3. Jesus, not religion, must be our solution.
The gospel is the solution to all of our conditions. He saves heterosexual sinners as well as homosexual ones. And He doesn’t save because of a list of do’s or don’ts that we may or may not keep. He saves us purely out of His grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The grace offered by Jesus is the only thing that can save us. If it were up to our willingness and ability to give up our sins, then we would brag about it. But because Jesus is the only one who can save us, He will get all the glory.
We must help our believing teenagers learn how to engage their LGBTQ friends with the hope and forgiveness available through faith in Jesus Christ based on His finished work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Those who look to Jesus and believe receive the gift of eternal life and immediately the process of transformation begins. The Holy Spirit will convict, convince and transform. He will give them the power, desire and ability to turn from those sins and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 makes it clear that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” When God begins a good work of transformation, He will complete it. The power of the gospel will not be stopped. Whether that work is completed on this side of eternity or the next, it will be completed.
Teenagers need to approach all their unreached friends with the confidence that the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). When they share it with their LGBTQ friends, it will have an impact.
4. Humility, not judgment, must be our attitude.
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Paul is reminding Timothy to avoid getting sucked up into foolish and never-ending arguments and quarrels. What’s true of false teachers is also true of issues of sexuality. Our teenagers must “gently” share the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
It’s so easy for conservative Christian teenagers to take a hard stand on these issues with a hard-hearted attitude. But, like Grandma used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
If we approach those in the LGBTQ community with love, humility and respect, then more (not all) will at least engage in the gospel conversation. And some will put their faith in Christ and be saved from the penalty and power of their sins. Our job is to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
5. Engagement, not detachment, must be our strategy.
Too many times youth leaders detach from the conversation. We don’t want to be labeled as being part of a “hate group.” And, although that could happen, it’s less likely to happen if we are engaging the issues with dignity and respect.
And we must engage with our teenagers over this subject. They are immersed in these issues day in and day out. They are bombarded with messages in the media and on their social media platforms. Many of these messages stand in stark contrast to God’s clear commands.
Just this morning I was talking to a youth-pastor-turned-lead-pastor friend of mine, Andy McGowan. He told me that it has been and continues to be an important discussion in their youth group. He and his youth team have sought to navigate these tricky waters with equal parts compassion and conviction.
They have chosen an engagement strategy.
They welcome teenagers of the LGBTQ community into their church, but then try to help them find Christ and then unleash the power of Christ in their lives to live victoriously over sin and live out their new identity in Christ.
Andy told me of one teenager, we’ll call him Carlos, who was in the youth group while Andy was the youth leader at the church he currently pastors. Carlos was a believer in Jesus yet struggled with same-sex attraction. He confided in a few trusted students and leaders in the youth group about his struggle. Andy was one of those he confided in. When Andy met with Carlos, he asked him if he wanted to follow the way of Jesus through this temptation or just yield to his same-sex attraction. Carlos wanted to follow Jesus.
So the discipleship process began.
Over the course of several years, God transformed Carlos. Today Carlos feels called to go into full-time ministry. It wasn’t due to reparative therapy, but an immersion into God’s Word, God’s people and God’s power.
Does Carlos still struggle from time to time with his temptations? I’m sure he does. But, according to Andy, God has given him a consistent pattern of victory in his life for years now. And God can do the same for your teenagers who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender identity or whatever.
Satan leads the ultimate hate group, an army of demons. He and his hate group want to keep these struggling teenagers in the chains of same-sex attraction and gender identity confusion. So we must help them break those chains through Christ!
We must teach our Christian teenagers to think clearly and biblically on these issues and then equip them to engage their friends, both heterosexual and homosexual, with the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus. Even then they may be mocked or marginalized. But it is worth the risk of being maligned for the sake of reaching just one teenager.
It may get messy. It could be painful. It will be awesome!
This article originally appeared here.