By Barrett Johnson
“Hey—is it true what they say about Christians hating gays?”
Are your youth asking that question? They sure are! Are you ready to answer it? You need to be—and you can be.
They may not be asking about gays and Christianity out loud, but there’s no doubt they’re wondering about it. How could they help it? Every day, through film, TV, social media and even in the classroom, they’re bombarded with the message that gay is great, and that there’s something morally wrong with Christianity for disagreeing.
No church and no youth group is exempt. Terms like “hate” and “tolerance” have been turned upside-down, so no matter how loving and grace-filled your church may be—or even your home—in the back of their minds young people are asking, “But isn’t this ‘hate’ anyway? Why can’t we get along with what LGBTQ people want?”
It’s almost certain that your own youth are asking that question. They’re listening to all the conversations around them, too. And make no mistake: If young people think those hateful things are true about Christianity, they’re also wondering how they could possibly decide to follow Jesus Christ.
The numbers on this aren’t encouraging. The great majority of young people support homosexuality and gay marriage. The younger the person, the more likely he or she is to think traditional Christian teaching is wrong. Seventy percent of millennials (born in 1981 or later) agree with gay marriage, compared to 56 percent of Gen-Xers (born 1965 to 1980) and 46 percent of Baby Boomers. Evangelicals of all ages are less likely to take that position, but those numbers aren’t strong enough to overcome the youth effect. Somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of young people raised in good churches—which also means good churched families—leave the faith once they leave home. Pro-gay messaging is becoming one of the main reasons. Your youth are definitely vulnerable. They’re bound to be confused.
So you’ve got to get into the LGBT-vs.-Christianity conversation with them, or they just might come to all the wrong conclusions about the faith, for all the wrong reasons. They might reject it in the end.
This is your job. Your church may be carrying the ball on this, too, but you’re responsible regardless. Here are four steps toward protecting your youth’ faith in a day of gay confusion.
1. Know what the Bible says.
Too many Christians know that the Bible is against homosexual practices and gay marriage, without knowing what it actually says or where it says it. Key passages on homosexuality are Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:9-10, and especially Rom. 1:26-32.
Key passages on marriage are harder to name—there are so many of them! But you could start with Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 19:1-10, and also 1 Cor. 7:1-16, Heb. 13:4, and of course Eph. 5:21-33.
2. Be able to explain why the Bible’s teaching is good.
It isn’t enough these days to say, “The Bible says … ” Many young people are so indoctrinated by the culture, their unspoken response to that is likely to be, then there must be something wrong with the Bible! They’re not just questioning whether Bible is true, they’re doubting that it’s good.
So we need to be able to explain how marriage as God created it is really good forreal people in real relationships—which it is! We need to be able to explain any other form of “marriage” leads to bad results in the end. The same goes for general issues of sexual immorality.
Did you know, for example, that there is tons of research showing that being married as husband and wife is really good for youth? That it’s the best way to prevent poverty? That it leads to longer lives and better emotional health? And more!
There’s much more that could be said. The point is, we need to be able to explain not just what the Bible says, but why it’s good it says it.
3. Make your conversations natural.
These conversations don’t have to feel like “the talk.” This doesn’t need to be awkward. Once you’re prepared with the background information mentioned above, you can ease into the topic with surprising ease. You might be in the car driving to soccer practice, for example, when you casually ask your youth, “What do your friends think about gay marriage?” Youth will usually appreciate your asking a serious question like that, and they’ll answer honestly, as long as you let them know it’s safe to be open with you.
On the way home from practice (or another day), you could raise the stakes by asking, “So I’ve heard what your friends think about this. How about you?” Again you’ll need them to know it’s safe to answer honestly. The more you know about the issue the easier it will be for you to respond rather than react, and keep the conversation open.
Those questions are for teenage youth; with younger youth you’ll need to be more indirect: “What do think: Is the difference between a man and a woman important if they’re married?” “What do your teachers (or friends) say about that?” … and so on.
4. Think through ways to disarm the charges.
Your youth has been primed with several specific charges against Christianity: “You’re haters!” “You’re on the wrong side of history.” Youth need to know how easily these charges can be disarmed. It’s simple to show, for example, that “hate” is constantly misused and mis-defined by gay activists. It’s simple, that is, with a few minutes’ thought and conversation. Youth aren’t likely to figure it out on their own—they need your help
These are crucial conversations. Yes, they’ll require some homework on your part, but there’s no way around it: if you care about your youth’ spiritual futures, you need to get yourself up to speed.
I’ve done a lot of that homework for you in my book Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality With Teens. Actually it’s helpful for guiding youth at any age — and you can read it in just an evening. With it you really can get equipped for these critical conversations.
Whatever you do, you’ve got to get the conversations rolling. If not, someone else surely will, with a message very unfriendly to their Christian faith. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of confusion among youth in the church. Your youth need you to connect with them through these very critical conversations, so you can guide them through to clear, faith-affirming, positive answers.
Adapted from infoforfamilies.com, a ministry founded by Barrett and Jenifer Johnson. After serving in the local church for 25 years, Barrett and Jenifer launched INFO for Families as a ministry designed to encourage people through speaking, personal coaching and resource development.
The above article, “4 Steps to Protect Your Young People’s Faith in a Culture That Promotes the Gay Lifestyle” was written by Barrett Johnson. The article was excerpted from www.chrismamag.com web site. July 2016.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”