Back in June, Emily Thomes took over our news feeds as countless friends began sharing her conversion story written for The Gospel Coalition. She raised a much needed credible voice of someone saved out of an LGBT lifestyle. Like so many others, I sent her a Facebook friend request to hear more and to stay connected. (It’s time for a fan page, Emily, as you’ve reached the magic 5K friends mark!)
Her unwavering commitment to a biblical response to same sex attraction and practicing homosexuality among professing Christians is refreshing. Unfortunately, it’s also counter-cultural with so many popular Christians ignoring the biblical record in favor of their feelings. I reached out to Emily to ask some questions I had not heard asked.
>j: Since your conversion in April of 2014, and even since the TGC article, can you share how you have been received by the LGBT community—both the good and the bad?
Emily: When I got saved, even on my first night as a believer, changes started to occur between me and the people I did life with. The night of my conversion I was being massively convicted of my sin and attempted to talk to my best friend about it. We’d smoked weed like we did most nights, and even while high I could not shake the fear that my understanding of God and homosexuality could be wrong and that the effects of such a misunderstanding would be catastrophic. When I brought up my concerns to my friend, she told me I was killing her high and left. That was only a glimpse of what was to come! In the coming weeks, I would sit down with many of my friends and ex-girlfriends with an open Bible to explain that our sin put us all in grave danger and that we need forgiveness. Most of those I talked to believed in a god; some even professed faith in the God of the Bible, but all of them rejected that God would require someone to abstain from “loving who they love.” Through tears, I flipped through the pages I had marked with post-it notes about sin, repentance and the new birth. It didn’t take long for most of my friends to remove themselves from me entirely.
It didn’t take long for most of my friends to remove themselves from me entirely.
The group of people I regularly interacted with on Facebook responded similarly but with more zeal; it’s easier to cuss someone out behind a keyboard than it is in person. I remember one night I had posted a status begging those whom I loved who were in various sins, that I listed explicitly, to repent and believe the gospel, lest they be damned. Within a couple of hours I had over 300 very hostile comments. My mom and stepdad showed up at my doorstep with a milkshake and offered to sit with me for a while. Watching everyone I knew and loved reject Christ, and knowing that it meant that they were choosing to die in their sins instead, absolutely killed me. That night my mom put various notes in my room and on my bathroom mirror reminding me that she loved me. I wasn’t suicidal, but I think she thought I could’ve been. That initial wave of pushback lasted about 6 months, and really was the worst of it. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail and had people say really awful things to me and to the others that have remained in my life, but it was nothing like it was at first. God used that down time for me to stay home and to study, to grow in my understanding of His word and of myself, and to learn how to stand alone, if need be.
I’ve made many friends that I still talk to regularly who experience same sex attraction and are choosing to deny themselves and follow Him instead.
Although most of the feedback I get from the LGBT is oppositional, I’ve still had many peaceful conversations with people who genuinely desire to understand what’s occurred in my life and how the Bible speaks to them in their particular circumstances. I’ve even had people message me and say that they, too, understand their guilt and need for forgiveness, and now desire to obey Christ. Those are some of my favorite conversations! I’ve made many friends that I still talk to regularly who experience same sex attraction and are choosing to deny themselves and follow Him instead. I’ve been so encouraged when talking to others who were also once dead in their sins, particularly sins I relate to dealing with, and seeing them pursue Him wholeheartedly. There have been seasons when I’ve felt like an absolute alien, and often God would have someone message me, reminding me that I’m not alone in the fight. They have encouraged me to know that a public fight for faith isn’t in vain, because He’s using it to admonish and exhort others.
>j: You mentioned your parents support after your conversion. How should Christian parents think about and respond to their same-sex attracted children still under their authority? I recognize there would be a scale here—from the child they suspect may be struggling all the way up to a child openly practicing homosexuality.
Emily: This is where that biblical worldview comes in. Parents should be helping their children understand, at an early age, that all people are born sinful and that each of us has a flesh that sincerely desires what God hates. If the framework for the gospel is laid, as sinful desires and behaviors arise, parents are then able to point their children to Christ. Rather than panic when a “perfect” child suddenly desires something totally foreign, parents should be expecting children to indeed be sinful and, be it homosexuality or pride, explain to the child their need for a new heart that desires God and not sin. Parents are in a perfect place to prime their children for the gospel by making it clear, when confronting each act of disobedience that the human heart is the problem and that it only evidences their need for grace.
>j: How should Christian parents think about and respond to their practicing homosexual child outside of their authority? I’m thinking first of family gatherings (holidays), interactions with their child’s partner, and having Gospel clarity while still being “family.”
Emily: The way to answer this question completely hinges upon whether or not that family member professes to know Christ, whether we’re talking about children, their partners, or siblings. If someone claims to be a part of the body of Christ, the right and loving thing to do is to attempt to pull them back from their sin, which consists of being direct with them about it (Matthew 18, James 5). Being direct doesn’t require that we are harsh or unkind, but it does require clarity. We tell those who claim the name of brother that they’re walking in rebellion in order for them to repent. They may very well turn away from their sin, should the Lord grant them. However, what often happens is that they recognize the need for repentance in order to be sincere and simply stop calling themselves “Christian”. If they do retract the profession, you’re free to treat them as an unbeliever. Being transparent with professing Christians, be the profession sincere or not, is the only way to go about it. As the church, we often give people false assurance of right standing with God when we pretend that things are okay when they’re not. 1 Corinthians 5 is quite frank regarding how we ought to interact with those that profess faith versus those that don’t.
If someone does not claim to be a Christian, we have no charge to abstain from interacting with them; we ought to engage them and point them to Him with our words and actions. I’m intentionally meeting with people weekly that aren’t saved, sometimes discussing the Lord, but often just the day to day events we’re both taking part in. They allow me to pray before we eat and about various struggles they’re facing, and I get to tell them about the things God is doing in my life, all the while making His character and attributes known to them. I discuss sin with them, but not usually the sin that they most closely cherish, in order to keep the conversation open.
Parents who have grown children who don’t claim the title of Christian ought to be intentional towards them and not refrain from spending time with or talking to them. Instead, they should desire all the more to be examples of unwavering love and patience. Rosaria Butterfield makes a great point when she says that those in the LGBT are great at love, support, and hospitality. We, as believers, should be better. We have the source of true love within us.
>j: What resources would you recommend to parents of LGBT children to help them understand their struggles and know how to respond to them biblically?
Emily: Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition both have really great articles regarding same sex attraction and homosexuality. Rosaria Butterfield’s articles and videos through those ministries are some of my favorites and some that have benefited me the most. Matt Moore is also an excellent resource for insight into what it feels like to be same sex attracted and to count the cost. His ability to articulate and be completely transparent in his struggle is something that could benefit every believer who does not themselves experience same sex attraction. For those looking to understand exactly how scripture addresses homosexuality, Kevin DeYoung has a great book called What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?
Tweetable Thoughts from the Interview:
- Expect your children to sin and be ready to point them to Christ.
- The loving thing to do for a professing Christian in sin is to show them their sin and call them to repent.
- Being direct about sin doesn’t require being harsh or unkind, but it does require clarity.
- Parents of adult unbelievers, love your children by being patient and spending time with them.
- Believers should be the best at love, support and hospitality because we have the source of true love within us.