Since I first began speaking to parents and youth about issues involving how Christians should respond to the LGBT movement in America, there’s been one question I’ve been asked more than any other: how do I remain firmly grounded in the truth of Scripture while not being off-putting to those who need God’s grace every bit as much as we do?
It’s not an easy question to answer for a few reasons:
- I know I’ve failed miserably at this in the past. Sometimes I look back at things I wrote or said that were full of truth but that lacked any demonstrable semblance of love or compassion. I recognize that though my intentions may have been motivated by Christian charity, my words did not adequately reveal that reality, and thus I became the very resounding gong Paul warns us about in 1st Corinthians 13:1. I don’t want to be that anymore.
- Our sinful culture has despicably targeted this group of sinners in a way it hasn’t others. No other group of people faces the sinful temptations in their life with the pressure to surrender, embrace, and identify themselves by those temptations like those with same-sex attraction. The prevalence of adultery hasn’t fully shaken its stigma. The same goes for pornography, promiscuity, divorce, theft, greed, or drunkenness. While people may feel less guilty every day for being a drunk, a narcissist, or loose, no one is told to find #Pride in defining themselves or placing their sense of identity in such conduct.
- Society has convinced no other group of people as effectively as those involved with same-sex attraction that anyone who morally disapproves of their behavior necessarily “hates” them. I have no rational fear when speaking out against adulterous behavior that I will be accused of “hating” the people who committed that sin. The same can be said of virtually every other sin, with the exception of homosexuality.
All of these realities make having a “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) conversation with someone with same-sex attraction very daunting and very difficult. As I alluded to in number 1 above, I have learned quite a bit about effective engagement on this issue through past failures. I’ve also learned by listening to and reading the testimony of many Christian brothers and sisters who have battled same-sex attraction. Some of them have been delivered from the temptation, but the vast majority have not (which only makes sense – how many of us can say that we have been fully delivered from being tempted by our urges and lusts?).
So as we navigate this important issue, I’ve come to believe that the first and most important thing anyone who wants to have an effective ministry in this regard has to do is to listen. As Rachel Gilson puts it,
“…listen, and listen, and listen. When she (the same-sex attracted person you’re talking to) gets to a pause, ask her to tell you more. When did she first know? What’s her experience been like? Has she felt wounded? This is not the time to run a theological litmus test…This is the time to bear each other’s burdens in love (Galatians 6:2); perhaps this is a burden she’s been shouldering alone, silently for decades.”
I’ve come to find that last line is so true. There are so many same-sex attracted people who have been unable and unwilling to share the burdens they are carrying because the stigma of homosexual impulse has been so much greater in the church than most any other sinful temptation. In the brave, new, decadent world of American society, many who have felt bottled up for years are opening up to a culture that embraces the sin they are tempted with as a cause celeb.
If the church has any hopes of combatting that, those courageously, obediently battling the urge must know they can trust us. Trust us not to condemn, trust us not to assume we know everything about what they have dealt with, trust us not to assume their vulnerability is an invitation to lecture.
Yes, we must remain steadfast to the truth of God if they are to have any hope of finding their burdens lifted. But that “truth of God” includes discipling and driving out fear with perfect love. In our personal dealings with those precious souls with same-sex attraction, let’s start there.