There are many difficult issues that arise in Christian ministry. Homosexuality is one of the toughest. It’s difficult to be winsome and firm, loving without compromising when dealing with actual people who struggle with same-sex attraction.

Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a helpful article, “A Christian Psychology of and Response to Homosexuality,” in which he offers a fresh perspective on difficult questions.

How will the church understand persons who struggle with SSA [same-sex attraction], and what should the hope and help that we offer look like?

What should you say to your friend or your son or your daughter if they come to you and say, “I think I’m gay”? How did their sexual compass get so offset?

Can they change, and if so, what type of change can be expected, even hoped for? How will you counsel and minister to them?

Williams engages with current psychological research while also writing with theological awareness and aiming to advise Christians on how to respond. His approach is realistic about life in a fallen world but still full of hope: “The gospel changes the most important things initially, and it changes everything eventually.”

He closes his argument with four ways we can promote change in our churches and families for those who struggle with same-sex attraction:

First, the essential starting point is BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF, OTHERS, AND GOD.

In view of the mercy of God, it makes no sense to avoid, deny, or minimize SSA. I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of “coming out of the closet.” Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships.

That which we keep to ourselves tends to fester and swell, and what is left is that painful knot of shame and guilt. The alternative to authenticity is not a pretty thing: loneliness, duplicity, secret sins, anxiety, self-hatred, and sometimes suicide.

It is here that the response of parents, peers, and church is so important. It is the responsibility of Christian families and communities to cultivate openness to the acknowledgment and confession of same-sex attraction. What can we do to move in this direction?

Read the other three points and his whole essay here or watch the lecture.