Note: This article was written for dare2share ministries to encourage and equip youth leaders and volunteers.
Nearly 15 years has passed since I surrendered my life to Christ and subsequently walked away from my homosexual lifestyle and gay identity. In the years since, our culture has changed drastically. We don’t have to look far to see it. From the legalization of same-sex marriage to new terms such as nonbinary and xenogender, the cultural weight of and approach to LGBTQ topics is ever-growing and evolving. It can feel overwhelming to even engage in these difficult subjects.
However, God put us here for such a time as this! What a privilege we’ve been given to offer Gospel hope to the next generation—hope of Good News that’s powerful enough to transform our lives. Some 2,000 years ago, when Paul spoke of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6, he stated:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
When Paul wrote this, God was in the business of restoring and redeeming His people. And He’s still doing so today.
With up to 25% of Gen Z identifying as LBGTQ, we must discuss these issues in our youth ministries. Here are three key ways these discussions can be a springboard for the Gospel:
A SEARCH FOR IDENTITY
As I’ve spoken at hundreds of churches and events across the country, Christians have repeatedly asked: “Why is this sin treated differently than others? Why are we being forced to celebrate it? We don’t celebrate other sins.” I kindly point out that I’ve been forced (or at least highly encouraged!) to celebrate gluttony at many church potlucks. But I digress.
The issues around LGBTQ sins do seem to be treated differently. I believe much of it is because it’s not just something people do—it becomes how they define themselves. It is identity. It is people looking inside of themselves for their self-perception. But a healthy identity—one shaped by the Gospel—comes from above. Teenagers are desperate to discover “who they are.” As long as they’re looking inward, the identity they’re forming will stem from whatever they’re feeling at the moment. But when we surrender our whole selves to the King of kings and Lord of lords, we can discover the identity God created us for. Colossians 3:3 states: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” [emphasis added] A new identity grows from the ashes of death of our former self.
Pro-tip: When a teenager expresses an identity that concerns us, our first response should be to listen and ask questions. Recently I had a teenager ask, “Can I be a Christian if I’m asexual?” My first response was to thank her for the question, and then ask what she meant by asexual. She explained that she didn’t experience a “raging sexual desire” for either gender, as all of her straight or gay friends did. I exclaimed, “That’s great! Because a raging sexual desire for anyone other than your husband would be lust.” I then was able to share the Gospel and explain how a Christ-centered identity would mean that she would no longer have to make herself fit into one of the many boxes and labels that society proclaims.
A SEARCH FOR PURPOSE
A discussion surrounding LGBTQ issues is a prime opportunity to share a bigger vision for sexuality and gender. Don’t discuss just 1 Corinthians 6, but also include Genesis 1. In a world that doesn’t even know what a woman is, there’s so much confusion—not only for LGBTQ students, but for heterosexual students as well. What did God design marriage for? How is marriage a portrayal of the Gospel? To answer these questions, build a vision of men and women who reflect His image. He made them male and female (Genesis 1:27), and He knew what He was doing. Teach students to embrace the role God gave them. God created marriage, gender, and sexuality as a gift to us!
Pro-tip: In building a vision for biblical manhood and womanhood, we must be cautious to not add our own cultural stereotypes to the definition of a man or woman. In a world that tries to convince a “tomboy” that she’s transgender and a musician that he’s gay—based solely on personality, talents, and abilities—we must not add to the confusion by excluding certain people from manhood and womanhood based on our own stereotypes. We celebrate the differences and giftings God gives to individual men and women, and teach them to embrace and celebrate their unique personality and traits as a gift from God.
A SEARCH FOR HOPE
We live in a world where instead of pursuing someone for marriage based on a vision of building God’s Kingdom together, our cultural norm is to pursue someone based on how that person makes me feel. We turn to a person—our culture says it can be a person of any gender—not to die to ourselves to love them as a portrayal of the Gospel, but instead to give us certain feelings. Being in a relationship because of the feelings a person gives us is ultimately putting our hope in that person. We become a slave to that person. This is not the love God calls us to. This is self-love—loving what someone does for us.
Build a better vision of hope—hope that comes from Christ alone! The Gospel gives us a hope in which we have everything we need in Christ—for eternity. This is freeing. Because of this hope, we no longer have to be slaves to people. We don’t have to relate to people because of how they make us feel. We are free to love unconditionally—regardless of how that love is returned—because in Christ we’ve been given “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). The Gospel gives us hope that the world—along with its categories and labels—could never offer.
Pro-tip: In offering this Gospel hope during LGBTQ discussions, be sure to make it applicable to all students—including heterosexual, “cis-gendered” students, who are just as susceptible to buying into worldly ideas of sexuality and gender. “Heterosexual” does not equate to “holy.” All students need the same transformation, the same hope, and the same Gospel.
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITY
Having a platform to speak hope into the next generation is such an incredible opportunity! Do it with joy. If you surround these conversations with even the slightest attitude of “us vs. them” or “those sinners out in the world,” students will perceive it instantly. They pick up on even the smallest hints of self-righteousness or judgment. Surround these discussions with enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion—knowing that you need the same transformation as everyone else. Allow your attitudes and communication to express the hope you have in Christ—the hope available to all people.