I was in the public library, quickly looking through the books my children wanted to check out when I saw it: My Uncle’s Wedding.
Hey, little book, I remember you.
My oldest daughter, who is now 10, pulled this colorful children’s book off the library shelf when she was just 4. Six years ago, My Uncle’s Wedding introduced my children to the idea of same-sex marriage.
Except it didn’t. Because, thinking quickly, I pointed out the window, “What’s that over there?” And when four heads turned to look, I buried My Uncle’s Wedding in the stacks.
Stop Changing the Subject
My Uncle’s Wedding may have been easily avoided, but the topic of same-sex marriage has not been. My family lives in a neighborhood that prides itself on being the most progressive neighborhood in the most progressive city in the largely conservative Midwest. From the LGBTQ+ affirming lawn signs on our block to the lesbian couple living down the street, we have daily opportunities to apply a biblical framework to the big topic of sexual ethics.
Except for years, I didn’t.
I continued to employ “distract and change the subject” as my primary strategy for talking with my children about same-sex marriage (it had worked so well at the library).
Ironically, it was Eugene Peterson, after an interview in which he seemed to affirm gay marriage, who gave me the words to start having conversations with my children about same-sex marriage, gender identity, and sexual ethics.
In his follow-up comments, in which he walked back his confusing statements, Peterson said, “I affirm the biblical view of marriage. One man to one woman. I affirm the biblical view of everything.”
Of all the issues of our day, parents are most likely to become tongue-tied in response to their children’s questions about sexuality. We fear they’ll be confused if we have the conversation. In all likelihood, they’ll be more confused if we don’t.
As Christians, we don’t need to be tongue-tied. We affirm the biblical view of marriage. We affirm the biblical view of gender. We seek to affirm the biblical view of everything.
We fear they’ll be confused if we have the conversation. In all likelihood, they’ll be more confused if we don’t.
Last week on our way to the pool, we were driving past a church with a large mural featuring the words “Gay Pride.” Traffic stopped and there we sat, all four pairs of little eyes taking in the colorful pictures of happy same-sex couples. I counted down: 3-2-1, and there it was: “What’s gay pride?” The first question from the audience in the back.
This sort of question doesn’t have to be upsetting for Christian parents. We believe God has given us his Word to help us understand his plan for our lives. There isn’t any topic that needs to be avoided when we have the Bible to guide us.
I don’t need to fear discussing the word “gay” any more than the word “pride.” My children can relate personally to the temptation to harbor pride in our hearts. And they understand that many people, even people in churches, struggle with pride. Indulging pride in our hearts isn’t God’s best plan for our lives. Neither is choosing romantic attachment to someone of the same gender.
Any time we choose a path that isn’t God’s plan, whether the path of pride or the path of homosexual behavior, we miss the blessings God has for us.
But What About the Neighbors?
While it’s one thing to discuss a mural that celebrates an unbiblical perspective, what’s a Christian parent to do with actual people? Increasingly, our lives are intersecting with neighbors, coaches, friends, and pastors who have chosen to affirm and practice same-sex marriage and relationships.
How do we, as someone has put it, build bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth? How do we help our children navigate relationships with people who have chosen a path other than God’s best for them?
How do we ‘build bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth’? How do we help our children navigate relationships with people who have chosen a path other than God’s best for them?
The idea that people can decide what’s right and wrong for themselves, with no moral absolutes and therefore no sin, directly contradicts the Christian gospel. The Bible teaches that each of us is fallen and needs salvation through Christ. Paul warns in Galatians 1:8 against those who preach a gospel other than grace alone through Christ alone, declaring them to be under God’s curse. The only hope for anyone is Jesus.
So if we’re only asking, “How should I treat my gay neighbor?” we’re are asking the wrong question. How does a Christian treat any unbelieving neighbor? We throw open our hearts. And often our doors.
When we were new to our neighborhood, one of the first neighbors we met was a lesbian couple.
In the past I might have harbored a hope that the children wouldn’t notice these women were more than roommates. But as we’ve grown comfortable diving in and talking about these issues as a family, I no longer feel nervous that building relationships with LGBT friends will be confusing for our children.
We can’t avoid the issue of alternative sexualities with our children, but thankfully, we can address it with the same biblical framework we use for everything else. We were excited for the opportunity to do so, knowing that our children will encounter likable and winsome individuals living unbiblical lifestyles. So rather than shy away from these encounters, we’ve grown to welcome them.
Not only are our lives richer because of our unbelieving friends, but we’re able to process all of this with our children in our own home, rather than leaving them to sort it out elsewhere. As Rosaria Butterfield emphasizes when she speaks about hospitality, we can accept our LGBT neighbors as dear friends without affirming their lifestyle choices.
Can we really accept our neighbors without affirming their choices? Yes. We welcome our unbelieving neighbors—whatever their professed sexuality and identity—because our Savior did (Luke 15:2; 1 Pet. 2:21).
What better place is there for our children to learn that loving the lost and loving God’s commands go hand-in-hand, than in their own Christian home?