‘LGBT issues – that’s the stuff you’re really not allowed to talk about.’ I have heard that comment often from Christians and I totally understand – it’s exactly how I felt for a really long time. But over the past few years something has changed.
My very close friend is same-sex attracted (SSA) and I’ve had the privilege of walking with her as we both grow in our faith. The process of accepting singleness and celibacy has been hard for Anne, and there have been times when she has kicked against it. We have prayed together and cried together asking God to help her cope. As I’ve watched her struggle, I’ve questioned God: why does she have this terribly difficult thing to deal with? Over many years I’ve complained to him that it’s not fair.
But, I’ve noticed something different over the last five years; we’ve been crying less and laughing more. To me, it seems she has come to a place of fully accepting who she is, and has sometimes even considered her SSA as an opportunity. As she has changed, I’ve changed too. I’ve spent less time thinking about her challenges and more time thinking about the opportunities that God gives her to signpost others to Jesus.
When I went to a Living Out conference in London last year, I heard testimony after testimony from those who are SSA. As I listened, I heard a common thread running through their stories. Although they acknowledged the sacrifice in being celibate, they did not label themselves as special or different – God calls every one of us to make sacrifices for him. And not just to a make sacrifices but BE living sacrifices.
‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
Although they acknowledged the sacrifice in being celibate they did not label themselves as special or different – God calls every one of us to make sacrifices for him.
I saw these people on the stage as trailblazers for deep discipleship. Because of the challenge they experience, they have been brought a greater understanding of what it means to lay down your life for God. And when someone says, ‘It’s amazing, what you are doing for God’, their response can be ‘You do know that the call is for all of us, right?’.
That call has been sharpened in my life recently. The sense that I should hide away what the Bible says about homosexuality has started to fade. In its place came a new desire – to stand with my brothers and sisters and not have them be the only ones opening up on this issue to non-believers. For years my basic strategy was to talk to friends about Jesus and hope against hope that no one asks me what I think about this tricky issue. But one day someone did. A neighbour had popped in for a coffee and I have no idea how we got there, but I remember the moment when she said ‘Yeah, but you don’t think gay people should get married do you?’ There was no getting out of it; the phone didn’t ring, there was no lightning strike, just an overly long pause before I said, ‘Actually, I think the Bible is pretty clear that God’s best plan for life is for people to be married – one man to one woman – or for people to be single.’ ‘Oh, ok.’ she said. That was it. She still pops round, our kids walk to school together. I don’t know what she says behind my back, but I’m happy about what I said to her face.
Then I started to think about my children. As they moved to secondary school, there was a lot more LGBT promotion, a lot of talk of tolerance. But actual tolerance for alternative views was strangely missing. I was conflicted. I didn’t want to put my kids in the firing line at school. But I also wanted them to feel that their views were allowed and okay. I talked to them about it in general and one day my challenge in the school arena came.
I didn’t want to put my kids in the firing line at school. But I also wanted them to feel that their views were allowed and okay.
I got an email asking me to attend an LGBT anti-bullying event as a member of the parent council. The first question I asked myself was ‘Am I happy about LGBT people being bullied?’ Nope. I am not happy about anyone being bullied! But there’s a problem: what if the school thinks that I am part of that group of people doing the bullying? Because I don’t agree with same-sex marriage, some people automatically think of me like that. Some people would describe me as homophobic because I am not ‘affirming’. I don’t describe myself like that. I think God loves everyone all the same and says that I should too, but I also think that God says same-sex marriage is not part of the plan for life his way.
I didn’t feel I could just go to the meeting in case I was going to be asked to do something that was pro-same-sex sexual relationships, like be part of a big campaign. I didn’t want to have to make some big statement in front of everyone. But I didn’t feel I could just ignore the email – I’ve never ignored an email from the school before; simply being in the presence of a headteacher still makes me feel the need to be ‘good’…
I realised this request gave me an opportunity to be an example for my children. If I acted like I had nothing to say, or no courage to say what I wanted, they would follow. But if I could communicate well, and love others without compromising the truth, maybe they would follow that too.
So, I wrote an email to the head explaining that I’m against bullying of all kinds, but, because I love God and want to live his way, some people might think that I’m part of the problem. Would I still be welcome at the meeting? I read the email to my oldest son and asked him what he thought. He agreed it was good and was happy for me to send it.
I loved the reply from our Stonewall champion school: ‘We welcome anyone to these meetings. We recognise that people are from different cultural and religious backgrounds and we are not seeking to change anyone’s position but simply to raise awareness of an important issue.’
YES! I had been brave. No one died. I have not been asked to remove my children from the school, and I received some respect for my views.
Here’s the question that’s challenged me: Are the rest of us happy for those who are same-sex attracted to go out on a limb, answering the questions, defending their life choices, while we go around hoping no one will ask us what we think?
Are the rest of us happy for those who are same-sex attracted to go out on a limb, answering the questions, defending their life choices, while we go around hoping no one will ask us what we think?
With every email sent, every question answered honestly, every opportunity prayed for and received, my courage has grown.
It is possible to be full of love and full of truth. We can be gentle and kind and yet not hide away. And we can show our young people in the ‘hot’ environment of school how to do that as well. With the help and wisdom of God, we can raise a generation of men and women who are not ashamed of the gospel, who love the truth and who love their neighbours. Maybe you’re not ready to pray for an opportunity to share what God thinks of same-sex marriage, but I will pray for you that next time you are challenged on what you think on this you won’t change the subject, but you will share what God says with an attitude of love.
I have found that speaking up is not as scary as I thought. And I am no longer willing for Anne, and all the others whose names I don’t know, to be out there speaking up while I hide comfortably in my quiet life.
Come on church. Shoulder to shoulder.