I have a close friend who is same-sex attracted. I’ve seen him go through some pretty tough seasons, but he has decided to deny himself those desires for sex and partnership with a man and live a life fully committed to Jesus. And now he feels called to minister to the gay community like he thinks Jesus would.
But I remember when he told me about his sexual attractions to men. He called and said he was having a really hard time with something. It was late at night, but I offered to drive down to meet him because it seemed so heavy. I’m not sure if I said all the right things that night, but I do remember that by telling me about his struggle, he earned a very close place in my heart. If someone was willing to share something of that magnitude and vulnerability with me, I wanted to be friends with him. And he later told me it had been really meaningful that I drove all the way down to listen.
What that night meant to both of us is a large part of why we are such close friends today. I think those interactions can be crucial moments in people’s lives, and it’s critical how we respond. Trying to love like Christ may make the difference between life and death. A few years into our friendship, my friend told me I had saved his life by the ways I had been there for him. It’s been a really, really hard process for him, but now he is a light to so many other people who deal with homosexuality.
I was talking to him the other day, and he told me how another friend of his responded when he shared his struggle. My friend said this guy responded in the perfect way. Of course, wondering what the “perfect way” was, I asked if he would share it with me. And when I ran his answer by another friend dealing with same-sex attraction, he agreed with it as well.
I thought this would be valuable to share with you. I’d bet most of us will be part of conversations like this at some time in our lives, and I want us to be able to navigate this territory like I think Jesus would. Or just how a good friend would. So the following are the ingredients my friend says to remember to include in your response when someone discloses a homosexual struggle.
1. Thank them
As they are explaining the details of their story, say, “I just want to tell you I’m really grateful you chose to share this with me. It’s important, and I assume it’s really hard to do.”
2. Confirm your friendship
Tell them, “I’m your friend, and I care about you.” And if you feel this way you can add, “In fact, I feel closer to you now because of your vulnerability, and after knowing the hard stuff you’ve gone through.”
3. Reflect their vulnerability
Tell them something that is difficult for you to share with people. This can be a really beautiful thing. There are things I now feel comfortable sharing with my friend that would be scary to tell anybody else.
4. Ask questions
Humbly ask them any appropriate questions, showing them that you want to understand them better, and just to defuse any of the stereotypes you’ve heard. Tell them they don’t have to answer anything they don’t feel comfortable answering. It’s OK to admit and affirm a biblical view of homosexuality, even if they don’t share your belief. You can say your understanding and experience has been different while still striving to listen to and love them.
5. Physical touch
As you say goodbye, put your hand on their shoulder or hug them just to let them know you love them.
I hope these tips help you be Jesus to the world. And who knows the ways God will redeem a struggle for His glory? When I asked my friend if he would get rid of the struggle if he could, he responded, “If I didn’t have this struggle, I wouldn’t be forced to lean on Jesus so much. And knowing Jesus like I do now is worth everything in the world to me.”
Copyright 2017 Ross Boone. All rights reserved.