Students, Same-Sex Attraction & You
She wants to meet with you. She’s part of the youth group. You know something’s been up, and you’ve been eager to get together. But when you finally sit down, after some awkward initial talk, she says it: “I think I’m gay. I’m attracted to girls.”
If you’re like me, your first impulse is to wonder what to say that would be helpful. You don’t want to push her away from you, but you’re speechless. Perhaps you were taken off guard. Perhaps you have no clue where to begin.
These situations can feel like we’re treading on unstable ground, especially if we’ve never experienced the same struggles of another. But can we find common ground? Can we help at all?
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 is a familiar passage: “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”
Under this sun, we all share common temptations. While we might not struggle or sin in the same particular ways, what’s going on inside the student who struggles with same-sex attraction and what’s going on inside of you have similar flavors. This student is not “other” than you. She is no stranger. She is a fellow sufferer who lives in the same fallen world that you do.
She is tempted to abandon her Lord. She is tempted by the strong, competing desires within her. She is tempted to walk the curvy and broad instead of the straight and narrow. And so are we.
What about James 1:14-15? James writes: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Beneath her attraction to those of the same sex, this student has other intense desires within her. These desires are similar to yours: desires for companionship, meaning, purpose, identity, relief. In fact, many non-sexual desires can often lead to sexual fruit and behavior.
Usually unaddressed and hidden within, it is these desires that we twist into ruthless and demanding idols. Our desires, along with our belief structures and worldviews within, produce the multitude of things we struggle with, whether it’s same-sex attraction, pride, worship of other people’s opinions, or any other fallen fruit.
Can you relate to someone who wants companionship or a refuge from life’s often unrelenting storms? Can you relate to someone who feels that his or her identity needs to be defined by someone or something other than Jesus? Can you relate to those who want to follow Christ but find strong, competing, sinful tendencies within themselves that move them in destructive directions?
A Common Saviour
Without seeing the common ground between us, we tend to distance ourselves from each other. We either think less of students because we would never do “those” things, or we think less of ourselves in terms of our ability to help.
God, however, closes the distance: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
One of the wonders of the Incarnation is that Jesus lived a real, human life and experienced all the desires, temptations, and sufferings that we experience. He knows what life is like, and that experience of commonality is what uniquely qualifies Him to help us. He understands us, and He is powerful to aid us.
We reflect the help, understanding, and love that Jesus gives to us by moving towards our students in empathy and compassion, not away from them in bewilderment and fear.
When we walk alongside students with same-sex attraction, it really isn’t a question about finding common ground. It’s about recognizing the common ground that we already have. We both share the same fallen human condition of misplaced beliefs, desires, allegiances, and the like, and we both have access to the same divine Help who comes close to us in love, understanding, and power.
When our students come to us with their struggles and temptations, we certainly will not know everything, but we already have a common ground from which to work. Let’s work towards uncovering that ground and approaching the throne of Jesus together.