• Ciara

To Befriend or Not to Befriend?

The questions I receive most frequently are "How can I relate and better understand those in the LGBTQ+ community?" or "How can I witness to them as a Christian?" It's funny because 9 out of 10 times, the individual asking is very timid, unsure, and uncomfortable. Imagine the saying "walking on eggshells" and that's exactly what everyone does when they point this question towards me. And guess what? That's okay! It's okay to stretch yourself so that you can better understand and it's okay if that makes you a bit uncomfortable. When people ask these questions, I see it as a wonderful opportunity to help the church become even more educated than what they already are on the topic of homosexuality. Let's be honest, the church has grown in this area, but they still have a significantly long way to go. So again, ask questions! I know it can be worrisome to seek out the answers because it is a sensitive topic and you truly don't know how one might react, but I will give you my thoughts on it! I hope these answers can help you navigate and better relate, understand, and befriend (yes, befriend!) those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community.

1. Don't allow yourself to be trapped in wrong thinking!

What do I mean by this? I have witnessed for quite some time individuals believing the lie that we are not supposed to love or be involved with those who live in a way that is contrary to what God says. Thief's, drug addicts, alcoholics, convicts, abortion doctors, the sexually immoral, liars, cheaters, gossipers, and anyone else that we view different from us. For the sake of this post, I will keep it focused on the LGBTQ+ community. Often times, we look at the individuals belonging to this community and naturally keep them at arms length. Just the other day, I was in a prayer circle and a joke was made referencing same sex attraction and the individual went into a rant about beating a person unconscious if a person of the same sex ever made advances towards them. Unfortunately the fear is still there and so is the natural tendency to keep away.

If you are reading this post, then you are stepping in the right direction to break out of this pattern and mindset! We have to realize that we are constantly living in the tension of grace and truth. What Jesus so brilliantly shows us is that love is the tension between the two! Jesus was always walking amongst those that the religious parties viewed less than and pointing them towards righteousness while still showing them love. The woman who was caught in adultery was thrown out onto the streets to be put to death until Jesus stepped into the scene. For women, the act of adultery was punishable by death and the ones who were desperate to see this accomplished were teachers of the law and Pharisees who were essentially the pastors you would want to go to for help! I always find it fascinating when reading this story in scripture (John 8:1-11) because we are so appalled by the people's actions towards the woman, yet many Christians today do this in regards to others who live differently than we do. Jesus stepped into the mess that was taking place and navigated through the tension with love. Even better? Jesus didn't join in with the crowd and make it all about the woman's wrong doing. Instead, majority of the scriptures on this story are about Jesus giving the Pharisees and teachers of the law a lesson on how to love and to show grace. We can't allow ourselves to fall into the same trap as the Pharisees who loved the law more than they loved others. Who loved their religious stance more than they loved those who God crafted and created. We can still stand for truth without hardening our hearts towards others!

"Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." John 8:10-11

Being caught in the trap of keeping the LGBTQ+ community away is a lie fabricated to keep us from being the hands and feet of Jesus. When Jesus looked at the woman caught in adultery and extended grace by defending her, he followed this up by looking at her and telling her to sin no more. He defended this woman who was imperfect and gave her hope through action. He cared for her and that transformed her life! Which leads me to my next point:

2. You cannot disciple who you do not know!

If you expect to walk up to someone who identifies in the LGBTQ+ community, preach to them, and win them to the Lord...you will realize very quickly that it is not effective and a huge mistake. Not only did you push them farther away from the Lord, but more than likely that individual will want absolutely nothing to do with you. Why? Because you treated them like a class project instead of a human being. Please hear my heart when I say that! It's not to condemn you, but again teach you how to better relate and understand those who are walking in the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. As someone who was treated as a class project multiple times while I identified as a lesbian, it was not fun, enjoyable, and it did nothing to draw me closer to Christ. It was the Christians who loved me despite our differences, hung out with me, befriended me, all while holding onto the Truth of God's Word that was an ultimate game changer. Did these individuals condone my lifestyle? No. Did they preach to me everyday that I was wrong for my lifestyle? No. Did they have to in order for me to understand their stance and beliefs? No.

