When a Loved One “Comes Out”

 

Dear sister, perhaps you just received some surprising news.

It could be that your son just showed up at the front door and said, “I’m gay.” Perhaps your sister introduced you to her partner today. Or maybe the friend you’ve known for years tearfully revealed she’s struggling with same-sex attraction. It could be that someone you know is “transitioning,” going by another name and gradually changing their appearance to reflect the opposite gender.

If any one of the scenarios above resembles yours today, you may be feeling despair, ashamed, frustrated, wounded, confused, guilty, betrayed . . . or even angry with God. But in the midst of your emotions and uncertainty, God’s Word offers hope-filled answers for you today.

Seven Truths to Consider

1. Being “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow
to become angry” is always a wise reaction.

It is easy, when emotions are high, to either lash out in anger or (in the name of love) to start throwing out Scriptures toward your loved one. Though sharing truth is right at its proper time, consider it may not be the first thing God is asking you to do. In the heat of the moment, the Bible gives us another way to respond—the way of wisdom:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

The Lord, through James, tells us that a quick, emotional reaction will not change your loved one’s heart. Instead, your efforts to listen to them patiently may be what God uses to help them.

Their decision to tell you probably wasn’t made overnight. It’s more possible that they’ve been wrestling for a while . . . and have been experiencing some deep pain. They may even be expecting you to reject them. Letting them share honestly lets them know they are heard and loved—and will actually help you minister to them better. Their situation may not actually be what you assume, and the Scriptures you initially think they need may not be helpful for their struggle. Are you willing to wisely listen before you speak?

2. Regardless of their choices, your loved one is
made in God’s image and has value and worth.

Here’s some deep, beautiful doctrine: God has graciously placed the imago Dei (image of God) in every person (Gen. 1:27). From the Garden of Eden, each man and woman has been given the privilege of reflecting God and His glory in Creation. Yes, sin—including sexual sin—has caused that image to be displayed imperfectly. But every human being is endowed with the gift of dignity, value, and worth in the eyes of their Creator.

That’s true for the ones who seem most violent and inhuman and the young baby who cannot yet consciously choose to disobey God’s law. Our enemy wants you to forget this truth so you’ll reject and disrespect your loved one . . . because Satan hates God and all who bear God’s image.

Your son changing his name or your cousin coming to Christmas dinner with a same-sex partner doesn’t mean their value before God has diminished. His Creation ordinance still stands—and with it, our need to show all people respect as bearers of God’s image. Recognizing this does not mean approving of all your loved one’s choices, but it does mean approaching them with an attitude of respect.

3. Your and my sin (and need for the gospel)
is the same, no matter our temptations.

We will never fully value and demonstrate the beauty of the gospel until we recognize our own neediness before God. Paul writes about this in Romans. After explaining that God has given His people spiritual advantages, he writes this:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:21–24, emphasis added).

If you hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality and don’t struggle with the same temptations, it can be tempting to look at your friend or relative with disgust. But do you look at your own sin and feel as repulsed? God has offered you grace in Christ—His overwhelming gift of love and blessing—because you needed it and couldn’t earn it. Your sin, whether it’s gossip or overeating or anger, needs God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace as much as your neighbor’s—and that is true if they do practice homosexuality.

If you’re thinking, I do recognize my neediness . . . and it’s overwhelming!, here’s hope: Your neediness is exactly what qualifies you to help others. As you experience your weakness and God’s grace in it, you can then be a humble, effective vessel of God’s mercy toward your loved ones.

4. According to Scripture, embracing their
same-sex desires isn’t God’s best for them . . .

This is one of the hardest truths of Scripture: God is not honored by sexual relationships between people of the same gender. If you’re reading this post, you may already embrace this truth (or you’re wrestling with it). You know verses like Romans 1:26–27, where Paul describes these acts as “dishonorable” and “contrary to nature.” You’ve read the lists of sins elsewhere in the New Testament where the practice of homosexuality is listed as a mark of unrighteousness (1 Cor. 6:9) and “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10).

