Rosaria Butterfield despised Christians. In her opinion, they were shallow people who quoted a Bible verse, but had no depth of understanding of what it actually meant. Butterfield was a lesbian and member of the gay activist movement in the early 90’s. Her life was turned upside down when she was befriended by a pastor and his wife. She eventually became a believer after studying the Bible. Author of the book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Butterfield sat down with Risen four years ago and talked about how you can love others who might hold different beliefs.
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
Butterfield shares her view on how to love others that you might not agree with, without condoning their lifestyle and compromising scripture.
“Hospitality is the ground zero of evangelism. We are not going to evangelize our neighbors with a Bible verse or a bumper sticker telling them where we are going to church; that is just not going to happen. And we are really not going to be helpful witness if the best we can do is put political placards out in the front of the letting people know where we stand. This is a heart business, and what Pastor Ken Smith [pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church] did for me, is just become my friend. I had dinner at his house, and he and his wife had dinner at my house, he met my community, I met his community, we did book exchanges, we talked about sexuality and politics freely. It was really helpful and we were neighbors, and the gay and lesbian community is a community given to hospitality as well, so not only was he helpful to me, but he allowed me to be helpful to them. When he and his wife were sick he allowed me to bring over a pot of soup and a loaf of bread…What would happen if we prayed for every person in every house that lives in our block? Not just by name, but if we knew something that they struggled with and we were able to perhaps intervene in some of those struggles. Nobody is going to argue against mercy work.”
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:8-9
Butterfield explains her response to someone who says they are gay and also a believer.
“That’s when you have to back up and say, ‘first of all thank you for your courage…but let us talk about what it means to be a Christian.’ And then someone will usually say, ‘Well a Christian is what it means to believe in Jesus.’ Well, no, because even the demons believe in Jesus. A Christian is someone for whom salvation was initiated by a holy God, called and set apart before the foundations of the world. The Holy Spirit then works in the heart of that person changing that heart of stone and giving that person a heart of flesh. Then quickly you are justified in the eyes of god, but slowly over time you are then sanctified, and this sanctification is church business. I mean it’s God business, but it’s not just me and Jesus out here it’s church business, hand-on-hand, heart-on-heart, Bible verse-on-experience and experience-on-Bible verse. That is what being a Christian is. For me, I know it may sound strange, but the doctrine of original sin is very powerful and very loving matters of contact with a person’s heart. Because if I am talking to someone that is in a gay or lesbian relationship – and you know what, that’s not the only sin g out there – if I’m talking with any unbelieving neighbor, trapped in any life that is dishonoring to God, it’s a wonderful opportunity to say, but what if before God made the starts, he had a plan for you? Eternity isn’t what just happens in Heaven, it’s how we imagine our world, our lives right now…”
Love your neighbor. Take time this week to get to know your neighbors. Too often, we get caught in the business of life. We rush out the door to work, run in the house to get dinner started, and barely wave at the neighbors as we check the mail. Instead, this week try to have a meaningful conversation with one neighbor. Ask them where they grew up, how long they have lived in the neighborhood, and what they miss most about where they grew up. Then commit to praying for that neighbor throughout the week. It can be as you check the mail, walk the dog, or take your kids to the park. Ask God to show you ways that you can demonstrate your love to that neighbor.
Love in spite of differences. It is so easy to go through a checklist of how others are different than you. Whether it is their beliefs, how they dress, their actions, or their lifestyle, human nature leads us to use those differences to make one group think they are better than another. Instead of looking for difference, look for common ground. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you unique ways that you are similar to another person. Pray for guidance to have a conversation to get to know them.
Reach out to the unlikely. Just like someone reached out to Butterfield, God has placed people in each of our lives to reach out to. It can be something as simple as grabbing coffee with them, bringing a meal to them, or offering help in time of need. Ask God to show you how you can reach out and share His love with them.
To read our entire interview with Rosaria Butterfield click here.