“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Today’s post is from guest blogger and Sacred Tension editor Danielle. I hope you enjoy her powerful contribution to this blog.

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If you spend enough time around churches, you have probably heard this phrase applied to more than one behavior.  Personally, I’ve heard it applied most often to gay people when a believer is asked how he or she can condemn homosexuality while still loving their neighbor.  I’ve even said it.  It’s definitely a step up from “God hates fags”, right?  Granted.  But chances are that if you’re gay you have a visceral reaction to this statement.  It hurts.  Some may reply that truth hurts.  Sometimes it does.  But we don’t have to deliver it with a missile.

I am not calling on anyone out there to change their conclusions about what is a sin and what is not a sin.  We have drawn too many conclusions already.  I am saying that the difference between uttering this phrase about, say, a straight couple living together and engaging in premarital sex (which, incidentally, I haven’t heard) and saying it about a gay person is bigger than you may think.

Why?  Because, whether you are referring to homosexuality as a behavior or as an orientation, sexuality and romantic attraction are key components of personhood.  They shape how we see the world, how we relate to others, and how we process our own experiences.  The fact that I am a straight woman is part of who I am, and cannot be disregarded in my relationship with God or my relationships with others.  When you tell a gay brother or sister that you hate the sin but love the sinner, you are invalidating their conscious existence as embodied beings and all the relating, creativity, mess, and glory flowing out of them.

Many may argue that their sexuality is disordered as a result of the fall; that may well be, but everything about our world is disordered as a result of the fall.  Human sexuality, human intellect, human hearts are all fallen.  This does not mean that we are all worthless, just as it does not mean that a sexuality you may believe to be disordered is worthless.  In my experience, God is the God who wastes nothing, especially not our experience of imperfection, pain, and disorder.

I believe that God can be glorified through homosexuality.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I believe it.  Why do I believe this so strongly?  Why does this poisonous phrase light a fire in my belly?  To answer those questions, I will share a deeply personal facet of my life.  I ask that you be gracious with my nakedness.

I have only one breast.  This is not the result of a mastectomy, but of a congenital birth defect called hypomastia.  I didn’t know that there was anything wrong until I entered puberty, at which point one breast began to grow and the other didn’t.  As you may imagine, this became a source of great fear, shame, and pain in my life.  I was ashamed of my appearance, my difference.  I was terrified that I would be found out.  It hurt that God wouldn’t grant my prayers for healing.  If any of my readers are gay, particularly if they are gay and Christian, they can probably relate to these feelings of difference and the stress they add to the already vulnerable period of adolescence.

So, I took my concerns to my parents.  I asked them, “Am I beautiful”?  They said, “You have a very pretty face”.  My heart broke.  Was the statement true?  I like to think so.  Do my parents love me?  Yes.  But this technically true, seemingly affirming statement shattered me.  Why?  Because love was not enough.  They could not accept me unconditionally or completely.  My flaw distorted their view of my entire person in such a way that, in order to affirm me, they had to disregard everything from my neck down.  Let me tell you, there are some pretty important things down there.

Now, my experience of hypomastia is not a sin, but I believe that it is a result of the fall.  Would I have chosen this?  No.  Could God heal me?  Of course.  But so far, He has chosen not to.  I don’t know why, but I do know that He has used this imperfection to grow me into a more compassionate, perceptive, strong, and, yes, beautiful woman.  I am coming out of hiding because, really, difference is nothing to hide.  Our gay brothers and sisters are doing the same.  If that makes you uncomfortable, I invite you to live with that discomfort and allow it to sanctify you, to make you a stronger, more compassionate, more perceptive, more accurate reflection of God’s astonishing love and unstoppable grace.