Part 1 of 2
“As a Christian, how should I respond to someone’s homosexuality? I suspect someone I know is struggling. I don’t want to ‘out’ him or embarrass him. I just want to reach out to him without pushing him away.”
This question is an ideal place to start because we all know someone directly or indirectly affected by this issue. Keep in mind that every person is an individual and a specific response may (or may not be) applicable for a particular person at a particular time or circumstance. Always be aware that God’s plans, purposes and timetable are His prerogatives.
In this post I will offer 11 brief suggestions. I will offer a couple of thoughts on how to frame our thinking (if it is a teen who is struggling or questioning) in Part 2.
1. Don’t be tempted to change or compromise what the Bible says to please your loved one.
2. Don’t be embarrassed or guilty if it takes you some time to work through this new information you have received. Don’t make false assumptions or accusations. Give yourself some “cooling off” time. But try not to shut down emotionally. You’re friend or loved one may have experienced a lifetime of rejection and desperately needs to know that a representative of Christ will extend grace to him.
3. The person needs love and acceptance more than ever at the point of revelation. It is important to communicate love in word and action as soon as possible. If you are a Christian, you are supposed to be a shining light. Be a friend with a tender heart; the biggest problem is not their sexuality, but (like all of us) their need for Jesus.
4. Take your cue from the Lord. He didn’t avoid the tough situations people found themselves in. He didn’t avoid sin. He ministered grace and compassion without ever compromising His commitment to holiness. Start by cultivating a humble heart, especially concerning the temptation to react with judgmental condescension. Those who have same-sex attractions, who struggle with same-sex attractions, and/or who struggle in their relationship with God and Christians, need the wholehearted prayers and support of Christians.
5. Make a diligent and sincere effort to understand and acknowledge the individual’s feelings and circumstances. Are they comfortable, resentful or bewildered with their feelings or circumstances? Understanding people doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them but it is the best way to minister grace and love in a difficult time. Accept the fact that you can’t change their minds, feelings and lives for them. All too often, they are told to go to a counselor or get involved in a relationship (or get involved sexually) with a person of the opposite sex so they will be “fixed”. It just doesn’t work that way.
6. Pre-decide what your boundaries will be about what behavior you cannot condone in your presence (and communicate your reasoning to your friend). Consider how you would be a friend to a heterosexual whom has a live in girlfriend or boyfriend, who is unmarried (yet involved in a casual sexual relationship) or who may be involved in adultery. Like the Lord we need to value and esteem the person without condoning their behavior.
7. If the person is actively involved in homosexuality (relationships, sexual behaviors, etc.), defends his moral choices or has adopted a pro-gay theology, the situation can be complicated. I don’t have the space to go into detail here about how to handle such situations. However, here are two brief points. . .
- One shouldn’t assume that just because a person is in a casual dating relationship or in a committed romantic relationship, that sex is a part of that relationship. However, if you are privy to such information, respond and treat them as you would any heterosexual friend (single or married) who is pursuing sex outside of marriage.
- If the individual self-identifies as gay and advocates “pro-gay” social/political/theological positions, we should model God’s love. Seek to truly understand their perspective (and the real, human needs behind their perspective). Don’t be dismissive. Talk positively about what you believe rather than speaking negatively about what you oppose. Genuine humility and empathy must be evident in our attitudes and behaviors. Don’t let issues become more important than souls.
- Be quiet for a while and listen to their stories and experiences (really listen). Too many Christians have a tendency to talk too much when they don’t know what to say or when they don’t know what they are talking about.
- The Gay Gospel?: How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible (by Joe Dallas) and Love Is An Orientation: Elevating The Conversation With The Gay Community (by Andrew Marin) are good beginner resources to check out.
8. It is imperative that you learn as much as you can about homosexuality. Do your homework and gather Christian and biblically based resources about homosexual issues. This may be distasteful to you, but it must be done. When the mystery of the unknown is removed by information, the barriers can start to come down. Use the “Resources, Links and Videos” and “Recommended Books” pages on this blog to jump start your research.
9. If you have a strong suspicion that the person has lesbian or gay tendencies but the subject has never come up, it is important that you do not label them by asking if they are homosexual (or gay). Believe me, it happens. They may never have thought about it and raising the question can make them begin to question their identity. Or it may strengthen a latent fear they already have within themselves. Plus, it’s embarrassing, hurtful and rude.
10. If you are hoping that the person will open up at a deeper level, be willing to risk your own vulnerabilities by opening up first honestly about your own struggles. Work on deepening the friendship. Become a safe person with whom that person can be honest. Pray for the friendship. Be reliable and consistent. Sexuality is an intimate area of life. Even if the other person’s problem or challenge isn’t sexuality, there is sure to be some other struggle that needs prayer and help. Ask the Lord to show you how to be a better friend and find specific ways to support this person.
11. Be careful not to offend those who may secretly struggle in this area (this includes not only the individual but also the people who are often overlooked in these discussions – their family and friends). Those who experience same-sex attractions tend to have a tremendous sense of discernment and can readily pick up the attitudes of those around them about homosexuality. They will remember unkind remarks, cutting jokes, hostility and judgmental attitudes about homosexuality (and who made them). It is safe to say that when they have a real problem or need to confide in someone, Christians with these negative attitudes and habits will certainly not be the first ones they will turn to for help.
To be perfectly honest, this article (and the next) barely scratches the surface of this topic. Virtually every post, video and resource on this blog speaks to an aspect of how to relate, communicate, engage and love a person who experiences same-sex attraction. Let your heart be open, humble and compassionate as you study the information found on this website.
If Your Friend Says “I’m Gay” by Tim Wilkins
If you have other suggestions that can be added to this list, please share them here. If you have experienced or tried any of these, I invite you to share your experiences here as well. Your comments are welcomed below.
Next post: How to respond if it’s a teen who is struggling or questioning
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2012.
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