Questions allow us to make our points and advance the discussion in disarming ways. When we incorporate questions, our discussions about homosexuality become less intimidating. We can make our points without pushing our views on others. And we spend less time in the hot seat, responding to claims we have no obligation to address.

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Speak It with Compassion

We need to add one more critical element to temper our approach. If we know the truth and know how to help others see it, yet we don't communicate it in a way that shows we care, we'll botch the whole thing. We need to be moved with empathy and to express that clearly. It might be difficult for us to relate to having same-sex attractions, but we've all been in tough situations and struggled with things we knew were wrong. When we're not compassionate, we come off as cold and harsh. We forget we're talking to human beings who have feelings just like us.

The combination of truth and compassion works. It's biblically consistent and cultivates healthy relationships with gays and lesbians. This is a delicate balance though. If you come on too strong with your religious views, you'll be labeled homophobic. If you get too friendly with the gay community, you'll be tagged a compromiser by someone in the church. It doesn't have to be that way. You can hold that homosexual behavior is wrong but still have a Jesus-like influence on gays and lesbians by nurturing positive relationships with them.

What does it look like to speak the truth with compassion? Three principles can help us live this out practically. One, treat homosexuals as you would anyone else. Two, don't make the gospel more difficult than it is. And three, aim to make a long-term difference, not just a short-term statement.

Treat Homosexuals as You Would Anyone Else

This may seem like obvious advice, but many Christians act differently around homosexuals. They get uneasy. Their nonverbal communication, their behavior, and the direction of their conversation all change.

When gay men and women come to church, we create new rules. I remember teaching at a church that asked a lesbian to change seats because she was sitting next to another female. That's strange. I doubt this church splits up people who gossip. It's unlikely they ask unmarried couples living together to sit in different sections. Why treat a gay person any differently?

The simple answer is, we shouldn't. We should treat homosexuals as we would any other person. Show them the same dignity, kindness, and respect you would show someone who isn't gay. Here are two specific suggestions for doing this.

First, make friends with a gay man or woman. Get to know them personally, their dreams, their fears, and their challenges. Play tennis with them. Go to their social gatherings. Get to know their families and friends. Be vulnerable about your own struggles and failings. When you treat them like your other friends, they're likely to reciprocate. They'll be vulnerable too.

I know this may sound radical to some, but it's very powerful. I remember one friendship I had with a gay man. Though he knew about my Christian beliefs, I was sensitive not to bring up homosexuality unless it came up naturally in conversation. I simply focused on our friendship as I would with any other person.

Then one day he brought up his own doubts about the gay lifestyle. He asked me about his options. He asked me about Christianity. That's when knowing the truth—and how to defend it—really helped. We talked for hours about his lifestyle, the truth of Jesus, and where his life was headed. That kind of vulnerability and honesty is what you can expect from a real friendship. When we treat gays and lesbians like anyone else, we build relationships that create healthy intimacy. This increases our ability to make a difference in their lives.