Of all the things that could happen, this is not one that you had ever considered. Nevertheless, you've been hit with a bombshell. Your roommate told you he had something he wanted to talk to you about for a long time, but had been afraid to, but today he has finally come clean. With an awkwardness and discomfort you've never seen him exhibit before, your roommate tensely revealed his long held secret; he is gay.
Your mind raced and you couldn't believe what you were hearing. "What?" you thought to yourself; "Are you kidding me? No seriously, am I being punked? Where's the hidden camera? That is hilarious! O.K. dude, cut it out, stop joking around." But it hit you that he wasn't joking. How is this possible, you wondered? This guy is cool; he's been a friend for years. He's a Christian! He doesn't act gay. You questioned yourself; "How could I have not picked up on this? I've got good ‘gaydar' and I can pick out the gay guy in a crowd of hundreds. There's just no way!"
How does one deal with the news that your roommate is gay? What should you do?
1. Stay calm
I know this news is shocking, I realize your emotional equilibrium has taken a hit, but let me ask that you try to keep a little perspective. Your roommate has not confessed to killing anyone or raping and pillaging any local village. He didn't highjack a plane or involve himself in any kind of terrorist activity. He hasn't robbed the local gas station or been involved in a B&E. In the long list of scandalous activities that people the world over are guilty of, the fact that your friend is attracted to the same sex shouldn't be so high on your list. Is this a surprise? Yes. Is it the worst thing in the world that will ever happen to you? Not even close.
2 Timothy 4:5 says "keep your head in all situations." Overreacting, raising your voice or arguing will not be helpful to anyone. Proverbs 20:25 says "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out." As a Christian brother, this is now your role. "Drawing" your friend out, providing a safe and secure place for him to share openly without fear of reprisal or over reaction will be absolutely necessary in order for any kind of healing to take place. Stay calm and be a friend who is patiently going to help.
Let me ask you to stop and consider how terribly difficult and challenging it was for your roommate to break this news to you. I remember very clearly having to tell my roommates that I was attracted to guys. I was full of shame and embarrassment and I would have gladly welcomed a brain aneurism during that conversation. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever done up to that point in my life.
Consider that your friend has already likely lived the majority of their lives under a bombardment of cruel jokes, and rejection from family and friends. So please, as you discover this information about your roommate, think of these following inspired words penned by John in 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
Also, it would be helpful for you to stop and appreciate the amount of courage and faith it took for your friend to confess this intimate and personal information with you and let your heart be filled with compassion and empathy as you move forward.
When I was a single Christian man living with roommates, during the times that I chose to disclose my struggles with homosexuality, there were few things that proved more helpful than being reassured that our friendship was secure and that they did not look down on me, think less of me or want to run away from me.
You have to verbalize these sentiments to your roommate. It really is crucial. I realize that this kind of conversation is not usual fare for a bunch of guys, but you've got to get yourself there. I remember being absolutely terrified of what my friends were thinking of me after I disclosed this information. "Do they still want to be my friend?" "What are they really thinking of me?" "Have I ostracized myself from the group?" The only way you can calm these fears is by reassuring your roommate that you are no casual friend, but a true and loyal brother who will indeed be there for him as he works through this challenge in his life. That is the kind of friend he will need.
4. Promise confidentiality
Proverbs 16:28 says that "a gossip separates close friends." Nothing will kill a friendship like the betrayal of gossip. You must promise your roommate that he can tell you anything and it will stay a private matter between the two of you. If I had any inkling that the people I was being transparent with were either gossiping or passing along personal information that I was confessing, that would have ended the relationship immediately. You simply must be a safe and secure confidante.
If you feel like you need assistance, and would like to pull someone else in, you must ask your roommate first. If, in your opinion, your friend is doing something that is hurting themselves, or someone else, (or after a period of time just not repenting), then go to a spiritually mature individual to get the help. But, even then, do not do so without informing your friend first that you are doing this.
5. Ask questions
Sorry for using the same scripture twice in the same article, but hey, it's the word of God, right? It bears repeating over and over. Proverbs 20:25 says "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out." You don't draw anyone out by sitting in silence. Help your friend out and start asking questions. I can assure you that he has a heart full of things to talk about.
