I’m so fortunate in my friends. They include women from various walks of life, several generations, not all of them Christians. One of my friends belongs to the LGBTQ community (call her Carrie) and she reminds me that, while the gospel is the lens through which I see life, quoting Scripture at people isn’t appropriate or redemptive.
Carrie has helped me to slow down in conversation to truly listen and think. She helps me to empathize and love better by her own behavior. But there are still difficulties each of us has to overcome when we communicate.
Assumptions and Expectations
Carrie is right to imagine that I’m uncomfortable with the LGBTQ culture. Our labels (hers as lesbian, mine as Christian) are suggestive and limiting.
At first, everyone who finds out I’m a Christian thinks I must be super legalistic, but I’m just a human being who is trying to follow God’s commands because they are holy, he is holy, I love him, and I know what he says is right. His commands protect me, and I find my hope in HIM.
When I learned that Carrie was gay, at first, I thought she would totally reject me and my beliefs, but she does neither of these things. She is extremely respectful and curious. It turns out that we share many interests.
It’s the case in her community and also among Christians that you get kind people and jerks; abusers and rule-followers; gentle people and violent ones. Neither of us profits from making assumptions.
Yet, hard as we try, each of us still jumps to conclusions based on our experiences. We fill in gaps with imaginary truth. Each of us also fills in gaps with actual truth.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you wrap something — it always looks exactly like what it is whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, Christian, Muslim, etc. Still, when we see a friend suffering and want to enter into that suffering, false assumptions can get in the way.
Finding Common Ground
That’s when we look for common ground, the place where each of us (if we could be objective) might meet and look soberly at a situation and say, “Here’s what’s reasonable” or “this is wrong.”
A while ago, a friend was mistreating me, and I couldn’t see it. When a godly, loving person tried to tell me what he observed, I did not want to believe what he was saying so I hid inside a well-worn argument: “I can handle it in Christ, my Rock. I can turn the other cheek.”
My godly friend wouldn’t let go of the truth because he cared about my well-being, but he had to find an approach I found acceptable: what was best for the oppressive individual I wanted to protect?
I could agree that it wasn’t loving to enable this person. I wouldn’t glorify God by letting him hurt me either.
As a Christian, I think Scripture provides the most logical counsel, but framing everything within chapter and verse deters non-believers from looking for loving counsel from believers.
It’s not a comfort when the other person doesn’t understand or agree, or when the words are trite or confusing. If we want to truly help someone, we have to find that area where they feel confident and comfortable, without compromising our beliefs.
I can also abuse the Word of God in self-defense if I pull it out as a shield, knowing my friend doesn’t have the same resources. It’s the silent treatment’s fraternal twin — instead of ignoring the other person when she talks, you talk at her in a language she can’t understand, rendering her silent.
God’s Word is powerful, but the Lord meant for us to use it to his glory, not to hurt our friends or evade reason. I can quote Scripture and block Carrie if I want. Carrie can employ the language of her community to cause me discomfort and push me away.
By making each other uncomfortable, it’s possible to buy the silence necessary for a quick getaway, but at a price — eroded trust. We can argue “you wouldn’t understand” knowing that, in one sense, the other person really can’t understand.
Self-defense can be wisely applied, but I want to be careful that I don’t weaponize my faith. Carrie will start to associate biblical reference with wall-building, and I could lose precious ground — common ground — before I say much of anything.
My whole life is informed by the gospel, which is so powerful that it will emerge with or without my help. In fact, sometimes we convey Christ’s love more fully by our silent presence. I have to trust the Spirit to lead me.
But We’re the Same
Fundamentally, Carrie and I share much in common because there are some universal features in any healthy partnership or friendship. They include safety, respect, communication, loyalty, reliability, trust, and fun.
So even if my gay friend is having a hard time in her relationship with another woman, their problem has to do with respect, trust, loyalty, etc.
It’s 100% reasonable to want these things; to feel as though the person she gives her heart will treasure it; will sacrifice some of her desires to ensure that Carrie feels safe. If she treasures the other person, this will be mutual.
And no matter what Carrie does with my counsel (ignores it, silences it, or denies it), I still gain an opportunity to act on Christ’s wise and loving example in front of her. I respect Carrie and she respects me.
How does it feel to be treated lovingly and respectfully? Pretty good, actually. Safe. When one of us is confused or in turmoil, we might remember the trustworthy example established by our friendship, which was taught to us first by Christ.
There is no greater love than that of one who gives his life for his friends (John 15:13). What will I willingly give up in order to be Carrie’s friend? I can give up my evangelizing agenda in favor of Christ’s loving agenda in order to non-judgmentally listen. Carrie already does this for me by engaging with my gospel-centered perspective when that’s most helpful to me.
The Unexpected Conversation
At work one night, Carrie said, “I don’t think I can talk to you about my relationship problems.” I prayed while trying to get to sleep that night: “Lord, what do I say to Carrie tomorrow morning?” In my Spirit, I heard the response: “Respect her. Ask questions and listen. Don’t tell her, listen to her.”
The next morning, I asked her a question. She answered, at length. A lot of her story came out, without jargon barriers. In fact, much of her story involved themes I could relate to from my own experience. And God proved (once again) that he provides the common ground we need in friendships if they are going to be healthy and lasting.
Good Sense and Empathy
Not only that, but God showed me once more how sensible and reasonable he is. Good sense helped me to lead with my heart but use reason as a rudder. Jesus did it all the time.
He was moved by the numerous needs of people all around him, yet never lost sight of good sense. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding” (1 John 5:20). By his Spirit, we are equipped with all we need to be doers of the gospel, not hearers only (James 1:22).
If we’re going to talk about the good news, we need to cultivate a safe place for the unsaved to come out in the open and hear it. Our Savior connects us all because, wherever there is love and mercy, there he is.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.