Article by Rosaria Butterfield
What if your daughter, raised in a Christian home, returns from college radicalized by the LGBTQ community? What if she comes out as pansexual and tells you in no uncertain terms that it is her way or the highway? What if you discover that your most obedient and faithful daughter, the one you never had to worry about with boys or drugs or reckless bad-choice making, has been struggling with same-sex attraction since she was 12?
It is deeply frightening when a child you have loved and raised and prayed for daily leaves the faith, and with it, God’s protection. It can feel shameful to admit to others in your church that you are torn between your faith and your child—that you fear losing one for the other.
It may feel unsafe to ask for help from your elders and pastors with matters that isolate you and set you apart from others in painful ways. You may feel jealous or angry or deeply depressed that while your peers in the church are planning biblical weddings for believing children, you are wrestling with whether to attend the gay wedding of your prodigal.
If these are your feelings and concerns, take heart. The Lord is near.
Or perhaps you feel the weight of others in your church who struggle with same-sex attraction and are faithful members of your church, forsaking sin and living in chastity, but still feeling torn between the culture of the church and the culture of the world.
If you are struggling with same-sex attraction in God’s way—forsaking sin, drinking deeply of the means of grace—then you are a hero of the faith. Nothing less.
You may feel as if all your Christian friends do is make straw arguments against homosexuality—declaring it a choice and a bad choice, and demanding that real believers won’t struggle with that struggle. You may be sick and tired of hearing “arguments against” something and are hungering for the Jesus who argues for people, and who beckons and promises comfort for bruised reeds.
Or perhaps you are someone who also struggles with same-sex attraction. You are silent, though, and the hateful things people in your church say make you more silent every day. Your shame may be increasing as you are saying to yourself: If they only knew how I feel and how I struggle, they would kick me out for good. You may wonder if you will ever hear these words of Jesus in real time: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30).
This is a painful reality for so many sisters in the church. If you are someone struggling with same-sex attraction in God’s way—forsaking sin, drinking deeply of the means of grace—then you are a hero of the faith. Nothing less.
If this is your burden, then the Bible has the answer for it: the practice of daily, ordinary, radical hospitality.
Daily Hospitality for Sexual Strugglers
Where should you start? As a church community, designate a house where members live and where people can gather daily. Yes, I said daily. And then start gathering daily. And not by invitation only.
Make it a place where the day closes with a meal for all, and with Bible reading and prayer, and where unbelievers are invited to hear the words of grace and salvation, where children of all ages are welcome, and where unbelievers and believers break bread and ideas shoulder to shoulder.
This is the best way that I know of to evangelize your LGBTQ neighbors—and everyone else. To live communally as Bible-believing Christians who care for each other in body and soul. To live openly, such that you know each other well enough to know each other’s sin patterns and temptations. To be a community where everyone is repenting of something all the time. To be a community where Christ could come, eat, wash his feet, and lay down his head. To be a community where hard conversations are had over warm soup and fresh bread.
You see, two hours on a Sunday morning and two hours at a small group on Tuesday night is not enough. God so loves you that he wants you to live 24/7 as a Christ follower, doing the will of God from the heart and the home.
Maybe this seems pie-in-the-sky crazy. Maybe it is.
But this is the kind of house in which I first saw the gospel lived and loved.
And, by God’s grace, this is the kind of house in which I now live.
The best way to evangelize your LGBTQ neighbors is to get upstream of the culture war—and to stay there. And practicing daily, ordinary, radical hospitality is the way to do that.
Real Friendships for Real Needs
In a culture of biblical hospitality, we develop real friendships.
We talk about our differences as grown-ups who can understand each other’s point of view even if we don’t share it. We understand why people who cannot have eternal peace are driven to accumulate rights and privileges to compensate. We know that the accumulation of rights and privileges causes great anxiety within the LGBTQ community, especially when you are winning.
The potential blow of losing that which you have is far greater than never having something. Without the gospel’s checks and balances on the things of this world, you are awash in anxiety in a nanosecond.
When we meet a neighbor who identifies within the spectrum of LGBTQ life and identity, we do not presume she is sexually active. She may be, but celibacy is high in the lesbian community. So we commit ourselves to listening, and to treating each person we meet as an individual.
We understand that sins of identity run deep and hard.
Christ Loves Best
How do we evangelize our LGBTQ neighbors? We remind our neighbors that only the love of Christ is seamless. Not so for our spouses or partners. Only Christ loves us best: he took on all our sin, died in our place bearing God’s wrath, and rose victorious from the dead.
And yes, Christ calls us to be citizens of a new world, under his lordship, under his protection, under his law. Original sin explains why some struggle with same-sex attraction and have from the day they remember being attracted to anything. We know that we were all born in original sin and that this imprints our deepest desires. As we grow in Christ, we gain victory over acting on our sin, but our sinful desires do not go away until glory.
And we stand in the risen Christ alone, in his righteousness, not in our own. But we are called—by the God who loves us enough to die for us and live for us—to carry a cross, repent of sin, and follow him. Christians know that crosses are not curses, not for the believer.
Crosses are not curses, not for the believer.
And Christ puts the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6)—and he calls us to live in a new family of choice: God’s family.
So we evangelize the LGBTQ family by living differently than others, by living without selfishness or guile. We tell each other the promise found in Mark 10:28–30—the hundredfold promise—and we bear out its truth in our homes:
Peter began to say to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”
Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Receive a hundredfold.
About the Author: Rosaria Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University and author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Crown & Covenant, 2012) and Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ (Crown & Covenant, 2015). Her new book is The Gospel Comes with a House Key (Crossway, 2018).