Many Christians find it hard to talk openly about their experience of same-sex attraction. If they are still coming to terms with it, they may fear that talking about their experience will somehow make it more real, as though the very act of speaking of it gives it a greater presence and significance. They may also worry about how other Christians might respond: a fear that friends will feel uncomfortable and might distance themselves. Or that church leaders will think anyone experiencing such feelings and temptations must be a great disappointment. Or that admitting such things will only be letting the side down. The battle can feel lonely enough. The prospect that others might reject you can be enough to keep many Christians silent about their struggles for many long years.
In most cases, the first thing to do if a Christian discloses their sexual struggles is to thank them. It will almost certainly have been a big deal for them to share this with you. They may have been psyching themselves up for months, getting to the point of raising it only to bottle it and put it off. That they have come this far and finally spoken of it – and done so to you – is no small thing. You may be one of only a handful of people they have told. Any time someone shares something deeply personal, it is a sign of enormous trust. Acknowledge that. Thank them. Let them take a few deep breaths and assure them that the world is still spinning, that you’re still there, and that they haven’t burst into flames.
...Listen - carefully
The next thing to do is to listen – carefully. Be slow to speak and don’t rush in with your own opinions or advice. Experiences with same-sex attraction vary enormously. Points of sensitivity, triggers for temptation or despair, the issues that surround and feed into the feelings of attraction can differ immensely from one person to the next. Find out how they are. Ask them how long they’ve known, what it’s been like, what moved them to tell you. This may take some time. But it will help you get a sense of where they are with the issue – how it affects them and how they are responding to it as a Christian. Sometimes experiences of same-sex attraction are symptoms of deeper issues. Sometimes there is family unhappiness in the background. Other times there is no apparent rhyme or reason to the feelings at all.
Gentle probing and careful listening will help to shape what sort of wisdom and counsel someone may need. When a Christian is actively wrestling with these feelings – striving to flee from temptation, and to honour Christ and walk faithfully with him – he or she will need encouragement, prayers, and people to talk to from time to time. Some may not be clear on the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality, and will need gentle instruction. Others may be in the depths of despair, imagining the presence of these feelings puts them beyond the spiritual pale, or feeling overwhelmed with guilt about past sins in this area. In such cases it may be that they need some mentoring and help from a more experienced Christian.
We may have had no experience of same-sex attraction at all, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a huge encouragement and help to someone who is wrestling with this.