How do I explain to my younger children what it means for someone to “come out” as gay?

If your children watch television, go to school, play any youth sports, or get out of the house at all–in other words, if they’re not hermetically sealed inside your home–then this is a question you’ll have to address. Here’s my advice: If possible, lay the groundwork for that conversation long before it comes.

It begins by teaching your children that God is the Creator. He made this world and everything in it. God designed all the beauty that we see. He made human life and put us here in this world. As the designer, God knows how everything is meant to function. In other words, he has a design plan for life. That amazing design plan, when pursued, leads to flourishing, abundant life. When ignored, it leads to brokenness.

Along with that basic, affirmative view of God’s design, teach your children that God has given us access to his “design plan” in the Bible. We are meant to live in God’s world according to his Word. When we sin, whether it’s lying or cheating or hurting someone else, we’re essentially exchanging His design plan for our own.

As much as possible, I try to teach these two principles to my own children. We try to connect the rationale for our “house rules” back to this idea that our family wants to live in harmony with God’s design plan.

So, when the question comes up, we’re equipped with the beginnings of an answer. It goes like this: When someone “comes out of the closet,” it means that they want to be close to (or “be intimate with”) someone of the same gender in the same way that mom and dad are close, maybe even get married. But the problem is, that’s not how God designed us. He designed marriage as a life-long relationship between a man and a woman. God made us and knows how life is supposed to work, so we want to obey him. We still love this person and want what’s best for them. We just don’t agree with some of the choices they’re making.

A gay couple I know asked me if my church would accept them if they came to church as a couple. How should I respond?

The short answer to this one is: Truthfully. How would your church respond to this couple? One of the things we promote at my church is radical hospitality with Biblical clarity. Everyone is welcome to come, hear the Gospel and build relationships. There is no litmus test for love and friendship. I’ve been blessed to see our church receive people who, there’s no other way to put this, “stand out” from the average attender. They are welcomed and treated respectfully. We’ve had same-sex couples visit, interact with us and be treated with love and respect. If your congregation has this same, outreach-oriented heartbeat, then feel free to let your friends know they’ll be welcomed.

At the same time, a church that embraces Biblical teaching on this topic will eventually bring this couple into contact with the message that God has a different plan for human sexuality than the one they are pursuing. Sometimes, that happens right away, because they ask. Sometimes, it comes a little further down the road. But it will come. At that point, your friends will be facing the question that Jesus asks all of us, “Are you willing to lay down your life and take up the Cross?”

How do I respond to a gay friend whose only Christian interactions have been with “open and affirming” churches?

We would suggest using a few thoughtful statement-questions to open the conversation. So much of how you approach this will depend on the nature of your relationship. Sometimes, a frank question might seem impossible for certain relationships. In other contexts, it might be the ticket. One of the following might work:

Have you heard teachers in your church really dig into the passages that talk about sexual ethics? What do they say?

What does your church teach about the Bible? Do they believe the Bible contains errors?

If your church thinks the Bible got it wrong on God’s design plan for human sexuality, how do you know that the other teachings of Scripture are reliable?

There are a lot of ethical teachings in the Bible, can we just do away with the ones that we don’t like?

Am I obligated to share my convictions with a family member who is in a same-sex relationship?

question-mark

If you believe the truths we’ve presented in Compassion without Compromise, then you realize that one of the most unloving things we can do is simply affirm people’s choices (including our own!). In an age that falsely equates genuine disagreement with radical intolerance, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how we can disagree without destroying a relationship. How do we know it’s time to speak up?

As with many other issues, one of the first considerations to make is: Where does this family member stand in relation to Jesus Christ? Are they claiming Christ as their Lord? In this instance, if we have an ongoing relationship with the family member, we should feel comfortable beginning with a question: How do you square this relationship with God’s Word?

If the family member is not a Christian, then we would suggest that the question of this relationship is not the place to start. It’s more important to get to the root of the issue: Their relationship with Jesus (see pages 64-66 on Jesus & discipleship).

Of course, if your family member specifically asks you what you believe, then you should respond truthfully. In that instance, we would suggest something like: I believe the Bible teaches that the only God-designed context for sexual intimacy is marriage between a husband and wife. After carefully exploring Scripture, that’s the conviction I hold. I want you to know I love you and respect that you’re going to make your own decisions in life, but I’m seeking to live according to the Scriptures. As a Christian, I believe that God’s will, even when it’s difficult to understand and/or practice faithfully, leads me to deeper joy. I believe the most important question all of us have to answer is: Who will have ultimate authority in my life, and will I obey? For me, that’s a much more foundational question than any other.

Finally, we’d simply remind you of Paul’s words in Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.