian and your new lesbian neighbors turn out to be two of the sweetest ladies you’ve ever met, doing Bible studies in their home, attending a gay-affirming church, visiting a community center for the elderly on a weekly basis, and raising two delightful daughters?

What happens when you find out that, aside from the fact that they are in a lesbian relationship, they share your moral values and love to tell other people about Jesus?

We must reach out to LGBT people with compassion while resisting the gay agenda with courage.

If this does not cause any pain in your heart or move you to get alone with God and pray, then I would dare say something is lacking in your compassion for your fellow human beings.

That’s why I’ve often said that the scriptural arguments for homosexual relationships are weak (really, they are nonexistent) but the emotional arguments for homosexual relationships are powerful.

And that’s why I live daily with the holy tension of “reach out and resist,” meaning, reaching out to LGBT people with compassion while resisting the gay agenda with courage.

I take this stand with absolute conviction of the rightness of God’s ways, knowing without a doubt that the Lord has spoken clearly in His Word about homosexual practice.

At the same time, I do so with a broken heart, sometimes with tears, knowing that to the LGBT community, my solidarity with God and His Word feels to them like rejection, judgment and even hatred.

Hearts of Compassion, Backbones of Steel

Recently, I was talking to a restaurant manager who asked me what I did for Father’s Day. As far as I know, this gentleman is gay, and when I asked him about what he did on Father’s Day, he talked about seeing his dad but said nothing about his kids, and my heart sank for him as he spoke.

How can I, a follower of Jesus, stand against him raising children with his partner?

We must not dilute a single word that He has spoken, knowing He loves them far more than we ever will.

How can I, as a lover of God — and my neighbor — tell my neighbor that I cannot recognize his “marriage”?

How can I, as someone who believes that “love does no harm to its neighbor” (Rom. 13:10), hold to a position that he finds harmful?

The answer is simple but painful.

It is only by loving and honoring God that we can truly love our neighbor, and no matter how difficult the pill might be to swallow, we must not dilute or twist a single word that He has spoken.

That’s why we need hearts of compassion and backbones of steel, weeping in secret for the souls of LGBT people whom we love and do not want to hurt while holding fast to the ways of the Lord, knowing that He loves them far more than we ever will and being sure that His ways are best.

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  • Gary

    If you are standing for the truth and opposing evil, you won’t have any “gay friends” for long. They will leave you. The only way to have “gay friends” is to accept them for what they are. But you cannot do that, and be right with God. You have to choose which side you are on. Those who try to be Christians and still have good relations with homosexuals are trying something that is impossible to do.

    • Countless people with Gay friends disagree with you. But I’m sure you don’t care.

      • Gary

        Anyone who opposes homosexuality, as all real Christians do, will find that there is no basis for a friendship with homosexuals.

        • GPS Daddy

          John 8:1-11

          CHAPTER 8
          The Adulterous Woman
          But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]

          • Az1seeit

            I’ve no wish to defend Gary…no offense sir…but here Jesus dealt with her in truth. Both she and He related from the truth that what she did was sinful. In the current climate, I do not think that would be the norm re the one in this particular sin. I do trust, however, that the Lord will give me that ability to represent Him to one and all if I am living in humility before Him.

          • GPS Daddy

            Jesus dealt in Grace AND Truth. We are to speak truth IN love.

            Gary, on some issues, has truth. But he lacks grace.

    • michael white

      gary,
      you shouldn’t lump every gay person into one heap. maybe there are some gay people that respect the Christian stance on gay marriage and for whatever reason still want to be a friend. So, in telling them the truth, the choice is theirs, if the Christian seeks to be friendly and truthful, let each one decide on their own. Blanket statements usually are not true across the board.

      • Gary

        You could be right. But I doubt you are.

    • Jim Walker

      There are gay people who acknowledge their sins to God, are you able to accept them ?
      Why till today you still think God can’t do the impossible (to you maybe but never to God) to help these people and bring salvation to them ?
      I pray to God to soften your heart with Agape love. Amen.

      • Gary

        What do you mean by “accept them”??

        • Jim Walker

          Treat them like you treat everyone else.

          • Gary

            I won’t do that. Perverts are not like everyone else.

          • Jim Walker

            Jesus sits with the sinners and we all are. There is no one greater than we, don’t be holier than thou, if you are, you are not a true Christian.

          • Gary

            You mean you don’t think I should be holier than homosexuals?

