Loving the Homosexual Next Door

Recently, two gay men moved into a house across the street from a friend of mine. He’s Christian, married, and has 4 young children. He reached out to me for guidance. He’s not afraid, this is just new for him. Like me, he has been brought up in a fairly insulated, loving Christian home where protection from the world in many cases meant sheltering from the broken, confused, sick, different, and dirty. We understand we’ve been “called out” as people of God to be different, but we forget we’ve also been “sent back” and “set apart” for a purpose. We are on the earth to make disciples, but we’re too busy making distinctions.

Sadly, many professors of Jesus have failed to properly love those with whom they disagree. I operate by the principle that Christians have no authority where they have not shown responsibility: stop correcting people you haven’t tangibly loved! Discipline without love feels like dictatorship. Jesus’ model for the treatment of those different than himself was something like this: service and healing, work and relationship, q & a times, trust and Truth. For your neighbors, the order matters. The five points below are what I wrote to my friend. I use homosexuality below because that’s context in which my friend was asking, you may choose to insert a different struggle, the principle is the same. The scope here is not a battle plan for Christians who are interested in legislating our way to a moral land. Politics and policy are important, just not primary, and they don’t transform and heal the heart. This is a reminder that primarily every Christian is a missionary, called to sacrificially love his neighbors; all of them, unconditionally, no matter how different they are from us.

1. Stop thinking of your neighbors as homosexuals – of course that’s their “sin”, but really they are fallen humans that need a Savior. What if they were straight, but drunkards, adulterers, verbal abusers, addicts, given to money and materialism, etc? Everyone has screwed up neighbors, most of us don’t have to look outside our own home. See them not as two men that have sex together, show grace by looking past their sin (like you do your family, brothers and sisters, spouse, etc.) and have compassion on them as sheep who are harassed and helpless, in need of a Shepherd. They are two men that see each other as savior/idol. You’ve got something better, and they are gonna see and feel it over time. Your job is to strategically, just like a missionary in a foreign land (because that’s what you are), show them the reality of God and the story of the Gospel. You can’t fix them, be released of that duty, only Jesus can change them. Show them what it means to follow Jesus, get them following too, and let the Holy Spirit soften their hearts and illuminate their minds with truth. Your neighbors aren’t sin incarnate, they’re sinners for whom the incarnate Christ died.

2. Be a friend, build relationship – These guys can be your friends. Honestly, they are probably hilarious and fun to hang out with, but who knows? They are your neighbors now, and it wasn’t an accident. Make them some cookies and prepare a card from your family with a picture, cell numbers, etc. Let them know you look forward to being friends and that they can call on you for anything if they need it. Friend them on Facebook, learn about them there, and invite them over for dinner. Make your house a city on a hill to them, a place they will see light, stability, grace, love, and truth. As you befriend them, it will build trust and relationship. Your life will become curious to them over time, then they’ll start asking questions about your life, faith, etc.

3. Integrate your lives with them – Only you will know how much integration is appropriate or even possible. The fact is, you need them, whether you think you do or not. Most of us live propped up, individualistic lives, ignoring community. We suffer for it. Not only are these guys valuable in God’s sight, they’re valuable to you. I’m sure they are talented guys, with some amazing God given strengths. One may be an artist, a musician, a writer, a banker, a designer, a gardner, who knows? Find out how they fit into your community and use that as a blessing for everyone. There should be a few things that you guys can share in common, like chickens, or gardening, mud runs, maybe hunting, camping or cooking, etc. Go and find out what they like, what their hobbies and interests are. Identify things in your life that might encourage or bless them, and offer it to them freely.

4. Don’t waste a perfectly good discipleship opportunity for your children – Don’t fear for your kids, they were given to you to bless your neighbor (Gen. 18). Your children will pick up on your fears and prejudices. The battle is going to be not devaluing your neighbors worth as humans and persons for whom Christ died because they live a way you deem inappropriate. You children won’t turn gay just because you have neighbors that you treat normally who are gay. It’s ok right now for them to know that they are just two men living together. But when “the talk” ensues, 10-12 years old-ish depending on each child’s maturity, that would be the appropriate time to disciple them through God’s standards for marriage, what your family believes, and what your neighbors have chosen. Be very open, honest, and direct with them about life, love, and missional living. It’s messy, but kids are smart, resilient, and teachable. Imagine what your children will be able to do for God at 18 years old after watching their parents lovingly minister to lost or hurting neighbors for 5-7 years of their young adult lives. And like Jesus, sit them down in between ministry endeavors to explain the Kingdom of God in stories, in power, and in truth.

