A Review of “Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor” by Glenn Stanton

LGBT NeighborThe church’s history with the LGBT community really makes this book necessary. Christians, in their conviction for and commitment to a Biblical sexual ethic, have not always responded with kindness, grace, and love towards their gay and lesbian neighbors. We have often been fearful and hateful towards them, but Glenn Stanton wants more for the church. He wants more for the church because he believes, that while our ethic is right, our attitude is sinful. This book is necessary reading for the church in today’s culture.

At the heart of Stanton’s book is the basic concept of friendship. To love our LGBT neighbors means many things, but it is most easily explored with in the context of being a good friend. Not a friend with an agenda, not a friend under certain circumstances, but a decent loving, committed, friend. Stanton writes:

This book is about making and being friends with people who are different from we are. (15)

And “genuine friendship,” writes Stanton, “is an end in itself” (18). The subtitle captures this point well: Being friends in grace and truth. The concepts of grace and truth govern the kind of relationship building that Stanton proposes in this monograph. Stanton is committed to the teachings of Scripture on sex, sexuality, and homosexuality. “As a starting place, faithful Christians must always ask first and foremost what God commands and demands of us,” (24).  We have no right to change the sexual ethic of the Bible. Yet, God does demand that we “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Stanton recognizes the tension that faithful followers of Christ might feel. He is sensitive to their commitment to truth, yet he does a tremendous job of emphasizing the importance of grace in loving others. So, Stanton concludes his introduction, saying:

This is a book about how to live, as much as possible, lovingly and honestly in the essential balance of grace and truth with those who identify themselves with the LGBT community and movement. (31)

Stanton does a better job than most at helping readers grasp this balance.

Stanton proves very successful at his goal in part because he is willing to listen to those who differ from him. He helps readers understand the concerns, the desires, the labels, and the perspectives of those in the LGBT community. He allows them to speak for themselves. The author has grown quite adept at this skill because he has, for years, spent time with them. He speaks and writes about the LGBT community as one who loves many gay men and women. He writes as a strong conservative Christian with many gay and lesbian friends, and as such he is fit to help us think through the practical implications of these relationships.

In view of the grace and truth balance, Stanton helps us to understand all the important issues surrounding this subject. He introduces readers to the concepts of homosexuality, sexual identity, and the labels LGBT. He walks us through a theology of sexuality, and several “nonnegotiables for Evangelicals (73). He explores and exposes the false dichotomies that culture has set up, and which the church has often adopted, like: bigot or pervert, friend or enemy, biology or choice, and more. These sorts of foundational issues set the stage for the Q&A sections of the book.

Chapters 5,6, and 7 pose a series of specific questions to which Stanton offers practical answers. These are the sorts of common questions many within the church have, questions like: should I attend a gay wedding? How should I love my gay child? Should gays and lesbians be allowed to serve in the church? Should we oppose “Gay Rights” issues? and many more. The book excels at answering these questions in highly practical ways because Stanton has laid a solid foundation in the first four chapters, and given us some good models to look to for guidance. His theology sets up his methodology well.

In many ways the book’s argument is a sort of obvious one: be a good friend to gay men and women. The sad truth is that it actually isn’t all that obvious to Christians. Stanton’s six fundamental truths about human dignity, universal depravity, and gospel neediness seem to be forgotten by believers when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. We need to do better. Glenn Stanton offers us much in the way of a hopeful restart. As acceptance of homosexuality increases across the American landscape, Christians are likely already coming into increasing contact with their gay and lesbian neighbors. It is of paramount importance that we learn to navigate these relationships with both grace and truth. We need to learn to be good friends with those who are different from us. Stanton helps us learn how to do that better than anyone I have ever read. I highly recommend Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor.

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