About 18 months ago, some of the staff here at East Cooper Baptist took some time to evaluate and pray through ministry in the life of our church. We determined some areas that we thought we were doing well in and identified some other areas that we would like to see ourselves, as a church, develop and grow in. One of the goals we walked away with was to become more culturally aware and lovingly responsive. Meaning, we wanted to equip our people to think through significant cultural issues (ie. sex, race, politics, social media) and gain an understanding for how we, as the body of Christ, should respond. This is why we held the Aware Conference last January and why we brought in Rosaria Butterfield for two days last April. We also had Professor Samuel Williams (Counseling Professor from SEBTS) recently provide training to our staff (and others) on how to counsel people experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA). These talks and training opportunities have been great at explaining terminology and providing a biblical framework. Our hope is that the things learned from these events will serve as resources in future conversations about SSA. That being said, we are cognizant of the fact that for some of you, the subject of SSA is not a hypothetical but something that hits closer to home. Some of you who are parents have already had a conversation with a child dealing with SSA. Some of you might at some point in the future.
If your child comes to you to reveal that they are experiencing SSA, please understand that your response (from your body language, to your facial reaction, and most importantly, your words) will set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Andrew Walker, the author of God and the Transgender Debate, puts it this way: “Never for a moment should your child question your commitment to them” (138). While experiencing the particular temptation of SSA may be unfamiliar to the majority of us, experiencing temptation is not. The human condition is one predisposed to sin (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23) which means that we can and should be sympathetic to anyone dealing with any sinful desires. A good friend of mine recently had someone confide in him that he was dealing with SSA and I’m so thankful for how he chose to respond. My friend explained to this young man that we are not in bondage to our desires. Just because we desire something doesn’t make it right. He sympathized with him by pointing out that they were both people who desperately needed to find their joy and completeness in Jesus. He went on to point out that just because one of them had same sex desires and the other had desires for the opposite sex, the fact remained that sexual intimacy outside of marriage was wrong for either one of them and that neither one was more wrong. They were both sinners who required the grace of the gospel to reform their hearts. My friend responded to this young man with compassion, empathy, and grace. I’m glad for that. I’m also glad that this young man felt comfortable enough to share with my friend. That’s not something everyone working through SSA can say. So if your child comes to confide in you that they are experiencing SSA (or struggling through any other temptations/desires for that matter), be thankful they” were willing to trust you with this information. More than likely, this has been something they have been wrestling with for quite a while and the causes for how they are feeling will be complicated.
If you’ve already had this conversation with your child and it did not go well, make amends. One of my favorite things about the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is that, in regards to both the younger brother who lives lawlessly and the older brother who lives legalistically, the father initiates to his sons. He runs, he entreats, he desires relationship. Both sons attempt to take advantage of the father but his gracious response towards both communicates to us that there is no amount of reckless living that will disqualify from us God’s grace and there is no amount of righteous living that will qualify us for God’s grace. Later on his book, Walker rightly points out that “There is no justification for abandoning your child - ever. Abandoning your child because he or she rejects your faith’s teaching is just as bad as your child abandoning his or her birth sex. Your call to be a parent is not conditional upon whether your child agrees with you, believes what you do, or lives as you do.” This is a reverberation of Romans 5:8. “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners. Before we felt broken over our sin, before we asked for forgiveness, before we recognized him as Savior and Lord; Christ died for us.
This does not mean that you abandon biblical truths (Genesis 2:24-25). This does not mean you support a lifestyle that exchanges the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:24-27). Loving someone unconditionally does not translate to affirming their every decision unconditionally. But what must happen is that we, as Christ-followers, communicate with our words and actions that every single person is created in the image of God and worthy of honor, dignity, and respect (Genesis 1:27). And love. After Jesus affirms the great command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” he gets the follow up question “Who is my neighbor?” His reply (told in the form of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10) is one that suggests every human being is our neighbor. Every human being is to be loved by us as much as we love ourselves.
So what do you do if your son comes to you and tells you he’s gay? Tell him that you love him and that you always will.
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
TGC Courses: Sexuality, Friendships, Dating, and Gender