“And then the two guys started kissing.” This was the statement a first grade neighborhood kid made to my seven year old homeschooled son about a television show that he had seen on a family-friendly network. There were days when Christians parents could live quiet and tranquil lives in a way that allowed them to tackle worldview issues in their own timing. It would seem those days are behind us.
The recent Supreme Court decision regarding homosexual marriage, doesn't change everything like some fear. No foundational truth, no word of scripture, no character of God, no detail of His providence has been changed—not one iota. Even what we must teach our children about homosexuality remains the same. We must teach them what God’s word says about it. It seems apparent, however, that how we teach our children about homosexuality must change.
How must it be different? Well, I guess when you get down to it, the practical details are pretty much the same too. However, the big picture view has changed in this manner. We must be more intentional and more proactive about how we teach our kids about homosexuality. We must be prepared to prepare them.
There is a temptation to be passive in regards to this subject and simply answer the questions when they come. There is certainly wisdom in not pushing the subject before a child is ready, but there are ways to begin and keep the conversation at their level. (More to come on that later.) Russell Moore warns that “If you don’t teach your children about a Christian way of viewing the challenges to a Christian sexual ethic, the ambient culture—which is now codified in our legal system—will fill in your silence with answers of its own.”
This is a worldview issue that we know is going to confront our kids, and it will do so in terribly subtle ways. The foundation of this otherwise axiomatic principle will silently begin to erode. By the time the questions do come (and they will come) we will be attempting to support the roof when the foundation itself is in danger of collapsing. In other words, if we wait for the questions to come to start this conversation, it will likely be too late. If, however, we reinforce a sure foundation, we will prepare our kids to ask the right questions when the time comes.
So, how should Christians talk to their kids about homosexuality?
Step One: Definition
Regardless of the age and maturity of your kids, start by defining your terms. This is very important and not to be overlooked. If your kids are still young, start with basic definitions. If your kids are more mature, continue on with implications and connotations.
I recently had a conversation with my four year old son about the definition of men/women and boys/girls. He was under the impression that being a boy or a girl was determined by the length of one’s hair. (This is very ironic, because he used to have long hair.) I corrected his thought process and offered up a little education. I told him what being a man means and what being a women means. Had he been more mature, I could have gone on to tell him what it means to be a man and what it means to be a women. Both are definitions; both are for vastly different maturity levels.
Here are a few definitions you’ll want to hit on:
- Homosexual (yes, use this term)
Step Two: Discussion
By defining your terms at an appropriate maturity level, you sure up the foundation for the secular storms that is sure to come. You will have to revisit these terms over and over. You will have to deepen their definitions over time, but there will be very little give and take during this phase. Soon enough the questions will come, and they will sound something like, “Why is homosexuality a sin?” “Why can’t men fall in love with other men?” “Why is marriage only heterosexual?”
Congratulations, your kids are asking the right questions in the right way! There is danger in the water, though. Here you must tread very carefully. Sometimes our kids ask questions like this because they simply need an answer. Much of the time, they don’t need you to give them the answer; they need you to help them come up with more questions so that they can find the answers!
Consider the following dialogue:
Why is homosexuality a sin?
Well, what do you mean when you say homosexuality?
I mean committing homosexual acts.
And, what are homosexual acts?
You know ... (And if your defining of terms really sank in)
… two people of the same sex being intimate.
OK, and what is sin?
Doing something against God’s laws.
So, the answer to your question is that God has forbidden two people of the same sex to be intimate with one another.
Well, why has God forbidden two people of the same sex to be intimate with one another?
Well, why do you think? Is it the intimacy part that is wrong?
Because heterosexuals can be intimate.
Really? Any heterosexuals?
Well, then who?
Only heterosexuals in a married relationship.
Ah, ok. So, it’s marriage that is a key factor.
Well, if that’s true, why can’t two homosexuals get married?
How does God define marriage?
A union between a husband and a wife.
What’s a husband?
A husband’s a man; a wife’s a woman. I get it. But, what I don’t get is why God doesn't define marriage to just be between two people. Why do they have to be of opposite sexes?
(Ding, ding, ding! Right question!)
Because God is unlike us, yet He creates a union between us. Marriage is meant to be a beautiful picture of that relationship. From the very beginning God made us in His image as male and female. To realign that would be to mar His image.
Step Three: Defend
This discussion too will need to be revisited many times from many angles. Don’t be discouraged. The way we learn our way around is by driving in many different directions. The way we develop muscle memory is by repeating an action over and over and over again.
You do this enough and pretty soon, when your kids’ friends make contrary assertions, they will know all the right questions to ask to lead them to truth. It is important that they do so with the right goal, with the right tools and with the right attitude.
The goal is not to win an intellectual argument. This is not a question of academics but a question of the heart. The tools to use are not coercion or sophistry. The tools for this job are the words of scripture rightly applied to the situation. The attitude is not one of pride or dogma. The appropriate attitude is one of bold humility … or to put it another way, out of love.
What our kids say and do—and what we say and do, for that matter—should be done out of love. Remember that love is one of the terms we should define. Love will be the proverbial silver bullet of those who argue against our young apologists, so we’d all better be pretty familiar with it. Love is a tricky thing. There are plenty of unloving things that can be done in a loving way. In the same regard, there are plenty of loving things that can be done in an unloving way.
We as conservative Christians believe that homosexual acts are contrary to God’s design, destructive to those who engage in them and harmful to the community that affirms them. We believe that this sin will have its negative consequences that end in divine wrath. It would be an unloving thing to ignore such imminent danger despite how kindly we smile while doing so.
Yet … yet, I say … there is a way to unlovingly warn those who fall prey to this temptation and affirm such sinful behavior. It is unloving to do so with pride, mockery or callousness. We should encourage our kids (and hold them in check) to speak with the boldness and urgency of one who (as James said) “brings back a sinner from his wandering [and] save[s] his soul from death and [covers] a multitude of sins.” We should encourage our kids (and hold them in check) to crying out with Jeremiah “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”
Though these definitions, questions and conversation will take repetition, feelings of inadequacy and likely a fair amount of heartache, we as parents are called to nothing less and desire nothing less for the children with whom God has entrusted us.
Perhaps it would be best to end with the words of 1 Peter 3:13-17.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.