First, you should know that I am a Christian and believe that the LGBTQ lifestyle is opposed to the teaching of the Christian Scriptures. That is my starting point; so you may already disagree with me.
Secondly, I am writing as a pastor of a small congregation who has been forced to deal with issue of culture drastically changing at high velocity right before their eyes. Let’s face it, the world is different today than it was five years ago. I would argue that most Christians are not equipped emotionally and some spiritually for the rapid change in our culture. Many people in my own congregation are having to deal with these sensitive issues in their own families and social circles. And it has not been easy on them.
So the question is this: how do I treat my “LGBTQ” family member or friend this Christmas season? Do I buy them and their spouse/significant other a present? Do I invite them over for Christmas meal? Do I let them stay at my house when they visit for a few days? Do I simply ignore them?
Let me say this: I get it. I get the feelings of anxiety and the hopelessness that you may be feeling when you find out a loved one is living in a lifestyle that you do not agree with. This is not easy for you to understand and I get that you don’t know what to do next.
But, you and I both need to understand that your loved one has had similar feelings. They likely did not come to this decision very easily. There was heartache. There was struggle. There was probably torment, especially if they are coming from a Christian background, whatever the degree of spirituality they have experienced.
It is important for us to open our hearts and show a little empathy for our loved one. This new lifestyle has been hard on them as well. So as much grief and anguish you are feeling, times that by a couple million, and that is likely the feeling your friend or family member felt at one point during their decision-making process.
I think the answer to your question comes down to answering these two questions: 1. How much do you love this person? 2. How much does God say we should love this person?
Chances are if you are a person who finds yourself coming from an older generation where “sex” was a four-lettered word and not to be talked about in polite company and are coming from a Christian background that believes that homosexuality is an abomination, then you are having a very difficult time loving that person.
Again, I get it. But here’s the deal: we are called to love. Love God above all else (thereby love his Holy Scriptures and keep them) and love others as much as we love ourselves (that includes every flavor of sinner). Those two commands are not at odds. Jesus said them in the same breath and declared that the two commands combined make the Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:34-40). We can love God perfectly and His word as well as love our neighbors as we love ourselves without negating one or the other.
The problem is that this new lifestyle has come into society so rapidly that it has caught many of us off guard. In our minds it is unusual, perverse and just downright “icky.” And we don’t know how to handle it. And that’s the problem. We don’t know how to handle it when a sinner sins in a fashion that we’re totally not comfortable with. The fact of the matter is we should be just as “disgusted” with our friends and family who choose to live in sexually pervasive heterosexual relationships. Or our loved ones who choose to cheat on their wives, fudge their income tax sheet, watch porn at night when no one is looking, drink too much on Saturday afternoon or are domineering to their children. We are walking a fine line when we distinguish between which sin is less deplorable in our own eyes.
As uncomfortable as it makes us, we cannot claim any sort of love for that person if we are not willing to meet them where they are, sin in hand, even if that sin is repulsive to us. All sin is repulsive to God. Their sin. My sin. Your sin.
That is where Christians live; as ambassadors of Christ in a foreign land called Earth. We are missionaries in our own backyard. We no longer live in our version of Mayberry. We no longer have to travel under the shroud of darkness to Las Vegas to visit Sin City. Sin City is your city and Sin City is my city.
If we truly do love that person, we want them in our homes so that they can be exposed to our salt and light. Should there be rules and understanding? Of course. House rules always apply. And if they love you they will comply. If they are combative, calmly ask them to leave. I bet they won’t be, if you truly show them the love of Christ.
We must be willing to, not put aside our Christian beliefs and Biblical standards, but to step outside our safety bubble of Christianity and approach our loved ones as unreached peoples on the mission field of planet earth. And that can be uncomfortable, painful and dirty.
I love this quote by Rosaria Butterfield, “If you want to put the hand of the lost into the hand of the Savior, you need to get close enough to get hurt.”
Ultimately the gospel is at stake in how we treat our friends and family who share views and lifestyles we do not agree with.
This, of course, will take much prayer, much seeking after God, much studying in His Word in order to have Biblical answers to life’s questions. I am not saying it will be easy or fun. Nor do I think that anyone who just isn’t there yet is less of a Christian. We are all being conformed into the image of Christ and some of us aren’t at that point of our conformity yet. But that should be our goal: to love our friends and family the way that Christ loved us. In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)
For more information on how to relate to gay friends and family members, I recommend the following resources:
Watch this video of former atheist lesbian-turned-pastor’s wife Rosaria Butterfield on Understanding and Loving Our Gay and Lesbian Friends
Watch these short videos of same sex-attracted pastor Sam Allberry on Ministering to Gay Family and Friends
Here are some links to some helpful articles:
Jonathan Leeman from 9Marks answers the question “Should Christians disown gay sons and daughters?
John Piper answers the question “How should I relate to a gay family member?”
Christianity Today: How do I treat my gay friends?
Focus on the Family: Responding to a “gay Christian” in the family