3 Essentials When Talking With Gay Friends and Family

Seth Ray

Whenever my family gets together, we always seem to talk about relationships: who’s dating who, which friend got engaged, or who’s getting a divorce.

Sometimes the conversation turns to a friend or family member in a relationship with someone of the same sex. A hushed curiosity often overtakes the room, then leads to a barrage of stories and questions. Everyone seems to want to chime in with an opinion on the matter.

Your family, whether Christians or not, probably has the same kind of conversations, too.

Seeing People, Not Labels

Research shows 91 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers say Christianity is “anti-homosexual,” expressing contempt and unloving attitudes toward gays and lesbians. Many churches make homosexual behavior a “bigger sin” than others, while doing little or nothing to help people apply what the Bible says to their interactions with someone in the LGBT community (via Barna Group).

Clearly, as followers of Jesus, we can do a better job of talking with and about people who identify as gay.

How do we represent Jesus when topics relating to gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people come up in conversation with family? What’s our reaction when a gay family member comes out or brings a significant other to holiday events?

Clearly, as followers of Jesus, we can do a better job of talking with and about people who identify as gay.

Jesus demonstrated with His life what God wants for people from any walk of life. As we follow Jesus, we should pursue the perfect balance of grace and truth He lived out (John 1:14).

3 Ways To Share Grace and Truth With Gay Friends and Family

1. Clarify the resounding message of Jesus to all people: love.

Rather than avoiding people society was uncomfortable with, Jesus intentionally went to where they were, spent time with them, and showed He was God and His way was best for all people (John 4:1-42).

We’re all different from Jesus, because we’re all born with sin. Jesus isn’t afraid to get involved in our messy lives, but He enters our lives and transforms us (Romans 5:8).

Remember where you were when Jesus rescued you. We didn’t have life all figured out when we met Jesus, and that’s OK. We should never expect people to clean up their lives before they encounter Jesus. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, Jesus always has a next step for us to take.

2. Place relationships before recommendations.

Jesus didn’t always preach at people first. Sometimes He met a physical need or developed a relationship with someone before He declared forgiveness of sins or to “go and sin no more” (Mark 2:13-17, John 8:11).

Instead of telling a tax collector named Zacchaeus to fix himself up, Jesus invited Himself to his home. Society had stigmatized tax collectors because they were perceived to be the most unfavorable of people, but Jesus showed sincere interest and love for Zacchaeus and his life was was transformed (Luke 19:1-10).

Some of my friends are gay, and we’ve had conversations about what the Bible says about sexuality. These friends appreciated hearing what I had to say, whether they agreed or not. But we did not have these conversations when we first met or when I first learned about their sexual orientation.

It may take months or even years of friendship before you can talk honestly about something as personal as sexual orientation and what God says about it. Choose to preserve the relationship rather than immediately proving a point. Our responsibility to love people is not contingent on their response to the truth.

To people far from God, Jesus extended grace. To people who thought they had God figured out, Jesus emphasized truth.

3. Speak thoughtfully.

Sometimes Jesus answered questions directly, and sometimes He reframed the conversation completely (Luke 20:1-40).

There may be some conversations in which it’s difficult to express the grace and truth of Jesus. The setting might not be right or the timing may be off. The friendship just might not be at that level yet. It’s not a matter of us finding excuses not to talk about homosexuality, but of speaking about it carefully so that people see what matters most: that Jesus loves us all and wants more for us than we want for ourselves.

Gracious speech is thoughtful speech (Colossians 4:5-6). Both what we say and how we say it matters. Our words and communication shape how people see Jesus, the Church, and the kind of life God offers to everyone.

To people far from God, Jesus extended grace. To religious leaders who thought they had God figured out, Jesus emphasized truth. It’s not that Jesus changed His message for different people, but He presented the same message in a different way because that’s what His audience needed to hear most.

These conversations are an opportunity for us to represent Jesus. The way Christians interact with the gay community is a key issue that this generation, and generations to come, will use to understand Jesus and define the Church. The way you interact with or talk about someone who is gay illustrates to what degree you take Jesus seriously. Let us seek to be imitators of Jesus, who pursue the perfect balance of grace and truth.

Read more about what Jesus would say to the gay community, what Christians should consider about gay marriage, or watch the message "What's The Big Deal About Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?"

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