In preparing our book Compassion without Compromise, we collected questions from lots of people — too many to cover in a short article. Some of them arise from people’s own experiences. Some are hypothetical “What if?” queries that set up scenarios any of us would find daunting. Like you, we are learning the complex balancing act of reaching out in love, speaking truth with compassion, opening the doors for the gospel and trying to be a good friend or family member.
We hope these practical responses will be helpful in your context. Even more—we pray that you will be able to grow in discernment, and exercise biblical wisdom in real life situations. As you seek to exercise compassion without compromise, we encourage you to keep two key principles in mind: a) mission, and b) true love.
How can I start a conversation with a friend who I believe may be struggling with homosexual feelings?
– Submitted by “Carl,” someone who ministers near a major metropolitan area, husband and father.
Interesting question. How do you know that your friend is struggling? If it’s demeanor or just a gut feeling, I (Ron) would just build relationship, be kind and be a gospel friend. I probably wouldn’t ask. The hope is to build a relationship where your friend could be honest and share what is going on within. If he brings it to the friendship, it is much less intrusive than if you pry it out of him.
If he were to tell you that he was struggling with same-sex desire, then I would do four things:
1. MAKE SURE HE KNOWS HOW MUCH GOD LOVES HIM AND HAS MADE A WAY FORWARD THROUGH CHRIST. Same-sex struggle comes with deep shame. The good news of Jesus is that the cross cleanses us. Make sure your friend knows this.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR FRIEND KNOWS THAT YOU DON’T THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT HIM BECAUSE HE HAS SHARED THIS. The truth is we all have our ‘stuff’ that needs God’s redemption. You don’t need to add to his shame by acting shocked or disgusted.
3. HELP YOUR FRIEND FIND HELP. Ministries like Restored Hope Network offer excellent resources and ministries that can help your friend navigate his same-sex desire.
4. MAKE SURE YOUR FRIEND FINDS A PLACE TO CONNECT IN YOUR CHURCH. He needs healthy community. Encourage him to find it. He might be afraid, but he needs this community if he is going to be successful in his discipleship.
Consider it an honour to walk with someone with a same-sex struggle. Know that you are doing good gospel work as you help your friend encounter Jesus.
This article was adapted from a section of Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing The Truth (Bethany House Publishing, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014), and is used with permission.
For more resources, visit www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.