Long before the Supreme Court imposed same-sex marriage on the country, Christian parents had been dealing with the culture’s growing acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships and the impact it has on their children.
We at Focus are hearing from more and more of them as they navigate these difficult waters with friends and relatives who are homosexual while also trying to model Christian behavior for their own children. Here’s a question typical of those we receive:
My sister-in-law is currently married to her partner. We love both of these ladies but have made it clear that we don’t support their lifestyle. There’s a huge family gathering next summer and my husband wants us to go. I want to go too, but we have three children, and I don’t know how it will affect them. What should I do?
As you can see, this is a delicate situation, and our team here does a fantastic job of providing relevant, biblically centered help to moms and dads like this one on a daily basis. If I were the one responding to this mom, here’s how I’d respond:
You have good reason to be concerned about the potential impact on your kids, especially in view of recent events at the Supreme Court and the disturbing changes we’re seeing in social attitudes towards marriage and sexuality in this country. As a parent, you do have a responsibility to guard the innocence of your children, and you’re to be commended on taking that aspect of your role so seriously.
At the same time, I think you’re right to be concerned about keeping up a positive influence and a solid Christian witness in the lives of your sister-in-law and her partner. They’re people too, after all – individuals created in God’s Image and objects of His unfailing love. I know you feel as if you’re facing a real dilemma, but I believe you can achieve both objectives without compromising.
Let’s face it: as Christians living in a non-Christian world, we always have to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In the parenting context, this means figuring out how to protect your children physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually while still maintaining an open heart and demonstrating Christ’s love to those who don’t necessarily share your convictions.
Maybe you can begin by reminding yourselves of this important biblical truth: homosexuality is one of the many sins of humanity. Yes, the consequences of it are usually much graver than, say, gossip, but sin is still sin in God’s eyes.
Why do I say this? Because I think there’s a good chance that you have other relatives who don’t believe as you do or who don’t measure up to Christian standards of behavior. Maybe Aunt Gladys drinks too much. Maybe Uncle George can’t control his mouth. Maybe Cousin Ginny lives with her boyfriend. There’s no reason to put your sister-in-law and her partner in a different category from these folks. They’re all going to be at the big family gathering next summer.
You’ve said that you “love both these ladies,” which leads me to assume that you’re on speaking terms and have some kind of ongoing relationship with them. You’ve also indicated that you’ve already told them how you feel about homosexuality. That’s good. If the relationship is such that you’d feel comfortable doing so, why not give them a call and discuss your concerns about the family gathering with them?
Naturally, you don’t want to make them feel judged or condemned. To avoid this, I’d suggest that you try turning the focus on yourself: Talk candidly about your Christian values. Share your parental worries about the upcoming reunion. Reassure them of your love and let them know how much you’re looking forward to seeing them, but make it clear that you feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place.
It might be helpful to say something like, “We care about you and sincerely want to continue our relationship with you, but at the same time we don’t want our children to become confused about sexuality and marriage.” Perhaps you could ask them to refrain from overt displays of homosexual affection when you and the kids are around (just as you might ask Uncle George to save his “sailor words” for the ship).
In the meantime, prepare your kids to interact with your sister-in-law by having some frank, age-appropriate discussions about sexuality and marriage at home. If they have questions, don’t be afraid to give them straightforward answers. Remember that the best way to counteract negative outside influences is to model healthy attitudes toward sex in your own lives. When it comes to sex-related issues, you are the best and most effective teachers your children could ever hope to have. Show them by your own example what it means for husband and wife to cooperate and live together in harmony and peace. Kiss, hug, and openly demonstrate your affection for one another. Celebrate the differences between male and female by helping your boys and girls develop healthy masculine and feminine traits.
Then, when next summer rolls around, you can pack your bags, load up the car, and head off to the big family gathering in the confidence that you’ve done your homework. I have a feeling that everybody there will benefit by your presence.
Let me turn the question to you: How would you handle this situation? I would appreciate hearing from you in the comments section.