By Caleb Kaltenbach
When a loved one chooses to come out, the person they confide in usually does one of two things. They change their theology so there’s no conflict with their loved one. Or, they distance themselves from their loved one so there’s no conflict with their theology.
Neither response is productive because you can love your loved one and have differing biblical beliefs at the same time. No matter how narrow-minded culture may accuse us of being, we have to teach the whole counsel of Scripture.
The Bible clearly says that sexual intimacy is expressed in marriage between one man and one woman. This is no longer the majority view in our culture, but as believers, we must hold true to what we believe the Bible says about any subject — including sexuality. When a loved one comes out to us, all of the sudden we have difficulty because of our emotional attachment to that person.
It seems like it would be easier to change what we believe than to live in tension with our loved one. But I want to call you to dive deeper into the relationship. Changing your theology will leave you frustrated. Getting to know your loved one better can also be frustrating, but ultimately is much more rewarding… and it’s what God wants you to do! You might think that there’s not much depth to your loved one. Some of you might even think, “No, Caleb, getting to know my loved one will be hard because we never open up to each other.” Regardless of how some people may seem — no one is ever really shallow.
Everyone is a collection of their experiences, hurts, joys, failures, successes, upbringing, emotions and more. When I see a person, I usually think of a stained glass window that has many colors, shapes and various designs within the same window. Maybe it has a crack or is shattered in certain areas, but there’s still something beautiful and unique about a stained glass window. Rarely can you see all of those elements together in the same place and associate beauty with it, but you can with stained glass windows… and with people.
We need to draw close to our loved ones and find out who they are. Some of you might be thinking, “But Caleb, you don’t know my loved one or how difficult he is!” I’ve been there. I get it. I understand. With every season of their life, they change and become a new person. You don’t have to sacrifice theology to love them, and you don’t have to lose your relationship with them to keep your theology. If anything, theology should drive us to love people, no matter what.
WHEN AND HOW SHOULD I SHARE MY CONVICTION?
No doubt there are many people who so love the Truth of what God says in the Bible that they immediately want to share it with their loved one who just came out. Perhaps you’ve been reading this guide and feel that I should have been more forthright with what God says about sexuality.
Rest assured, I believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. I believe wholeheartedly that we need to call people to holy living, and I’m thankful for the people who have admonished me to live that way, as well. However, I do believe that we should be strategic in tough conversations that we need to have. It’s my conviction that we need to have such conversations, but we should be intentional about where and when we have them. Wasn’t Jesus intentional with how He shared with Nicodemus, in contrast to how He shared with the woman at the well?
Didn’t Paul approach the philosophers in Acts 17 differently than he did the Sanhedrin (Jewish ruling council)? In this very same way, we should be intentional.
When your loved one came out to you, I bet they did NOT expect you to change your biblical belief on sexuality. In my experience, I have noticed that almost always the conversation of “what does the Bible say about sexuality” surfaces again and again. I don’t necessarily believe that we have to force the conversation, but I believe that within God’s sovereignty and if you partner with God in prayer — He will grant you chances to have such a conversation.
HOW DO YOU HAVE A TRUTHFUL CONVERSATION WITHOUT PUSHING A LOVED ONE AWAY?
I believe that these conversations are always emotional, but can be beneficial if we love them, show respect, share our belief, allow differences and reassure them. Let me show you how I think such a conversation is best had:
- Love them: I love you.
- Show respect: I believe your sexuality is between you and God.
- Share belief: My biblical belief is that God designed sexual intimacy for the expression in marriage between one man and one woman.
- Allow differences: I understand that you don’t have the same biblical belief that I do.
- Reassure them: But know that my belief doesn’t cause me to love you less.
Notice that in this conversation, you’re respecting them, standing up for truth, and offering reassurance.
Some people who have come out have tried to “bait” their Christian loved ones by asking questions like, “Do you think I’m going to hell?” I’ve noticed that such conversations, especially in an emotional moment, have little value. Always refuse to answer such questions or engage in such discussions. Instead, say something more productive like, “Only God knows our hearts and knows where we are.”
When we stand up for truth in a direct way during the wrong time, we have the potential to not only move our loved one away from us, but also from God. Let’s not make that mistake.
The bottom line is this: You love your loved one. Hopefully, you know them well enough to know how they best hear and have difficult talks. Tap into your past experiences with them and care enough about them to share conviction in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily hurt them. As my friend Carey Nieuwhof says, “The Gospel is offensive, but we shouldn’t be.”
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