In their 2015 book Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says About Sexual Orientation and Change, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert present “ten exhortations on how we might love our same-sex–attracted neighbors better than we have.”1
1. Be a friend
And by that, we mean be a real friend. Don’t make changing your same-sex–attracted neighbor a condition of your friendship. A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity. (Prov. 17:17 NASB)
Your same-sex–attracted neighbor may have a story to tell, and you need to hear it. Not just for his sake, but for yours. There is nothing better to wipe away erroneous caricatures than to listen to someone else’s story. Listening does not equal approving an unbiblical ideology. It just means that you care and are open to learning. He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him. (Prov. 18:13 NASB)
3. Feel compassion
Understand that your same-sex–attracted neighbors often feel distress over unwanted same-sex attraction. They can feel a real sense of alienation from their own sexual desires. For some, the experience is quite agonizing. How would you feel if you had to walk a mile in their shoes? We all experience some measure of brokenness due to the fallenness of creation. So we too know what it means to groan (Rom. 8:23). If this is true, it ought to summon forth a compassionate response to our same-sex–attracted neighbors. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col. 3:12 NASB)
4. Share the gospel
The gospel is good news for sinners. It is the true story about a Creator God who loves sinners and who has made a way to reconcile them to himself through the death and resurrection of his own Son. It’s the best news in the world. How could we possibly withhold that from any friend? Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18–19 NASB)
5. Speak the truth
We are called not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead to “expose them” (Eph. 5:11). That means we must always “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 5:18). We must realize that real love never evades the truth but always “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). So loving our neighbors means telling them the truth, even when that truth brings an unpleasant confrontation. You don’t have to be mean, angry, or haughty to speak truthfully. You can do it in a way that is winsome and that shows concern but does not disdain. In short, you can speak the truth in love. But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. (Eph. 4:15 NASB)
6. Be candid about differences
This is a necessary corollary to speaking the truth. A true friend will always find a way to communicate differences that matter. A friendship that glosses over such things can degenerate into flattery and superficiality. Sometimes the truth about God’s Word brings a confrontation, no matter how nice and compassionate you try to be in delivering it. But don’t let the fear of confrontation keep you from being candid. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. (Prov. 27:6 NASB) That means that an enemy will tell you what you want to hear, but a real friend will tell you what you need to hear. Sometimes saying the right thing is hard, but we won’t shrink back from the confrontation if we really love our neighbor.
7. Oppose bullying
Christians must lead the charge to condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against our same-sex–attracted neighbors. Take your stand with the oppressed. Speak up for them. Do it even if it costs you social capital or risks subjecting yourself to the same bullying. This is the kind of sacrificial love that bears witness to the way Christ has loved us. My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause.” … … … … … … … … … My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil And they hasten to shed blood. (Prov. 1:10–11; 15–16 NASB)
8. Receive your brothers and sisters
We should befriend our same-sex–attracted neighbors even if they are not Christians. Some of them will repent of their sin, trust Christ, and become Christians. When they do, be prepared to rejoice and to receive them with open arms as brothers and sisters in Christ. Make sure they know that they are received as full members into the body of Christ even if they have ongoing struggles with same-sex attraction. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13 NASB)
9. Strengthen your brothers and sisters
Some new converts may experience a complete deliverance from same-sex attraction. Others may continue to struggle. Be prepared to walk with the strugglers and to strengthen them for what may be a very difficult obedience. God has given them everything that they need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and a part of God’s provision for them is your friendship and encouragement. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. 3:13 NASB)
The Devil wants to destroy. Jesus wants to save (John 10:10). Pray for your same-sex–attracted neighbor that Jesus might have his way. In his own prayer for wayward Peter, Jesus modeled how we might intercede: Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. (Luke 22:31–32 NASB)
1 Denny Burk and Heath Lambert, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2015), 108-112.
Tyler Robbins is a graduate of Maranatha Baptist Seminary, a DMin student at Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN) and a bi-vocational pastor at Sleater Kinney Road Baptist Church, in Olympia WA. He also works in State government. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist and is the author of What’s It Mean to be a Baptist?