This summer while sharing the gospel on the beach with my friend Mara, we had an amazing conversation with a guy named Danny (I think that was his name) who identifies as gay.
On our way back from the beach, discussing the conversation we had, I remember talking about our mutual desire for marriage (not to each other, but in general) and how we are both glad that faithfully following Christ can include marriage for us. The cost of following Christ for Danny would have been tremendous. It would have meant saying no to any possibility of a romantic relationship. I feel guilty now think back on sharing the gospel with him knowing that I have the hope the marriage and I was asking him to live a life without it. We must realize what we are asking them to live without. We must realize the radical commitment this will entail. And we must do everything our power to help them along the way. If we are not ready to do this, then why are we sharing the gospel with them? Through the church we must show them a love greater than the LGBT community. And as Rosaria Butterfield, who was once active in that community and is now a Christian has pointed out, the LGBT community loves people well. We must show them companionship and not be afraid to get close to them because they are “different.” And we must acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and we must not diminish the pain and frustration they are experiencing.
I have a friend who is a same set attracted Christian who desperately desires to have opposite sex attraction. I don’t know if I have loved him well and comforted him well, but seeing the pain and frustration on his face as we talked broke my heart. I wish I could have promised him that this will be over soon. I wish I could promise him that God will change his sexuality. Maybe He will, but maybe He won’t, and if He doesn’t, the church must be ready to share his burden until he is life in this broken world is over.
In his book Spiritual Friendship, Wesley Hill, a “celibate, gay Christian”, shares an email he received from a friend who also struggles with same sex attraction. The pain he experiences is palpable. It is worth quoting at length,
“Regardless of what I call myself (bisexual or gay), I really do want to experience marital joy, even though I have troubling anxieties and doubts about whether I could achieve the physical or sexual bond with a woman. Based on a deep friendship in graduate school, I am more confident about developing emotional and spiritual intimacy with a woman. When God says “it is not good that man should be alone”, I know this is true, so true. And I also know that no amount of friendship, hospitality, or service, will ever be a substitute for a fitting “helper.” It would take a special woman to love me and accept me for who I am. My baggage is heavy. My history is messy. I do not expect my same-sex attraction will ever disappear, but it may very well diminish in a healthy, happy, and holy union with a woman. My homosexual disposition with persist as a thorn in my side until the end of my days, but I imagine it would be more endurable with a helper than alone. What I cannot imagine, what causes me to wince in terror, is the thought of being celibate in my 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond. Perhaps I lack your [Wesley Hill’s] strength or contentment for celibacy. Perhaps I have not received the relational support to joyfully pursue a vocation of celibacy. Whatever the case, I’m profoundly restless in my celibacy, so restless that at times I feel like I’m suffocating under the burden of it. Call it weakness, but I just need to be needed and not needed by a friend who closes the distance by a phone call, drive or flight. I need to be needed by a companion who is there when I return from work, there when I walk in the park, there when I prepare a meal for dinner, there when I read from a book out loud, there when I go to bed, there when I wake up, there when I cry or laugh, there when I am sick. In short, I desire a coven entail relationship where my helper and I witness each other’s “moments of being” (Virginia Wolf’s lovely expression), otherwise I dread the thought of having those moments forever unwitnessed. Sure, God witnesses my moments of being, but that is not enough. I need the face of God in a watchful and loving human face.”
We must be that face as much as humanly possible. We must draw near and make their pain as bearable as possible. And I know the objection that will come when I use the words “draw near.” What about “guarding their hearts”? First of all it is naive and egotistical to think they will fall in love with you., though Wesley Hill has admitted to falling in love with his best friend and acknowledges that this will likely happen again in the future. Guarding girls hearts is good for guys to do (or vice versa) and I don’t want to downplay that, but that is by far a secondary issue to showing them love and befriending them where they are at. Wesley Hill writes,
“What I and others like me are yearning for is not a weekly night out or a circle of people with whom to go on vacation. We need something more. We need people who know what time our plane lands, who will worry about us when we don’t show at the time we said we would. We need people we can call and tell about that funny thing that happened in the hallway after class. We need the assurance that, come hell or high water, a few people will stay with us, loving us in spite of our faults and caring for us when we’re down. More than that, we need people for whom we can care. (As another single friend of mine put it recently, you want to be able to make soup for friends who are sick, not just have someone who will make soup for you when you’re sick. In the absence of mutually recognized commitments, it’s not always clear that that kind of reciprocity is welcome.”
So when we share the gospel with those who are same sex attracted we must be ready to say “yes” to them if they say “yes” to Jesus.