In the current landscape of the church, there is probably no other issue which is being discussed more so than the issue of human sexuality and orientation. In particular as biblical counselors, how do we wisely understand, love, engage, and counsel those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA) or who find themselves in a same-sex relationship?
One danger, among many, I believe is the temptation to reduce a person’s personhood down to the issue of sexuality—who they are or are not attracted to sexually.
Don’t Be Reductionistic
My fear for many I speak and counsel with is that believers unwittingly play into the hands of our present culture by elevating sexuality as the dominant means of identification and thereby identity.
Doing so not only is reductionistic, but it immediately puts the conversation in a very narrow spot. By centering the dialogue on the counselee’s sexual orientation, two ramifications potentially ensue:
- Because I have not experienced SSA, then I create a sense of distance and otherness. You are “over there,” and I am over here.
- Biblical change becomes very uni-dimensional—change in one’s sexual orientation. Surely biblical change affects our sexual orientation and desires, but but is always more than that. True and authentic biblical change affects us holistically. (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18)
By way of clarity, what I am not saying is that one should completely ignore the counselee’s sexual orientation, but to lead off with that creates more obstacles, I believe, than it does in helping open avenues of conversation.
Most counselees struggling with SSA come fairly convinced of one or more of the following arguments or permutations of these arguments:
- God made me this way.
- I was born this way.
- Why would a loving God give me these desires if they were sinful?
- I cannot change how I feel or who I am attracted to, no more than you can change your ethnicity or race.
- I am committed to a monogamous same-sex relationship.
Please hear me out, I am in no way saying these are not important questions to think through and have solid biblical answers for in counsel and conversation; however, is this the first place we should be going in the initial conversation?
The person you are speaking to is much more than a sexual being. They are created in God’s image, and that is our defining characteristic. Do not fall into the trap of interacting on the level of accepting sexual identity as the predominant characteristic of who they are.
The counselee struggling with SSA and engaging in homosexual behavior is not just a sexual being, but they are also a spiritual being. In a rush to address and counsel the orientation and attraction, let us not forget the heart.
Love and Listen Well
So where does this leave us? In the times I’ve seen God do a work of grace, and help a person redeem their sexual desires, I believe what I’ve most been surprised by is how this process of change is actually quite similar to our own stories of change.
- Pray. Ask God for wisdom to know how to approach those struggling with SSA and those actually engaging in the behavior of homosexuality. What would wise pursuit look like?
- Ask good questions. Get to know who they are. Once again, do not frame your entire line of questioning about their sexual orientation, but rather seek to know who they are as a person.
- Pursue everyday interaction. If possible and circumstances allow, seek to find ways to do walk along this path of life together. Share meals, conversations, experiences and life together. Engage them.
- Point them to Christ and to His bride. Time and time again, I have found in personal interactions that the presentation of Christ and the gospel speaks to many of the core issues of people struggling with same-sex attraction. Here are some practical examples:
- Is God a good God? Do the imperatives we find in the Bible come apart or disconnected from the rich and powerful promises we see given to us in Christ?
- Is the giving up of a personal desire, even a powerful desire, worth it in light of the sacrifice of Christ?
- Is it possible that you’ve allowed a sexual-orientation to become such a driving and orienting identity that you have missed out on the life-shaping and giving truths of the gospel?
Join the Conversation
Do I jump too quickly when counseling and interacting with issues of sexuality to the actual issue of who they are or are not attracted to?
When you have seen someone see victory in their life in this particular area of SSA, what did it look like? What were some of the formative things which lead to biblical change in this area?
This blog post in no way is meant to deal with the whole issue of the biblical view of sexuality, homosexuality, and same-sex attraction. There are several helpful resources which deal with these issues in a fair and even-handed manner. This blog post’s primary purpose is how do we as counselors interact and love those struggling in this way. Some new and helpful resources would include Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay, Wesley Hill’s Washed & Waiting, and Peter Hubbard’s Love into Light.