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Roundtable: My Family Member Is Gay
Conversations about same-sex marriage have increased since the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent weeks, but for those with gay family members, discussing (and sometimes debating) God’s design for human sexuality is an ongoing challenge. Learn from our panel how they’ve wrestled with loving and listening to their gay family members in a culture that’s making the issue increasingly explosive.
Culture: Breaking Free From Porn
If there’s a person who understands sexual brokenness, it’s Joe Dallas. Molested as a boy, Joe experimented sexually with women and men well into adulthood. He hoped that becoming a Christian would miraculously take away his desire to sin sexually, but it didn’t. Instead, Joe traveled a long and Scripture-soaked road to sexual healing. Today, Joe helps other men navigate similar journeys, and in this interview, gives encouragement to those enslaved in everything from porn to homosexuality, showing that Christ plus committed action can bring freedom. Joe's newly-released booklet is 5 Steps to Breaking Free From Porn.
Excerpt from the Joe Dallas interview:
"We are in a sense always expressing ourselves sexually. You may not be expressing yourself erotically in a seductive way, but maleness and femaleness are sexual states. And so we are sexual beings at all times, and to some extent, we are expressing our sexual identification as male or female. The problem is as a young single man or a young single woman, you also have very natural and even God-given desires for the sexual and emotional bonding that comes in a covenant marriage relationship. And part of your challenge, your responsibility even, is to steward those desires by protecting them by not indulging them prematurely where you have no business indulging them and living with the tension of knowing you desire more than what you have.
"Now here's the kicker: Many single Christians mistakenly think that is the reality for only the single person. Only when they get married do they realize, Oh, my gosh. Having a partner in marriage, having a legitimized sexual relationship does not remove my desire for sexual contact even apart from my marriage. I still experience temptations. That's when the reality sets in that in this life, nobody is perfectly sexually satisfied. But in this life we experience the peace of being in deep communion first with God and then if we are married, with our married partner. But we will until the grave or until Christ's coming have to be good stewards of our sexual tensions. And those tensions are not removed just because we become married. It's a fact of life for all people."
Inbox: Resources on Women’s Sexuality
There are a lot of women’s resources on relationships, but what about female sexuality? When it comes to a woman's gynecological and reproductive health, are there Christian guidelines? Counselor Joann Condie comes to the table with suggestions.
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--Our culture gives us two options on how to deal with a gay family member: throw them out or embrace homosexuality. This is extremely sad. But there is a third option, and I believe it to be the best option: help that family member overcome their addiction!
--the area of homosexuality has broken my heart like no other. I struggle to reconcile a 'loving' response and a 'disciplining' response. Of course I love my brother, but I cannot accept that a gay lifestyle, even a monogamous, committed relationship, is ok for a believer. So how do I place Galations 6:1 side by side with 1 Corinthians 5? Both are in context of a person, a believer, who is sinning. Dreamer Guy, by overcoming addiction, do you mean become heterosexual in orientation? I'm not so sure that's possible for everyone.
--Mae, if you ever figure out how to reconcile this, let me know. It breaks my heart, too.
--@Mae, Yesterday with the family someone brought some crab dip and one of the cousins was recently remarried after a divorce. Neither raised a bit of concern. If you are treating homosexuality any way differently from the other sins then that's just prejudice on your own part.
--@Mae, I should have added, the passages that you refer to are about the local congregation. They are not about how you should treat your family, the culture at large or even about how to treat other types of Christians.
--@Nemo- I'm not treating a gay lifestyle any differently than I would treat another serious habitual sin. I'm not prejudiced in my view of homosexuality, I realize it is an excruciating struggle for many Christians and I am honestly trying to find the best way to respond. Yes, I understand some of the passages are talking about congregational behavior and need to be interpreted with that in view, but I feel it might be a cop out to say that just because they are talking to a church body means they don't apply to family/friend situations. We're both believers, both part of the body of Christ, and while we may not attend the same church I think they can still apply. How much so I don't know yet. I'm still searching. How I respond to believers who decide to live a gay life is different than I respond to our culture and non believers who are in a gay lifestyle.
--Appreciate you having this as a discussion topic! It's not going away anytime soon, so definitely keep it in the rotation.
Mae - I don't believe you personally are called to "discipline", that is referring to the functions of the Church. Though, sadly several denominations have given themselves over to this issue, and actively encourage it now. All you can do is keep showing love and gently, but firmly maintaining Biblical principles. I personally haven't been in that position before (especially with a family member), I'm sure it's very hard. :(
--There is no easy way to broach the subject. I would suggest that if the homosexual family member is a follower of Christ, there should at least be some kind of intervention, but they should not try to force said family member to change. Praying for them may help. God has ways of changing their minds.
--@Dreamer Guy, How's that intervention going to work? You say "Homosexuality is a sin." And then he says "No, it's not." He already knows all he verses better than you and he knows all the counters to the verses. And he's likely a member of a congregation that is just fine with him being gay. Of the four pastors of my congregation two of them are lesbians. This is not an issue where the followers of Christ are in agreement. Even among evangelicals one in every four or five don't believe that it is a sin.
I'm old enough to remember when divorce was considered a sin, except in certain congregations. All the divorced people would be driven out of their churches and then join the one or two in town that welcomed them. Slowly the number of churches that welcomed the divorced grew until they were the majority but the evangelicals held out,. But once Ronald Regan ran for president they were welcomed everywhere with open arms. (In the same way that Mormons became--temporarily--Christians for the purpose of a presidential election. All we need is for the GOP to run a gay candidate for president and then this debate will also be over.) Just give it time, this issue will settle itself but not in your favor.
