Your husband is asking for help and willing to entrust you with what he likely considers his most shameful secret. Embrace him in his brokenness. Remember that you too are one who is utterly dependent on the mercy of God and His grace. Love your husband deeply as one who has been deeply loved by Jesus.
“This struggle is not about you. It has nothing to do with your attractiveness or desirability. Your husband’s struggle is located in his heart.” These helpful words from Love Into Light, by Peter Hubbard may bring comfort:
We are not fighting a physical war, but a spiritual one. Our first skirmish is with ourselves. Who is Jesus? Who are we in Him? Our minds race for answers. If we are passive, our passions and experiences will fill in the blanks. We are surrounded by friends and enemies who will offer up suggestions. We turn to God, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” God’s “steadfast love” through Jesus stabilizes our hearts and sends us in “the way [we] should go.”1
These are words of comfort for both of you. Any superficial changes you make would not reach to the source of his trouble. Jesus, who knows our hearts, offers us both the diagnosis and the remedy: “…look quickly to Jesus, who knows our vile hearts better than we do, yet loves us more than we can imagine! Jesus…died defined by our sin, so that we live defined by His righteousness!”2 We find our rest in the imputed righteousness of Jesus.
Remember the source of your hope: you are a beloved daughter of God by the blood of Jesus, adopted and dearly loved. He promises to be your help and refuge in times of trouble. He will walk with you through the darkness (Psalm 23; Isaiah 42:16), and be faithful to all His promises (Hebrews 10:23). You are not alone!
The character of God does not change when something seems impossible to understand or endure. Your husband’s confession did not take God by surprise, nor is He overwhelmed or confused by it. Cry out to God with your questions, your grief and your fears. Pour out your heart and take refuge in His word. He is the God who hears (Psalm 107; Psalm 34:17-18), and sees (Psalm 33:13-15), and knows (Psalm 139:1-3; 1 John 3:20).
Move toward your community of faith. Reach out to caring friends who can remind you of your hope in the grace of Jesus. Ask them to pray with and for you both. Encourage your husband to talk with a pastor or counselor who can come alongside him and point him back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your husband needs men who will commit to lovingly walk with him through this struggle.
Connect with web resources that offer hope and encouragement for you both. On this website (www.loveintolight.com) you will find links to sermons, testimonies, organizations and books that will be helpful as you both walk through this together.
Your husband’s confession is the beginning of freedom. What seems like an overwhelming acknowledgment and an insurmountable obstacle is the first step toward living truthfully with a difficult struggle by the love and grace of Jesus.
Rest in the words of the psalmist in Psalm 130:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
1 Peter Hubbard, Love Into Light (Greenville, SC: Ambassador Publishing), 46. 2 Ibid., 49.
Before you speak at all, pray. Ask God for wisdom and clarity on both practical and spiritual issues before any decisions are made. Ask yourself where you feel free to compromise. What are you unwilling to accept and where can you give? Consider the following:
- Realistically, you will first need to settle in your hearts why it would be unacceptable for your brother and his partner to sleep in the same bedroom. For most this will be an untenable compromise, but think through why and be prepared to lovingly and respectfully explain your reasons. This isn’t the time to preach, it is time for truthful living in a spirit of humility.
It could be helpful, for example, to frame this in the same way you would for your cousin and his girlfriend: you are unable to support the cohabitating of an unmarried couple in your home. These are Christian values you hold dear that you want very much to model to your children. You could also explain that your children are not ready or able to understand the complexities of differing worldviews. Speak with compassion and without judgment as one who knows his own desperate need of the grace of Jesus.
By welcoming your brother and his partner into your home you are accepting them as they are and showing them the love of Jesus; by setting limits you are living truthfully according to your biblical convictions. They will respect you for this.
- Be prepared to offer alternatives in order to facilitate the visit. Would they be willing to sleep in separate spaces? Is that feasible in your home? If you conclude they must stay somewhere else, welcome them in every other way: at meals, outings, conversations and activities. Include them in your plans for worship, too. Be willing to do whatever you can to make family time possible and allow lots of time for conversation to happen naturally.
Be willing to stretch. Reflect on the example of our Savior, Jesus who violated cultural customs to have redemptive conversations (John 4:7-26; Luke 7:36-50), and spent time with sinners, particularly in the sharing of meals (Luke 19:1-9).
Your brother and his partner are fellow image-bearers in need of Jesus. Be prepared for your own heart to be challenged. Remember how needy you yourself are for the redeeming work of Jesus; you have an Advocate without whom you would be lost (1 John 2:1-2).