I notice that most Christians are worried to befriend those in the LGBTQ+ community because they view having a friendship as being accepting of the lifestyle. Let me say this: regardless of a person's choices or lifestyle, we are always called to love hurting people. Jesus himself picked out 12 disciples, knowing one of them would betray him, and He did it anyways. If Jesus could befriend and disciple an accomplice to murder, you can befriend someone who identifies as LGBTQ+. I learned that the fear of being interpreted as "accepting" is really a lack of Biblical understanding. Unfortunately, they're Christians who simply don't know the Word of God very well. Again, this is okay, but I highly encourage you to get into the Word more and truly study it because it is so life changing!

However, I have learned that Christians who really don’t know why they believe what they believe, specifically on the topic of homosexuality, won’t be comfortable enough to befriend those who are living in that lifestyle. Why? Because they fear of being asked about their beliefs while not knowing how to properly answer the question. Not only the biblical understanding of what they believe and why, but also acknowledging the power of discipleship through friendship. Ultimately, if you know your stance on God’s Truth, if you know you can’t be shaken or moved on the topic, why not befriend those who you can seriously have an impact on? Especially if you can do so in love while living in a world that is so judgmental.

If a person in the LGBTQ+ community walks into your church with their partner, welcome them inside and show them a seat! In fact, introduce yourself and sit right next to them! You don’t have to immediately win them to the Lord in order for them to be welcomed into God’s house. You only need to continually invite them through love to have a seat at His table so that they can keep tasting how good his real Truth actually is. Be someone who breaks bread with others, not an individual who keeps the lost begging for scraps. Also you will be highly surprised by the number of LGBT members who will take you up on your offer of going to church if you decide to ask one day! What if a member of the LGBTQ+ community walks into your workplace, employee or not? Befriend them! Get to know who they are and open up about yourself. Let them see the love of Christ in your life through words and actions. I guarantee you they will eventually ask your stance on the topic of homosexuality and you’ll be able to tackle the tension with grace and truth because you love the individual and I bet they’ll love you too. Why? Because you didn’t treat them like a project. You treated them like a person! A friend!

"A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

When I was in the LGBTQ+ community, I was always amazed when I discovered my friends viewed my lifestyle as sin, but they had treated me so kindly. I felt the loving conviction of the Father and the way they lived their truth through action was inspiring to me. They weren’t afraid to be real with me on their stance and convictions and in the same breath, they weren’t afraid to love me anyways. You want to make a difference in someone’s life? Befriend them. You want to point them towards Jesus? Get to know them. You will learn along the way that those in the LGBTQ+ community are people just like you and I. Which leads me to my last point:

3. The LGBTQ+ community is not your enemy.

Those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community have faces and names. They are sons and daughters of Christ just like you and I. A lack of empathy can make us believe that the only thing individuals in the community care about is sex. I have heard this misconception so many times and it was always so frustrating. I felt very misunderstood and wanted more than anything for Christians to understand that this was much deeper than just a “sex" issue. Which is exactly why it is always difficult for people to leave the community.

Does this mean that every LGBT individual has some type of trauma to account for their desires? No, it doesn’t. For some, the attraction has always been there with no trauma, mom, or dad issues in sight. Why is this? Genesis makes it quite clear! The moment that Adam and Eve ate the fruit, we were separated from God which allowed sin to enter in. Satan doesn’t care about your gender, your age, your height, weight, etc. He truly does not care. It’s why we see abortion growing so rapidly in our world today. If the enemy goes to such lengths as to target the unborn, then he most certainly will target those who are living, even from the moment they enter this world. Am I saying that people are born this way? No, I’m not. Honestly, that’s a whole other topic in itself with many interpretations and theories. I am simply challenging you to ponder on is this; what is stopping the enemy from weaving a web of same sex desires in a child from the moment they are born or at the very least, a toddler? Nothing. In regard to other sins we will say “Satan is so patient. He will weave a web years in advance in order to grasp hold of someone’s soul!” Homosexuality is no different. At the core of homosexuality is a false sense of identity and the enemy is always out to destroy your sense of who you are. Why? Because Satan will do anything to warp your sense of self so that you never discover who you are in Christ. Once you find out who you are in Christ, the enemy loses his momentum and it now shifts to you. You have the upper hand and the enemy will do anything he can for that not to happen.