Be that as it may, tread lightly with your family members. It is not your job to correct them but it is your job to support them and hold them close. You can easily "correct" your way to a permanent beak. Your gay family member may one day have children that you want to meet. Or the rest of the family may rally against you and you may find yourself quite alone. Best to treat your family members politely and with sincere kindness.
1. I think public acceptance is totally irrelevant here. If an act is a sin, no amount of human acceptance would it right, and vice versa. For example, the Bible is very clear that divorce is generally wrong unless there are extenuating circumstances. That being said, I do agree that it's wrong to tell people that they're not welcome in a church just because of a specific sin-- after all, we're ALL sinful (read: if you really want to be fair, there would be no one left in the church).
2. As for the issue of homosexuality: I think this is why it might be helpful to clarify the term further. Namely, are we really talking about "same-sex attraction" or "homosexual practices"? (The distinction is useful because the former does not necessarily lead to the latter, and one could make a case for treating the former as a temptation and limiting the "sin" label to the latter.) Likewise, I think a distinction could be made between accepting an individual and accepting their lifestyle choices. For example, you obviously wouldn't stop loving a family member just because they are addicted to tobacco or alcohol-- you would discourage them from practicing the unhealthy behavior instead. Why should things change when the behavior is "the LGBT lifestyle"?
--Oops, there's a typo:
The second sentence of my previous post should obviously read "If an act is a sin, no amount of human acceptance would MAKE it right."
--Mae -- Nemo has a point, that homosexuality is a particularly difficult topic to have an honest conversation about right now in our culture, because the US cultural and political climate is very pro-homosexuality, and segments of the church will always bend to the cultural and political climates. Because of that, if someone is not inclined to take his sin seriously, it IS very easy, as Nemo points out, to simply find a church down the road that will ignore it.
I honestly think this is an area in which serious, fervent prayer is often more effective than confrontation. Certainly you should be open about believing what the Bible says and not sugar-coat sin. But there are so many external pro-homosexuality messages that it may be more likely that God will change his heart directly through the Spirit than through your arguments.
I have been struggling with this with a very close Christian friend who recently came out as gay. It is heartbreaking to see how pervasively this decision is destroying his Christian life, how it has forced him to completely change his view of Scripture, and even of the concept of sin in general, along with his view of who God is. We have the type of relationship where it is easy to be open and even argue passionately, but I think that approach so far has caused more relational damage than positive effects. But I still beg God to bring him back to Himself.
Like I said earlier, there is no each way to broach the subject of homosexuality. Also, there are no counters to God's view on sexual relationships between two persons of the same sex.
I have noticed that you seem to have a problem with divorce being called a sin. I have a few divorced friends, and they all say that it has been a terrible experience. Divorce, like marriage, is not a decision to be taken lightly, and they know this. Yes, divorce is a serious problem, but the majority of divorced Christians (at least in my social world) grieve their broken marriages. Many congregations offer support for the divorced in overcoming the problems of a recent divorce, but they do not support the concept of divorce. They view divorce as the loss that it is. As Jesus said, it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. The church should not throw out anybody for any sin, but they should not embrace the sin either. It's about loving the sinner and hating the sin, which in some cases is quite difficult. As easy as it is to rebuke a homosexual immediately, this is clearly not the answer. The church should never throw out the homosexuals. In fact, there are congregations that can help persons who suffer from unwanted sexual problems to overcome them.
We all know that it is not our job to correct the homosexuals who do not want to be corrected. That is God's job.
--"And he's likely a member of a congregation that is just fine with him being gay. Of the four pastors of my congregation two of them are lesbians. This is not an issue where the followers of Christ are in agreement. Even among evangelicals one in every four or five don't believe that it is a sin."
It would not take much work for me to find a church which denies the physical resurrection of Christ. Or that promotes abortion. Both are depressingly regular in my communion. Acceptance does not create or negate Truth.
--Really Really good podcast this week!! very informative and convicting overall. I think I will have to check out some of Joe's books and resources.
A few comments: One of the ladies in the round table segment said she was not surprised by her brother coming out, but she was shocked. aren't "surprised" and "shocked" synonyms in that context? lol, probably me just being nitpicky.
the question Lisa asked Joe is exactly the question I always hear being asked, or that I even want to ask too. How do we, as unmarried single people, deal with our sexual drives in a healthy way? What outlet is there? And the answer that always seems to come back is "there is no outlet. deal with it". Which is not the answer most people want to hear when they ask that question, and its an answer that a lot of people are convinced is not realistically attainable. And Joe's answer was pretty much that, though in more "christianese" language. "save and protect your desires for marriage".
“we are, in a sense, always expressing ourselves sexually.”. Um…what? I don't think I agree with that at all. Isn't that just going right back to that annoying theory of "sexual orientation determines your whole personality and being"? I think that's the kind of thinking that has homosexuals so convinced that their sexual attraction is "who they are" and makes them so resistant to change or anything in the first place. And just in general it seems pretty weird; not *everything* is about sex! Sometimes a banana is just a banana, lol.
“maleness and femaleness are sexual states”. I think a lot of people would say instead that maleness and femaleness are "gendered" states, rather than sexual states. And how do all of the societal expectations and cliches and things fit in to this, the stuff that isn't necessarily inherent to one or the other gender?
I was really behind most of what Joe said, but his statements about sexual identity and maleness and femaleness really struck me as weird. I really would like to see more clarification on his viewpoints in these areas, maybe he just didn;t have enough time in the interview to really fully explain what he meant.
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