Seasoned ministers tell me that preaching and pastoring go hand in hand. You can’t know what to preach to people on Sunday unless you have already spent Monday through Saturday shepherding their hearts. The idea is that a good physician—spiritual physicians included—will take time with a diagnosis before applying the remedy.
Before you quote Scripture to encourage or instruct someone, understanding their life context is essential and can be the difference between helping and hurting them. My friendships with many gay or same-sex attracted Christians over the years have revealed that just about every one of them has experienced condemnation by straight Christians who use the same Bible verses over and over to demonstrate the sinfulness of same-sex sexual relations. Yet most of the time, the Scripture-quoters know little to nothing about the gay person they’re speaking to.
Straight Christians often make the mistake of assuming that a person who identifies as gay believes or behaves in a certain way, and/or what they most urgently need is to be enlightened about their sinful condition and properly shamed. But what if the gay person in question has studied those Bible verses for years and knows far more about their original translation, cultural context, and history of interpretation than anyone else in the room?
Because people’s assumptions about gay or same-sex attracted Christians are so narrowly focused, it’s easy to overlook other areas of life where they could most use Scriptural encouragement.
I have found a number of verses that speak to my friends in truly powerful and relevant ways. I hope you will consider using some of these passages when you encounter gay people.
1. “For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in” (Psalm 27:10).
Coming out as gay to one’s parents almost always impacts the parent-child relationship, particularly if the parents hold to traditional beliefs on sexuality. Some parents reject their gay children outright; but even when parents respond with love and acceptance, a tension may enter the relationship that will take years to dispel. Gay kids—whether youths or full-grown adults—need to know that the Lord loves them whatever their sexual orientation may be. Remind your gay siblings in Christ that the Lord is a Parent to the orphan. God will not forsake them.
2. And he will delight in the fear of the Lord, and he will not judge by what his eyes see, nor make decisions by what his ears hear; but with righteousness, he will judge the poor and decide with fairness for the humble of the earth” (Isaiah 11:3-4, which is a messianic prophecy).
Many gay people feel trapped in the shame of human condemnation. All their lives they have been have judged, ridiculed, or bullied for how they dress, talk, or act. But Jesus does not judge based on appearance or the latest gossip. He always judges righteously. His eyes see their need; his ears hear the honest prayer. Remind your gay friends that they have freedom to come before Jesus as they are, knowing that he will treat them fairly.
3. “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor. For more are the children of the desolate than of the one who has a husband” (Galatians 4:27).
Some gay or lesbian people are parents themselves, whether from marriage to an opposite-sex partner or via adoption. But many grieve the possibly that they may never have children of their own. This passage says that in the kingdom of God the barren can have more children than those in traditional marriages. The ones who devote themselves to discipling, serving, teaching, and caring for others in the church will multiply for themselves spiritual children for generations to come—and into eternity. Encourage your gay friend to believe this promise. And as they embody this truth, be sure to wish them a Happy Mother’s or Father’s Day during those holidays, because they truly are mothers and fathers in the faith.
4. “And as he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:1-3).
Whether or not you believe people are born gay, I can tell you that most people who are gay certainly feel like they were born this way. They know they didn’t choose their attractions or have any control over them. Even so, they have to endure other people talking about them or their parents as if somebody must have done something to bring about this condition. Were you sexually abused? Exposed to porn at an early age? Raised by emotionally distant parents? These modern speculations are focused on upbringing rather than what caused someone to be born gay, so it’s slightly different from the blind man’s situation in our passage. Nevertheless, both the blind man and the modern gay person have to deal with the same accusation: Whose sin—yours or your parents’—explains your situation?
Notice how Jesus refused to freeze-frame this man’s entire identity at Genesis 3. Not only did Jesus shut down people’s efforts to assign blame for the man’s blindness, but he also saw in this seemingly tragic situation the hidden purposes of God who knows how to bring light out of darkness, life out of death, and triumph out of tragedy. This man was born blind because he was destined to see God more clearly than any of us who say we aren’t blind.
Does your gay friend know that their salvation story does not stall at the fall in Genesis 3? Do you see them as someone whose same-sex sexual attraction can bring glory to God? What if the people whose love is despised are the very ones destined to know the love of God and the embrace of Christ in sweeter, more tangible ways than those of us who think we have all the love we need in our very fragile, very imperfect heterosexual marriages?
The Bible is rich with encouragement for gay, lesbian, and same-sex-attracted Christians, far beyond the few verses I have shared here. I invite you to see your gay friends through God’s eyes and listen to their stories with God’s ears. Soon you will see these beautifully relevant verses everywhere as you read the story of salvation in the pages of Scripture.
If you found this article helpful, CSA has a library full of more resources on gender and sexuality that may be useful for you.
Misty Irons is a friend of LGBTQ Christians and has served this community as a conference speaker, seminar leader, and podcast guest, representing a straight-ally perspective. For 16 years she maintained a blog on faith and sexuality. She is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California (M.A., Biblical Studies) and a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.