Friday, December 11, 2020

When Homosexuality Comes Home: Three Lessons for Engaging Loved Ones

When Homosexuality Comes Home

The sexual revolution is everywhere. Few pockets of our society haven’t been affected in some way by the letters LGBTQ+. And for many, those affected pockets include our families:

“Mom and Dad, I’m gay.”

“I think I’m trans.”

“Grandma, why don’t other kids have two mommies?”

When the cultural conversation becomes personal, bringing discussions to the dinner table that once seemed unthinkable, what does faithfulness to our Lord require? In a world where submission to God’s holy law is labeled “homophobia” and hate, how do we stand firm on the Bible’s clear teaching?

These questions take on added urgency when they come from dearly loved family members: whether an adult child who identifies as gay, or a family member who struggles with his gender — or even transitions and then demands that you use a new name and new pronouns.

Space doesn’t allow me to rehearse all of the biblical teaching related to these issues, but I would recommend a few excellent books on homosexuality, transgenderism, and loving LGBTQ+ people, as well as an article by biblical counselor Mike Emlet, “Five Ministry Priorities for Those Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction.” Here let’s focus on three virtues we can pursue, in dependence on God, in our conversations with loved ones: wise love, courageous clarity, and prayerful endurance.

Wise Love

We begin with love, because if we possess all else but lack genuine love, we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1). To love your family member means you put his interests above your own. You carry him on your heart, which will inevitably invite pain and sorrow.

A relationship like this will test our love: Is it biblical, rooted in the character of God? Or is it selfish, rooted in our own wants and desires? Are we willing to love this person as he really is (a messy, complex, unredeemed sinner), or only as we want him to be for our sake (neat, uncomplicated, and undemanding)? Let the Lord use this hard circumstance to make it more like the love the Father showed us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).

What Does God Say?

To love wisely means we are dependent upon Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15) and God (James 1:5) as the only compass that points true north. The current conversation about gender and sexuality is noisy. Everyone has an opinion. And some of those opinions are satanic, leading ultimately to destruction (2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:26). Wise love requires submitting to God’s authoritative voice in the Bible.

Of course, the nonnegotiable starting points are the Bible’s teaching on sexuality in places like Genesis 1–2, Ephesians 5:3–6, Romans 1:18–30, and 1 Corinthians 6:9–11. For all the noise, the Bible’s position is simple and beautiful: the covenant, one-flesh bond between a husband and wife pictures Christ and his church. Sexual intimacy is a gift here, and here alone. All other sexual relationships are therefore sinful and wicked. They violate God’s law and, without true repentance, bring forth the wrath of God (Ephesians 5:6).

If we lose these anchor points, we can’t bring good news to anyone, whatever besetting sins he commits. We will be like a person trying to administer CPR in a zero-gravity environment: without a fixed anchor point, we can’t apply enough pressure to bring life.

Under Same-Sex Desire

With wise love, however, I do mean more than defining the Bible’s position on sexuality and sin (though never less than that). To love wisely requires that we take Scripture as our guide for interpreting all human experience. When a family member tells you he is gay, or struggles with his gender, or is attracted to the same sex, much more is at work than mere sexuality. Human experience before the face of God is not reducible to a single dimension (whether sexuality or anger or bitterness or pride), and so focusing only on sexual ethics may unhelpfully narrow the discussion.

Your loved one may be throwing off restraint and pursuing open sexual sin, but it is also possible that the label “gay” or “trans” has little to do with physical appetites and much to do with distorted hopes and longings. Especially for the young, “gay” and “trans” often represent an identity, a community of understanding, and a source of meaning for suffering and alienation. These make up constellations of human experience that are of a different order than sexual perversions. They are responses to the brokenness of the world that substitute worldly “saviors” for the living Redeemer. Sinful sexuality is often rooted in or influenced by some deep pain in the past.

Alongside past suffering, black holes of sinful desires will appear. But not just the sinful desires you’re thinking of — the lusts of the flesh are many, and often subtler than raw sexual appetite (Galatians 5:17–21). Good military tactics make use of diversions: keep your opponent occupied here, while secretly preparing for his destruction over there. Satan is a master tactician. If he can keep the conversation about sex, when it’s more fundamentally about something else, he wins.

