As we move forward in the “Love is a Verb” series I hope you found the questions I asked in Assess helpful. In my own experience, I have engaged in discussions about faith and sexuality with gay-identified people and gay Christians and often find myself in the midst of a heated conversation. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Sadly, these types of interactions are not uncommon among Christians and their gay-identified friends and family members. This type of discourse separates us from our loved ones. So how do we build a bridge rather than a wall? This post will focus on communicating and building relationships with young adults and adults on the subject of faith and sexuality.
Chances are your family member or friend has wrestled long and hard with the decision to reveal their sexual or gender identity to you. They have braced for judgment and rejection. That’s why it’s all the more important that you let them know they are valued and loved as much as ever. Once the dust has settled, be willing to have an open, honest and ongoing conversation about the elephant in the room.
- Ask how they came to their conclusion.
- If they are a believer, ask them what role God and His word played in their decision.
- Have they acted out their feelings of same-sex attraction, or are they just thoughts they have?
- Are they in a relationship?
- If so, is the relationship sexual or platonic?
Make this a fact-finding mission to better understand where they are coming from. Their answers may surprise you, make you feel uncomfortable or even make you angry; ask them anyway. Remember that this is your loved one’s or friend’s journey. Don’t take it personally or assign blame to one another. This is a reflection of your friend or family member’s perception, brokenness and propensity towards a sin pattern and choices, not yours. If the discussion becomes overly emotional, heated or becomes circular, be willing to table it and step away. That’s grace in action. Close it off by saying something like this: ____, we are in this together and I want to find a way to make this work; let’s come back to this topic in few days when we have each had time to think about the issue. It’s especially important that whatever statements you make be couched in love. The important message remains: I love you, value you and accept you — that will never change.
When it comes to the subject of faith, wait for your family member or friend to open the door for a discussion on faith and sexuality. Your friend or family member already knows your values and convictions. Do not disengage or reject the person who has “come out” to you. Christians have difficult decisions to make in relating with their gay-identified family members and friends because we are called to do two things: 1) love people and 2) stand for what the Bible says. What do we do about people who don’t live the way God wants us to? In a way, it’s simple: Show them the same love and respect that Christ would show them. Jesus never condones sin, and He never condemns sinners. All people have sin in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they have less worth to God. So no matter what sin people are involved in, they’re still worthy of God’s love. I would recommend treating your gay and lesbian family and friends the same way you would treat single heterosexual friends who are sexually active. You can show love to someone without approving of what they do.
There will most likely need to be hard discussions and decisions about how to be loving and still uphold your beliefs and values. For instance, will this person and/or their same-sex partner be allowed to come into your home for the holidays, other special occasions, or come over for dinner? If so, will they be willing to sleep in separate rooms? Will you or your family establish boundaries about public displays of affection and appropriate discussions about sexuality and gender with younger family members? Part of having well-developed convictions is knowing when to let them sit and when to take a stand.
Boundaries are God’s guardrails that keep us from crashing off the sides of mountains. They help us to maintain healthier relationships. May I make one last suggestion for your consideration? If your gay-identified loved one or friend is in a serious relationship, don’t exclude their partner from your relationship. That person foremost is another person made in the image of God and needs to hear and see the gospel lived out before them. Secondly, they hold tremendous emotional sway over the person you care about and will influence their decisions significantly.
In closing, I know these are muddy, difficult waters to navigate with your friends and family. May I encourage you that if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are not in this alone. He has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead you through life. That same Holy Spirit also has the capacity to convict your loved one of their life choices and convince them to surrender their lives to Jesus (John 16:8). I am a testament to that very fact; at the age of 49 I surrendered my life to Jesus and began the journey to resolve my faith and sexuality. My main prayer became, “Holy Spirit, lead and guide me into all truth.” At 56 I have resolved my faith and sexuality and know God has been the one to faithfully lead me to this point.
Join me in prayer: Lord, today I ask for those reading this post who have friends and family wrestling with their sexual or gender identity, that You will be faithful to lead them as they seek to build their relationship with them. Show them when to stand firm on the side of truth and when to extend grace, compassion and understanding. May we as Your followers reflect You in such a way to our gay-identified loved ones and friends that they want to follow You.
Thanks for following my journey