Continuing on from yesterday’s post, Alex Tylee writes:
How can the church and individual Christians support those experiencing same sex attraction who are trying to live according to the Bible’s teaching against homosexual conduct?
Some dos and don’ts..
Make a clear distinction between homosexual practice and homosexual feelings.
The Bible has something to say about homosexual conduct, not orientation. Though it’s hard, I am able to do something about what I do with my body and imagination. I can’t do anything about my orientation unless God decides to do a miracle in me, which he hasn’t yet. Non-Christian gay people generally feel that church is not a place where they’d be welcome. Jesus welcomes, loves and died for everyone. It’s really, really important that people know they will not be excluded for something they feel is fundamental to who they are.
Make an idol out of marriage
Marriage is brilliant and Christians set a wonderful example to the world through their fidelity. But not everyone will get married and for me, church is the hardest place to be single. We need a culture shift so that singleness is as supported and applauded as marriage within the church.
Give plenty of hugs
But do ask first as not everyone is as huggy as me! Touch is so important for mental health and wellbeing. Some single people can go for days without touching human skin. Hugs are so important for communicating love and affection between friends.
Cut off your singles groups at 25, 30 or 40
Though most Christians will transition from 20s-30s groups when they marry and have families, there needs to be something for those of us who don’t (before we get to join the groups for elderly people on a Tuesday afternoon). It would be great if such groups were status orientated rather than age orientated.
Open up your family to single people
I understand that it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of family life so it can sometimes be hard to look outside of it. It’s been such a blessing to me though to have people invite me to their homes and treat me like family. Getting me involved in the nuts and bolts and mess of bringing up their kids and inviting one extra person along to family events has meant the world to me.
Be afraid to get to know gay people in your workplace or place of study
There’s no need to assume that gay people will hate you just because you’re a Christian, or for you to steer clear of them because they’re gay. Jesus was criticised for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. I feel sure if he came today, he’d be hanging out with gay people and shocking the church establishment with the way he loved them without worrying how it made him look. I know it’s scary to think about answering questions they may have about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Honesty and authenticity goes a long way here – let them know it’s a hard question for you to answer. Be clear that the Bible’s teaching on sexual conduct has costs for all of us, whatever our orientation. Be clear that gay people are as welcomed by Jesus as everyone else. Explain about grace. Tell them you’re sorry for the way the church has sometimes treated gay people. Be a genuine friend. Love them just as much even if they never show an interest in Jesus.
Pray for and support those Christians who are open about their sexuality
It feels very vulnerable to talk about something that brings up such strong feelings among Christians of every theological persuasion. Discussions about sexuality are always open to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. There will always be someone who disagrees with any particular stance on it, and many of those people will be very vocal about that. But openness needs to be encouraged: Churches need to know that there are people experiencing same sex attraction in their pews. Straight Christians need opportunities to talk to, understand, love and support people who live with this day to day. Gay Christians in churches need to feel safe to be authentic.
See healing as the only way forward
The vast majority of Christians who are attracted to people of the same sex will continue to feel that way to a greater or lesser extent for life, even if they get married to someone of the opposite sex and have a fulfilling marriage. People who experience significant change do exist, but they are the exception rather than the rule. It’s far more positive to support Christians where they are at right now, helping them to live their lives in a way that honours God whether or not things change for them. Married Christians are no more godly by default than single ones, so marriage is not a ‘solution’ for homosexuality.
Show grace. Always
Show grace to the Christian who goes too far in a friendship with someone of the same sex. Show grace to the non-Christian gay person who puts Christians down and defames Jesus. Show grace to the Christian who has a different view about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Show grace to the person who shocks you by entering into a gay relationship. Show grace to the spouse who breaks your heart and your marriage vows with someone of the same sex. Show grace. Always. Even when it really hurts to do it, because we’ve received costly grace ourselves.
Alex Tylee’s book, ‘Walking with Gay Christian Friends’ can be ordered here.