Homosexuality is one of the hot button topics of our day, and it’s an issue that affects the church as well. Christians are rightly concerned about how they can show love and truth to same-sex attracted people in their church.
Having been a Christian for 24 years and lived with same-sex desires for nearly 20 of them, I’d like to share from my experience what you can do to make church a safer community for those with same-sex attraction. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a few helpful pointers to get you started:
1. Show me love that’s real
Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:26), love is only real when it’s seen in action. We’re exhorted to “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
If you know someone with same-sex attraction, be genuinely interested in them as a friend, and not as a project that needs to have their homosexual desires changed to heterosexual desires. When I came out to my Christian friends (i.e. I told them that I experienced same-sex desires), they interacted with me just as they did before, and I deeply appreciated that. Like anyone else, same-sex attracted people wouldn’t like to be viewed as a “special” case and treated any differently.
“Be genuinely interested in someone with same-sex attraction as a friend, and not as a project that needs to have their homosexual desires changed to heterosexual desires.”
Another way of demonstrating love is that when you hear same-sex attracted people being singled out for ridicule, stand up for them. Don’t make or laugh at “gay jokes”. As a Christian with gay desires, I really needed to know who in the church would accept me and be safe for me to be myself. I’ve heard Christians laugh at such jokes, and even though they weren’t the ones cracking the joke, I perceived that they were also willing to ridicule people like me. It was hurtful and made me feel that they were unsafe people for me to come out to. So I resolved to hide this part of my life from them, for fear of being rejected.
2. See me as a whole person
People with same-sex attraction, like heterosexual people, are more than just their sexuality. Don’t make it that big of a deal or the only issue whenever you talk to them. I was grateful that Christians whom I confided my sexuality to didn’t focus only on this one aspect about me, but viewed me holistically as a person.
Instead, encourage same-sex attracted people to grow in the strengths and talents that God has given them, just as you would any other brother or sister in Christ.
3. Offer to walk with me after I’ve shared my story with you
After a same-sex attracted person share their story with you, assure them that you would honour the confidentiality of what they told you. They came out to you, and not to someone else, for certain reasons. Therefore, value the trust they have given you by not sharing what they have told you with others without their permission.
Furthermore, if they have shared any struggles with you, offer to walk with them. Your invitation may be turned down, but at least, you offered. If I had plucked up the courage and taken the risk to share my homosexual struggles, I do hope that someone would reach out to me. If no one does, I would be left wondering if I should not have shared at all. Don’t make such a big deal out of it but don’t completely ignore it either. We confided in you for a reason.
4. As a leader, share your struggles, especially in the area of sexuality
If you’re a church leader in any capacity—whether you’re a pastor, zone mentor, ministry leader, cell group leader, etc.—you can help to create a culture in which everyone, heterosexual or homosexual, feel safer to confess their struggles as well as share their testimonies.
“If you’re a church leader in any capacity, you can help to create a culture in which everyone, heterosexual or homosexual, feel safer to confess their struggles as well as share their testimonies.”
When you take the lead in vulnerably sharing your struggles, especially those in the area of sexuality, it assures me that I can do the same, too. Not only that, when those of us with same-sex attraction hear you share about your journey toward holiness in your sexuality, we’re encouraged that we’re not the only ones who have to work out this journey toward wholeness in Christ.
5. As a leader, have ongoing conversations about all aspects of sexuality
Again, if you’re a leader, don’t single out homosexuality as the only topic of concern in the area of sexuality. If you do that, it makes me and others with same-sex desires feel like only we have an especially heavy cross to bear, and no one else seems to need to carry that heavy a cross. That would feel rather unnecessarily discouraging and burdensome (Matthew 23:4).
Instead, speak on all aspects of sexuality—on God’s intent for family and marriage, and deviations from it, like pornography, masturbation, pre-marital sex, cohabitation, extra-marital affairs, etc., alongside homosexuality. Affirm the goodness and beauty of God’s design even as you talk about how all deviations from it—heterosexual or homosexual—cause brokenness.
“Speak on all aspects of sexuality. Affirm the goodness and beauty of God’s design even as you talk about how all deviations from it—heterosexual or homosexual—cause brokenness.”
When you do that—whether from the pulpit or in Christian education classes or cell group—you show people with same-sex attraction that you’re concerned for everyone’s discipleship in their sexuality.
It also helps me and others like me to understand that every one of us has a different cross to carry, and that in our journeying toward holiness, we can support and love one another by “bear[ing] one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
I hope these pointers are useful to you in navigating how to show the grace and truth of Jesus Christ to those who are same-sex attracted in your church. If you need wisdom, know that you can always “ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5), and He will enable you to be and to build a safe and loving community to them.
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Join us at this year's Whole Life Symposium — an annual discipleship platform for church leaders — which highlights the need to tackle the issue of sexuality and values, with special tracks for school educators, working adults and tertiary students. Held on 25 and 26 August 2017, leaders will be equipped to think through and communicate the Christian worldview on sexuality in concise and persuasive ways. Sign up today!