If your roommate is anything like I was, I so desperately wanted to speak about what I was feeling and what I had been through, but the topic was so difficult to bring up time and time again. It was enormously accommodating for my friends to ask me questions and really helped in "drawing" me out. This accomplished two things. First, it proved to me that they really cared and were indeed willing to discuss the issue. Secondly, it allowed me to unburden my heart.
The first thing you need to do is ask for permission to be able to ask some questions and be able to speak into their lives. Your roommate may not yet be ready to open up at a deeper level yet, and that is alright. Remember, this is most likely a terrifying event for them, it will take time for trust to be built. If they do grant you permission, thank them, and be honoured that they have chosen you to be a safe place. Honour that privialge by being kind, sensitive and respecting their need for privacy.
Once permission has been granted, what should you ask? Once the conversation starts, you'll no doubt see many paths to take, but I suggest some helpful questions would be;
"How often do you struggle with these attractions, thoughts or temptations?"
"Is this a daily battle for you?"
"How sexually active were you before you became a Christian?"
"When is the last time you were involved in homosexuality?"
"Are you worried about our friendship?"
"Are you willing to get further help from other trusted and spiritual mentors?"
"What can I do to help you?"
"Am I doing anything, or are any of the other people living in the household doing anything that is causing you to struggle that we should know about, allowing us to change?
"What can I pray about for you?"
"How can I encourage you as we move forward?"
Here are some scriptures that are extremely self explanatory:
Proverbs 18 2; "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions"
Proverbs 18:13; "He who answers before listening; that is his folly and his shame."
James 1:19; "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak."
Any volunteers out there who want to prove that they are a fool who is full of folly and shame? Didn't think so. Be quiet and listen. Draw your friend out. Learn.
7. Be discerning and set up appropriate boundaries
I would have thought that this one should be obvious, but experience has shown me that it's not. Be discerning and set up appropriate boundaries in your household. Now that you know your friend is attracted to the same sex, don't walk around the house naked or half dressed. Don't walk to the shower wearing nothing but a towel or wearing only your boxers. I realize that acting this way puts some new limitations and confines on how you live, but in order to protect your roommate from being in any kind of awkward situations or worse, facing temptation, this is absolutely necessary. It is most likely that there is no attraction towards you specifically, but that should not give you licence to parade around in the buff. Do not cause your brother to stumble. Be wise, sensitive, respectful, discerning and discreet around the home.
8. Have conviction that homosexuality is not the worst of all sins
Although it has often been treated as such by many Christians, the Bible does not single out homosexuality as a "unique sin" that God hates more than any other sin. Some Christians need to go through a cultural shift on their views of homosexuality. While actively being involved in homosexuality is a sin, to God it is just as evil as being greedy, lying, or any kind of heterosexual sin.
You need to have an appreciation for the fact that all Christians have their own unique issues, sinful natures and temptations to work through. Many disciples (regardless of orientation) show their different areas of "brokenness" through sexual dysfunction. Sexual "brokenness" is hardly exclusive to the same gender attracted. (please read: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 6:9-20; Matthew 5:27-28) Remember that you too, have a sinful nature that you must deal with everyday in order to follow Jesus. Don't allow the standards of the world to dictate to you how you will look at this sin. 2 Corinthians 5:16 says "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view." If, before you became a disciple, you held to homophobic views and feelings, you cannot allow these to continue in your Christian walk. Homosexuality cannot be treated any differently, or with any more disdain than your own sinful nature.
9. Pray with your roommate
Ask God to protect your friend as he goes through this journey. Thank God that he has seen fit to allow both of you to be friends and then ask for wisdom, guidance and compassion.
Now that your friend has considered you so honoured as to share this information with you, it needs to be your response to imitate the love of our Lord. By following these steps as outlined in this article, you will be setting your brother (or sister) up for victory and helping to ensure that they need not walk down this path alone, but know that they have a true friend by their side who truly loves them as Jesus commands.