When the bombshell hits
If you are reading this, it is likely that you've had a friend tell you they are gay or same gender attracted. The first thing you need to do is take a step back from your feelings, and all the shock and confusion that you are no doubt dealing with right now, and try to see things with a different set of lenses. Breath in, breath out. It will be alright.
While I'm certainly no expert in the field, I was in your shoes as I was once hit with my own bombshell, when my friend confided to me that he used to be a homosexual, and was still attracted to the same sex. After the initial shock, I knew that I now needed to rethink my own positions on this subject, and help a friend maneuver his way through a difficult situation.
Here are some basic things you need to know
Even though I had plenty of opinions on the subject, I really didn't know a lot about homosexuality, or same gender attraction. However, after walking alongside someone I care about these last few years, I've learned plenty that I would like to share with you, both in this article, and in others that will proceed it. Are you ready? Alright then let's begin.
So you've just had a friend share with you that they are attracted to persons of their same gender, what do you do now? For starters let me quickly address some of your most immediate thoughts you may be having; this will not rub off on you, and you won't somehow catch the "gay virus." So you mean they're not attracted to me? Sorry to burst your bubble. They may think you're good looking, but that is not the reason they have shared this intensely private information with you. I think Brad Pitt is good looking, but it doesn't mean I'm attracted to him. Persons who deal with same gender attractions are like you and I, who live with heterosexual attractions; they find some people attractive, and others not so attractive. The only difference is the attraction is directed to persons of their same gender.
So, your friend has shared this with you not because they are attracted to you or think you are gay, nor are they secretly hoping that you are. They have shared this deep and personal part of their lives with you, because they trust you. They consider you trustworthy, so your first response (after you get up off the floor) is to feel honoured that you are so highly admired, and respected that your friend would be willing to share this part of their lives with you.
Your friends reality
Along with same gender attraction, comes a great deal of stigma, which is doled out by the media, unfortunately in many churches, and just society in general. You may not be worrying about or thinking some of the random thoughts I've stated so far, but know that now that "the toothpaste is out of the tube"; your friend is worried and anxious about what you are thinking and more. They are more then likely concerned that you must hate them, and you will never want to speak or see them ever again. Or, that at the very least, the friendship you have had up until this point is gone forever; that you most probably will pull back emotionally and physically.
Why would they think such thoughts? Well, probably because that sort of thing has happened to them before. You have the wonderful opportunity to prove what kind of friend and confidant you really are.
The church has not been safe for them, either
Persons dealing with same gender attractions know that the Church can be a harsh and challenging place to be. Let's face it; most of our churches are not safe places for people to be open about such a thing. We can preach and teach about fostering a loving and open family environment, but then destroy those relationships with careless, thoughtless and hurtful words. How often in conversation do we as men call another man who shows emotion a "Homo", or tell him to quit being so "Gay"? Our loose tongue breaks bones as Proverbs says. We force persons with same gender attractions to keep quiet lest they be made fun of, or worst yet, ostracized entirely.
But you have been found worthy!
However, you have been found worthy. Over time you have been a friend, a listening ear and have obviously demonstrated a deep sense of loyalty as you strive to be like Jesus. These qualities have allowed your friend to consider you to be a safe and secure person, who will not shun them. I say Bravo! So few things in this life can be trusted, yet your friend feels that you are one who can be.
Jesus too, cared about a hurting and broken world, but then he personalized it, by actually caring for people in a way that was very real. I put before you that your friend has seen Jesus in you, and thus trusts you, and that is why they have come to you.
So what should you do from here?
So from here, the question is not "how do I help my friend" but rather, "how can I imitate the heart of Jesus as I help my friend?"
Paul assists us here by saying in Philippians 2:4-7: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."
Jesus (being the Son of God) could have thought of himself as mighty, powerful, and free to judge and condemn everyone He saw who was in sin, but instead his attitude was simply, "I am here to serve and love."
Can you serve your friend? Can you have the attitude of a servant? Being a Christian means being a servant, it means that you and I must meet the needs of those whom God has put before us. How much, or little, you know on the subject of homosexuality, or same gender attraction, is actually quite irrelevant. The technicalities on how to help someone can be learned by reading some books, and articles, and educating yourself (which I would suggest you do.) But really, when the rubber hits the road, all that really matters is that you are willing to humble yourself, and imitate the heart of Christ. Without that, all of that "knowledge" is useless.
Please hear/read this next point clearly; we are offering empathy, not sympathy. People with same gender attraction are not a project that God has put before you to undertake, they are people whom God loves dearly, they are God's child, just as you are, and need to be treated with love, respect and dignity. A servant is known for their dedication, and willingness, to serve tirelessly. After all, are we not all sinners, all broken in some form or another? Do we not all need friends to walk along side us, as we all try to be more like Jesus?
Romans 3:22 says "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Let's be honest; aren't we all the same?
We all have done (and do) things that are puzzling to us, much less (if you will) the acts of someone else. Know that your initial surprise, shock, and confusion, are both normal and to be expected. But now that you have arrived at this point, you have a unique and extraordinary opportunity, to be like Jesus and help your friend in an area of their life that has troubled them for years. You now have the chance to help bring healing and show what a real friend is like, instead of the unfortunate hatred, judgment and mistreatment that your friend has most probably undergone by others, who once called them "friend." You get to demonstrate what "Christ's love" looks like, rather than just talk about it. This therefore, is as much an opportunity for you to grow, and mature, in your own faith as it is for your friend. Provided that you truly dedicate yourself to really loving as Jesus did, your friend is actually helping you, just as much as you are helping them.
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself."
Remember that you have an opportunity that was brought about by your trust worthy nature. Be honoured.
In successive articles we will discuss various topics, such as how to inspire openness and transparency, and the necessity of verbal encouragement.
If you have questions you would like to ask, or have suggestions for other topics that you would like to see addressed, please contact me.
You are the light of this world. God has made you to shine like the stars, and this gives you the perfect opportunity to do just that.