If we ever find ourselves in a situation where a believer confides in us that he or she is unsure of their sexual orientation and is struggling with same sex attraction, we must at all times, respond in love without compromising the biblical truth. Here is why.
Popular culture pushes for acceptance of homosexuality and same sex marriages as the norm, which is in direct opposition to what the Bible says. So how can we respond as Christians?
This post is about being a friend and encourager to someone who prefers not to choose that lifestyle and is asking for support. It is about supporting someone who has a contrite heart, and not someone who is willfully seeking to justify sinful behaviour and causing division in the church.
In this post, we quote a man who had struggled with this issue and has chosen to close the door to homosexuality for good. Let us call him Nick. Nick is now happily married and enjoying a healthy sex life with a supportive wife. His comments are in blue italics.
1. Beware not to judge others
The Bible makes it clear that sex with the same gender is not God’s intent and is a corruption of His greater plan.
Leviticus 20:13 ESV If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
While Jesus did not explicitly say anything about homosexuality, He did say that He came to fulfil the law, such as those laid out in Leviticus, and not to abolish them. Furthermore, Paul’s writings in the New Testament directly addresses sexual immorality, which included homosexuality.
Matthew 5:17 ESV “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
But before we put that into a special category, we must first “take the log out of our own eye” (Matthew 7:3) and realise we all commit acts that are considered an abomination to God. Take pride for example. Proverbs 16:5 says that “everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.“
Matthew 7:3-5 ESV Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
When any of us fall to any sort of temptation to use our bodies in a way that is not what God intended it for, we grieve the Holy Spirit who is alive in us. That is not just limited to sex with the same gender. There are Christians who are addicted to pornography or who have given in to adultery and various carnal lusts. All that falls into the same camp.
1 Corinthians 6:17-20 ESV But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
So be aware that we all face temptations of all sorts. It is how we respond to those temptations that define what sort of person we decide to be.
“Being attracted to the same sex does not mean you’re gay, nor does it mean that you must pursue that in order to be happy. That’s a form of temptation and there is always another choice. That attraction does not give you an identity, it’s what you decide to do with that attraction that eventually grows into your identity.”
2. Recognise the daily pressures
Most of us cannot begin to imagine the pressure, fear of rejection and constant soul-searching that Christians who struggle with same sex attraction must go through. Secular and gay friends will tell them not to deny themselves and just “give in to their instincts”. Parents and family may not necessarily know how to respond when / if they find out.
Choosing not to choose same sex orientation goes against a culture that screams to all of us; “don’t deny your feelings”, “if you feel something strongly inside you, it must be right”, “if it feels good, just do it”, and “follow your heart”.
It’s a struggle not only against temptation but also with one’s self-image.
Another man who is currently undergoing counselling for same sex attraction once confided, “Sometimes I just really don’t know where really negative thoughts come from but say most of the day I’d be fine, and then suddenly a thought comes to mind that I’m just so different and nothing I could do to help and that I should just go jump off a building to prevent all this struggle and fighting. Sounds so extreme but for split seconds, I would really think that’s the best solution. It’s like as if it’s telling me at least that’s the only choice/decision left I can always make and control.“
So we must be sensitive and not overlook these daily pressures. The feelings of same sex attraction can be very real and may continue, even as one makes a God-centred stand against it.
3. Be a “safe harbour”
Every time a Christian brother or sister confides in someone about same sex attraction, there can be a very real fear of rejection.
So it’s helpful to communicate a few things;
- I will respect your confidence, and whatever you share will be kept confidential.
- You can be assured that this revelation does not change our friendship in any way.
- I understand that change takes time and I won’t pressurise you to do anything you don’t feel ready to do.
- Please know I want you to have breakthroughs in this area, so tell me what is the most effective way to support you.
- Do you have a close support group? Shall we consider forming one for you?
- I will continue to uphold you in prayer; that you grow in strength to overcome temptation, to have wisdom in your choices and to deepen your relationship with Father God.
4. Never dictate and place unreasonable timelines on others
One of the last things you want to do is to quote the Bible on God’s stance on homosexuality, when people instinctively already know its not what God wants. People need time to learn the truth for themselves and be convicted by God personally, not be told what to do.
Here is another true story…
A homosexual man was interested to learn more about God and visited a local fellowship group. There no pressure applied and he was welcomed warmly. His lifestyle didn’t change immediately, but his faith was slowly growing as he joined their Bible study. Wanting to learn more about God, he visited another Christian fellowship group. When they found out that he was living with his gay partner, they gave him an ultimatum to give up that lifestyle immediately or leave the group. This man felt rejected, hurt and confused, and never went back to church. The people in the second group set up their own human rules and agendas, and failed to point the young man to our loving Father in Heaven. Everyone needs to know that God loves them personally and sent His own Son to die for them so as to give them the spiritual freedom to live as new creations. It is the same with any homosexual person.
