Josh had always known he was different. From his earliest memories, he looked at some boys as more than just peers. His parents knew he was "special," but they loved him for it. He learned to wear a mask and play the part of a "normal" kid until he graduated high school.
In college, Josh decided it was time to be who he really was. He made friends with other gay people and embarked on sexual explorations. Josh found a refuge in his gay community and developed bonds that ran far deeper than sexual flings. Though his parents distanced themselves and old friends turned a cold shoulder, Josh felt he was finally free in his new identity as a gay man.
Josh is no caricature.
His experiences and story are true, and they are common. What if Josh were your neighbor or your co-worker or your son? How would you communicate the gospel to him? How would you tell him about the forgiveness of sins, the community of believers, and true identity in Jesus?
In one sense, there's no real difference in the way we'd give Josh the good news compared to any other person. Just because Josh is sexually attracted to people of the same gender doesn't make him foundationally different from anyone else.
For many of my Christian friends who love Jesus and struggle with same-sex attraction, the beauty of the gospel is that it addresses every area of their life, not just one expression of the fall. All believers know this truth. Whether we were once atheists, liars, Muslims, or self-righteous church attenders, there's no magical gospel just for "our sin." At the foot of the cross we are all equally in need of God's amazing grace.
At the same time, Josh has real questions that need to be answered. In the same way an atheist, Muslim, or self-righteous person would need the gospel to address them personally, we should learn to love Josh in his particular consideration of Jesus' claims. We should seek to help him find sound answers.
Ideas to Keep in Mind
To share the gospel with Josh, or with anyone who may have questions like his, here are a few ideas to keep in mind.
1. Hope in Jesus' power to help you.
It can be intimidating for people who have never struggled with same-sex attraction to share the gospel with a gay man or woman. As with anyone we share the gospel with, we fear how they may perceive us, and we may be tempted to think they'd never listen. The fear of man is a snare (Prov. 29:25). So rather than getting entangled in it, we must hope in Jesus' strength in us—not in our adequacy to bring the message (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 3:5). We must drink deeply of the gospel as we share it, for in it we find the power needed to be Jesus' witnesses (Acts 1:8). Hope in Jesus' power to help you.
2. Hold Jesus as supreme.
Friends like Josh will often want to bring the question of sexuality to the foreground in your conversation. But keep Jesus and his gospel central.
I encourage you to ask your friend to share his story with you. Ask him to help you understand how being gay became a central part of his identity. Or, if that's not his experience, inquire about where he does find his identity. Ask if there have been any hard times with his journey. Part of loving people is getting to know them.
As you do this, ask if you can tell him why you view your identity in Christ as supreme. In the end, we aren't trying to make people straight; we want people to be saved. While we never want to minimize sins that keep us from God, we want to magnify the one who brings us to God. Jesus came for sinners of all kinds, and we must keep that message central.
It's also good to keep in mind that all persons are sexual sinners—some in small ways, some in greater ways. This perspective helps us to reframe the conversation from "You're sexually broken and need to be like us" to "We're all sexual sinners who equally need Jesus." Jesus is the hope for all of us, no matter how the fall shows itself in our lives.
3. Have Jesus-like compassion and conviction.
Christians have sinned in at least two major ways when it comes to reaching those in the gay community. On the one hand, some have laid aside God's clear teaching that homosexuality is a sin in a misguided attempt to show God's love. Love stripped of truth is not love but deceit. This is a grave sin against both God and man.
Have Jesus-like conviction and speak the truth in love. Share what the Bible teaches about homosexual activity (Mark 7:21; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:10). Warn about the terrible judgment for those who reject Christ (Rev. 20:11-15). Explain the great cost in following Christ as well as the great hope of forgiveness and freedom for those who do (Mk. 10:28-30).
On the other hand, some have neglected compassion and harbored a condescending attitude toward people who practice homosexual sin. Love stripped of compassion is not love but hypocrisy. This too is a grave sin and unlike Christ's love toward us.
As the God-man, Jesus was unstained by sin, yet he had remarkable compassion on sinners (Matt. 9:36). As we reach out to those in gay community, we must strive to do so with a similar heart. What could be more heartbreaking than for a person made in God's image to remain lost in her sin and forever separated from the love of God? Ask God to help you to see those in the gay community as he does so you can minister with Christlike conviction and compassion.
4. Keep Jesus' church central.
As it was for Josh, the gay community is a refuge from the rejection and inner turmoil many gay people experience. They find a place where they're accepted in their sin and embraced for "who they are."
I suspect one of the great antidotes to this powerful tool of the evil one is the community of the church. This may seem odd in light of the way many demonize the church for its "bigotry." But I trust that as we build relationships with gay friends and invite them into our homes and into our lives, they will see the true community of which they have only dreamed.
This blessing is only enhanced when we as the church grow in giving grace to our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with same-sex attraction. One of my most instructive times in the past decade was seeing a new believer get baptized and share openly about coming out of a gay lifestyle. He described how the church had not only shared the gospel compassionately, but was also helping him now to live as a new man battling old struggles. He said that in the church he'd found a refuge that challenged him not to embrace his sin, but to embrace the Savior.
Jesus said people will know we're his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). As you build relationships with gay friends, invite them into your life that they may hear the gospel, but also let them see it portrayed through the life of your local church.
5. Help answer their questions.
There are always objections to the gospel that few of us ever feel "fully ready" to answer. But God calls us to give a defense for our hope in Jesus (1 Pet. 3:15). Here are a few questions Josh has asked:
- Why do you believe some verses in the Old Testament and ignore others?
- Why did God make me gay if he condemns it as a sin?
- Why is it wrong for two loving people to be in a committed relationship?
- Do I have to become straight to become a Christian?
- Why didn't Jesus say anything about homosexuality?
- Can I become a gay Christian?
Part of our calling as Jesus' ambassadors is to help people work through questions like these and show that God's Word has answers. If you're unsure of how to respond, don't be afraid to humbly say, "That's a really important question; can we find the answer together?"
6. Have patience.
Have patience with them. Take the long view in evangelism. It's rare to share the gospel with someone and see him repent right away.
Impatience can tempt us to give up quickly when we don't see results. But people are people, not projects. We often won't see what God is doing in their lives. View yourself as part of God's means to help them see and hear the gospel of Jesus. Love is patient (1 Cor. 13:4). Show love by entering the relationship for the long haul.
7. Hope in Jesus' power to save.
The gospel is God's power for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). The good news for a gay man or woman is the same good news for a straight man or woman. Homosexuality isn't the chief sin; unbelief is. The Lord Jesus died for all types of sins for all types of sinners.
So don't doubt the power of Christ. Pray fervently for soft hearts, open doors, and lasting fruit. Trust in God's wisdom and God's power, not your own. Remember that every Christian is a living miracle. If Jesus can save you, he can save anyone—including Josh.
Editors' note: This article originally appeared in the November-December 2013 issue of the 9Marks Journal.