          • Jim Walker

            Pride and holiness cannot be mixed together.
            Anyone that is not of God is living in darkness. However, we do not take that holier than thou standing to look down on them. But to show compassion or simply be like our Lord Jesus who mingle with sinners and be the Light of the world.

          • Gary

            I’m very proud that I’m not a pervert. Everyone who isn’t should be happy about it.

          • Jim Walker

            I have never ever thought of you a pervert. But you have this heightened dislike for LGBT members. Remember, they have been led astray, it is our job to lead them back with prayer and compassion.
            Most that are here fighting us aren’t LGBT members but supporters, like anne55, Chuck A…, they need prayers especially when all dialogue fails. We can let our human nature rule over us which is what you are doing now, or we can let Jesus take over. I denounce myself whenever my human nature gets worked up by the cross exchanges with these people but eventually I utter a prayer for them.

  • Roberto Deramo

    GOD told HIS people to leave Sodom, because it was to be destroyed.

    HE also tells US to flee “Babylon”…. run from its SIN lest we be caught up in its snare.

    I trust GOD alone, HIS word is sufficient.

    • Was Jesus’ disobedient to God’s word then by choosing to eat with sinners?

      • Roberto Deramo

        I’m not going to judge what Christ did or didn’t do bro.

        What I will say is this:

        Jesus was sinless, “we” are not.

        Jesus was able, “we” are not.

        Jesus was GOD, “we” are not.

        The Bible tells us, to stay away from sin and not to condone it.

        • Az1seeit

          To that I will add, we are so fallen, without the intervention of the HS we cannot do the first and greatest commandment- love God – much less the second – love others. So really, we just have to do one thing: be before God and learn to love Him. Everything else comes from that. My 2 cents…

      • Jim Walker

        Mark 2:17 says
        On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  • davidk

    “What Do We Do When Loving God Conflicts With Loving Our Neighbor?”

    They are never in conflict.

  • A Cater

    Sodomy ,one of the worse sins in the Bible, is anti – God. Any church group that condones such sin are non-Christian by definition, no matter what they claim. You truly love your neighbour when you tell them the truth without compromising as God’s love is corrective by nature. Sodomy is predicted by Jesus as a sign of the Endtime in Luke 17:29.

    • No doubt it is sin but where do you read that it is one of the worst sins?

      “non-Christian by definition” – how do you define Christian?

      • Az1seeit

        Hm….not sure what A Cater means by worst sins…but I’m thinking the worst part of it is the expectation that we are to accept it like it is not sin….indeed…as if it’s normal! When SCOTUS codifies an oxymoron – gay marriage – our country is in trouble. This is simply unreality.

      • A Cater

        Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed by direct fire from the Lord out of heaven. Fire is the ultimate judgment for sin . Ref Genesis 13:13; 18:20; 19: 1-25; Jude 7 Romans 1: 24-32. The very act of direct destruction by the Lord reveals the extremity their sin.
        A Christian is a follower & believer of Christ Jesus who was the Word made flesh John 1:14 . To disobey or disbelieve the Word of God is to deny your Christian faith. The New Testament gospels and epistles clearly reveal the lifestyle of the sanctified believers who have been born again by the Spirit of God.

      • Jim Walker

        1 Cor 6:18.
        Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
        Anything that sins against your own body is the worst sin.

        • It could certainly be considered sexual immorality, but the only reference to a specific sexually immoral act in the 1 Cor 6 passage is uniting with a female prostitute. No mention of sodomy.

          Regardless, how does one make the jump that sinning against ones body, while not a good thing and a clearly harmful thing, is a “worst sin?”

          Murder is sinning against someone else’s body. Is an act of sodomy worse than murder because it’s committed against your own body?

          • Jim Walker

            Do you support all the agenda of LGBT ?

          • My bad on missing the earlier verse. But it’s still a stretch to say it’s the worst. Murder is still killing God’s temple.

          • Jim Walker

            You need to understand that God made Man and Woman to be joined to become 1 flesh in marriage.
            To violate this is the worst sin to me, 1 rank above murder. Its nice to have this conversation with you.

          • I appreciate the conversation as well. To be clear, re: “You need to understand that God made Man and Woman to be joined to become 1 flesh in marriage,” I am in complete agreement with you. I do not dispute the scriptural evidence for that.

            My concern is the message we send when we call something a “worse” or “worst sin.” One of Satan’s chief weapons is shame. I have several friends and loved ones who struggle with same sex attraction and/or sexual identity. Many have dealt with their thoughts for most, if not all, their life. It has become as much a part of their identity (whether true or false) as you identify yourself as a heterosexual. Thus, when a Christian calls it the “worst sin,” what they hear is, “You are the worst kind of person.” Hardly a message of grace or redemption.

