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Why I Believe Love is Love

It’s who you are that counts. Your worship to God is the way you live. A few years ago, I would have ignored, shunned, and been disgusted by the scene that unfolded that night at the gas pump. The journey toward authentic faith became real for me in that moment.
The most effective way to destroy prejudice is by sharing tangible love, one opportunity or person at a time. If my Sunday morning song service doesn’t match my response to a gay guy at the gas pump, I’m in trouble.

I finished my radio show and was moved by the interview. The in-studio guests for the night were a former “Meth Momma” and her two teenage sons. Her youngest boy recalled the day his Mom was arrested, and remembered the cops finding two meth labs in the trunk of the car. He was nine at the time. She had now had been clean for more than a year. During that time, she found hope, grace, and a second chance. Her sons did, too.

As I drove away from the studio, I remember feeling uplifted. I’d just shared an example of putting radical grace in action. At the time, I was actively involved in a campaign by People of the Second Chance. In that show, we had tangibly overthrown judgment in the life of this family. I was feeling good. Good about helping others, and good about myself as a Christian.

I pulled into the gas station across the street. I got out, slid my debit card, and was filling up the tank when a black two-door car pulled up beside me. Their punk rock music was blaring and after a couple of minutes, I overheard the girlfriend say to her fella, “Are you serious? Declined again? We’ve got to get home!” I immediately felt bad for the couple. I eavesdropped a bit and could tell they weren’t people who hang out around the pumps, begging for enough cash to get their next “fix”.

The guy walked around to my side of the gas pump and asked if I could give them enough money to get home. Cigarette smoke mixed with the smell of gasoline.


I was wrong.

The man in front of me was obviously gay.

And it wasn’t his girlfriend. Well, it was. But she was a he, complete with long blonde hair and an Adam’s apple. This was several years before Caitlyn Jenner. Also, we were in Birmingham, Alabama, a place where even the most “out” couples are excessively discreet. The couple would have blended into Los Angeles or Las Vegas. They couldn’t possibly be from the buckle of the Bible Belt.

Well, this sure changes the story!

Or does it?

Why should it?

Why should I be any less Christian or give any less grace or help to this gay guy and his partner? Does grace only extended to straight people? Does Christian charity and unconditional love actually have caveats? Should it? Are there places where Jesus says, “Tell you what, that whole thing about a cup of cold water in My name? It doesn’t apply here.”

Does love have strings attached?

My thoughts swirled as I considered what to do. I am convinced love is always right and hate is always wrong. So, am I going to be the same radio guy who hosts meth addicts and preaches radical grace when I’m at the gas pump and no one is looking?

I already knew there is only one right answer. My straight white evangelical upbringing was screaming at me from one shoulder, and the messy grace of Jesus was on the other. Being raised as a straight, white, evangelical, I always heard that “God is love,” but in the next sentence, He would somehow “spew” homosexuals “out of His mouth”.

In my situation, Love won. I pumped a few gallons for the couple. They thanked me profusely. As I shook the guy’s hand, I was nearly knocked over by the stench of alcohol. We chatted for a minute. I followed my gut and told him the point of life is that God loves all of us. He grinned and said, “Hey, what’s John 4:24 say?” What a random question. I had no idea.

I looked it up as soon as I got back in the car:

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.” (John 4:23-24)

It’s who you are that counts. Your worship to God is the way you live. A few years ago, my own church mess would have lead me to ignore and shun this couple. I would have been disgusted by the scene that unfolded that night at the gas pump. The journey toward authentic faith became real for me in that moment.

The most effective way to destroy prejudice is by sharing tangible love, one opportunity or person at a time. If my Sunday morning song service doesn’t match my response to a gay guy at the gas pump, I’m missing the point.

Love doesn’t have caveats. Grace is for everyone, no strings attached. I thank God I can’t get away with saying, “I’m a Christian … unless you’re gay and overdrawn”.

As we departed, the guy gave a big smile and said, “Hey! Cool t-shirt!”

I had forgotten all about what I was wearing. REAL MEN WORSHIP GOD was plastered across my chest.

Listen to the story here:

By Steve Austin

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Amazing. Truly a work of God. I love it. How we worship and treat our fellow believers is how we should treat EVERY person. Thanks for sharing Steve!

  • The main reason some Christians still have problems with homosexuality and gay people is because they don’t do responsible biblical exegesis to the biblical passages that they have been taught speak against homosexuality. Instead of “drawing out” from the biblical texts what they originally meant to the author and to the original intended audience, they instead do what some theologians refer to as “frontloading”, i.e., they read their own personal, political and/or ideological beliefs back into the Bible. This process of reading one’s own ideas into interpretation of the Bible is called “eisegesis”. Exegesis and eisegesis are completely conflicting approaches to interpreting the Bible. The former is about reading out from the Bible what the original writers were saying. The latter is about reading one’s own ideas and prejudices back into the Bible.
    As Dr. Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, where I graduated, candidly stated on his blog: “For people like myself, now in middle age, dislike of homosexuality came with the territory; our reasons for opposing it were more to do with our own cultural backgrounds than with any biblical argumentation.”