Yes, homosexual acts are sinful. This statement is true, but it’s very tempting to just stop here. There’s more to the story—and it requires more than simply throwing out Bible verses without love as grenades. (Do you see the ellipsis on the header above? Let the next truth finish the thought.)

5. . . . but obedience to God’s commands
and design can be a very hard road.

Consider the implications for your loved one to follow Jesus in their sexuality:

  • They may have to give up someone they are deeply connected with.
  • They may have to give up their community and identity.
  • They may face deep loneliness.
  • They may have seasons of depression and feeling unloved.
  • They may face misunderstanding in the Church and outside.
  • They will probably battle desires that cannot be fulfilled obediently.
  • They may never have a family or children of their own.
  • They may not be able to enjoy the physical intimacy of sex.

Jesus said following Him would be difficult and full of self-denial (Matt. 16:24). You probably feel some of that “cross of discipleship” each day—praying for a prodigal, feeling rejected by friends who want to gossip, submitting to an unwise decision of someone in authority. Let your experiences give you compassion toward your loved one. If they’re struggling against their desires, look at that list and be willing to ask questions about their fears and pain. And if they are pursuing a same-sex relationship, consider that those may be some of the reasons. Can you enter into the difficulty with them? Is there a way, as their mom or sister or friend, that you can you help provide for some of those needs?

6. God desires and is able to restore what
is broken by sin’s curse—including our
sexuality, but it may not happen in this life.

After that last point, you may be feeling heavy-hearted. But there is hope. God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). With this truth in your pocket, you can look at your loved one and think, If Jesus is their Savior, He can change them.

That said, while praying and hoping, we have to avoid creating an idol called “completely free from temptation.” God’s plan for your loved one, even if He draws them to Himself, may not mean they’ll experience automatic transformation. They will still struggle with temptation (probably even same-sex attraction). God may have marriage in mind for them; He may not. They could be on a long road of both victories and failings. But the goal is the same for all who follow Christ, whether they experience homosexual feelings or not. God’s purpose for His children is always their sanctification and His glory—not attraction to the opposite gender.

The redemption of our bodies (and your loved one’s sexuality) will not be complete until the day Christ returns. But take heart: In that day, there will be no sin, no temptation, no sorrow, no loneliness, and no pain for all who belong to Him. So as you trust the Lord with your loved one’s situation, remember that He is able to turn it to good, and for His people, He will.

7. Showing Christ-like love means sacrificially seeking
your loved one’s welfare while pursuing God’s glory.

This is where it gets practical and personal. Your loved one (like all of us) needs community, a family . . . and hope. Where better to experience these things than around your dinner table, in your church, and in the everyday stuff of life? This is especially important if they’ve already experienced rejection from others. As you long for their restoration and walk with them, your friendship and love are the most beautiful gifts you can give . . . because it reflects the heart of Jesus.

Our Saviour ate with both the religious and the prostitutes and swindlers of His day. Remember that Jesus didn’t make a distinction in welcoming people into His life based on their behavior, temptations, or lifestyle, as we’re often prone to do. All sorts of people were welcome at His table, because that’s where He taught and displayed the gospel. When the Pharisees questioned Him on the company He kept, He was bold and unashamed:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12–13).

Consider this: If our meals are more of a meeting of self-righteous religiosity than a welcoming feast to a motley crew, are we really reflecting the heart of Jesus? When a loved one says, “I’m gay” or “I’m struggling,” should we not do the same as Christ did—showing hospitality to those who need a family, making room at the table for the outcast, and demonstrating mercy toward sinners?

Perhaps this last truth is difficult for you—it may raise questions in your mind about the implications. Yes, it looks messy. But grace rarely comes in when things are washed-up and clean. You may end up sitting by your loved one’s side in the hospital after a suicide attempt and making room for them in your home (as Rosaria Butterfield once did).