            Most people already struggle with feeling like they are “the worst kind of person” and Satan tries to rub those feelings in whenever he can so that people hide in shame rather than turn to God . What people need to hear is their true identity – how God sees them – as a beloved unconditionally, loved and favored child of God…regardless of where you have been or what you’ve done. That doesn’t mean everything you do is good or best, but it is an invitation to walk in the true identity God has called you to.

            The message that LGBT is the “worst sin” somehow puts one’s own sins as not quite so bad and has the flavor of “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers…” rather than “God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and seems to be a way of trying to put a bigger log in the other person’s eye so that one’s own stye doesn’t look so bad.

            It is also one of the chief reasons that the LGBT community has so strongly reacted against the church. We have casually condoned at least the struggle with other sins, allowing people to fellowship with us and be in process with their “lesser” sins of gluttony, greed, anger, heterosexual lustful thoughts, etc but have demanded that people who struggle with the “worst” sin of same sex attraction completely clean up their thought-life before they can approach the gracious throne of God.

            Thus, LGBT folks have been forced to do one of two things: completely reject God so that they no longer experience the condemnation or alter the theology so that acting on their thought life is no longer regarded as sin. Neither one ends up with them truly comprehending or living under God’s grace.

            Theologically, we also forget that Jesus dismantled the idea of levels of sin by saying that hating your brother was the equivalent of murder and lusting after your neighbor’s wife was the equivalent of actual adultery. Are there different levels of consequence for sins? Certainly. But that does not mean God sees his children differently. If we really want to minister to people we can start by admitting the travesty of our own sins, while testifying to God’s loving willingness to forgive our sins, rather than focusing on how much “worse” another people group is.

            When reading all of the scriptures about Sodom and Gomorrah you see that it was a whole city of people who had completely rejected God with their whole selves (in arrogance, selfishness, AND sodomy) – not quite the equivalent of your kind neighbor who seeks to go to church and know God but also, because of how he falsely sees his identity, seeks to partner with someone of the same sex. It may be a self-destructive lifestyle, but we certainly don’t see God trying to annihilate them with fire, etc. Perhaps we should take our cues from God and what Jesus did on the cross, and seek to reach out more in grace rather than use the one example of Sodom and Gomorrah to verbally “annihilate” people who have a different struggle.

            My other concern with what A Cater originally said was in classifying certain people as “non-Christian” by their theological difference on this issue. I have several friends who deeply love Jesus and who, quite frankly, display the fruits of the spirit far more than many of my conservative friends, but who take a more liberal position on this issue. I may disagree with them theologically on this, but I have no doubt about their saving and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus, to argue that they are wrongfully interpreting an important part of God’s word is one thing, but to call them “non-Christian” is a dangerous path.

            Sorry that was a bit long. Thanks again for the conversation.

      • LgVt

        Sodomy is one of four sins explicitly described in the Bible as crying out to heaven for vengeance (Gen 17:20-21), along with murder (Gen 4:10), oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23) and defrauding laborers of their just wages (Jas 5:4).

        • Might want to check your reference for Gen 17:20-21. That’s about the covenants with Ishmael and Isaac. The “four sins” are elevated by the Catholic catechism (which I see the 1st Google result also has the wrong Genesis reference of 17:20-21) but that’s still stretching interpretation to automatically assume God sees it as a “worst sin.” After all, sodomy did not make the 10 commandments out of all “top” lists.

          • LgVt

            Fair enough. I was in a hurry when I made that post, and grabbed the Bible citations off the page you mentioned. The passage with regards to sodomy is Gen 18:20-21, not 17.

            Sodomy, as with all other sins of lust, falls under the Sixth Commandment. And, to repeat what I said before: This sin is one of very few that is explicitly described in the Bible as crying out to heaven. That means something, and it isn’t good.

  • Patmos

    Speak the truth in love: That salvation is God’s will for all, and that by faith a person reckons themselves dead to sin but alive to God through Jesus Christ. There is no conflict in that. If they then love darkness more than the light, they will receive the fruit of that: Weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • Bok

    Thank you Mike for this much needed exhortation! The tension from this matter continues to grow and I know that I personally struggle to reconcile the two. This is very helpful and encouraging.

  • Dean Bruckner

    There can never be a conflict between loving God and loving my neighbor, because the definition of showing love is to work for God’s will for another human being. God is love!

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