    It rarely occurs to any of us that our reading of Scripture is profoundly colored by our own cultural context and worldview.

    -Alex Haiken

    • Alex! Thank you for dropping by and “schooling” us! 🙂
      I completely agree that so many of our deeply rooted values, prejudices, and beliefs are far more cultural than Biblical.

      Thanks again for visiting!


  • While I understand the sentiments of your blog I think it misses the point. There is a difference in recognizing that grace has no bounds and believing that God blesses homosexual acts and relationships as normal and good.

    • Hi there. I don’t think the blog misses my point at all. My point was only that grace knows no bounds. But if you re-read the blog and see that I have said that God blesses homosexual unions, please point it out to me.
      Thanks for stopping by!


      • It sounded to be implicit in your blog with statements such as “it’s who you are that counts.” This includes people who choose to act on their homosexual desires. People who consider themselves homosexual Christians have as much internal reflection of their choices to act as do Christians and their reaction to how they treat homosexuals.

      • You misunderstood my point completely.

        The point I was making about “It’s who you are that counts” was in reference to worship. My shirt says REAL MEN WORSHIP GOD and I was expounding on worship. My point was that if your actions or “lip service” on Sunday don’t match the way you treat your neighbor at the gas pump on Thursday night (no matter what their lifestyle may be), then you are a living contradiction.

  • No matter the sin, real or perceived ( we were making a BIG assumption based on appearance that the guy at the gas pump was gay, and a bigger assumption based on circumstance that the guy in the car was his partner in drag) we have a responsibility that is between OURSELVES and God… We cannot change another. We can only control our own actions. We are not to judge. We are to love. Loving DOES NOT condone or promote sin. Steve took a step forward, left his prejudices and judgement behind, and did a kind deed.
    Imagine the conversation in the car as those two left the station- “Crap! I can’t believe I lost the friggin’ bet then had to get out of the car dressed like a stupid girl! You know that guy thinks we are a couple!”.

    Or maybe ” That was the first time a person who claims to be a Christian was actually decent to me. ”

    I am glad I am not required to clean up all of my sin before I am loved.

    • I am so glad Jesus loved me first. In the middle of my mess, in spite of my sin. It is so easy for us to put a hierarchy on sins, but they are all the same in His eyes and He loves us anyways.

    • I agree. Maybe like you said they were really a couple. I counsel many with these issues and I can only say 99% have experienced huge and I say huge trauma in their lives. Christ can melt a heart of stone caused by such trauma by using us to love on people in His way or we can add to the stony heart existence by not showing His grace, love and mercy.

  • Excellent point made! Many Christians do turn up their noses at certain types of people. We forget that Christ died for all sinners – not just the gossips, the people who tell “white lies”, or the gluttons, but also for the homosexuals, the drug addicts, the rapists, and killers. Kudos for stepping past your first inclination and acting with kindness.

  • Thank you.
    For making a thoughtful response to the situation.

    For sharing authentic testimony outside your comfort zone.

    For demonstrating the kind of faith and kindness which is necessary to change the world.

    And for relating the story to us so it will be easier to recognize the everyday opportunities as they arise. Being prepared sometimes helps us meet and defeat Satan where he is instead of waiting for him to get all the way to the church doors.

    And imagine, you accomplished all this work by being “simply and honestly yourself before Him in worship.” The kindness we offer each day is as much (or more) worship as that in which we engage on Sunday mornings.

    Thank you, Steve.
    Proud to be POTSC with you!!!

      • I needed to read this…I am getting pretty beat up on a FB post and I almost just ‘let it go’ for now claiming weariness. I remembered this post and couldn’t.
        I am getting pummeled with scripture and I have MUCH to learn on that front…thanks to other commenters, as well, for information about where to look.

        I am out of my comfort zone. I came back here for some bolstering. Thanks!

      • Thanks for coming back!
        And weariness? You’re in luck! Jesus invites those who are weary to come in for some rest! Let Him take on your burdens and you can swap it for His lightness and rest.

        It’s ALL good!

  • We also forget that there are many gay people who have a high view of Scripture and who are prayerfully committed to ordering their lives in accordance with it. I can personally attest to the fact that many pray, study their Bibles and generally grow in godliness in a way that any minister would be proud to observe in his flock.
    Whether it be on questions of doctrine, science or ethics, the Church’s positions have sometimes have had to be drastically revised. Over the years Christians have found biblical “proof” that the world is only 6,000 years old, that slavery is God-ordained, that women and blacks should not be allowed to vote, that interracial marriage is wrong, that women should neither teach, preach or wear lipstick, and the list goes on and on. The Bible is vast, complex, and multi-layered. To apply it reliably we have to use our noodles and we have to do our homework.

