By Joe Dallas
“I’m coming home for the holidays…with my partner…of the same sex.”
This is the time of year a Christian family may be getting a call from a loved one who says, “I’m coming home for the holidays…with my partner…of the same sex.”
It seems that sons or daughters who’ve kept their gay identity a secret realize that, when Fall rolls around with its inevitable family get togethers, they’ll either have to stay away, leave their partner at home, or come out of the closet. These days, more and more frequently, they’re opting for Curtain Number 3.
So when someone you love is gay and expected for Thanksgiving dinner, you not only have your emotions to deal with, you’ll probably have a myriad of questions as well:
Is it OK for us to have them over as a couple?
What do we tell the younger kids?
Do we ask them not to hold hands?
Do we ask her not to bring it up?
Should we just tell him not to come?
In the interest of arriving at the best answers, let me offer 5 tips that may help you navigate what can be a delicate, emotionally charged situation.
1. Ask, and You Shall Relieve
Too many Christian parents with lesbian, gay, or transgender loved ones won’t go to their pastor for guidance, or to their trusted friends for support. Often they’re embarrassed; often they feel they’ll be judged (as in, “What did you do that made your boy gay?”). Sometimes they just don’t think anyone will understand.
But that can be a big mistake. You need the relief of sharing this burden with someone else in the Body of Christ, as Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:2: “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” You also should be open to some pastoral guidance as to how you’ll handle the situation, and to your pastor’s prayers for you and the family, prayers that you can have a peaceful, loving holiday time together.
So ask. The holidays are clearly not the time to shy away from friends or shepherds.
2. Conscience Matters
When facing an ethical question, we often ask ourselves what seems right, letting conscience be our guide. At times, the position our conscience takes is firmly rooted in clear biblical guidelines. So, for example, if a loved one asks, “Can my partner and I sleep together in your guest room?” you’ll remember verses like I Timothy 5:22 (“Be not a partaker of other men’s sins”) or Ephesians 5:11 (“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”), and the answer will come easily.
Other times, even if certain things aren’t clearly condemned in the Bible, we may still feel our conscience would be violated by them. They may not necessarily be “sins” by biblical definition, but they become sin to us because our conscience testifies against them.
In that case, remembering Romans 14:23 (“Whatsoever is not done of faith is sin”), we’re likely to say, “I don’t feel OK with you and your partner showing physical affection in front of the younger children, so although you’re both welcome to join us, I have to ask that you abstain from that.”
In determining which of your gay loved one’s requests to grant, and which to refuse, conscience matters.
3. …But So Does Comfort
There’s another matter to consider when deciding yes or no on certain questions, and that’s what you are or are not reasonably comfortable with.
For example, you may not feel it’s a violation of your conscience to have your daughter and her partner come for Thanksgiving dinner. After all, that alone doesn’t constitute approving of a sin, nor would it necessarily facilitate the sin. But you still may not feel anywhere near ready to do it.
So if you’re still emotionally reeling over it, you might feel that if the two of them came for dinner, it would be awkward and clumsy, with you simply staring at them, unable to think of anything to say, until you murmur something brilliant like, “Would you like some gravy on your lesbian?”
In that case, a polite “I’m sorry, I’m just not ready for it” might be a wiser choice than to put yourself and your family through an emotionally tense, even damaging situation. Comfort matters, too.
4. “Mommy’s Tired. Argue with Mommy About Sexuality Later.”
Most openly lesbian or gay people won’t pick a fight during a holiday dinner. But if your loved one is determined to convert you to a pro-gay view, bringing the subject up and demanding that you explain and defend your position as a Christian, then you may or may not feel up for it.
Of course, such a conversation can be at least informative; at most, redemptive. If that’s the case, and you’re ready and willing, then go for it.
But if you’re trying to concentrate on facilitating a sacred family time, yet feeling like your home is becoming a courtroom in which you’re being cross-examined over your beliefs, there really is a place for saying, “You know, I’d love to talk with you about this, but not tonight. Tonight’s the time for us to enjoy each other and celebrate the family life God has given us. So I’m calling ‘time out’ on all debates about sexuality and will be glad to pick this up at an agreed upon time later.”
Knowing that someone you love is outside God’s will in a critical way does not prohibit you from enjoying that loved one.
Grieving over him? Sure. Concerned about her life and future? Definitely. But ask yourself this: Does the fact that he’s gay, or that she’s lesbian, cancel out all the other facts I know about him or her? Am I really not able to see and enjoy the wonderful person I’ve seen and enjoyed for so many years?
More to the point, does this one thing have to negate all the other good things that have been there between us in the past, and can surely be there now as well?
When I “came out” to my parents in 1978, six years before God brought me to repentance, my father wisely said, “I see so much more than this one thing about you, Son. You were Joe before you were Gay, and it’s the Joe I’ve known all the years that I still see, love, and will continue to enjoy.”
This holiday season, as many of us say “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas” to a prodigal family member, we can remember what we’ve loved and celebrated in that family member, none of which is cancelled out by her or his sexual identity.
Considering that, I’d say we could all do worse than to follow my Dad’s example.
We can remember what we’ve loved and celebrated in that family member, none of which is cancelled out by her or his sexual identity.
All Scripture quotations taken from the NKJV.