As Christians, we can lose sight of the bigger picture, that Jesus came to redeem and not to condemn. Personal change and transformation in any area of our lives are only authentic, when we are personally convicted and motivated by our relationship with God – not because it has been dictated by some group of people. When we don’t represent God well, we end up cutting short the chance for others to know God in a genuine way.
If God has been so patient with us, how can we not extend that patience to others?
2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
5. Be there for the journey of self-discovery
Never approach a friend who’s struggling with same sex attraction, aiming for quick fixes. This is when we are being impatient and unloving.
On the other hand, we should also discern if the person is ready to tackle the issue head-on, and not just wanting to use you as a crutch. If this is the case, you will have to lovingly state that you are ready to support when the person is ready.
If the desire for victory is genuine, then be prepared to be there for the journey. It may take months or years.
Nick said that the biggest breakthrough came when he realised that the temptation to admire the same gender in a sexual manner was really simply that, a temptation like any other temptation. That however, took a period of five years to understand and put into practice; moving from an intellectual understanding to a motivation to renew one’s mind, to a personal conviction and way of life.
6. Know Father God’s love first
Anyone who’s struggling with issues of identity and temptation can feel self-condemned and self-accused.
It’s extremely critical to ensure that this does not keep your friend from knowing a Heavenly Father who loves him and can’t wait to welcome him into His arms, as in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 5:11-32).
In this story that Jesus told, a dishonouring son returns to his father, hungry, filthy and smelly from having lived in a pig sty and eating pig feed. The prodigal son felt unworthy of his own father’s love and acceptance, and wanted to request to return as a slave, as a worker who had to earn his keep and be able to eat some proper meals. But instead, his father didn’t even wait for his son to arrive home. The dad ran down the path to welcome his son home, throwing his arms around him and ordering a feast to be thrown in celebration.
This is the Father God we worship and this is the welcome we receive when we repent and turn to Him for help.
7. Form a support group of fellow believers
Ensure that your friend has a group of trustworthy God-fearing people whom he or she can confide in.
Loving support can be very empowering, especially when we may be tempted to give up on ourselves. Knowing that we have close friends who love us and are cheering us on gives us greater courage to “confront our inner demons”. We need people we can turn to, even late in the night, when the temptation becomes stronger.
“I’ve been careful whom I open up to because there can be so many conflicting ideas. It is important to know that the person you are sharing with is willing to invest in you and support you on your journey to freedom. Only people who know God’s word will speak truth into your life. It’s healthy to acknowledge the feelings of same sex attraction to yourself first and then tell a friend, or a group of people who love you that recognise this is an area of struggle. Over the years, I have shared with over 15 close friends and family. The closer the person was to me, the harder it was to open up and share my true struggles. I was always afraid of rejection, but sharing with those people always deepened the relationship and helped me along my path of growth.”
8. Seek pastoral counselling to identify the root
If your church has a platform for pastoral counselling, then encourage your friend to sign up for it or ask for places that do provide counselling.
The goal is not to deny the temptations or condemn the person, but to seek further understanding of the roots that lead to same sex attraction.
James 1:14-15 ESV But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
“Having impure thoughts or temptations is not a sin. It is what you decide to do with those thoughts once they enter your mind. Do not feel condemned when you are tempted. Take that opportunity to turn towards the truth and reject temptation.”
9. Encourage your friend to cultivate an environment of healthy influences
The Bible tells us to flee from temptation. Encourage your friend to identify unhealthy influences and cut them off, even those that seem quite innocuous.
“You have to watch your lifestyle choices. Surround yourself with friends with sound Christian beliefs based on the Bible. Watch where you go; the places you visit and what you see on the Internet. When the debates were going on about legislating same sex marriage, I protected myself from exposure to articles and pictures on the topic on Facebook, where same sex marriage was presented as normal. I even took Facebook off my phone. When you are exposed to something often enough, you will subconsciously accept it as the norm. It’s the same with abuse at home or foul language.”
2 Timothy 2:22 ESV So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Nick says, “Same sex attraction is a battle that cannot be fought alone. The battle can be long and difficult, but God does promise victory, freedom and forgiveness from those sins for those that ask for it.“
As the other man shares, “there was a moment a week or two ago when I was walking down the street and my eyes started to wander lustfully. Suddenly, for the first time, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I am free in Christ already, and I can choose not to sin and not look lustfully at a guy but just acknowledge and admire the physical beauty in men as a good thing created by God, instead of looking at people sexually. I think for the first time, I actually experienced the truth that if Jesus has set me free, I am free indeed. I actually have a choice not to serve my flesh, because I am not a slave to it.“
So let’s be the ones who stand by our brothers and sisters in their hour (or months or years) of need, and taste their victories with them when the Holy Spirit has done His work in their lives.
Also, see a testimony on same-sex attraction, Jesus redeems manager’s self-identity