Aug 26, 2014

When Someone You Love is Gay

By Rhiannon Kutzer

Every family has “that” person. The uncle who lives with his girlfriend but refuses to marry her, the brother who brings a different woman to every family gathering, or the cousin who comes out as a lesbian after years of medicating her loneliness with alcohol.

How should Christians deal with non-Christian friends and family who have "big" sins in their lives?

Two responses are typical, but neither of them works, because in both cases, Christians make the mistake of treating non-Christian sinners the same way they’d treat Christian sinners.

My Cousin, the Lesbian

In my case, it’s my cousin “Jenny,” who recently celebrated her “wedding” to another woman with family and friends back home. I live out-of-state and wasn’t able to attend, but I wouldn’t have attended anyway.

Make no mistake, I dearly love my cousin Jenny. We grew up in the same town and lived there as friends for twenty-five years until I moved away. When we were kids, after attending a family funeral, we made an important promise. It developed because of what we saw in the previous generation. Until our parents’ cousins flew in from California for that funeral, they had not seen our parents for probably twenty years. My mom complained to us that she only saw her cousins for weddings and funerals, and even that was probably putting it generously.

Our parents didn’t even know their cousins anymore. So, right there in my dead great-grandfather’s backyard, my cousin and I made the one and only “pact” I’ve ever made in my life. We swore to each other we’d never end up like our parents and their cousins. We’d always be close; we’d always be the best of friends. We committed to the relationship for life.

Then this summer, Jenny and her partner got married. While our non-Christian family members have chosen to accept Jenny’s new relationship as perfectly normal, the Christians in the family have reacted in a variety of ways. I too am faced with the question of what to do, now that my non-Christian cousin, about whom I care very much, is living an openly sinful lifestyle.

Two Wrong Choices

Christians like me are under pressure to accept such lifestyles, and we risk being labelled bigots and “haters” if we don’t celebrate homosexuality or other deviations from God’s design for sexuality. But if we approve these behaviors in our loved ones, we sacrifice our beliefs. We essentially say to God, "I know your Word disapproves these behaviors, but I'm going to condone them in my loved one because I think my relationship with this person is more important than being honest with her about what You say." Yet are we really limited to only these two choices?


Scriptural Guidelines

There's no easy way to juggle family love and faithfulness to God’s law. But we do find help in Scripture. First and foremost, we're taught not to treat non-believers the same as openly sinning and unrepentant believers.

Matthew 18:15-17 talks about believers who are sinning unrepentantly.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
This is why some Christians confront non-Christian homosexuals. But this passage clearly speaks about rebuking "brothers" in the faith, not unbelievers.

Similarly, in Ephesians 4:2-3, Paul urges Christians to treat each other, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

This is why some Christians approve homosexual behavior in an attempt to "maintain unity." But again, Paul is speaking about brothers and sisters in Christ here. With those with whom we do not share "unity of the Spirit," unity is not our goal.

We get a little more guidance from 1 Corinthians 5:11-12 which says:
“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’ ”

Clearly, believers who are unrepentant about their sin should be confronted patiently in the hope for unity, and if they continue to refuse to repent and receive God's forgiveness, they're to be “purged” from the congregation in order to help them realize the seriousness of their sins and the need for repentance. However, outsiders should not be treated this way.

Those outside the Faith don't already "know better": they don't have the same frame of reference believers have for moral behavior. Nor do they believe that the Bible is the authoritative moral guide for their lives. It's unreasonable for believers to expect non-Christians to follow the outward rules for relationships and human behavior set forth in the Bible, when, as Paul so clearly illustrates in Romans 7, believers can’t even follow the Bible's rules!

Confession on Steroids

Any attempt to talk to others about their sin must begin with our own confession.

Jenny, like many in the gay and lesbian community, believes that Christians who condemn her lifestyle are simply being bigots. Our confession of sins never reaches their ears; it is drowned out by the sound of our condemnation their sins. Our contrite hearts and sorrow for our own wrongdoing are made inaudible by what seems to be “holier-than-thou” preaching that they should repent of their sins. We say we need to preach the “truth in love” to our homosexual friends, but most of the time it’s not heard in love. Not only do they see the imperfections in us that make our words seem like hypocrisy, but they also live in a culture of postmodern individualism and relativity that makes all law sound like bigoted judgment.

