The holidays are a time when some families grow anxious about how to encounter a gay loved one who will soon arrive home. Some sense an urgency to say or do the one thing that will pierce their conscience. Others worry that a warm welcome will convey an acceptance of homosexuality. Still others fear how the visibility of a same-sex couple might influence children. This is just a sampling of the concerns that I hear about this time of year.
Instead of sharing what families “should” do this holiday season, I want to share what I “will” do. I have no hesitation about the following ideas, because they capture a biblical portrait of how Christ encounters us. I figure the way Jesus engages us is the way we ought to engage others.
First, I will not wait to see if a gay loved one is coming home or not. If my house is the place where everyone gathers, I will make that call or drop that email to let my gay relative know that I cannot wait to see her. If it is a son or daughter, my assurance will be much more personal. I will never allow silence to create the false notion that she is not welcome. If we do not proactively extend an invitation, our gay loved ones may assume they are not welcome – even if they do show up.
Second, I will not avoid asking about his life. If I express little interest in his life, my welcome is sterile. If I am not willing to hear about his life, he may feel more isolated and lonely in my presence than if he had stayed home. Unconditional welcome is not mere presence, but also sincere interest in the things most important to our loved ones.
Third, I will affirm the Christian faith that does exist rather than presume that my gay loved one is not a believer because of one aspect of her life. If this was the basis upon which God determined our “in” or “out” status, all of us would certainly fall short. The reality that God does not deal with us in this manner is evidence of His grace. In light of our sins, it is evidence of His amazing grace.
When we freely partake of this grace not on merit but on the basis of God’s love and then deem our gay loved ones to be “out” of the kingdom, we quickly run into major theological roadblocks. We end up playing the roles of those Jesus confronted with his parables; or else become the characters in his parables. To avoid these biblical errors, I must sincerely see the faith that does exist and then do one simple thing: nourish that faith.
Fourth, I will affirm my gay loved one by allowing him to serve our family with his gifts and talents. If a personal faith is emerging, I may invite him to offer the holiday prayer. I may ask him to lead the family in traditional or spiritual holiday singing; or entertain our family on the piano; or treat us to his specialty dish. We often think of serving others (as we should), but one of the most powerful ways to serve others is to humbly and gratefully accept their service.
Fifth, I will be the first to defend my gay loved one if (and whenever) others attempt to judge or moralize her. We talk a lot about our Christian responsibility to keep our homes morally pure, but part of purity is maintaining humility before our Holy God. My home will not be the place where others are judged or ridiculed. Period.
These five ideas will not bridge the gulf of theological difference, but they may just illumine the light of Christ who is able to bridge the widest of gulfs between God and man. Praise to His name, He is able. Shine, Jesus, shine…through me. Amen.
Join me Monday, November 29th, when Lead Them Home continues. Happy Thanksgiving!
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