Let’s be honest: Your church friends may judge and look askance at you when your daughter, in a short haircut and men’s clothing, walks through the door. As you show love and share your table with your loved one, you may face the same rejection as Christ did from the Pharisees. But remember, our Lord says, “I came for the ones (including us!) who need my friendship and salvation.” By sacrificing your comfort in this way, you can be God’s means of showing Christ’s grace in the world.

Also know that loving and welcoming does not negate any of the other truths above. We must seek God’s best for our loved ones, which always means honoring Him first. We are never to sacrifice truth, but we also are not to sacrifice love. First John 3:18 says it best: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

As you work through your own emotions and choose to show Christ’s love, rest in the comforting truths above. And consider . . . our sovereign God is working behind your friend or relative’s confession. They’re sitting next to you for a reason; perhaps you are in their life “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a musician by training, a writer by calling, and a child of God by grace. Her passion is helping people find abundant life in Christ through life-on-life discipleship and the written word. She serves with the Revive Our Hearts team in editorial services. When she’s not writing, you can find Hayley chasing adventures in libraries, on hiking trails, and through deep conversations.

Are We Taking Our Responsibilities Seriously As Members Of God’s Family?

When my children were much younger I understood that at least once a year I would suffer the agony of a required family duty, a responsibility that brought no joy and in fact brought with it much pain and suffering. But I did it willingly, putting on my nice persona, pasting a grin on my face even though in reality I would be aching on the inside, my energy completely sapped from my bones, all before it even began. But I did it because it was my responsibility as a valued member of the Savage family. So what was this much dreaded chore? It was the annual elementary school Christmas concert.

Each year I’d find myself sitting in front of a bunch of kids I didn’t know for what seemed like agonising hours, listening to many failed attempts at singing, much poor acting, and long minutes of waiting for the grade eight class who looked after the sound equipment and lights, to catch up to the performance.

The funny thing is that I would actually book off a good portion of my day on purpose for this agonising feast of the senses. The reason I showed up and endured was for the sake of my kid (and because my wife told me I needed to be there). The thing is that once I was there, I was definitely going to make sure that I was ready for my child to walk out on that stage, because I’d been waiting, counting down all the other performances until my child was finally, gratefully next.

I knew that near the end of the performance, and it always seems to be at the end (why can’t my kid ever be first?), when they would be up there in all his or her glory. And when that moment finally arrived I knew that the room would light up, and I would be so proud of my child, because in my eyes at least, my kid was proclaiming to the world that they were an amazing member of the Savage clan and I’d always tell them, “Well done!” – every single time. 

In the end I knew that my responsibility as a suffering dad would prove to be worth it because each time I would leave feeling privileged to have experienced the concert my child had been a part of.

My children learned very early on that they were loved unconditionally as my kids. This allowed them to grow up confident of their place within the family circle. But there were moments (such as times of complaining regarding a chore or two) where I’d remind them that though they were privileged to be a part of the ‘Savage’ family, they also had responsibilities.

The responsibilities for them certainly included chores around the house, but it also meant representing the ‘Savage’ name well outside the walls of the home. Why? Because their actions ultimately reflected who their parents were to the rest of humanity.

A child tells us a lot about the parent, isn’t that right? As you observe the behaviour of a child you learn a lot about the discipline (or lack of it) at home. In many ways the child ‘broadcasts’ the parent and makes the parent known to the rest of the world. 

As members of God’s family, we enjoy a position in the universe that is without equal. But with the privileges we enjoy we need to ‘own’ our responsibility and recognise who we are representing. Jesus said that we are to, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Jesus put it like this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Why should we do all this? … “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45

That is why we have to do things that might not be easy or natural – even radical, such as loving the other members of our family – our brothers and sisters – who might not be easy to get along with, even loving those considered to be enemies. And being members of God’s family also means that we need to own the responsibilities of serving others without thought of return, esteeming others better than self, loving the other members of the body of Christ like nobody’s business even if they aren’t lovable, and dying to self because that’s just what we do. And why? All this so that we may be like our heavenly father, and so that we may proclaim the family name, so that the family name becomes really really famous.

