Wondering how you can love the gay people at your dinner table over the holidays?
We often opt out of conversations we don’t feel we can reasonably control or know what the outcome will be. Our natural inclination is to stay comfortable at all costs. The problem with that is love requires discomfort. The more we accept this as a reality, the easier it will be to press past the hesitancy to engage in thoughtful, honest, life giving conversations.
I have several gay people in my family, and like you, I want them to feel at home, truly welcome at the family gathering. I don’t want them to endure it or appease a family expectancy to simply show up. And if I want them to show up with more than just a nervous smile, a side dish, and a protected heart, then I MUST SHOW UP with a heart that’s ready to love deeply.
Here are a few ways for you to really show up as the family gathers together:
Affirm Their Presence
Set the tone for the time God has given you with them by simply saying “I’m really glad you’re here”. Look them in the eye. Make a connection. Make sure they feel the warmth of someone genuinely appreciating their presence. They didn’t have to come, but they did. Sadly, our culture has made sexual identity such a large distinction among people that gay people often feel “out of place” even among a group of people they have grown up in their whole lives. Sometimes biological family isn’t the place they feel the safest. And if you’re a Christian family that has intentions on loving your LGBT family member, don’t think for a second that the enemy hasn’t been lying about “how you really feel about them”. He sows discord and takes pleasure at the family gathering where people are together but are lonely and disconnected.
Remember: Affirming someone’s presence isn’t affirming their entire life, behavior, or ideology.
Pursue Their Company
Choose to sit with them, but not out of pity or with an agenda, but because they have immense value to you and to God. Don’t you love it when you’re sitting by yourself and someone makes the conscious decision to come sit next to you? It says so many things, but it most assuredly says “I desire your presence and I want to share THIS meal and moment with you”. It’s being chosen. So many LGBT people are used to be unchosen and disregarded, intentionally unnoticed. Since you’ve been chosen by God, why not reflect that to another? - Especially the person that may not be expecting it but needs it the most.
Ask about their job, school, relationships, weekend, vacations…ask about their life. Many LGBT people assume that their life is “off-limits” to straight people simply because they’re gay. And many Christians assume that being interested in their lives is committing the unforgivable, wrath-inviting, unstated-but-assumed cardinal doctrine of conservative evangelicalism, “Thou shalt not condone lifestyles of the gay variety”. If no one is asking for your permission to be LGBT or to throw a gay party with rainbow streamers, then you're probably not “condoning their lifestyle”. Many Christians are in such fear of giving this dreaded “lifestyle approval rating”, that they opt out of conversations (and sometimes the relationship) altogether. This CAN’T be the answer. If you find yourself thinking from a place of fear, I feel like God might say, “Stop worrying about that and talk to them. Trust that I will lead you into grace and truth”. God rarely, if ever, gives us the full path, picture, or words before we take a step or start to speak. Your greatest act of faith this holiday season may be starting the conversation you have been fearing.
Remember: Be curious and stay curious. Don’t bait people into telling you about their lives and then give them 10 reasons and a theological discourse on why they should stop doing that.
What I love about these things is that they are incredibly practical and don’t take a theology degree to execute. You’re simply being human and treating others as such. So make this Thanksgiving, life giving, this Christmas a reflection of Christ’s pursuit of all of us, and this New Year one that sets the tone for many more with the people that God has given to us.
Ty Wyss is the founder of Walls Down Ministry