How To Love Our LGBTQ+ Family and Friends
A recent survey revealed that 90% of young people today think a main identifier of Christianity is that it is anti-homosexual. For people in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and others) community, it is a challenge to reconcile a message about a loving God with a feeling of rejection from the church. As Christ-followers, we are called to love our LGBTQ+ friends and create an inviting atmosphere for them in our churches.
No matter what our beliefs are about same-sex attraction and relationships, there are ways we can love our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors well. Our actions can make a difference to their perspective on faith and God, and create a safe space where they can be real and experience the profound love of Jesus Christ.
Here are four practical steps we can each take:
- Be aware of the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles.
Before we can build relationships with people within the LGBTQ+ community, we need to be aware of their unique struggles as they navigate faith and culture. While most of us struggle with sexual sin, same-sex attraction has different challenges because of the social stigma attached to homosexuality and the lack of our understanding of how and when our sexual identity forms.
To love our LGBTQ+ friends well, we need to understand that many people in the LGBTQ+ community face rejection and alienation in their schools, workplaces, churches, and even in their families. Same-sex attracted Christ-followers often struggle with reconciling their faith and their sexuality, making them feel unsure of how to deal with the issues of intimacy and sex as they pursue God. They struggle with confusion as they hear the church talk about sex, relationships, and marriage while feeling attracted to their same-sex peers.
Even for those who are committed to following God’s plan for sex and marriage, it can be a struggle to try to experience relational intimacy, especially in a culture that portrays sex as the way to achieve intimacy in our relationships.
Being aware of the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles does not have to change our theology or how we view marriage. It can simply change our perspective of the people within this unique community. And perhaps gaining a greater understanding can lead to a greater sense of compassion and love.
- Build friendships within the LGBTQ+ community.
We were created for community. We were created to have personal relationships to help us grow and transform. And those personal relationships should include those that have been marginalized, including the LGBTQ+ community.
“When Christians jump straight to Bible passages or straight to theology and then stay there, it’s easy to treat an entire population like they are a category and not actual people. But when we have personal relationships, it puts a face and a story on our theology. All theology is personal.” — Chase Oaks Pastor of Arts and Cultural Engagement Greg Holmes
One of the best ways to love our LGBTQ+ friends is to meet people where they are on their journey and allow each person to be themselves around us. We need to recognize each individual as a real person with real struggles and real hurts. We are all people dearly loved by God who share many of the same struggles and have the same needs, including the need to connect with others. We all need friends.
Building relationships will open the door for conversations around the topics of sexual orientation and same-sex marriage. While having these conversations can be helpful for us, we need to remember to lead with love and grace, even if our friends do not agree with our views. We need to be willing to listen to their perspective and to their story. You never know how their story will impact you.
“Conversations change when we get to know somebody’s story.” — Chase Oaks Transformation Pastor Eric Torrence
- Choose to love our LGBTQ+ friends no matter what.
As we build meaningful relationships with our LGBTQ+ friends, we need to remember the point of connecting with others is not to change them. Whether they choose celibacy or to be in a same-sex relationship, we need to love our LGBTQ+ friends.
40% of homeless teens are part of the LGBTQ+ community because we have failed to create safe spaces for them to explore their sexuality and faith. This staggering statistic shows how we need to fill the basic need of belonging for these teens. To have a sense of belonging means they need to experience love.
We need to create spaces where our LGBTQ+ friends feel loved and secure; spaces where everyone can be themselves and talk about their lives and their struggles; spaces where they can experience empathy and compassion. And the only way to create these spaces is to show love no matter what—the same way Jesus loves us every day.
- Provide ways for our LGBTQ+ friends to experience community and intimacy.
“We need to do a better job in providing community and that type of intimacy that they are not going to receive from a spouse. And what I mean by that is that emotional connection and that physical touch—those are needs that every person has.” – Chase Oaker Paul Martel
As the church, we need to do a better job in coming around the LGBTQ+ community and finding ways to create community and intimacy within our doors. We should serve as an extended family for the many that feel alienated from their own family and friends.
We need to talk about ways we can experience intimacy in our relationships with one another. We need to make room for our LGBTQ+ friends in our groups and social circles. And we need to create loving community without alienating the LGBTQ+ community.
Most importantly, there should be room for everyone to feel at home in our church no matter their sexual identity or orientation. Anyone who feels open to God should feel right at home in our church. Where else would we want people to be? We are all on a journey. Everyone needs community. And each of us needs to be surrounded by people who encourage us to develop their relationship with God, serve others, and make a difference in the world.