Next, don't call homosexuality a choice. It's not. This is hard to swallow for many Christians. Although homosexual behavior is a choice, homosexual attraction is not. I have no reason to think there's a "gay gene," but I don't believe people choose to be attracted to the same sex. Homosexual attraction is a condition that often begins to develop at a very young age—too early to be a product of choice.

When you say homosexuality is a choice, this is a tip-off that you don't understand homosexuality or homosexuals. It becomes obvious you have no idea what gays and lesbians experience.

"You think it's a choice?" they ask. "Why would I ever choose to be gay? It's painful to be gay in this world. I would never choose this for myself." Not only are they offended, they'll disqualify other things you say because you don't understand them. You'll lose your ability to be an influence.

Sometimes even saying homosexual behavior is a choice will not get you off the hook because it's too easily misunderstood. The problem is, the word "choice," in this context, carries with it the idea of choosing one's sexual orientation. My suggestion is to avoid the word "choice" altogether when talking about homosexuality. It's too confusing.

Finally, avoid the cliché, "God loves the sinner, but hates the sin." It rarely gives hope to gay men and women. One former gay man confessed that he could never process this statement when Christians said it. Gays don't see themselves as people who struggle with a homosexual problem. Being gay is who they are, not just what they do. Telling them that God hates their sin strikes at the core of who they perceive themselves to be. It's unhelpful and produces the opposite effect you intend.

Now that we know what not to do, let's talk about our strategy to move us forward.

Make a Long-Term Difference, Not a Short-Term Statement

I recently taught on apologetics at a university. My goal was to show how to make our message persuasive and yet gracious. After the event, I stopped at a local coffee shop for a dose of caffeine before the long drive home.

The barista served up my coffee and then asked about my day. I told her I gave a talk about how Christians can share biblical truth in a more friendly, relational, and winsome manner.

"Oh! You need to speak at my university," she insisted. "We're sick of ‘evangelistic alley.' It's a walkway in the center of campus where Christians hold signs and yell at students. Some of them shout that God is going to judge fags. There's no discussion with them. They just want to be heard. You should teach them."

Though my heart sank, I realized the barista was on to something. The Christians of "evangelistic alley" were settling for a short-term goal—declaring that homosexuality was sin that should be "repented" of—while squandering their long-term opportunities. Stopping sin can be worthwhile, but it isn't the only goal. It certainly shouldn't be pursued at the expense of making a more critical, long-term impact.

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The long-term plan with homosexuals should be obvious: Help them to know Christ. It's the same strategy we have with other non-Christians regardless of their sin. But it's not a quick process. It rarely is with any non-Christian, but this is especially true with homosexuals. Yet we often act as if our most important goal is to change homosexual behavior in the short term rather than waiting patiently to make a more significant difference in the future.

God can give you opportunities to speak the truth with compassion anytime in a person's life. Don't try to make a moral statement today if it jeopardizes your chance of influencing people at a more opportune time tomorrow. Think long-term.

One time when I was teaching at a church on homosexuality, the parents of a 25-year-old gay man asked me for advice. "He wants to bring his boyfriend over for dinner," they said, "but we told him that homosexuality is against God's design. He can come over, but his boyfriend must wait somewhere else. They need to know where we stand."