    Are they any among us who are that confident of the infallibility of their hermeneutic skills that they can say with such assuredness that homosexuality is not just the latest matter of doctrine the Church has had to wrestle with?

    The fourth gospel offers us a speech of Jesus at the last Supper that alerts us to expect that further revelation from God would emerge as we grew ready to apprehend them. Indeed that has been the case on scores of issues.

    -Alex Haiken

  • Thanks for reminding us that God’s love is unconditional. As I read this post, I didn’t even think of it being about gay couples or cross dressers. But I thought of how we as humans each have our personal types of people that we can quickly judge or avoid, whether it be by their relationship status, clothing, religion, race, lifestyle, education, wealth, age, etc., (what if it were two girls in what we think are slutty clothes, or people wearing a turban or veil of some type, or someone with tats or piercings, or someone we think is “too old” to still be driving, or looks like a gang member, … the list goes on and on of how we can judge others.) But God offers HIS grace and love to everybody, through Jesus dying on the cross for ALL of us and ALL our sins. God loves His creation. He doesn’t always like what we do. (Have you ever hated or harbored anger against another Christian? The Bible tells us that we are guilty of murdering them in our hearts. Thank God He forgives me for being a murderer!!)(1 John and in Matthew)
    I think the point is that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, and what greater love is there than someone laying down their life for us!! So as an act of worship to God, maybe we can surrender OUR judgements and love as He does, even when we might not want to.

    Thanks, Steve, for giving so much food for thought!

    “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1John 3:16-18)”

    • Thanks, Barbara, for making this even MORE relevant and expounding! So true–this story could have been ANY people group. And they would STILL be deserving and in need of love and grace.
      Oh, how I love Jesus!

  • I freaking love stuff like this so much.
    Too often, church mechanisms and the stupid “turn or burn”, blah blah blah crap, gets in the way of showing the love and nature of who God is. I wish that people would live by the standards that they seem to shove in other people’s faces. Now, I’m not going to get on a soap box or anything.

    But, thanks for loving people that get deemed “unworthy” by church’s society, Steve. Its really cool to know that there are people out there doing it not perfect, but real.

    Love you, man!

  • Steve, thank you for the links. I look forward to reading them today. But you give me too much credit. I am a faulty follower of Christ like the rest of us — who by God’s grace just happened to learn some things along the way.
    I, like every other Christian, was taught the same things you all were about homosexuality. But like so many others, I had to learn that when the few passages that generally get appealed to in this debate are examined more closely and in context, the standard or traditional interpretations of these passages simply do not hold up to scrutiny. That’s, in large part, what my blog is about,i.e., what I have learned along the way.

    -Alex Haiken

  • Great post Steve! What I love about Mike and the entire POTSC team is they are constantly challenging our boundaries of grace and love. Thanks for your honesty. It’s refreshing.

  • This, and ALL interactions with humanity come down to being an issue of the heart. Any time that we turn away from helping, being a blessing, showing love, or extending grace to another human being we must be able to answer the question ‘why?’.
    There are truly times where “blessing” someone is actually enabling them, so, don’t be dumb… use common sense when dealing with humanity. However, if you turn away from another human that you heart longed to be with, if only for a second, then rather than making an excuse for their color, lifestyle, purpose, etc… check your heart; it’s likely more sinful than “they” are.

    Steve, thanks for being a B.A.!

  • “Why should I be any less a Christian, give any less grace or help to this homosexual guy and his cross dressing partner? ”
    This is such a great question to pose. It is amazing how we are inclined to change our actions based upon the person who would receive it. It is sad how the church is still one step behind on this… worship is turning into an overproduced, emotionally driven, light show… rather than as you said, “your WORSHIP to God is the way you live”.

    • The point of the Gospel is love for every human being.
      Look at Jesus. He gave love to the slut that had been caught in the act. She was pulled into the city center by the church folks and they were preparing to murder her for her sin.

      But Jesus…

      Jesus never healed based on social status, race, or creed.

      Look at the woman at the well. Jesus went TO her.

      Think about the demoniac. Jesus didn’t shy away from him.

      His love never was and never will be based on some earthly hierarchy of sin.

      Why is it that we allow the adulterous husband or wife to come back to church in a week or two, hug and cry with them at the altar, yet we don’t even allow someone we SUSPECT to be homosexual to enter the building?

      Explain THAT to me.

    • Mark, thank you for stopping by! It’s a daily challenge (sometimes moment-by-moment) to put feet to my faith…this is just one of the instances, where God gave me the grace to do it. I’m glad you were touched by the story. I hope you have an awesome day!

  • You know we are all the same. A people in the need of a savior named Jesus Christ. And it is when we are filled with His compassion for people that they can then actually see Him. Because we love them with His love. And what happens,we change and they change by experiencing GRACE. You are an amazing person. God bless you.