“How do I Talk to My Kids About Homosexuality?”
This is the fifth article in our series, “The Hard Questions.” Working with students is tough. You’re often the person approached with some of life’s most challenging questions. Sometimes you know what to say right away. Other times, you need to take a step back and consult with the Word, your piers, or your mentors. We’ve asked some very wise people about the hardest question they’ve been asked these days, and how they responded. The fourth article in this series can be found here.
I only really have one major point here, and it’s this: the best way to talk to your kids about homosexuality is to first talk about healthy, Biblical sex and marriage.
We have been doing this thing in my ministry where we preach an entire book of the Bible in one sermon. This week, it was on Judges. Since there are some pretty spicy topics peppered around this book, I sent a PG-13 warning to parents pointing out that I needed to address the rape, murder, and mutilation of the concubine. One mom didn’t read the email. After my sermon, she confided in me that she hadn’t yet talked to her child about sex, let alone its worldly distortions. Shakily, her fears about raising her boys in “this world” came trembling out as she explained the complicated tight-rope she walks with her lesbian neighbors, their kids, and her own.
“How do I talk to my kids about homosexuality?”
As a 27-year-old father of a three-year-old, it seems both unwise and presumptuous to tell godly, mature parents, how to talk to their kids about sex and homosexuality. But I realize that if I am not talking about it, everyone else is. I have an obligation to give some kind of Christian answer to secular wisdom, even if it is tempered by my lack of sage parental experience.
In ministering to today’s students, this question will only come up with increasing frequency. However, we shouldn’t be discouraged. I have come to appreciate that these specific questions about homosexuality and gay marriage give more and more platforms to talk about healthy, Biblical, heterosexual marriage in general. Throw in the climbing divorce rate within the church and it becomes clear that we’re failing to teach our young people about marriage in any form.
I would encourage you to watch this video of Jimmy Kimmel on CNN before reading the rest of this article. It’s funny, fascinating, and unfolds our world’s view of marriage.
In the video, Jimmy Kimmel’s point is that kids are sophisticated enough to handle the throes of modern love. When asked “Why do people get married?” the kids answered, almost universally, “Because you love someone and have a connection to them.” Kimmel and CNN were proud to hold this up, not only as the final definition of marriage, but also as an apologetic for the legalization, and self-evident virtue of same-sex marriage.
After watching this video, it occurred to me that we can’t marry for love anymore. At least, I can’t tell my children that love is the ultimate reason I proposed to their Mom. To give our kids the answer, “Because I love her,” while true, is to give them an answer that the world has thoroughly co-opted, and published so ubiquitously. “Because I love her,” as expected as it seems, might actually confuse them more than the Biblical answer would.
Ephesians tells us that Christian marriage isn’t about my love for my spouse. Christian marriage is about Jesus’ love for his spouse:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV).
If the world believes that our children are sophisticated enough to understand the realities of modern love, let’s one-up them. Let’s show them that our children are capable of understanding the real and inscrutable truth of an ancient, eternal love; that marriage is not merely our response to another woman’s or man’s love, but a response to our savior’s sacrificial love. Let’s teach our children that while we do marry for love, it’s not primarily about our love for each other – but Christ’s incredible love for us.
Teaching about marriage through the lens of Christ’s love for us does five things:
1. It elevates marriage beyond something we initiate and sustain, to something only God initiates and sustains. “What therefore, God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mark 10:6-9). Marriage is God’s work, God’s idea, and God’s plan. It’s not something we get to co-opt, fudge, alter, redefine, or bail out on. Marriage is a divine work woven through creation, since creation, to display God’s creative glory, and his incredible love.
2. It makes marriage about the gospel. If the gospel is such great news, our children need to see it work its way into all parts of our lives – including the way we see and value our spouses. I desperately want my daughter to know that Jesus loved her so much that he died for her. I want her to see that kind of sacrifice mirrored in the way I love my wife. And when she asks me about it, I can tell her: “How could I not love your Mom this way if Jesus died for me, if Jesus loved me.” More than this, viewing marriage through the lens of the gospel shows our kids that marriage isn’t about feeling 100% in love 100% of the time. The gospel reveals that marriage isn’t a life of warm fuzzies sustained by the loveliness of our spouse. But rather, a love that continues even when we become unlovely, bitter, and aged. Gospel marriage is a recapitulation of our salvation: that we are utterly sinful people, deeply flawed, yet loved by our Redeemer. More than that, it relieves us of trying to be perfect husbands and wives, and then points us to the perfect love of Jesus.
3. It helps students understand that marriage is a calling to love and serve one another first, more than an institution for self-expression and self-fulfillment. Overwhelmingly, marriage is seen as a universal right. But in reality, marriage is a gospel-powered sacrificial responsibility. Marriage reflects Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering for the glory of the Father by sacrificing and suffering for the sanctification of the other.
4. It displays our union with Christ, the essence of our salvation. Marriage involves two unlike beings – a man and a woman – joining together as one. Physically representing the way God and sinner – two very unlike beings – become one through the saving grace of Christ.
5. It primes your children for those conversations about the corruptions of godly marriage and sex that they will come across in the world. It lets them know, as they interact with people like their lesbian neighbors, their friend’s divorced parents, or a buddy having sex outside of marriage. God has already set the standard for what our conversations and relationships should look like, no matter a person’s sexual and marital sin. Those standards are about love, not judgment.
When we respond to questions about same-sex marriage in such a way, we cut through the political pundit-ting and religious noise. We front-load our younger students with a robust view of marriage that’s stronger than the “Because I love her” line. And we help our young people have a biblical view that will one day strengthen and enhance their marriage, if indeed marriage is something to which God has called them.