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God..." Isaiah 59:2

I say all this to remind you that those in the LGBTQ+ are not your enemy. Yes, they think differently than you. Yes, they believe differently than you. Yes, they believe their lifestyle is not sinful and it’s something they are very proud of. All of these things are true, but that does not make them your enemy. Your enemy is Satan himself and you have to always remind yourself of that. Will some members of the LGBTQ+ community get upset with you because of your stance? Absolutely! You don’t agree with who they believe they are so of course some will take offense! And that’s okay! The fear of a person rejecting your effort of friendship shouldn’t scare you away from still befriending those who do understand the differences or give you the presumption that all LGBT members are “hateful” because they’re not! Again, they are not your enemy.

Whatever you have previously perceived the LGBTQ+ community to be about, I challenge you to pray into better understanding! No, LGBTQ+ members are not only after sex or to convert every straight person into same sex desires. Does it seem like the LGBT agenda is being pushed everyday? What if it is? What if our freedoms are stripped and we can’t openly take a stance against homosexuality? I have learned from my Bible reading that God is still in the midst of it all. He won’t leave us nor forsake us and even if this does happen, it does not justify us thinking they are our enemy and that we aren’t called to love and care for them. We will never meet a situation to where we are justified to hate a person or people group. We are always called to love.

So what are some ways that you can connect with the LGBTQ+ community and stretch the hand of Christ towards them? Simply love them and seek out friendship. Remember, you can’t disciple who you don’t know. Get to know their story, their heart, and where they are coming from. You’ll learn that they are real people with real emotions and feelings who aren’t out to destroy the church and burn it to the ground. Granted, I have met very few LGBT members who feel that way but only because they have been previously hurt by the church. We must stop the culture of church hurt when it comes to the topic of homosexuality! Let us be a lending ear and bring understanding without harsh judgement. Always offer to listen! Sometimes all a person needs is a listening ear so allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into listening. When the time comes for advice, make sure you allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you in love and not allow your own emotions and agenda to take over. Ask to hang out! Believe it or not, not every LGBT member only socializes at gay clubs (it’s amazing how many people assumed that’s all I ever did). Again, they are regular people just like you and me. Invite them to lunch, go out to a movie, go shopping, do what you would do with any other friend! Don’t believe the misconception that every member of the community is attracted to every person of the same sex (they definitely are not!)

If it's hard for you to take the first step in building a "relational bridge", ask the Holy Spirit for courage and boldness! The enemy is going to convince you that you're going to fall flat on your face and that the individual is going to not only reject you, but lash out at you. Don't let that frame of mind stop you from trying your best to befriend and get to know someone with different views and mindsets. Your life wasn't meant to be a country club of comfort and to be surrounded by likeminded people. Your faith grows when you put yourself into situations that stretch you and challenge you to dig deeper into why you believe what you believe. Your faith grows when you turn it into works! So take the first step out of the boat and initiate friendship with someone in the LGBTQ+ community! Show them the love of Christ by pursuing after them with love! Last but not least, don’t only get to know the individual to convert them. If you take that approach, you are taking on the mindset of that individual being a project instead of an actual human being. Jesus didn’t look at people as projects, so neither should we!

"So that we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Hebrews 13:6

I hope that I was able to help and encourage you to better understand the LGBTQ+ community. Even though I have been set free and no longer identify with the community, I met some of the most incredible people who are truly wonderful human beings. I hope you give yourself the opportunity to befriend them as well and learn how to love in the face of indifference and to hold firm to your convicting truth. The world needs more people like that so take a stand and be that for the world.