5. Pray and Believe – Belief is going to drive action. The fact is, if you don’t believe God can transform them, you probably won’t pray for them or act in love on their behalf. It might take 20 years, but God can do it. Believe that he can, and let that belief lead to prayer and action. Don’t be bummed that your Christian hero, or your best friend didn’t move in across the street from you. That didn’t happen because you don’t need your Christian hero and your best friend. You have grown and matured, you’re in the peace-maker/persecution stage of the Be-attidues (cycle of discipleship), it’s now time to pour yourself out in service among the wandering souls, the culturally jaded, the misunderstood, the broken and sick. Remember… 1 Cor. 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

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From Point A to Point B

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything I have commanded you.
Matt 28:19-20

Looking at Jesus’ last words before His ascension, we can see how the great commission tells us our goal, what we need to do, and what we should do once that is achieved:

  1. Make disciples
  2. Baptise them
  3. Teach them to do the same

I find it rather funny that Jesus never expanded on that first point: “Make disciples.” It has always remained that very direct end goal with no real how-to ever given. There’s no 12-step program, Romans road, or Evangi-cube exposition given to the apostles. Instead, He leaves it rather open-ended and, honestly, I’m glad He did. You see, by not giving us a roadmap to discipleship, Christ emphasized the work-less, God-focused nature of salvation; He forced us to look back on His example; and He gave us freedom to evangelise in the way best fitting our personalities and talents.

Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus mentioning and alluding to the fact that there is no way to salvation except through Him (cf. John 14:6). He is not telling the disciples to seek salvation through the law, as Paul would later admonish the Galatians against, but that He is the only true source of righteousness and the only source sufficient to cover a lifetime’s worth of sin.  All of this culminated on the cross when, as Christ died, the temple curtain tore, signifying that the barrier of sin between man and God was now broken. It was not the law that brought salvation, but Christ.

Christ also drew many to him and proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God. His is the example we follow, when we evangelise and disciple those around us. Christ showed evangelism in a number of ways, all tailored around the individual he was meeting with. When talking to Nicodemus (John 3), Jesus spoke as an academic, with well-worded arguments and reasonings. When He was speaking to the woman at the well (John 4), however, His approach was loving, yet confrontational of her sins, ultimately offering rescue and salvation from the burden of it all. These are just two examples; there are countless more showing “how to evangelise.”

With discipleship, however, we see a more consistent theme running: Christ calls, Christ teaches, then Christ sends. Note that those whom He called already knew of who He claimed to be. They didn’t necessarily know Him, but they knew of Him and were expecting Him. So, we can say that discipleship follows evangelism, which makes sense. Yes, it’s true you can disciple someone to salvation – that happens often in churches, especially in Sunday school or youth group – but for true discipleship to develop, it must be with a current Christian. That doesn’t mean that the great commission is telling us to forgo evangelism. No, Christ said to make disciples, so we need to evangelise before we can even get to that step, as though it were a step 0.5 of sorts.

Which leads me to my last point, Christ gave us freedom in evangelism. Christ gave examples during His time on Earth, true, but He also gave us very unique skills and personalities in order to reach the disparate peoples of this planet. I, for one, am terrible at conveying the Gospel to a feelings-oriented person, but I can talk evolutionary theory and philosophy while tying in basic theology till the cows come home. God made me able to reach specific types of people very well and He gave me the passion and desire to evangelise to them as well. Now, that doesn’t mean I forgo evangelism to all people – I am to be preaching the Gospel to everyone I meet and, often, God uses my deficiencies to act in ways that blow my mind. Rather, it merely means that I am well-equipped in a specific area.

Bringing everything back to the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t give us an explicitly worded roadmap to get from point A to point B. Instead, He gave us a list of checkpoints. How we reach those checkpoints is up to us and we have been given the tools to do so. So, with our skills in hand, let us evangelise to and disciple those we come across, to the best of our abilities, in in the way that means most for them, bringing God the glory at their salvation and subsequent obedience, bringing in turn more disciples to further the work assigned to us.

A current medical school applicant, James grew up on the missions field in Cape Town, South Africa. He graduated from Liberty University in May 2014 and is seeking, ultimately, to serve as a missionary doctor.  Read more from James at Third Culture Musings.