It will be messy. Lay it all out before God and ask for wisdom. Delay the decision until you and your spouse are united on the critical issues; once there, forge ahead without fear and keep praying.
Our culture is moving at breakneck speed toward radical approval of homosexuality as a wholesome and normal way of life. We’d love to delay delicate conversations with children about such things, but the gay couple next door (and the tsunami current of our changing culture) has changed all of that.
How do we balance a reasonable desire for caution with the biblical command to be hospitable? (Hebrews 13:1-3) Hospitality is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus. It’s a way of life–a calling to every Believer. Divine invitations are issued in the pouring of coffee and the sharing of meals as we open our homes and welcome strangers. Ministry to one’s neighbors should be a part of the lifestyle of every Christian family.
“Of course…Yes.…but the neighbors are gay! How do we protect our children from the influence and confusion that could come from being exposed to homosexuality?”
Be wise as you interact with your neighbors regardless of their sinful tendencies. Do things as a family. Be vigilant overseers of all your children’s activities, just as you would with any encounter they might have with strangers. Be involved. Be willing to answer hard questions and discuss uncomfortable topics.
But don’t stop there. Teach your children how to live as followers of Jesus.
Begin by cultivating in them an understanding that they are a part of something bigger than your family–something wonderful, important, complete and redemptive. Tell them about God’s Story; teach them a biblical worldview. Together as a family, let your lives affirm the truth of the gospel of Jesus. Anchor your children in this truth by living it in front of them. Admit your weaknesses; repent and forgive. Pray as a family. Sing as a family. Worship together as a family and invite others to join you.
From this foundation of grace—grace made visible by the forgiveness exchanged between siblings and parents—your children will learn that sin is sin and there is only one remedy, Jesus. Your gay neighbors are equally image bearers marred by sin, in need of the same Savior.
As you live out the gospel with one another, your home will become a place in which the lost are welcomed…even the gay neighbors. Your children will understand that shared meals, cuttings from the garden and fresh baked bread are possible advents to enduring redemptive relationships. They will see that their neighborhood is their mission field and friendships with unbelievers are a natural part of sharing the gospel.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a former lesbian feminist, was drawn to faith in Christ through the means of Christian hospitality. In her interview with Tony Reinke, Authors on the Line Podcast – Desiring God, Rosaria speaks passionately on the topic of being hospitable with homosexual neighbors. She offers a candid response to fearful parents, encouraging them “to not think that every conversation that you have is going to pollute you or your children.” Instead, she assures, as they watch you reach out in friendship to the lost and biblically grapple with hard questions, your children will learn that they can talk with you about anything. And they’ll learn by example how to biblically and compassionately engage the culture as a way of life.
Fearlessly teach your children that this is what people who love Jesus do. ”Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
Interview with Robert Gagnon, author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Interview conducted by Tony Reinke, Authors on the Line Podcast – Desiring God) In this interview, Dr. Gagnon answers questions pertinent to this discussion. For example:
- What advice do you have for Christian parents who are fearful that their children will experience same-sex attraction in the teen years?
- What guiding principles will help us to love and reach out to our homosexual neighbors?
Hospitality on Mission: An Interview with Rosaria Champagne Butterfield by Tony Reinke, Authors on the LinePodcast – Desiring God
There is no doubt that confessing a sin struggle to someone for the first time is a scary thing, and talking about same-sex attraction in particular can feel even harder. However, it is important to share this with someone in your life that can give you support and guidance. Our sin blinds us to the condition of our own hearts. Therefore, we need others to come alongside us, point out where we tend to disbelieve God’s Word, and remind us of the wonderful news of what Jesus has done.
Many with SSA also struggle with questions like, “Why did God make me this way?” and “Why won’t he just make these feelings go away if they’re so sinful?” Shame, guilt, anger, and frustration often build up over time as these questions go unanswered. Working through questions like these with someone else is far less painful and more fruitful than trying to deal with them on your own. “Though a man might prevail against one who is on his own, two will withstand him, [and] a threefold chord is not easily broken” (Eccl. 4:12).
God is not scared of or confused by your same-sex attraction. He understands you and loves you, and He wants to show you His love in this specific area of your life through the Church, which the Bible calls “the body of Christ” (Col. 1:24, Eph. 5:23). If you are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA), we love you and want to assist you. If you live outside of the Greenville, SC area, please speak with your pastor and contact www.restoredhopenetwork.org (see the Find Help section). Please contact us if you are unable to find ministry help in your area. If you live in Greenville, please contact us.
