Whenever I drive to town I pass by a section of sidewalk brightly painted like a rainbow. It’s been there since our town held its first Gay Pride Parade about three years ago. I cannot pass the rainbow sidewalk without a familiar sense of loss and sadness flooding my heart. To most of society it represents a celebration of the LGBTQ movement, but to me it is a reminder of a beloved stepson estranged from our family because he chose to live a homosexual lifestyle. It was his choice to sever contact with us, not ours.
My husband’s four children were a delightful bonus when I married him. Especially the youngest, Scott (not his actual name), a bright 12 year old full of curiosity and quirky ideas. Whenever it was his turn to help with after dinner clean-up, I knew I would be well entertained. Scott demonstrated a lively interest in the Christian faith on which we founded our home, so we encouraged him in his own walk with Christ in every way we could. But as he grew into a teenager Scott became increasingly withdrawn, antisocial and passive aggressive. We tried all we could think of to show our love and concern, but he was unreachable. Not long after he moved out of our home, he called to announce his upcoming marriage to his male partner. We had heard rumors of his homosexual lifestyle, but this news broke our hearts.Though we assured him of our love, we could not blithely condone his decision which went against God’s view of homosexuality. In spite of this, we made sure he knew our door would always be open to him as our cherished son. Sadly, Scott has refused contact to this day.
Does this mean we are homophobes? Of course not. We could no more hate, fear or scorn someone for their sexual orientation than we could for their ethnicity or social standing. Never in our conversations with Scott did we openly condemn his decision. Because he grew up in a Christian home learning God’s word, he knew what our position was on the subject of homosexuality. We believe God’s created intent for the expression of human sexuality is fulfilled within the covenant of a monogamous and heterosexual marriage. (Matt. 19:4-6) Any other expression, including homosexuality, is a violation of God’s created intent and outside of the boundaries He has set. (Rom. 1:26-27)
Scott presumed we disapproved of his choice based on our own opinions and therefore condemned him as a person. That is untrue. Our theological conviction is not a catalyst to treat him poorly. Our view of his choice is founded on a perfect source outside ourselves, God’s Word. And this Word also teaches us repeatedly to love others in spite of their sin, yet not to compromise our beliefs by condoning their sin.
We long to demonstrate our love to Scott for who he is, but he has not given us the opportunity yet. We long to understand him as a person, the grown man he has become since he left our home. We want to know about his experiences, dreams, hopes and fears. Our love for him is not based on his right or wrong choices but on his irrevocable position as our son, which will never change no matter how distant he becomes. We care enough about him not to reduce him to his sexual orientation. He is so much more than that to us. It is not our job to try and change him. That is God’s department.
We cannot force him to have a relationship with us. His estrangement signifies his support of the argument that “acceptance but not approval” is not actually love. It could be that he is following the direction societal opinion is moving, that anything short of full approval is homophobia. His actions demonstrate that he considers us intolerant, therefore he treats us the way he himself does not want to be treated. If only he would give us a chance to love him as we want to.
I do not see divided views on homosexuality as strictly a social justice issue. Those who identify as homosexual have the same rights and freedoms as everyone, and are even celebrated for their sexual choices, though I don’t see those who identify as heterosexual having parades and special days designated for their orientation. From our family’s personal experience with homosexuality, I have come to the conclusion that it is also a matter of the heart. The reason it broke our hearts when we learned of our son’s decision to marry a man is because we saw it as his decision to embrace sin. If he had chosen to rob a bank or become a terrorist, we would feel the same. He knew God’s mandate on the subject, yet he implicitly chose to disobey, to follow his own desires and turn away from his family and the God he previously trusted.
Choosing a homosexual lifestyle is not a social justice issue, it is a sin issue. When I look to Jesus Christ for direction, I see how he hated sin, but loved sinners. Always. He loved sinners even to the point of His sacrificial death on a cross. He was clear in His condemnation of their sin, generous in demonstrating His love, and openhanded in His offer of redemption for those who repent.
Author John Badertscher wrote, “Love, properly understood, is not a feeling which may or may not last. It is an ordering of my will in which I hold the well-being of another at the center of my own well-being.”¹
My husband and I daily hold the well-being of Scott at the center of our hearts, praying for God’s love to reach him and return him to faith and his family.
¹Ten Steps on Freedom Road: Why the Commandments are Good News by John Badertscher; Wipf and Stock Publishers; Sept. 30, 2019
Valerie's devotionals can be read on her blog https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com