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The next time you are uncertain about your responsibility in any given situation as a member of the family of God, ask – Is this the sort of thing worthy of my Father’s name? Is it consistent with the family to which I’m a part of? Is this honouring our family name and more importantly is it honouring our father who has stamped his name on us and who we’re representing here in the world?

Whenever we step out onto the world stage, whether that be on our way to work, at Starbucks getting our grande non-fat americano misto, heading to church to worship with others, or serving our neighbour next door or on the other side of the world, remember that our heavenly father is there waiting for us to step out to shine our lights before this dark dark world, in order to proclaim to that world that we are responsible members of God’s clan, pointing people to his son Jesus and in the end hearing from our heavenly father, “Well done!”

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:23

6 Ways To Support Your Pastor

I remember watching a great movie a number of years ago, with actor James Garner in the lead role. The title of the movie was “Support Your Local Gunfighter”. James was the new guy in town and was viewed by the local folk as their answer to the ‘bad guy’ problem. Almost as soon as James rolled into town he was recruited by the mayor to take on the role of Sheriff. It wasn’t until later that the ‘new’ sheriff noticed all the tombstones (including a made to measure coffin being readied for him). After inquiring about the tombstones he learned that they were the burial sites of all the former sheriffs over the past year. It seems that the sheriffs were hired by the townsfolk to solve their problem, but they were not supported by them. Whenever the gang of hooligans came to town, they pretty much could have their way because no one would stand up to them – except for the poor sheriffs who would be subsequently shot and killed. The movie centred around the sheriff gaining the support of the reluctant townsfolk and winning the town back in the end.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s what we do to some of our pastors. Do we have a number of tombstones of former pastors in our pasts? Do we rally around our pastors or do we leave them to take the fiery darts alone? Do we hide behind them when the bad guys come but then have the casket ready once the shooting ends? I know of a great many people who love their pastors dearly and would hate for them to be hurt, however I know a great many times where our pastors are viewed as the  hired professional and little if any thought is given about supporting them.

I would venture to guess that many of us don’t even know our pastors – I mean really know them as a real person. What do they love to do during their time off? What is their favourite sport or hobby? Do you know what hurts them or do we just view them as almost a non-human, a type of super-human? What makes your pastor tick? Does he love cinnamon rolls? Does he struggle with issues that we need to support him in? Do we expect them to be perfect? Maybe its not that we view them as saviours, but then again perhaps we don’t think about them at all until Sunday morning or when an issue arises.

Pastoral ministry is tough, draining, and emotionally taxing. There is an emotional and spiritual intensity that is not experienced in most professions. Unlike most other careers, a pastor doesn’t just leave the issues at the office, rather carrying the weight of leadership around the clock while being expected to be a strength for the flock under his care. It’s a 24/7 calling, definitely not for the faint of heart and it requires a unique combination of battle toughness and fatherly tenderness. A pastor is closely connected to the lives of the people he serves, and vicariously experiences both the joy and heartbreak that his people experience. 

So how can you support your pastor? Here are 6 simple ways.

1  Pray for your pastor

The most important thing you can do to help your pastor be fruitful and effective in his role is to pray for him daily and pray with him as opportunities arise. which might mean heading to meet him at his office early in the morning or late at night (check first when it works best in his schedule).

  • Pray the Lord will give him wisdom in his various responsibilities.
  • Pray for his role as both husband and father (if he is married and has children).
  • Pray for his wife and children
  • Pray the Lord will protect him in the area of sexual purity.
  • Pray he would be able to strike a good balance between his ministry, family and personal life.