Listen, Pray, Speak

Learning how to navigate these threads will require time, discernment, and of course prayer, so go slowly. Ask questions. Listen. “Are you comfortable telling me more? Have you told anyone else?” Sam Allberry has some excellent thoughts on what to say in this kind of conversation in the conclusion to his book Is God Anti-Gay? If your family member is opening up to you for the first time, thank him! That took courage; it likely wasn’t done on a whim. Affirm your commitment to the relationship — you’re not going to “disown” him for telling you.

After that, you might not have to say anything else, at least for that conversation. Wise love knows we can’t “fix it” with our advice or efforts, so we can afford to listen patiently for a time. Wise love also knows God must eventually speak, so we pray for opportunities to honestly and lovingly tell him the truth, especially about the freedom and forgiveness God holds out to him in the gospel.

Courageous Clarity

If we are guided by wise love, we will be moving toward clarity: out of darkness and into the light. Love builds trust. Trust enables ongoing conversation, hopefully a two-way conversation with greater understanding. Wisdom then guides that conversation toward God’s goals. And the result will be clarity — clarity about what this person has experienced and is feeling and clarity about what God has said and wants for this person.

We hope and pray that the clarity that emerges draws both of us toward Jesus: to receive grace, to surrender to him as our Lord, Savior, and Treasure, and then to walk together in ongoing sanctification with newfound honesty and transparency. We want the clarity that emerges to be the clarity that joins the good news of the gospel to the real issues of the heart. The human heart is a fierce battleground, but when the living God enters, change occurs.

Here’s where courage is needed. Sometimes the clarity that emerges is not hopeful, but painful; not unifying, but straining: “I think we understand each other, but I can’t agree with you on this new identity.” “I love you, but I disagree with your choices.” This is a delicate matter, and if we rush here, we may unnecessarily damage the relationship. But if we run away from this, we risk even more. We will be running into confusion and compromise, and perhaps leading our loved one away from healing, repentance, and deliverance. And so, wise love must take the form of courageous clarity.

Courage in these conversations, in this relationship, means that we show we believe that God defines our sexuality and our identity — even when someone we love disagrees with us. This requires courage and faith, sometimes great courage and faith.

Is it worth it? If he seems happy, can’t we be content with that? If that moment of sharp disagreement comes, isn’t it easier for us to change? Yes — in the short term. But that would be to reject God and abandon our loved one to his sin — and ultimately to hell. How many have foolishly traded away eternal happiness and love for temporary and superficial peace and comfort in a relationship? Courageous clarity in Christ is always worth what it costs (and far more).

Prayerful Endurance

Few Christian virtues are less flashy, or more vital, than endurance. The New Testament repeatedly commands and commends endurance (Romans 5:3–4, 15:4–5; Hebrews 10:36; James 1:3). And we will not endure for long without prayer. Without prayer, endurance collapses into fatalism or apathy: “It is what it is.” Prayerful endurance says, “I would rather weep on my knees for decades than have a God-less ‘solution’ tomorrow.”

Why is prayerful endurance needed when a loved one is caught up in the chaotic wake of the sexual revolution? Because confusion over sexuality is not a quick fix. When a person plunges headlong into a gay identity, there will rarely be a simple “return to normal.” Instead, we often wait and long for the long work of God — the whole arc of a lifetime, turned by sovereign grace not inward, but Godward. This is what we want for ourselves, and what we pray for our loved ones: that on the last day, we may stand together mature, fully assured in the will of God (Colossians 4:12). That journey may be long, and full of tears and pain, but in the end it will be free from both, and full instead of joy and blessing.

When that future hope fills our eyes, we realize we can’t merely settle for whatever will make for a peaceful family holiday. Our best for our child, our friend, is not to say, “Whatever will make you happy.” Worldly happiness is not the Lord’s handiwork. But what he is up to is so much better. Don’t allow cultural confusion to erode this confidence: no worldly identity marker can ever offer the solid joys and lasting treasures known by Zion’s children alone. This is what we long to see for our loved ones. And so, we pray for wise love. We ask for clarity and the courage to not abandon the Bible’s clarity for worldly wisdom — even when such clarity is hard and painful. Then we endure. And we pray. For as long as it takes.

I cannot promise that your loved one will return to the Lord or be saved. We don’t know that. We do know this: God does not save begrudgingly (1 Timothy 2:4), even if he sometimes saves slowly. And that work is worth waiting for, praying for, and loving toward.



from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14155187/when-homosexuality-comes-home
via DG