Never ‘Bait & Switch’ The Purpose of Getting Together
A “bait and switch” is defined as:
1. a sales tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one
2. the ploy of offering a person something desirable to gain favor then thwarting expectations with something less desirable (Merriam-Webster)
In the advertising world, a bait and switch is done intentionally, but in the church world, I think it’s done unknowingly. However, doing something unintentionally will likely produce the same consequences – distrust and a feeling of being duped. Most Christians I know wouldn’t intentionally be deceptive, but in relationships with LGBT people, many resort to a “bait & switch” method because they’re not sure how the truth will be received.
What does this actually look like?
- “Let’s go out to lunch! I’d love to get to know you”….and then during lunch I tell them what the Bible says about homosexuality, rather than actually getting to know them.
- “Hey, you should come to my church, we love gay people and so does God!” ….. and then when the LGBT person feels like part of the community, we tell them that in order to remain part of this community, repentance in their sexuality on our timetable is a must.
Repentance is important, but it’s not a qualifier for whether I love you & include you in my life. If so, I’ve just given you something attractive (relationship & community) and then later put a higher price tag in order to keep it. Bait & Switch. I’ve heard many gay people tell the story of the Christian that pursued them (supposedly) for friendship, but when an amount of time passed and the person didn’t change their mind about homosexuality, the friendship gradually ended. Was the interest in their life based only on their eventual repentance?
It makes me wonder how many people, straight and gay alike, the Christian community has approached like this. We are told by our Lord that we are commissioned to go and win souls, to preach and proclaim the kingdom of God, to show people that following Jesus is the way to true life. But it’s received by us as a mandate, an obligation, and something a “real” Christian would do. It’s seen as another task on the religious list of “thou shalts”. So when someone isn’t “getting it”, we feel we are failing and therefore need to move on to another so that we can be “successful”. I think this exposes that we have missed the heart of God towards others (and likely towards ourselves as well).
Jesus didn’t spend time with people to “get them saved”. He spent time with people to show the heart of the Father towards them. He was the image of the invisible God and told people that if you’ve seen him, you’ve also seen the Father. What people did with his mercy, kindness, and compassion towards them was entirely on them. Christ wasn’t concerned with the number of followers, he was concerned with doing the Father’s will, which ultimately was to accurately relay the Father’s heart of loving kindness towards those that doubted it. His accurate reflection of God was his success (rather than people’s response to his reflection).
This frees me up in so many ways. It takes the pressure off of me to get someone to feel conviction, turn from sin, or change behavior. It also frees me up to not have to sell Jesus to anyone. So it’s important to check our motives before we pursue relationship. If my neighbor never wants anything to do with Jesus, would I still see the point in loving a fellow fallen image bearer and see the value of loving others simply for the reward of knowing I loved another person? A good question I ask myself is, “If this person were to never change their mind or behavior, or were to never accept Jesus – would I still pursue them?” It forces me to surrender my goals and my will for their lives, to step out of the seat of God, and instead be used as a conduit for love and accurate reflection of Jesus.
A gay friend of mine once said, “I just need to know – if I never see things your way regarding my sexuality, will you still be here?” It was pointed and deliberate. I checked my heart & thoughtfully considered his statement. “Yes”, I said, “how you identify, who you date, or who you have sex with will never change the fact that I enjoy our friendship and genuinely appreciate you as a person. I love you and I'm here to stay”. It reminded me that God doesn’t want to spend time with us with the intent to just change us, but to delight in us (and it’s His delight that makes me feel so valued that I want to follow & obey).
So how are you in relationship with others? Do you pursue people with the goal of changing them or with the goal of simply loving, delighting in, and enjoying them? What I think we’ll find is that those we have sought to change, God will use to change us as well. So in my pursuit to love others as Christ loved me, I find that I need no other reward; having a heart that is alive and full of good towards others is the reward in itself.
This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people. Find the condensed list HERE. These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues. These blogs have been expounded upon with permission.
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available HERE.