The Bible clearly teaches that same-sex activity and gender confusion are results of the Fall into sin. It also teaches that our God loves his world (John 3:16).
God loves us fallen deviants so much that he sent his Son to save us by living the perfect life in our place (Matthew 5:17), dying the death our sins have incurred (Matthew 20:28), and rising to new life for our justification (Romans 4:25). He promises that all who receive what he has done for them by faith will be saved from their deserved condemnation (Romans 10:9), thereby becoming “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17) who will enjoy a kingdom without end.
Since God loves us this much, we are called to display the same kind of love to our neighbors: A love that doesn’t wait for them to come to us, but a love that seeks them out wherever they are at in life. This love calls us to share the same gospel message with them that was shared with us—the message that brought us salvation.
But how in the world do we do that? Where do we even start? Especially when it comes to our neighbors who struggle with or affirm a different gender identity than their biological identity, or struggle with or engage in sexual activity contrary to God’s design.
Let me establish a few facts right out of the gate:
First, God’s intent in Creation was to create two sexes, male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2). Nowhere in Scripture does one’s gender differ from their biological sex.1
Second, the Bible teaches that the only permissible sexual activity is between one male and one female in the context of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Third, the Bible teaches that mankind has fallen into sin, creating spiritual death. This has resulted in moral, mental, and physical corruption (Romans 8:19-23), affecting every area of our sexual and gender identity. Thus, throughout human history, those who claim to be followers of God and those who do not, have had sex before marriage with different partners, committed same-sex acts, engaged in pedophilia, polyamory, bigamy, etc. They have resisted or changed their biological sex and have engaged in all kinds of disobedience against the Lord of heaven and earth.2
We are idol worshippers who push back against the true design of God’s Creation (Romans 1:18-32). If not checked, we are capable of incredible sexual distortion and delusion.
Most likely you already know most of this, having heard it very clearly from your youth leaders and pastors. But there’s a fourth point.
Even as the Bible clearly teaches that same-sex activity and gender confusion are results of the Fall, it also teaches that our God loves his world (John 3:16). Since that is the case, let me suggest a few ways forward.
Start conversations: Ask tons of questions, do lots of listening, and genuinely engage with what the other person is saying. As a church planter in New York City, I’ve spent a great number of days interacting with strangers in local cafés and other public meeting spots. I meet people from every kind of background, with every sort of lifestyle, including many who are same-sex-attracted or are transgendered.
A little while back I struck up a conversation with a transgendered person in a café. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of a pastor that wanted to chat, but as I asked more and more questions about what life was like as a trans person, genuinely seeking to hear his story, he opened up to me and shared some really thought-provoking and challenging things.
After 45 minutes, he hadn’t converted to Christianity, but he did see that I cared for him. That’s a huge step because, the truth is, many members of the LGBTQ community really don’t believe that we care to hear their side of things at all. Start there.
Include them: As you engage members of the LGBTQ community, really seek to be a friend to them. I’m telling you, THIS. IS. HUGE! One of the attendees of our church plant is a same-sex-attracted male who has sought to live a life of celibacy out of worship to God. He earnestly believes if the church is going to ask same-sex-attracted people, and those with gender dysphoria, to NOT give in to their desires for intimacy, then the church MUST be the place where they are able to find the intimacy of real friendship. He is right. Invite them over to your place for a meal or to go out to a movie or a small group at your church or whatever it is you might do with any of the rest of your friends, but include them.
Share your convictions winsomely and with empathy: If my first two suggestions above made you fear that perhaps I was suggesting you downplay or diminish your convictions about the Bible’s teaching, this point should put those fears to rest. Christian, you have no choice: You must believe what the Bible clearly teaches. And anyone who is same-sex-attracted or suffers from gender dysphoria must be made aware that acting on those desires is contrary to God’s design. The Law must do its work of revealing sin and the condemnation it deserves.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it. Be super-sensitive and caring. As Francis Schaeffer once said, “Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.” You must express your convictions, not with gritted teeth and fists clenched, but with tears in your eyes and a warm smile. Frankly, it may take some time to get to this point in your relationship with this person, but at some point they’ve got to hear your heart, which as a Christian, beats with the truth. Yes, it’s possible they’ll be upset or reject you, but deep down they’ll know you shared your convictions because you actually care for them.
Give them Jesus: This is the point, my friends. A while back I had a really interesting conversation with a same-sex-attracted man. My wife and I were staying at a hotel in San Diego, celebrating our anniversary, and she had gone up to the room before me. As I stood outside ready to go in, I saw a young guy run past me. And then again, and then again. He looked frantic, so the next time when he was walking by a bit slower, I asked him what he was doing. He was trying to get copies of the LGBTQ magazine he worked for out before deadline.
We did the small talk thing for a bit, but then I asked him, “What is the biggest issue facing the gay community?”
He said, “Oh, without a doubt, marriage.” (At the time, same-sex marriage was not yet legal).
“And who’s your biggest threat in that regard?”
“Oh, probably Christians and Mormons,” he said with a sneer.
I hadn’t told him I was a pastor, so we were able to just talk like two human beings about his background and upbringing. He was raised in a very strict Christian home. His mom was the church secretary, his dad an elder. He’d been deeply involved in church, even attended Bible College for awhile. But now he’s living as a gay man working for an LGBTQ magazine in San Diego.
“So how did you get here?” I asked. He pointed to two things: His dad, though physically present, was emotionally absent. He didn’t spend any time with him, and never shared affection with him at all. As a result, his relationship with his dad was still scarred and awkward.
The second thing he said was really interesting: “I just feel like, if there is a God, he must have turned his back on me because of my attractions.”
At that point, I had to tell him I was a pastor. Then I said, “God didn’t turn his back on you, but he did turn his back on his own Son for you. And he did that so that he could be the Father you never had. He did that so that your sin would be paid for, so that you could be forgiven. And I promise you, he is the Father you always hoped for.”
As I was saying this, he started to cry. He looked at me and said, “Growing up in church, I never heard it put like that before.”
Never, never, never assume that your friends know the gospel. SO OFTEN I have met people who grew up in church, but have that same story: They never heard the gospel put like that before!
My sincere prayer is that this short piece will at least give you a framework to begin the wonderful, exhilarating, challenging and godly work of loving your LGBTQ neighbors. May God bless you in your journey.
Rev. Erick Sorensen is pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church in new York City, NY. He is a graduate of Lutheran Brethren Seminary.