Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
The telephone rings. It's your son whom you have not seen for many months. You are delighted to hear from him and your heart is joyful. Then somewhere in the course of the conversation, he says that he would like to stop by. You are quick to say how much you would love to see him, and you may even say that it's about time, that you have missed him and would like him to come by more often. As you are saying goodbye, he says, "We'll be there about 6 p.m." We? You suddenly realize by what has just been said that he AND his lover plan to come to dinner. What do you do? Do you immediately tell him not to come? After such a joyful conversation, do you now suddenly switch signals and reject him by withdrawing your warm welcome? What will you tell your husband and other family members?
This question arises again and again. After much prayer and searching of Scripture and sharing with other Christians (some who knew the Bible much better than I), there seemed to be no easy answer, no formula that will work on a consistent basis. Each situation must be evaluated on its own special circumstances. I am in contact with dozens, perhaps hundreds of parents. Some have worked through this difficult dilemma, others have not and continue to struggle in this area often creating more problems than they solve.
First, I would like to share with you my personal struggles in this area. Like most parents I over-reacted at the news that my son was gay. At first, I cried every time I was reminded of this sad situation. I could hardly make it from one day to the next. Each time I saw a gay person or a group of gays, I felt sick at heart. I had no hope, no one to encourage me by telling me that things would not always be this bad
The Lord was faithful and He brought me through the first stage of my grief, but I was not prepared for the first meeting with my son's lover. As we stood there face to face, thoughts were flashing through my head, scenes of my son in bed with this man. Yet I found the strength to see this man in a different light. Like my son, he was lost. Yes, they both were lost and some of my anger faded away. Afterward, as I reviewed our conversation, I realised that I had handled it well, something I could not have done without the Lord's healing in my life.
As the years have passed, I have been able to leave my son in the hands of God. This gives me the peace that I need. I still have difficult times, but I am learning and growing. I even have good news, what I have learned in this situation somehow spills over into other areas of my life. My faith has been sorely tested and tried, but I have reaped benefits from the trials, I may not be able to fully rejoice in my trials as Peter recommends, but I am getting closer to that goal all the time. The situation with my son has brought me constantly before the Lord. I seek Him to keep me in balance. I find that I have been able to love, affirm and accept my son without ever condoning his sin.
A few years ago my son returned home to live with my husband, Frank, and I for a few months. We were helping him relocate in the area. Before he moved into the house, my husband and I prayerfully set down some rules that we felt were necessary to enable us to all live in the same household peacefully. These covered his conduct while he was in our home; we placed no restriction on his behavior while he was outside our house. He is an adult and is fully capable of managing his affairs in the world. It seemed to work well. This was the first time that my son had lived with both mother and father in the house. My husband acted as a balance between me and my son. I was reminded when I was a nag. My son was given responsibilities and held accountable for them. He enjoyed being a responsible family member and held up his end of the chores and duties.
To sum up the saga of the Worthen household, I can only say, "SIN IS SIN!" If my son were sleeping with a woman, I would not turn my back on her. I simply would not let them engage in sinful behavior in my house. If he were into drugs, he wouldn't be shooting up in my bathroom. (Sure, I would rather his problem be premarital sex or drugs or alcohol, but I can never allow my feelings to rule my life.) Having my son at home was a blessed time for all of us, yet I still do not feel that grown children should live at home on a permanent basis.
In some ways we were sheltering my son from the trials and struggles of life. Our home is a place where Christians are constantly gathering. This was good for my son since he received an on- going Christian witness, yet there is also another side of the issue. God's protection on our house also extends to my son. It may have protected him from some of the things God may have been waiting to do in his life. Perhaps, he could have never made the right choices until he had fully experienced life as a single person, alone and facing the darker side of his lifestyle.
One positive thing is that my son has seen, lived with, and experienced a happy, fulfilling marriage. He has seen first-hand the love Frank and I have for each other. He now knows that he has a dad that he can turn to in tough times. He knows where Frank came from, his background and he can see the change (my husband, Frank, came out of homosexuality in 1973 and is one of the founders of Exodus International). My son cannot deny that God has the power to completely turn lives around. I know it has been God's will that my son live at home for a season, but I also know that the season had to come to an end. Both Frank and I had to forgo our tendency to manipulate the situation and keep him on longer when it was time to part. Now that we don't live together, I hope my son will remember home as a place of rest, truth, and love and that it will be in stark contrast to what is offered in his world.
