After just meeting her for the first time, the conversation somehow veered to asking about each other’s relationship status. I asked her: “So do you have a boyfriend?”
A very brief moment of silence followed. Then something about her reaction prompted me to continue “or… girlfriend?”
I had no idea why I added that. At that moment my socially awkward inner self began whirring with thoughts like “Was that offensive?”, “What if she’s not comfortable to share?”, “Did I just totally stereotype someone and make assumptions about a person I just met?”
As it turned out, she did have a girlfriend and was very open to telling me about her. But while listening to her, all I could think about was “oh shucks, what would she think when she finds out I’m Christian?”
Whenever someone with same-sex attraction (SSA) comes out to me, it feels like a ninja just threw a bunch of caltrops on the ground and I need to begin manoeuvring my way around it carefully, finding the best route out of this situation so that both of us can leave without getting hurt.
Much of this fear stems from assumptions I’ve made, informed by louder narratives surrounding SSA and Christianity in the media. Amid all these voices, I’ve come to find my own buried away.
When people always ask me “what’s my stand?”, I find it hard to present a stand in this discussion because it implies I’ve simplified this narrative to binary statements of “right” and “wrong”. This undermines and generalises complex narratives – narratives of some of the painful journeys experienced by individuals with SSA.
I regretted not coming out as a Christian to my new friend that I had met. But she eventually found out I was a Christian from my social media profile, and one day she came up to share with me a video on the Internet that she felt strongly about.
I was a bit taken aback and just listened to what she had to say. But I knew keeping silent wouldn’t have been a fair response as well, so I took out my laptop and found the video she was referring to and offered to watch it together on the spot.
As the video played, we had a conversation about the personal testimony. While both of us had clashing opinions, they were shared within a space where there was an acceptance of each other’s differences.
Something I initially thought was going to be confrontational and ugly turned out to be an open door into someone else’s life. If I had remained silent, the door to her life would have been closed.
But because the door was opened, I was able to help her better understand the messages in the video and to share my faith with her, while also having the opportunity to better understand her as a person (and not just a person with SSA).
Acceptance didn’t come in the form of quiet amicability – it came instead in the form of a safe and productive discussion where there was grace and truth. And it didn’t necessarily have to have the “happy ending” of her coming to know Christ.
From what I’ve observed, most people in the Church understand acceptance as a form of support for SSA.
There’s a worry of being seen as a Christian who has compromised their faith – that acceptance represents a form of affirmation of the lifestyle. But I don’t think acceptance should be interpreted in that manner.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Acceptance is a response of love. Accepting a person requires patience and kindness; not boasting of what is right or wrong; not taking pride in our own holiness; not dishonouring or undermining the feelings and opinions of others.
When I accept a person, I put their needs above my interests. When I hear something wrong, I don’t respond immediately in anger. And if I’m wronged, I keep no record of these wrongs.
The part that stumbles a lot of people is in verse 6: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”.
How do I accept a person while “not delighting” in the bad stuff I see in their life? That is where grace comes in.
God’s amazing grace has been freely given to us (Ephesians 2:8) and we’re all undeserving of God’s grace. Therefore, we too should give grace freely, whether we think someone deserves it or not.
Loving acceptance is, of course, a response that’s not specific to a person with SSA, but how we’re called to treat every person we come across. By accepting a person in love and grace, we have the hope that one day they will also come to know and experience the greater love and grace of Christ.
THINK + TALK
- Has there been a time when you experienced loving acceptance and grace from others?
- Have you had anyone share with you about their struggles with same-sex desires? How did you react?
- How do you think the Church can better respond in grace and truth?