In the next year you can bet at least one of these things will happen in your life:
- A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it. If you are not, family members may call you unloving and judgmental.
- You’ll be invited to a cousin’s “wedding” . . . to someone of the same gender.
- You’ll show up for one of your kid’s soccer games and discover that the woman who comes to every game with little Billy’s mom is not his aunt.
- You will encounter someone who says the gospel cannot bring healing to our sexual identity or orientation.
- You’ll have a conversation with your college-age child and learn she thinks your view on homosexuality is bigoted, a twenty-first-century version of 1960s racism.
- You will read about a nationally recognized church leader endorsing the idea of same-sex marriage.
Are you ready to answer the tough questions your friends are asking you about your beliefs? Are you ready to reply to the wedding invitation from your gay cousin? Are you ready to deal with your daughter’s new friend and her two mommies, and the invitation for a sleepover? Are you ready to show someone that you can really, truly love people and still believe that sin is sin?
Are you ready, or are you panicking?
Chances are you would answer in the affirmative if someone asked you, “Is homosexual behavior a sin?” But consider three follow-up questions:
First, why do you believe this? Is it simply because “that’s how I was raised”? Is it because you find “those people” kind of “gross” and “weird”? Reality check: If our convictions are that shallow, then how can we respond with Christ-like compassion to people Jesus died to save? How will you be a real witness to the gospel? How will your faith survive when one of “those people” turns out to be someone you know and love? People gripped by the gospel are able to reach out toanyone in a way that balances truth and love.
Second, have you taken time to really explore what the Bible teaches about sexuality? You might (correctly) believe that Scripture says homosexual activity is a sin, but are you prepared to help someone else see that? Are you ready to defend your beliefs when someone persuasively argues that the Bible does not really condemn loving, committed same-sex relationships? Simply responding, “It’s what I’ve always believed” will not help you be a faithful witness. It will not help you when smart people ask hard questions.
Third, if your convictions on this issue are not well founded on rock-solid truth, do you really think they will stand the test of a hard storm? Jesus said that someone who hears His Word and obeys it is like a person who has built his house on a solid rock. The rain comes, the wind rages, but the house stands. If our stated convictions are not undergirded by solid foundations, they can be quickly swept aside. On this issue, Christians who faithfully speak the truth will increasingly stand in the minority. In the last decade alone, our culture has experienced a revolution of thought when it comes to homosexuality. The pressure to conform will be intense.
Are you ready?
Or are you panicking?
Here are a couple common questions we hear from Christians about talking with others about their convictions on this issue. Something important to remember as you read through these: Real-life people stand behind each of these questions. Relationships. Personal stories. Each of these questions and answers needs to be worked out in a Spirit-led context of relationship.
Question: How can I have a meaningful conversation about this issue without getting into an argument? How can I turn an argument into a meaningful conversation?
Paul was no stranger to difficult conversations. Sometimes, they ended with incredible conversions. Sometimes, they ended with his being stoned. His words to the Colossian church are relevant:
[P]ray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 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. (Colossians 4:2-6)
Here are five simple applications we can draw from this passage:
1. Have the right mindset: If you enter a conversation with a win-lose mentality, you’ve lost already. Our goal is not to win a debate, but to open a door. Creative questions are one of the best ways to do that. “What do you believe? What has led you to care so much about this issue?”
2. Speak your convictions clearly: We’re convinced God has revealed truth in His Word. In some ways, that removes the pressure—this isn’t just our private hobbyhorse. It is what the Bible, God’s Word, teaches.
3. Pay attention to the conversational context: Paul said we should “walk in wisdom.” Wisdom is applied righteousness—knowing the right steps in the real world.
- Don’t “yell in the library”: Are you at work, in a Bible study, on the street? These factors will determine just how the conversation proceeds.
- Discern whom you are speaking to: Is he gay? Does she have an ideological ax to grind? Has he just learned his daughter is lesbian?
- Control the thermostat: What is their emotional temperature (1 = calm; 10 = screaming mad)? If it starts to get hot, acknowledge it and take a step back. What is your emotional temperature? Your conversation should be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”
4. Don’t expect agreement every time: In this passage, Paul basically asks God for the chance to say again, with clarity, what got him imprisoned in the first place! This isn’t a popularity contest.
5. Pray. Pray. Pray: Enough said. Just pray. A lot.
Question: My neighbors are a lesbian couple. We occasionally converse and have a cordial relationship. I’ve never out-and-out told them that I think their lifestyle is sinful. Am I just being a coward? Or is it okay not to mention this and just try to be a good neighbor to them?
1. Be a good neighbor! Build relationship. Be friendly, invite them to your home, go to their house, live some life with them. Don’t be overly concerned with being the moral police. Let your Christian witness shine through your actions. This isn’t being cowardly, it is just simple kindness. From my point of view, you can be more direct and honest the better friends you become.
2. But don’t be afraid of speaking the truth. Seek opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus. The best way to do this is by sharing what Jesus has done for you. Don’t make it academic; make it personal. This vulnerability is a nonthreatening way to share the good news of Jesus. And when the time is right, don’t be afraid to invite them to church.
3. If things get heated, remind them that friends can disagree. It is so silly that we have to walk on eggshells with those we don’t agree with. If it is a real friendship, then there will be several areas of disagreement. This is okay. What is needed are respect, a listening ear, and a bit of humility.
4. Become very aware of what God is doing in the life of this couple. A good prayer to pray is this: Lord, use me for what you want to do. Do you want me to serve them? Share biblical truth? And then, as you are with them, seek to discern why God has you in a relationship with them. And as God opens doors, walk through them!
Adapted from Compassion Without Compromise, Copyright © 2014 by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau, Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group.