Most of us parents exhibit wide mood swings, being over-protective one minute and considering throwing out sin and sinner the next. As we draw closer to Christ, we are able to handle this situation more like He would. You cannot rely on any one person to tell you how to respond to your child or your child's friends. You must turn to God; He is the one who knows your child better than anyone else. How do we know what is from God and what is from our own broken heart? I am often asked, "How does your response match up to the Bible?" The Bible is truth and any choices you make, any counsel you receive must align itself with the Bible. But how will you know what it says unless you consider the Bible valuable enough to spend time studying it? The Bible is no ordinary book; it is the living Word. God has designed it to speak to you in a way that is unique to your situation. I would like to share two composite cases to show you the two extremes:
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Linda is a single mother with one 28-year old son, Gary, who is a homosexual. Gary has been in and out of his mother's house for all of his adult life. He has never held a job for very long. Gary is out of work again and needs to move home because his unemployment cheque won't support him. Linda sets down some rules that he must live by to be in her home. He is not to have any sex in or out of her home. He will go to a counselor. She will help him save money by being in charge of all his money, handing out small amounts if she feels the need is legitimate. On the plus side (for Gary), she will not charge him rent or make him pay for food. Gary is forced into accepting any agreement because of his desperate financial situation.
Linda has been both wise and foolish. Some of her rules are necessary, but behind others is her strong desire to once again be in control of her son's life. Her manipulation causes Gary to do things behind her back, lying to her and hiding his true feelings. Their communication becomes shallow and meaningless. Linda can never manipulate Gary into being "good". Her strict rules have reduced Gary to the state of a teenager. Her strong desire to have things as they once were, with Gary completely dependent once again, will backfire and cause hard feelings and eventual separation. Linda can never really recreate the past and have her little boy back again. Gary is her world and she lives in fear of loosing him.
Linda loves her son, this cannot be denied, yet she cannot live with the situation of her son being an adult and responsible for his own decisions. She can only feel peace when she is in control of the situation protecting him. It is very likely that she is standing in the way of God doing any real work in Gary's life. Gary is growing to hate his mother more and more each day. One day he will lash out at her and she will melt into tears and say to him; "after all I have done for you."
Linda needs to help Gary to find his own place to live even if that means a room in a run-down hotel. He needs to be in control of his own money and to face the results of his wrong choices. She must hand over control to the Lord and start to build her own life. God wants to use her in His Body, the church, to get involved in helping others. Parents who have experienced real pain and have worked through their difficulties are the ones who will be able to relate to and understand others going through such trials. As parents begin to reach out, the real healing starts in their life.
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Now let's look at another family who is handling this situation totally differently:
Mike and Kate are both Christians with several children. One is Lynn, a 24-year old daughter who is living in a lesbian relationship. A few months ago Lynn was living at home and going to school. When her parents found out about her involvement in the homosexual life, they asked her to give up her immorality or leave their home. These parents deeply hate and resent Lynn's lover. The hate and hurt seems to grow daily. All blame is placed on the lover for the seduction of their little girl. They see themselves as blameless and their daughter as simply being foolish for allowing herself to be duped by this evil person. This one person must bear the responsibility for the ruination of their daughter's life. Lynn knows that if she changes her living situation, she will be welcomed in their home. She also knows that her parents have no understanding of what caused her to seek comfort from another woman and that they are not open to hearing anything about her emotional needs.
Mike and Kate and other parents I deal with feel this is what Jesus would have them do, and they produce Scripture to support their actions. One example that is used is 1 Corinthians 5:9 and following. Paul is talking about not keeping company with those who call themselves Christians but continue to walk in sin. Along with sexual sin, he also lists greed, swindling, idol worship, abusive behavior and drunkenness. Paul says God will judge those outside the church but we are to judge those in the church.
As I read this, I see a person who has turned his/her back on the church and is no longer part of the fellowship. I don't know about your family but my family gatherings would be mighty slim if I couldn't eat with any calling themselves Christians but involved in the above sins. I can see myself telling my Mother that I can't see her because she spends ten hours a day in front of the TV. What about my Uncle Bert, who has a real problem with the bottle. And talk about greed, I have a sister... I could go on and on but you get the idea.
If asked, all of these people will say that they are Christians but their lives don't show it to me. I can't seem to figure out who is and who isn't a Christian in this group. But God has shown me I don't have to. I want to be around them to love them and let God to do the convicting. My son knows he is out of God's will. He is not part of the church. I don't know if he has lost his salvation or not. Along with my mother, my sister and the rest of my family, he is in the hands of One who loves him more than I ever could. I will trust them all to Him. The Lord knows what it will take and at what time to turn them around.
There are lots of Scriptures I'm not sure how to apply to those walking in sin who are dear to me. Some day, the Lord Himself will explain it all to me. But for now, I will just look to Jesus as my example. This makes it easier for me. All through the New Testament, Jesus interacted with those who were not religious. He ate with sinners and got a lot of flack from the religious community, too! He said that He came not for the healed but for those who were in need of a doctor. That's good enough for me.
Each child is different, and God may want to have us respond in different ways at different times. Sometimes God may call us to protect our child or to help them out in a time of need. Another time, He may want us to show tough love, which is always the hardest. We must look to God because He is the one we will answer to on that day of Judgment. As for me, I have developed a strong love for my son's lover. He is welcome at my dinner table. I pray for him as often as I pray for my son. I trust God knows that perfect time to reach him. Who knows, he may come into the Kingdom ahead of my son and it may be his witness that will reach my son where nothing else can. In the words of Samuel, "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you"(1 Samuel 12:23).
Copyright 2003 Anti Worthen. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.