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2  Support your pastor’s leadership

This doesn’t mean that you blindly support your pastor, no matter what decision he makes. I am not suggesting, nor does the Bible suggest, that you submit to ungodly or abusive leaders. If your pastor says that there is no need to challenge his spiritual leadership, that is probably the cue to do just that, just make sure you do it in love, gentleness and with Godly council. However, the Bible is clear on the topic of being willing to submit to the authority in the church you have chosen to be a part of.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” –  Hebrews 13:7

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” – 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13

It is an awesome step to accept God’s call to be a pastor and to take seriously the roles and responsibilities that such a call entails. You should be able to trust, believe in, and submit to those the Lord has placed in authority over you. If you can’t do this, you need to address this issue, and in extreme cases, leave if you can no longer respect and trust the leadership over you. 

3  Encourage your pastor

Lots of people will criticize and find fault. They will both email him and talk to him (and about him) in discouraging ways. But choose to be one of those who look for ways, and reasons, to encourage him — to camp on the positive, not the negative.

Tell him what you appreciate about his ministry, and be specific. What has he recently done or said that you have profited from? A pastor’s teaching or preaching help many, but few tell him specifically how he has been a help and blessing. Every once in a while, write a personal note or even text him, telling him you are praying for him and how you were blessed by what he said or appreciated something he has done. When you have the opportunity, thank your pastor personally face to face for specific aspects of his leadership.

4  Get to know your pastor

A pastor has a lonely job. Most people seem to ‘take’ from the pastor and forget to give. The folks under his care take his time, his energy, his resources, his wisdom and his counsel. And so, it is refreshing and encouraging to know that people in the church family really care about him, pray for him, and sincerely want to get to know him, not so they can take, but so that they can give.

Why not schedule some time with your pastor and offer to take him to the next football game or out for breakfast or lunch at his favourite restaurant? Ask him to tell you his story, how God saved him, how he met his wife, how he was called into ministry. I’ll guarantee you that he will appreciate this and be a better leader as a result of your initiative.

5 Talk honestly to, not about your pastor

If there is something that you honestly have a problem with – some decision he made, something he wrote or said that you disagree with – please talk to him, not about him.

This is one of the big sins in the body of Christ. It’s like we have been given permission to be passive aggressive in our dealings with each other. We seem to talk about people easily if we have an issue with them, but talking to them about that issue face to face is hard if not impossible. As a result, the foyer after the worship service in some churches has been known to be full of smiling faces on the outside but angst ridden hearts on the inside. That is unhealthy in so many ways and a barrier to unity and spiritual growth.  

From personal experience, I can tell you that most pastors want to hear from people who have issues or questions with something at the church. Really – they do. Most relish the opportunity to both genuinely listen and share concerning your issue so the two of you can have a mutual understanding and respect for each other.

Talking about others rather than talking to others is gossip pure and simple, and it never makes things better, only worse. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore, do not associate with a simple babbler.” – Proverbs 20:19

6  Don’t forget his family

Don’t forget about his wife (and children). She needs to know she and her family is loved and cared for as well. Make sure that she is spoiled by the love of the women in the church, prayed for and blessed in ways that bring joy to her life. They are in ministry together, even if she isn’t as visible as he is, and will often feel the sting and pain of ministry as deeply as her spouse, in many cases even more intensely if the painful moments are directed at her husband. When she is loved (goes for the kids too) it becomes a blessing for your pastor as it frees him up emotionally to know his bride is cared for so well.

These six ways are only a start. There are many more ways you can support your pastor but even if you began with only one of the ways suggested it would make a world of difference to your pastor (and his wife). Even the Apostle Paul needed to be encouraged and he wasn’t afraid to point it out. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1: 3-8 (NIV)

Paul was encouraged and strengthened when he knew that he had the support of his friends and ministry partners. It meant so much to Paul that he tells them that he ‘longs’ for them. To ‘long’ for someone speaks of a pretty intense relationship. It smacks of a need to receive as in ‘I need you because I know that I will receive immense value from you”. Does my pastor ‘long’ for me? Does your pastor ‘long’ for you, or are we more of a burden/discouragement to them?

I figure that if Paul needed to be supported and encouraged, then I don’t think that it’s a stretch to think that my pastor needs to be encouraged and strengthened too.