In my last blog, I shared about teaching a workshop on the “trans” topic at my denominational meeting recently. One of my least favorite parts of the workshop time is the Q&A part. To be honest, I’m not very good at spontaneous questions and not too fast thinking of responses. It feels more comfortable when other staff members are present, because between all of us we can hopefully come up with helpful answers to some complicated questions. This time was no exception.
Unfortunately, when asked about how to care specifically for LGBTQ men and women, Christians want efficient answers. “What are the 2 or 3 things I can do or say that will turn a person towards God?” They seem to be looking for a magic key or two. If they turn them just exactly right, this person will be convinced of God’s love and immediately repent. As if we know what is on God’s agenda for this person at any given time. The only one I know who can transform a human heart is the Holy Spirit. There is no easy formula that will reveal God’s love to every person in every situation. Loving someone like Jesus requires much more effort , time and self-sacrifice, rather than a simple “sound-bite.”
A Few Filters to Consider:
The men, women and situations are as diverse as the many letters in the acronym. There are many factors and variables to consider. These are a few filters I offer that can help when thinking of practical ways to engage.
Who is the person and what is the level of relationship?
- Do I want to help my child who is experiencing gender dysphoria? Am I coming alongside a struggling adolescent? Perhaps it’s an adult. Of course age will influence the boundaries and the exact type of care that will be appropriate.
- What type of relationship is it? Are we talking a familial relationship like a parent, spouse, son or daughter? Or is this a friend, co-worker or an acquaintance? The type of relationship can also influence the approach and boundaries needed. You might also be more personally impacted and in need of help navigating a situation within your family.
- How intimately do I know this person? Is it a longtime friendship or am I wanting to befriend the transgender server at a restaurant I frequent? Is it a close or distant family member? Have I earned trust over time to have deeper conversations?
Is the situation inside the church?
- Is sexuality and gender impacting a family or church member? Are there other members of the congregation that need to be considered? Is there church policy or scripture that can help or needs to be taken into account? How can the church provide strong social support, help navigate personal faith and provide mature and informed guidance?
Grace & Truth Applied—to “be” or to “do?”
- Many in the LGBTQ community have had painful experiences with Christians or churches. Considering the media and the culture war that is being waged daily, they are wary and do not trust people of faith. They anticipate judgement or condemnation since many have experienced that from Christians or their families. Long, long, long seasons of grace may be needed in order to create a safe place and build back trust. This is where you just “be” with someone in their journey. Listen to their story, be curious, ask questions and let them be a teacher for what you don’t know. You can also offer encouragement and empathy—everyone has difficult things going on in life.
- When it comes to God’s truth, it’s all about the timing and what is said (and if God is asking us to say it). Since most LGBTQ people have been bludgeoned by the Bible, they need to know the most important truth. The truth is God loves each of them personally and deeply. This is what can be applied over and over in those long seasons of grace and trust building. So many times we start with what we believe is all wrong in a person’s life. Occasionally, there might be a time when we have to “do” something, especially when someone is doing harm to others or to themselves. If I’ve earned the right to speak into someone’s life out of love, is it time for that hard conversation? Do I seek scripture or some sort of professional advice that can help coach through the situation? Praying like crazy for God’s timing and words doesn’t hurt either (in fact it should be the place to start).
I offer Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” When we think of our unique relationships with same-sex attracted and LGBTQ friends and loved ones, the variables and factors are considerable. Thinking through these various filters prayerfully can be a perfect first step towards loving well.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
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