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.