My child is struggling with same-sex attraction. What should I do?
Treat same-sex attraction as a sin, not as THE sin. One of the devil’s tricks is to convince us that one sin is greater than others in God’s eyes because we may not be tempted by it. This attitude further ostracizes the person struggling with this particular sin.
Be careful not to treat this sin differently
Make no mistake. God is clear that same-sex attraction is a sin. “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10).
But notice the other sins listed alongside homosexuality. Do you struggle with any of those at times? The struggle is the key. The apostle Paul is speaking about characteristic sin, that is, identifying with the sin rather than struggling against it. This sin, along with every other sin, is damning.
Remember that Jesus died for all sins of all people, including those struggling with same-sex attraction. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Another trick of the devil is to convince people that they are alone, broken, and beyond redemption. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (see Romans 1:16). We all need the gospel to show us that we are not alone, we are made whole in Christ, and we are redeemed by the same blood that cleanses us from every sin.
Whatever the sin, we need to remember that believers are always struggling children of God on this side of eternity. The apostle Paul describes that struggle: “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15-19). It will go a long way to acknowledge to your child that you are in the same boat, struggling against sins and temptations in your life. No matter the sin, we use the same tools to address it: law and gospel.
Meet them where they are
It is the believer’s responsibility to confront sin out of love for souls. “If one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19,20). To know how to address your child, my first piece of advice is vitally important. Listen to your child. Do not make assumptions. Listen to your child’s story and the struggle that is taking place, and then meet your child where he or she is.
Martin Luther famously said that the one who can properly distinguish the law and the gospel deserves a doctor’s cap. He wasn’t talking about knowing which passages are law and which are gospel. He was talking about knowing when to apply law and when to apply gospel. Since we cannot read hearts, we need to listen to discover what is in someone’s heart. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34).
Sometimes your child may need more law and other times more gospel:
- If your child says, “I know it’s wrong, but I’m going to embrace this lifestyle anyway,” your child needs more law to expose sin and point out that if Jesus is your Savior, he is also the Lord of your life.
- If your child says, “I’m afraid that I’m going to hell,” your child needs more gospel to show that Jesus died for that sin too!
- If your child says, “I’m really struggling with this; I don’t want to feel this way,” your child needs both law and gospel. Remind your child of Paul’s struggle in Romans chapter 7. Although sin lives in us, it’s never okay. God still tells us to fight it. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But then remind your child of Paul’s conclusion to Romans chapter 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24,25). In some sense, the Christian loses every battle because of the sinful nature but still wins the war. Point to Jesus, who has won the war for us.
Most important, keep the conversation going. Let your child know that you are a safe place for honest conversations about spiritual struggles. As you help your child, remember Paul’s encouragement to be gentle: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1). Remember that the people who struggle with same-sex attraction are not the enemy; they are struggling against THE enemy.
Remind them of their identity
Another trick of Satan is convincing people struggling with same-sex attraction that this is their identity. You often will hear someone say, “I was born this way.” That could be true in a sense. It seems that some are born with a greater propensity to certain sins like alcoholism, anger, etc. However, that does not excuse the sin nor the necessity to fight against that sin. Christians have a far greater and more powerful identity: children of God.
Remind your child that he or she is God’s child! God does not love us because we are beautiful, rather we are beautiful because God loves us. Just consider how Scripture does not qualify our status by how we behave or how successful we are in our lives of sanctification. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). Even as the apostle Paul describes his struggle against sins and temptations in Romans, notice that the true identity of Christians is the new man of faith, not the sin we struggle against.
Finally, God’s love is our motivation to turn from sin. When we see how much God loves us, especially in the words and works of Jesus, we want to thank him with our life.
God bless you as you speak the truth in love and lead your child to the Savior’s hands, marked with his great love for the world . . . and for your child.
Have a question, ask it here!
Author: David Scharf
Volume 110, Number 8
Issue: August 2023
- Q&A: How can I overcome my struggle with lust and pornography?
- Q&A: How should I help my child struggling with same-sex attraction?
- Q&A: Should Christians pray to saints?
- Q&A: Is anger sinful?
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith?
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer?
- Q&A: Is God fair?
- Q&A: When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what are we praying for?
- Q&A: How can I better manage what God has given me this year so that I glorify him?
- Q&A: What are ways to glorify God besides singing in church?
- Q&A: I have no special gifts, and I mess up all the time. Does God really need me?
- Q&A: How do I overcome the feeling that my life has no purpose and I don’t make a difference?
- Q&A: My friend died and was not a professing Christian. What do I say to the family?
- Q&A: How can my mother and I forgive my father for being unfaithful and causing my parents to divorce?
- Q&A: Why were demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times?
- Q&A: Is Christianity the only religion that gives the certainty of heaven?
- Q&A: If people go to hell, isn’t it their fault because God gave them free will and they rejected him?
- Q&A: Why are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension important for the disciples and for us?
- Q&A: Can you explain Jesus’ words to the wailing women he met on his way to be crucified?
- Q&A: What if spouses don’t “love” each other anymore?
- Q&A: Is it wrong to have a cross with Jesus’ body on it?
- Q&A: Is our time of grace really unchangeable?
- Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?
- Q&A: Are there degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works?
- Q&A: Do Lutherans take the Bible literally and teach millennialism?
- Q&A: Are there different interpretations of the Bible?
- Q&A: How can we be sure the Bible includes what God originally gave us?
- Q&A: Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
- Q&A: How can I explain how Jesus’ resurrection is possible and if the Bible is reliable?
- Q&A: Is it okay to live together if we are planning to get married?
- Q&A: How is the Bible God’s Word?
- Q&A: Were we “created to make a difference”?
- Q&A: Am I being judgmental if I point out someone’s sin?
- Q&A: Do I need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God?
- Q&A: Can a Christian vote for a political candidate who supports abortion?
- Q&A: Does God really care?
- Q&A: Does it really matter how God made the world?
- Q&A: Does God send people to hell?
- Q&A: Is death natural?
- Q&A: How can I forgive and forget?
- Q&A: Does God help those who help themselves?
- Q&A: How can we say that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God?
- Q&A: Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
- Q&A: Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
- Light for our path: Does God hate us?
- Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide?
- Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
- Light for our path: Is it a sin to want to die from a terminal illness?
- Light for our path: What advice can you give about applauding in church?
- Light for our path: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20?
- Light for our path: What is karma?
- Light for our path: Can the devil personally be tempting me and a lot of other people at exactly the same time?
- Light for our path: Does the word Easter refer to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess?
- Light for our path: What role does emotion play in contrition?
- Light for our path: What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
- Light for our path: Is the cross symbol now anti-Christian?
- Light for our path: Were Joseph and Mary engaged or married when Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy?