One of the things I find hardest about the culture wars around sexuality and many public responses to LGBT issues by churches and Christian organisations is that they forget about LGBT people. What we can and can’t say around sexuality is an important issue of religious liberty, but it’s not just that. Secular liberals are lobbing lawsuits and insults at Christians and straight Christians are responding with a victim mentality and defending their rights to free speech. And somewhere in no man’s land, gay people – both Christian and non-Christian – are getting hurt in the crossfire.
For some churches and evangelical institutions holding a traditional view, homosexuality, ‘LGBT rights’, and even gay people are seen as enemies of the gospel. Sadly, this often leads to a defensive posture and ‘siege mentality’ as churches fear losing their own liberties in a pro-gay culture. Often there is more of a focus on the risks for the future of church and family life than on the need for grace towards and compassion for LGBT people.
Treating homosexuality as a primarily political issue has the damaging effect of dehumanising both Christians and non-Christians for whom it is intensely personal.
Treating homosexuality as a primarily political issue has the damaging effect of dehumanising both Christians and non-Christians for whom it is intensely personal. The public face of Christian engagement with homosexuality has often lacked a pastoral sensitivity towards those who are gay or lesbian, both inside and outside the church. ‘As we evangelicals fought political battles over sexuality, we…ignored people in our own congregations who wrestle with their sexual desires and gender identity.’1
Freedom for Christians to speak openly about biblical sexual morality is important but should not come before care for LGBT people, otherwise a defence of religious liberties can easily become an attack on LGBT people. We must stand alongside LGBT people even if we don’t support same-sex sexual behaviour. Wouldn’t it be great if the church was known for loving and serving the LGBT community?
Here are some ideas to help you care for the LGBT people around you:
- Listen well to people’s stories and don’t make assumptions. Every LGBT person will have a different experience of sexuality and identity.
- Use language carefully when talking about LGBT matters and acknowledge that this is deeply personal for many rather than just a political or ‘rights’ issue. Is what you’re saying demonstrating the full gospel and showing LGBT people that Jesus loves them and invites them to follow him?
- Get informed about the struggles that same-sex attracted Christians face. There are many good books to help.
- Be a safe person for people to be vulnerable with and read our advice about what to do if someone comes out to you.
And for LGBT people caught in no man’s land, here’s some encouragement:
- Know that you’re not alone. There are many who understand your painful experiences. Here are the stories of just a few.
- Watch your own attitude towards those who are handling the situation badly. We can model showing grace, love and forgiveness to others.
- Talk to someone you trust. Here’s some advice on sharing your story.
- Subscribe to the Living Out podcast for a regular dose of encouragement and inspiration from some friendly same-sex attracted people!
- Matthew Lee Anderson, ‘How We Got to the Equality Act’, Christianity Today. Accessed 28 March 2022.