A recent post by John Piper on the Desiring God website speaks directly to this complicated question. He covers several “what-if’s,” including how to move forward when a homosexual couple has legally “married” and/or adopted children together. His words are compassionate and kind, direct and biblical, and include strong admonitions for local communities of faith:
One of the sweet advantages of insisting that there is no such thing as same-sex “marriage” is that there is therefore also no such thing as same-sex “divorce.” In the days ahead, this will be very good news for many who repent.
In the years to come, God will be merciful on thousands of those who have been damaged by the present moral madness of our culture. He will exalt Christ in the conversion of many who have lived in same-sex relationships. More complexities than we can imagine will be presented to us in the church.
One of the more difficult scenarios will be what the church should do when, say, two women, who have lived in a so-called married state for some years, are converted to Christ, repent of their sin, and want to join the church. And what if they have children?
In this uncharted territory, here is a map with some of the biblical guideposts I foresee. It is not exhaustive. I invite every pastor to pray that God would grant him the great privilege of leading new believers through this process.
1. Rejoice. We should join all heaven in the joy that our Father and the angels feel over this repentance.
“There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
2. Pray. This is going to be complex and difficult. We need humble wisdom beyond the merely human.
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)
3. Listen. We must not assume we know all we need to know about the situation. Disentangling the relational threads (both sinful and natural) will require significant knowledge of the situation present and past.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
“Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51)
4. Instruct. Based on what we have learned from listening, we will share what the Bible says first about the gospel, and second about the sin of sexual relations outside biblical marriage.
Christ died for our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
All sins will be forgiven the children of man. (Mark 3:28)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. (1 John 1:9)
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Put off your old self [and] be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and . . . put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22–24)
Flee from sexual immorality. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
5. Clarify that same-sex attraction is a brokenness that is part of humanity’s fallen condition, along with other emotional/psychological/physical desires, dispositions, and infirmities. Explain that willful expressions of this brokenness through prohibited behaviors is what the Bible has in mind when it says,
Neither those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:10)
6. Help them see, therefore, that what the state has called a “marriage” between them is not marriage. There is no such thing as “same-sex marriage” in God’s eyes. Therefore, they are not married in the sight of God, regardless of how the state defines their relationship. Do not embrace the state’s prostitution of language by calling the former state “marriage” or the ending of it “divorce.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
“From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.” (Mark 10:6–7)
7. Make plain that, therefore, since there is no such thing as “same-sex marriage,” there is no such thing as “same-sex divorce” in the sight of God. The biblical condemnations of divorce do not apply to non-existent “marriages.” What God has not joined together, man cannot separate.
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18)
“What God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9)
8. Patiently help them think and pray through the many painful and complex issues involved in ending this romantic, sexual relationship.
Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Love is patient and kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. (Colossians 3:16)
9. Be ready to surround them with loving and generous brothers and sisters who can help provide for all the practical necessities that will be involved: from housing to childcare to counseling to legal assistance to transportation to financial counsel. Fold them into a nurturing web of new caring relationships.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
If one of you says to a brother or a sister, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:16)
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands (Mark 10:29–30)
10. Assist them in the legal processes and expenses of undoing what the state called “marriage.” That the state will call this process “divorce” is not decisive in what it really is: the removal of a sinful fiction.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
Let us decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13)
11. Help them see that in all likelihood an ongoing cohabitation without romantic or sexual involvement will be unrealistic relationally, and misleading as a witness to the world. A new way of living in community will be needed. And perhaps, painful as it may be, some distance between them may be necessary for a significant season.
Abstain from every form (or appearance) of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)
12. Help them pray and think through what may be the most painful issue of all, the custody of the children. If the children are old enough to have some sense of what is happening, provide the most sensitive counsel and instruction so that they can understand that God is doing something really good, even if at the time it may feel painfully disruptive. Pray that God would create in all the adults involved a heart of sacrifice and love that puts the good of the children above immediate desires. And hold out the possibility with pressure that God is able to work the wonder of providing a father for these children.