If we're to discuss another's sin, we have to confess our own sin loudly and repeatedly. Lutherans (blessedly) tend to be unafraid of calling attention to their own sin, but I'm talking about confession on steroids here. Whenever talking to non-believers about an issue as divisive, touchy, or personal as homosexuality, we must drive home how much we need Jesus to heal our lives, and how we hourly fall short of God's standard for holiness, thus needing Christ's forgiveness constantly.

If someone spoke to me this way while rebuking me for my sin, I think the rebuke would be easier to hear.

Evangelism: Our Vocational Goal

Ultimately, loving God and loving our neighbor is the goal of every vocation we have, whether it’s doing dishes because our spouse hates that task, doing our best work for our boss, or speaking to a non-Christian friend or family member about a touchy subject.

The most loving thing we can do for unbelievers in our lives is to tell them about Christ. For me, this can't happen if I "okay" Jenny's homosexuality (which she knows I would never do). Neither can it happen if I ruin our relationship by taking it upon myself to personally condemn Jenny for the relationship in her life she views as most important.

Years and years have gone by since the Pact. It’s even been quite a few years since Jenny was a captive audience in my car and silently listened as I explained how Christ rescued me from death, giving me the peace she’d noticed and asked about.

She chose to reject that Peace for herself then, but a seed was sown. The chance that she may cease to reject God someday is what keeps me from reacting in either of the two typical ways: from condemning her homosexuality while ignoring the planks in my own eyes, or bowing to the social pressure to approve her lifestyle.

So, to share the Gospel, I avoided her wedding. To share the Gospel, I'll continue to vote against the gay agenda at all levels of government, and I won't hide my stance from her. To share the Gospel, I won’t write a letter, telling her how wrong homosexuality is. To share the Gospel, when she asks me why I think it's a bad idea for her partner and her to adopt a child, I'll gladly and gently discuss the studies that I've found so convincing about what happens to children adopted by same-sex couples.

To share the Gospel, I'll continue to stay true to our childhood promise, and always do my best to build a good relationship with her. This is the only way I'll ever have the chance again to tell her what Jesus did for me--and for her.



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This article is part of our Tuesday series on friendship



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Rhiannon Kutzer is a classical home educator and freelance writer. She writes about homeschooling and family and how they interact with culture at Homeschool Family Culture. She married her college sweetheart, a scientist, which regularly makes for entertaining conversation. Together they have three sweet children who constantly inject hilarity into their lives.

Title Image: "Conversation" by Pissarro, c. 1881

2 comments:

  1. Those outside the Faith don't already "know better": they don't have the same frame of reference believers have for moral behavior. Nor do they believe that the Bible is the authoritative moral guide for their lives. It's unreasonable for believers to expect non-Christians to follow the outward rules for relationships and human behavior set forth in the Bible, when, as Paul so clearly illustrates in Romans 7, believers can’t even follow the Bible's rules!

    This was really well said! And something I have trouble remembering.

    I try to make it clear when I discuss that homosexuality is a sin, that the Bible never says it's the worse sin ever. It's mentioned in the same breath as things like lying -- it's a sin, no worse than adultery or fornication when it comes to sexual sins. Anyone who breaks any commandment is guilty of breaking them all, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Hamlette, I appreciate your comment. I think talking to unbelievers about their moral behavior is somewhat like a Muslim telling a Christian they should do this or that because it's what the Koran dictates. Christians just don't believe the Koran has any authority over our lives.

    As I noted in the post, something I think that can have a powerful effect when talking to unbelievers is our own humility about our own sins. When unbelievers see that, they might just think we’re not just hypocritical and judgmental after all—making it easier for them to listen when they’re preached the Law.

    We live in a culture of self-righteous people (who don’t want to admit this about themselves) and it’s certainly not easy to preach the Law to anyone, even Christians. Pride is a serious issue for all; I certainly don’t envy our pastors!

    ReplyDelete

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