In Talk about the Elephant we discussed ways to engage our LGBT loved ones in a conversation about faith and sexuality. In doing so it is crucial to extend grace, time and space to our friends and family to wrestle with the issue. We also need to be open and available to answer questions that will come up. Ask God for the fruit of patience and stay committed to your relationship to them. Truth and grace have their greatest impact when they are lived out in acts of service, demonstrating that you value an ongoing connection with your friends and family.
As we move forward, it is important to understand that our gay-identified friends and family who are 35 years and younger have a postmodern worldview. In Linda Seiler’s presentation “How to Reach LGBT Friends in a Post Christian Culture” (click here to view the presentation), she defines postmodernism as “Dethroning God as the author of truth, morality, and human dignity. It places self on the throne. Humans are the ultimate authority and are the only ones who hold the answer to the human condition.” She goes on to identify four distinctions of postmodern people.
- They despise authority and live with the mindset that “I rule my own life.”
- They reject any form of absolute truth; truth is relative. If it feels good, do it.
- The human experience trumps reason and is subjective over objective.
- They are driven by social justice, standing with and advocating for all oppressed people.
For more information on postmodernism read Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth. As fully devoted followers of Christ we are placed at odds with our LGBT loved ones because of our beliefs:
- We believe that God is the highest authority and His authority is good.
- We embrace the Bible as absolute truth and the final authority for humanity.
- We have resolved that through the Bible, God elevates the human condition and informs and directs us how to live.
One of the major criticisms of postmoderns is that the Universal Church is disengaged from social justice issues and therefore is cold and indifferent to oppressed people. They view LGBT people as an oppressed people group.
Seiler so eloquently helps us to see the invisible dividing line between Christians and post moderns:
- All Christians are viewed as bigoted and hateful. Since the advent of social media, all Christians are strongly linked with Westboro Baptist (you can visit their website here.) I can attest to this mentality personally.
- Truth and love are pitted against each other and are mutually exclusive.
- All ideals must be equal, and if I disagree with you then I hate you.
Is it any wonder that we feel so separated and at loss when it comes talking about our faith in a post modern world? We must acknowledge this is a spiritual battle we engage in when we seek to begin conversations about faith and sexuality. Read Ephesians 6:12 and
2 Corinthians 10:4-6. The latter passage in The Message version exhorts us to “use our powerful God tools” to break down the mental, emotional and cultural strongholds in people’s lives so that they can connect to a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
Our power tools are prayer, the Holy Spirit, and God’s Truth. As we interact with LGBT people and other postmoderns, we must exercise wisdom and be intentional in our approach. Here are some additional tools to place in your toolbox.
- Keep the dialogue open and ongoing. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom, discernment and knowledge to know what is most important to focus on. Allow the Holy Spirit to direct the discussion and help you stay on track with Him. Ask lots of questions and listen intently.
- Investing in relationship is the most valued emotional real estate for postmoderns. Spend time with them aside from this topic. Affirm them as persons aside from their sexual or gender identity. Sometimes small things like a kind hug or high five can go a long way. Meals together or other activities they enjoy show you want to invest in them.
- In your mind, distinguish the sin pattern/behavior from the person. Ask God to show you how He sees and values the person you are building relationship with.
- People who embrace a sexual or gender identity didn’t wake up one day and choose to be that way. For many, their perceptions have been skewed from early childhood forward by the enemy of their souls. That enemy is the master deceiver who desires to rob them of their true identity, keeping them from eternal life and destroying any knowledge they have of God.
- Be intentional about how you phrase things: LGBT people in general are highly offended by the terms “gay lifestyle” and “homosexual.” Using them in the presence of those you care about will shut them down in a heartbeat. I recommend using terms like “same sex attractions,” “gay-identified,” “LGBT people” or “the LGBT community,” and “those who embrace their sexual or gender identity.” It’s about building a relational bridge.
- Avoid jokes about or impersonations of members of the LGBT community, especially in public settings and via social media. You never know who listening, watching or following you. It’s hurtful—even after seven plus years as a Christian I find this type of behavior offensive. While I have learned to extend grace to others, it can put distance between us and those who embrace their sexual and gender identity.
- People who embrace their “authentic selves” are seeking to belong . . . to be accepted . . . to be understood. The LGBT community does this well. We live in a world where the Tribe mentality rules. The church needs to bridge the gap in this area. What better Tribe to belong to than the family of God?
Above all, we must connect our loved ones to Jesus. “Practicing homosexuality won’t send you to hell, just as heterosexuality won’t send you to heaven. The issue is that Jesus is not on the throne of a person’s heart” (Tim Keller). We must offer the hope within us and hold fast to the truth and our convictions. Be present and engaged in our co-workers, friends and families lives. Have faith that God is at work in their lives and entrust them to God’s capable hands in the process. Above all else, love well.
Thanks for joining me on my journey,