10 misconceptions of bad Christian love

"God Loves" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“God Loves” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. I celebrated it by releasing my newest book, The Art of Coming Out: Cartoons for the LGBTQ Community. Order your copy today!

I have gay friends upon whom this harmful Christian saying has been used. The intention is to get them in then change them from being gay to being straight, like God wants them.

But this has been used on me too. And probably you. I think it stinks.

Let’s look at this very popular Christian proverb, dissect it and deconstruct it:

“God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.”

Would you say this to your wife, husband, partner, lover?

“Honey, I love you just the way you are, but I love you too much to leave you that way.”

I hope not. Why? Well, let’s look at that. Let’s pretend I said this to my wife, Lisa. What would she be hearing?

  1. I say things too good to be true, like I love you just the way you are.
  2. My love comes with conditions.
  3. I’m a liar because the second part negates the first.
  4. There’s something wrong with her.
  5. She needs to change.
  6. I’m a better person.
  7. I have a superior attitude.
  8. I can and will change her.
  9. There’s the suggestion of more love if she changes into what I want.
  10. There’s a subtle threat I will withhold my love if she doesn’t change.

In a church culture where we are taught that we are sinners, broken, unworthy, bad, and needy; where we are taught that we need to change and be changed; where we are taught that we are helpless and need some kind of divine intervention to help us and change us; then this saying makes sense.

Whoever coined this phrase just crystalized a common misconception about love. It’s not just a Christian problem. It’s a problem with understanding what love is.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I like this better.

I invite you to join our online community where we try to practice love.


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10 Responses

  1. Amazingly, I’ve heard married men say variations of that line.
    “I love you the way you are but it couldn’t hurt to lose an inch here and there”
    In the same way weight-loss commercials bank on this fear of rejection and imperfection, so too do religious people using this line on those in the marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex community (or MOGAI) who may be in the closet or came out to people they trusted only to be slammed (figuratively or literally) for not being heterosexual or cisgender.

  2. Courtney says:

    Okay then — how do you feel about the parenting line, “I love you too much to let you act like that”? (As a parenting line. As something a parent would say to a kid who’s behaving poorly.)

  3. I wonder if we have to bring love into it, as in connecting our love with how they’re BEHAVING.

    But it’s another thing to connect our love with how they ARE.

  4. It is one thing to try to correct someone who may be behaving inappropriately forward a situation. It is another to correct a QUALITY

  5. Toward, no forward. Phone is a ditz

  6. Michael lanier says:

    This in nearly an exact quote from cs lewis the problem of pain. It is right near the end of chapter 3. That is probably why it is so pervasive.

  7. mike says:

    While I agree in principle with the jest of the cartoon, I think there is something to be said for seeking/receiving the Grace of God to overcome the many behavioral pitfalls that hold many of us in miserable bondage to ourselves.

    My name is mike and I’m a recovering Alcoholic/drug addict.

  8. Mike, I am unsure as to what you mean by behavioral pitfalls? If you’re talking about things like addiction that cause harm to the body, then that’s your definition and I’m not going to argue because it’s a personal definition. However, if you mean things like being a homosexual who wants to raise children with their partner, then I have to ask if that’s truly a pitfall.

  9. mike says:

    Sorry for the confusion, Cecilia. I was merely making reference to the whole host of behaviors/characteristics and even idiosyncrasies that cause ourselves and others pain and suffering and hold us back from our reaching our full human potential.

  10. Mark A says:

    Yes. Behaviors vs. qualities. Actions vs. “the way we are wired.” I’d been thinking about how this would apply to parenting our children, and you guys have hit it. Love is about accepting who they are, the way they’re wired, and sometimes having to try to correct inappropriate actions.