The Grace and Lace Letter
1998: Christmas Remembered
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
But rejoices in the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Theres love, and then there is love.
Our English language sometimes lacks the precision of other languages such as Greek. One simple English word may translate in a rich variety of ways, depending on the context.
Dont you love strawberry ice cream?
Make love, not war.
I love my brother and sister.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
When Paul wrote his marvelous passage in 1 Corinthians, he was not using the word eros, which was used to describe romantic, often sexual, feelings. Nor was he using phileos, the love among friends.
Paul was using the word agape, and in his essay he describes beautifully the characteristics of agape-type love. The verse we first teach our children, "God is love," (1 John 4:8) uses agape. This love God has for us is unconditional. We did nothing to deserve it, and we cannot force God to stop it. He loves us without question, and He loves us whether or not we measure up to his expectations.
God does not say:
I love you only if you keep every letter of my law. If you fail to keep even one part of it, I will no longer love you.
Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son in Luke, chapter 15, to illustrate Gods love for persons even though they make bad life choices.
Neither does God say:
You are to hate people who dont behave exactly as you think I want them to behave.
Instead, Jesus said:
I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Matthew 5: 44-46
And God does not say:
I love everyone, but thats too hard for you to do. Dont worry about it. Just leave the difficult part to me.
Jesus said it this way:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13: 34
We are to love others just as Jesus loved us, with an agape love so much that he gave his life for us. This unconditional love is to be our most distinguishing characteristic.
Knowing that God wants us to love everyone, how do we transgendered Christians respond? How do we react to the "love" of some persons who claim to be acting in the name of Christ? It is especially devastating when those persons are our own families or our dearest friends.
"I love you IF," is their text.
IF you agree with us that what you are doing is a disgusting perversion, and IF you promise never to do it again, then perhaps we can forgive you. IF you turn away from this "lifestyle choice" and obey our expectations, we will include you in our lives.
But IF you persist in this ridiculous notion that you should be a woman rather than a man, then dont bother coming home for Christmas, or when your father becomes ill, or when your child is married.
These conditions are placed by persons who believe they speak the will of God. Such conditional relationships do not seem to be consistent with the agape love of Jesus.
Before we congratulate ourselves on our superior understanding of Gods will, however, lets consider our own conditional love:
I love you IF you accept without question everything I have come to believe about my gender conflict. We dont need to seek counseling together. Just take my word for it, since Ive already thought it out myself.
I love you IF you are willing to change your own "lifestyle," moving from straight woman to lesbian to match my change from man to woman. I love you IF you are willing to endure with me the criticism, the loss of friendships, the possible economic disaster of transition.
What expectations we have for our loved ones! Sometimes we have kept from them our years of struggle and agony. Once we finally experience understanding and relief, we surprise them with our news and expect them to accept overnight that which has taken us a lifetime to understand. What fear they must experience on learning of our plans!
Our spouses didnt marry us with these expectations, and they truly may not be able to deal with it. Can we continue to love them with agape unconditional love even when they cannot accept or love the person we are becoming?
Can we love those persons who believe they are acting in Gods will by refusing to have further communication with us? Many of us can tell of lifelong friends who no longer answer our letters or return our phone calls. One of my dearest friends has been rejected by her parents. They return to her the Christmas presents she has carefully chosen for them, unopened, with no comment. How can she still feel agape love for them when they have not followed Christs command to love her?
I submit to you that we cannot have this love in our lives by our own will power. Such love is possible only as we give God control of our lives.
We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19
The King James Bible translates this verse "We love Him," but the word "Him" is not in the original text. The meaning is that love itself, agape, comes only from God. It becomes a part of our lives as we allow His Holy Spirit to live within us and empower us. When our hearts are full of this love, it will flow from us into our world. We will be able to love others who do not love us. We will - wonder of wonders - even be able to love ourselves again, with no more "IF" to make us feel unlovable and unloved.