Children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. (James 1:27)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother. . . . Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1–4)
“With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
13. Don’t leave these women and children on their own once a new life has been established. There will be many ongoing temptations and challenges for years to come. Seek to fold them into gospel-rich churches with seriously supportive relationships.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26–27)
We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. . . . Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. (Romans 12:4–10)
Sin affects us on a variety of levels: personally, relationally, socially, physically and spiritually. When God saves us, He calls us out of our brokenness into a community of grace-filled transformation. He uses our brothers and sisters in our lives as He trains us in His grace together. Our church is experiencing this in our Shepherding Groups and our Restoration Groups. For the most part, we do not have sin-specific small group care or counseling. We are seeing God’s Spirit merge gospel truth with honest speech to produce real change. For example, I was involved in a group that included ten men who struggled with a variety of issues: drug addiction, same-sex attraction, abuse, fear of man, insecurity, porn, self-righteousness, etc. I was unprepared for the way the Spirit would speak to such a diverse group in such specific ways. We might have been applying the truths of the gospel to the man who battles addiction, and a man who faces deep insecurities sees some things about his own heart that he has never seen before. Our sinful tendencies may vary in expression, but our hearts are the same. And all Christians share a common new identity in Jesus; just as we are often messed up together, so we typically find hope and are changed together. There are things about my own heart that I will probably not see apart from honest interaction with my brothers.
The best place to start is with a How People Change small group study by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. The study guides and DVDs can be purchased from New Growth Press. We use this as the place to begin to understand how the gospel brings about lasting change. When someone has completed How People Change, we often will recommend that they attend Redemption. Mike Wilkerson and his team lead us through the Exodus and apply God’s powerful grace in a loving, confidential group context (see redemptiongroups.com). God is using these two Restoration Groups, as well as others to expose lies, reveal truth and provide hope for change.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court handed down two important rulings. In its ruling on California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry), the Court failed to uphold the will of the people of California. They had voted in November 2008 that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The Court did not strike down Proposition 8, but it ruled that the citizen group that defended it did not have standing since the state officials were not defending the law.
In the Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, the Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996). The ruling permits same-sex couples to receive benefits in states that recognize same-sex marriage. Neither of these rulings legalize same-sex marriage on a federal level, but both of these rulings function as a prelude to what will follow. For those who honor marriage, the trend is disturbing. So how should Christians respond to this news?
1. We worship God.
Since the Lord reigns, we rejoice (Psalm 97:1). The “Supreme” Court rulings do not alter the Supreme rule of the One Whose throne rests on righteousness and justice. God created and designed marriage to provide partnership, pleasure, order, children, and ultimately a picture of His relationship with His church. Nine men and women in black gowns cannot alter the definition of His creation.
2. We sorrow for our neighbors.
Christians do not oppose same-sex marriage because we hate our neighbors, but because we love them. Every serious sociological study has concluded that a child does best with his natural father and mother. Of course, the presence of a natural father and mother is not always possible, but a society that legalizes same-sex marriage is codifying dysfunction and intentionally dismantling the family. This dismantling paves the way for every kind of sociological malady. As the meaning of marriage is stretched to near meaninglessness, polygamy and incest will eventually be recognized as “marriage.” If marriage is the government’s way of recognizing love, then on what basis can any government declare two or more sincere people unmarriageable? Marriage, friendship and “shacking up” have all been convoluted. No one can explain the legal difference. And children will pay the price for our country’s moral suicide. This makes us sad.
3. We repent of our own sin.
The marital somersaults of our political leaders are not as rapid as they appear. President Obama and former President Clinton recently flipped on same-sex marriage only because they discarded the traditional definition of marriage years ago. Marriage has never been “living with the one you love.” Gerbils do that. Marriage is a comprehensive, permanent bond of one man with one woman for a generative purpose. Christians re-defined God’s intention for marriage decades before gay activists marched on Washington. We paved the way for gay marriage by watering down the meaning of marriage through our immorality, selfishness and the culture of divorce in our churches. The call for same-sex marriage is an invitation from God to the church to repent of our own sin and to “let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
4. We speak the truth with courage and courtesy.
I recently returned from Ethiopia, where some of my brothers are concerned that so many Ethiopians are turning to Jesus! Their concern is not that there are too many Christians, but that the day might come in Ethiopia when being a Christian will be fashionable and no longer require counting the cost. They had seen the purifying effect of persecution which makes the church lean and genuine, but that could change.
America seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Christianity may not be illegal, but if you take Jesus’ teaching on marriage seriously (e.g. Matthew 19:4-6), you will be labeled a hater, a bigot or a criminal. Most American Christians cannot imagine being rejected for following Jesus, but according to many of our brothers and sisters around the world, suffering may be a gift to purify the church.
The challenge is for us to continue to speak the truth without fear or self-righteousness. When the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, who was ministering on the Island of Crete (well-known for its homosexual population), he told Titus to remind the believers
“to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy” (Titus 3:2-5).