The titled question above is an excellent question. It cuts right through all the rhetoric and gets very personal. It is also why many professing Christians squirm uncomfortably and do a piss-poor job of articulating a response worthy of the gospel. It should be the place where Christians are at their finest. The fact that so many are not tells us the Church has become too content to remain at a stone-throwing distance from this critical issue. Nothing less than love and truth are at stake. A small little disclaimer is in order: I am straight, unmarried and not a father. However this question has long appealed to me because I enjoy thought provoking questions that require us as Christians to go beyond our chatty, cliché talking points and get real. I have had conversations with parents on this question before, and I have gleaned some insights along the way. The following is my response if I were a married father being interviewed by a non-Christian who is genuinely concerned for children coming out as gay in a Christian home:
Question: What would you do as Christian parents if your son came out as gay?
Answer: We would tell him we love him, that we adore him, that we would give our life for him and that our love for him would never diminish no matter what path of life he took in life. We would assure him that our love for him would be a constant in his life that would never change. But at the same time we would tell him, as Christian parents, there is a wide range of beliefs, behaviors and paths in life that we cannot support, encourage or celebrate. Not because it goes against our sensibilities or preferences, but because they go against a higher authority we as Christian parents have chosen to submit our lives to.
We live in an age where to simply have a desire is a sufficient reason to justify and pursue the desire. But Christ says the exact opposite. He says we must deny ourselves, deny our desires, pick up our cross and follow him. Now we have to be careful here. Jesus never said or denied that certain desires and urges are real. He knows they are! What he says is that we must not seek to fulfill those desires, preferences or urges if he considers them ultimately destructive to human flourishing and one’s pursuit of God’s holiness.
But this also means any attitude or display of hatred and violence towards the gay community is also off limits for Christians– parents or otherwise. In summary as Christian parents we believe picking up one’s cross and denying ourselves includes everything from denying any urge to hate one’s child because they are gay to denying the urge to overlook or dismiss what the New Testament says about God-ordained sexual contact.
So while we would assure our son of our love, we would also explain to him that we cannot pretend to believe other than we do. We cannot become hypocrites of what we believe to be true simply because we love him— because do so would ultimately be unloving and a lie.
Now if you think that is strange, barbarian, or bigoted let me flip the question around to you. What if your son came home and said he was going to be an extreme right-wing, Bible-thumping, gay-hating, “Christian” televangelist. You might be able to convince yourself you still love your son, but would you offer him your support, encouragement and affirmation. Would you honestly be able to celebrate his life’s direction if it went against your core beliefs? Probably not— but it doesn’t mean you don’t love him.
Agreeing to love and disagreeing in love are not mutually exclusive. Moreover we should not confuse love or agreement with tolerance. Tolerance implies the thing to be tolerated is not something you love or affirm—otherwise you wouldn’t tolerate it, you would agree with it! Sadly the true understanding of tolerance is lost on this youthful, liberal generation where tolerance has become a synonym for agreement and affirmation, at least up until the liberal comes across a belief or attitude they don’t agree with! Then they don’t call for tolerance—they just call you bigoted and intolerant. The self-defeating irony is often lost on them.
*This is just a preliminary response. Specific matters such as what to do if your son wants to bring home their partner to your house would have to be prayerfully considered on a case-by-case basis according to one’s conscience before the Lord. My opinion would be Christian parents cannot condone their loved one’s sexual sin (or any God-dishonoring sin) by knowingly allowing it (as behavior) in their home where Christ is declared to be Lord. Parents should not be caught becoming complicit in any moral compromise for the sake of appearing “loving.” On the other hand it is my opinion that where the Scriptures speak of disfellowshipping believers who are sexually immoral (or greedy swindlers and idolaters) and “having nothing to do with them” (1 Cor. 5:1-12) such an injunction is specifically connected to the fact that the Church is exercising due authority over professing believers who are unrepentant in the congregation. That is to say it is congregation-specific not necessarily family-specific as a means of discipline. Church discipline is meant to protect the Church from the “leaven of sin” spreading and hopefully lead to the restoration of the wayward believer. All of this implies the one being disfellowshipped is not an unbeliever or even a seeker but a professing, unrepentant believer who has broken covenant with others through his sin–including his stubborn disregard of correction prior to disfellowship.