Hello. My name is Jeffrey Meinz. I’m a Christian, a husband and a father of five children. I’m a son, a brother, a nephew and a cousin. I was a camp director, a Director of Christian Education and am now a vicar. I’m a Los Angeles Dodgers and a Denver Broncos fan. I live in Colorado…oh, one more thing…
That sounded strange, didn’t it?
When did it become so important to define ourselves by our sexuality?
Anderson Cooper publicly announced he was gay. Lance Bass did the same. Clay Aiken shocked the world by declaring he was gay. Ellen Degeneres made TV history in 1997 when she accidentally announced to Laura Dern over an airport intercom, “I’m gay.” Lady Gaga and Megan Fox have declared that they are bisexual. Comedian Andy Dick and personal trainer powerhouse Jillian Michaels admit they prefer to simply fall in love, that gender doesn’t matter.
I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a celebrity-clad magazine cover with the words, “I’m straight!” (There is, however, a magazine called The Georgia Straight. The magazine doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality but is about Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.)
The question remains: What if you had a teenager approach you and declare, “I’m gay.” Below are four steps to take:
1.Embrace the person.
One reason that the homosexual community is growing so rapidly is because they accept one another, they give each other a place to belong.
The truth is there is no better place for a person who is struggling with their sexuality than the Church! The one, holy and apostolic church is full of people infected with original sin. More importantly, the church is full of people who are forgiven and redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The teen needs to be assured that the sin of homosexuality is no greater than any other sin ever committed. Romans 3:23 reminds us that, “…all have sinned a fall short of the glory of God.” For that reason alone the church is an ideal place for a person who is struggling with homosexuality to belong. In fact, Jesus Christ died for the sin of homosexuality and sends the Holy Spirit to help the Christian be healed from a same-sex attraction. Be reminded that Jesus didn’t come to this world just so He could hang out with holy people. Jesus came for the sinner, for the sick, for those in need of a Savior.
Consider Luke 5:29-32, “And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying,’Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'”
When we welcome a teen who is struggling with their sin into our midst we have the mission and ministry to gently encourage correction from sin and toward the Spirit. We remind them that the life of a Christian is one of repentance, whether their struggle is with same-sex attraction, gossip, greed, pride or anything else. And we remind them that the life of a Christian is one of grace and of living the new life that Jesus gives with the forgiveness of sins. The struggle and temptation may remain, but none of us are alone in the fight. The Holy Spirit fights with us, and we also have each other.
If you aren’t the pastor of your congregation, invite him into the conversation (with the teen’s permission, of course). Remind the teen that the pastor isn’t there to judge or condemn, but there to listen, offer assurance and abundant forgiveness in combination of genuine repentance. Scripture offers an abundance of counsel on the matter of teaching and correcting. Here is one example:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV).
2.Point the teen to Jesus.
The Word of God is true. It always was, always is, always will be. Since the Bible is a book written by a perfect God we can conclude that the Word of God is 100% perfect. Believing this can only cause a reader to surmise that homosexuality is a sin. In fact, the Bible never speaks about homosexuality as something positive.
If you ever find yourself in the sanctuary talking to a teen about their sexuality your first response might be to grab the closest Bible and start pointing out all of the verses that declare homosexuality a sin. The truth is they probably already know them. They’ve already read them. That is why they are struggling. They know the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin yet they still wrestle with their feelings of attraction toward the same sex. Nevertheless, diving into Scripture is ideal!
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”( 2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17 ESV).
You have to point the student to Jesus while you point them to the Bible! Jesus and the Word cannot be separated; they always go hand in hand (John 1:1)! We know that the proper use of the Law leads to a repentant heart, which leads to the sweet message of the Gospel. While studying the Bible and God’s clear stance on homosexuality assure the teen with 100% certainty that they are loved by Jesus and that the Church is there for them as they wrestle with their sexuality. Point them to their Baptism, their relationship with Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the grave. Then, comforted with the fact that Jesus loves them to death (quite literally), dive into the Bible and seek God’s truth about homosexuality. Repeatedly circle back around to God’s love for them!
3.Encourage the student to not be defined by their sexuality but rather by their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Seek out ways to constantly remind the student that they are defined by their relationship with and in Jesus Christ, not by their sin. One simple activity would be to start each meeting with a list. Ask the student to make a list of the things that define them (like the list I used to begin this article). Where did the term “Christian” fall? Was “gay” higher or lower than “baptized”? Ask the student what they mean by “gay” being part of their identity. Is it something they are still struggling with and want to change? Is it something they see as somehow God’s will or doing? Or do they feel that indulging it, rather than fighting it, is somehow compatible with being “baptized”? Begin the journey of inviting the teen to, first and foremost, define him or herself by what Jesus Christ has done for them on the cross, in the tomb and at the waters of Baptism. Obviously, the more a teen can identify with Jesus Christ the less they will be defined by their sexuality.
4.Invite the parents and pastor into the conversation.
This is foundational. The parents and pastor have to be a part of this conversation. I understand that there are thousands of reasons why the teen would prefer to not talk to the parents or pastor: they wouldn’t understand, the teen assumes they’ll be kicked out of the house or the church, the teenager isn’t ready to come out yet, etc. Never provide an opportunity for yourself and a teen to share a secret that doesn’t involve the parents or the pastor. At the same time, you should never be the one to let the cat out of the bag. You can encourage the teen to talk to their parents and pastor. You can set up a meeting in your office where the teen can tell their parents and the pastor. You can ask if you and the pastor can come over and spend some time with the family in the privacy of their own home. Agree on a date with the teen that they will communicate with their parents.
It’s highly possible that the parents will be upset, maybe even angry. Now you’ve got another ministry opportunity ahead of you: to walk with the parents while they wrestle with their teen’s sexual tensions. This is tough work! It will not be easy! Be prepared to refer a Christian family counselor if the matter goes beyond your or your pastor’s ability.
My name is Jeffrey Meinz. Jesus Christ loves me beyond anyone’s understanding. Jesus died on a cross for me. He rose from the grave for me. He’s coming back some day to take me home. I’m going to live with Him for eternity. Yet while I live on this earth…I’m a sinner. Praise be to God that Jesus loves me too much to leave me that way. I am no longer defined by my sin, but by my Savior. God grant me His Holy Spirit, so to believe, and so to live, in repentance and in faith.