It is a shallow understanding of love that says love requires acceptance and approval of dangerous and harmful behavior.
There is growing pressure in the evangelical church to make peace with the sin of homosexuality, not only to embrace the homosexual sinner but to embrace and affirm homosexuality itself. With evangelical leaders such as Russell Moore calling some forms of reparative therapy “severely counterproductive” and Albert Mohler repenting of the thought that it is possible for homosexual sinners to change their orientation, this movement is picking up speed.
Stories like this add impetus by playing on our emotions and manipulating our attachment to our children:
Rob and Linda Robertson did what they believed was expected of them as good Christians. When their 12-year-old son Ryan said he was gay, they told him they loved him, but he had to change. He entered "reparative therapy," met regularly with his pastor and immersed himself in Bible study and his church youth group. After six years, nothing changed. A despondent Ryan cut off from his parents and his faith, started taking drugs and in 2009, died of an overdose.
"Now we realize we were so wrongly taught," said Rob Robertson, a firefighter for more than 30 years who lives in Redmond, Washington. "It's a horrible, horrible mistake the church has made."
The tragedy could have easily driven the Robertsons from the church. But instead of breaking with evangelicalism - as many parents in similar circumstances have done - the couple is taking a different approach, and they're inspiring other Christians with gay children to do the same. They are staying in the church and, in protesting what they see as the demonization of their sons and daughters, presenting a new challenge to Christian leaders trying to hold off growing acceptance of same-sex relationships.
"Parents don't have anyone on their journey to reconcile their faith and their love for their child," said Linda Robertson, who with Rob attends a nondenominational evangelical church. "They either reject their child and hold onto their faith, or they reject their faith and hold onto their child. Rob and I think you can do both: be fully affirming of your faith and fully hold onto your child."
But it is perfectly possible for a parent to love a child without loving his sin. In fact, every parent knows exactly what this is like since no child is perfect. Being a good and loving parent requires the use of appropriate discipline to correct wayward behavior. It would be grossly irresponsible of a parent to allow self-destructive behavior in a child to go unchallenged. It is a shallow understanding of love that says love requires acceptance and approval of dangerous and harmful behavior.
If we need an example of this kind of parental love, we need look no further than God himself. We are told that God loved us in spite of our sin, loved us when were sinners, loved us when we were ungodly and loved us even when we hated him (Romans 5:6-10). But he did not embrace or approve of our sin, our ungodliness or our hostility toward him. He loved us in spite of those things. It was his love that drove him to provide a solution for our sin and to urge us to repent of those sins and find forgiveness and new life by choosing a better way. Love drove him to confront our sin, not surrender to it.
He never once lowered his standard of human behavior. Nor did he ever diminish the strength and intensity of his love toward us. He loved sinful creatures enough to offer the life of his own Son that we might find life in him both now and in eternity.
Surely there is a template here that parents can imitate with wayward children who have deviated into homosexual behavior. No parent should ever approve of such behavior, since we know from Scripture and scientific research that homosexual behavior has lethal consequences for both this life and the life to come. Nor should any parent should ever stop loving such a child, praying for that child, and grieving over that child.
And no parent should ever give up believing that change is possible. Speaking of homosexual sinners (along with adulterers, substance abusers, and swindlers), Scripture says “Such WERE some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Here is the essential truth in all of this: If a heavenly Father can love sinful children without embracing their sin, earthly fathers can - and should - do the same.