Strategies for connecting with same-sex attracted persons
- Don’t avoid the person. Certainly sin erodes virtue and twists personality, yet no sin makes us subhuman. Yet like the priest and the Levite, we may be tempted to "pass by on the other side," in order not to disorder our busy lives, or maybe because we're afraid that moral contagion will rub off on us. The Bible urges us to respect all people, no exceptions. The Lord spent time with all sorts of people, and seems to have even gone out of his way to honor “sinners” with his presence. Avoiding gays guarantees a lack of connection, so.... who are we inviting to dinner?
- Converse: listen and talk. One of the greatest things about spending time in informal settings is that it allows free-flowing, unscripted conversation. We also get to know one another as fellow seekers on the journey. Unless we make time to listen, all our attempts to convince the person of the gospel message will fail. Listening facilitates connection.
- Model family. Since one of our most powerful arguments for Christianity is a loving family, bringing a gay friend into our home may expose him or her to Christian family, marriage, or parenting. The impact of a spiritual family should never be underestimated. All too often the SSA has a poor father relationship, or perhaps a poor mother relationship, or grew up in a dysfunctional setting. Revisioning takes place when there is a visible model: trust flourished and connections are forged.
- Watch our language. It's easy to make statements that lack biblical validity, or balance. I hear teachers saying, “Same-sex attraction is sinful.” Of course it’s not the attraction that’s sinful, but acting on the temptation. So instead of “The desire is sinful,” perhaps it’s better to say, “Wrong desires are disordered,” or "This wasn't in God's original plan." Or how about "There's a better way to find fulfillment. Jesus brought the abundant life, and yet the freedom he gives is based on serving him, obeying his commands."
- Validate their speech whenever possible. Gay people seek a normative account of sexual desire. That makes sense; no one wants to be thought of as abnormal. The problem is that they’re trying to anchor their lives in structurally inadequate ways. Men were designed to sexually complement women, not men; it’s not possible to produce children homosexually. Christ is the groom, the church his bride; any dislocation of the divine order falls short of the glorious biblical ideal. Focusing on speech (what we say and what our gay friend is saying) will yield rich returns.
- Build friendship. Lack of relationships is a common theme in those who turn to sex for meaning. (Similarly, many who turn to pornography crave intimacy, yet are seeking it in the wrong place.) Great friendships, it has been suggested, bear a certain resemblance to play. This is when we let our hair down, open up, share our lives, and experience safe communication. Singleness in America typically means a lack of kinship connections. For those SSA singles for whom marriage is not an option, something needs to take its place. No single can celebrate celibacy without understanding the ultimate goal of service to the Lord. Paul and Jesus both taught the celibacy is one of two paths for singles. (The other is marriage.) In many ways, the celibate path is superior. Whichever path one chooses, friendships are vital to flourishing and a sense of well-being.
Finally -- and this is "homework" -- as an exercise in compassionate listening, I'd like to suggest you listen to one of the best known apologists for the gay life today. Matthew Vines justifies the gay lifestyle through his interpretation of the Bible. His video lesson is rich in content, and deserves to be heard.
- Try to listen without reacting. Try to feel what he is feeling.
- Ask, “What are the good points he’s making? Is anything overstated or incorrect? What am I feeling as I listen to his lesson?”
- You may find helpful my critique in response to this lesson. (My notes are on the same page where you access the podcast.)