Understanding the Five Questions of Homosexuality
If there is one practical, pastoral answer to the question of homosexuality for Christians, it’s that there isn’t one answer, because there isn’t just one question. There’s no good way to answer a question without knowing what the real question is. On one level, questions about homosexuality come by the dozens or hundreds, but on another level there are really only five, each coming from a different perspective.
- What’s so wrong about homosexuality?
- Are Christians who don’t approve of it terrible people?
- How do I live faithfully in a pro-LGBT world?
- How do I live faithfully when I’m attracted to the same sex or I think I’m in the wrong sex body?
- How does a pastor, teacher, friend, or helper answer all these hard questions in actual ministry?
1. What’s So Wrong About Homosexuality?
The first question is what’s so bad about homosexual practice after all. This isn’t, “Does the Bible say homosexuality is wrong?” It’s, “What is it about it that makes it wrong?”
I’ve just finished an extended series giving one answer to that question. An extended answer is usually needed, not because we couldn’t speak a quicker answer but because most people can’t hear a quicker answer. They need more time.
2. Are Christians Who Don’t Approve of It Terrible People?
This question comes from the opposite perspective, the view of those who think we’re really hateful, or at least wonder whether we might be. As I wrote last week, sometimes Christians act badly, and we need to repent and correct that. Not always, though. As bad as these accusations are, they’re really quite easily answered:
- Why are Christians such bigots?
- Why are you opposed to “love”?
- What problem could you possibly have with equality?
- I thought you were supposed to love all people, but you’re haters instead!
- Doesn’t God welcome everyone? Why are you keeping LGBT people out?
- Your “holy book” is 2,000 years old. You need to catch up with the times!
It’s a brutal-looking list, and there’s plenty more where that came from. These aren’t questions as much as harsh challenges meant to intimidate, embarrass, and even bully Christians into backing down from our principled position.
Do they pack the punch they seem to pack, though? No. I cover these and 18 similar challenges in my book Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality With Teens, where I show that while it may look like a barrage, it’s all just empty: It’s a barrage of blanks.
I’ve written sample conversations into that book, so you can know how to answer these challenges yourself in real conversations, or else guide someone else to answer. The title says it’s for parents and teens, but that’s specific to only about one-third of the book. This part of it, the last half or so, is for anyone.
3. How Do I Live Faithfully in a Pro-LGBT World?
If the Sexual Revolution made it harder to stay faithful as a Christian, the sexuality revolution has multiplied that a thousand times over. Christians across the world face real crises of conscience now as they face problems such as these:
- My son or daughter has just come out, and they’re saying that if I don’t approve, I hate them. What do I do?
- My boss (or prof or teacher) says I have to use everyone’s preferred pronouns. I’m not sure I agree. What’s the right thing to do here?
- I’ve got classmates, colleagues, or extended family members who call themselves gay, lesbian, or trans? Do I tell them where I stand? How do I tell them? What does Christian love look like in these friendships?
- How should our church welcome homosexual and trans people who come in looking for a church home, or at least a friendly place? What’s the right thing to do with them and for them?
- What do we do if they pressure on us to welcome them their way, according to their own script?
- What political action, if any, should Christians take with respect to these issues, and what’s the best way to go about it?
4. How Do I Live Faithfully When I’m Attracted to the Same Sex, or I Think I’m In the Wrong-Sex Body?
Once again there’s a list of sub-questions under this one:
- How does a person (“especially a person like me”) who’s experiencing powerful feelings find a way to do the right things and be the right kind of person in Christ regardless?
- If you’re saying I have to give up gratifying those desires, will you help me stay strong in it?
- How can I find satisfaction in life this way?
- I’ve got a romantic partner. What do I tell him or her now? What do even we do with the apartment we’ve been sharing?
Of course this too is just a sample of such questions.
5. How Does a Pastor/Teacher/Friend/Helper Answer All These Hard Questions in Actual Ministry?
Aah, finally! We come to an easy one!
I’m serious. How do you answer all these hard questions? You don’t. You only answer the one that’s being asked.
That’s not to say you don’t make other answers available. Churches can (and should!) have a ready set of resources people an read and/or view, to find out exactly where you stand and why. No one needs to wonder what you believe or the reasons you believe it. That information should be clear and it should be easily accessible.
This is different, though. It’s about questions specific individuals may bring your way. If there’s any hard part to this, it’s being patient to take the slow, relational route it requires sometimes to find out what the real question is.
People often ask me, “How do I answer this hard question or that?” Almost every time my first answer is, “You answer it slowly — slowly and relationally. You’re not dealing with a question, you’re talking with a person.” The good news is, just doing that, by the power and grace of God in you, might be the answer to their most important question: “Do you care enough about me to listen?”
Having said that, you’ll still need to know your stuff. You’ll need to do your homework, even if it’s just one question’s worth at a time. For that I’d recommend my own book linked above, or the online resources offered by Michael Brown, Stand to Reason, Sean McDowell, Summit Ministries, Restored Hope Network, The Ruth Institute, and of course The Stream. Search those websites and you’re bound to find what you’re looking for.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.