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  • Writer's pictureRick E.

Coming out of the closet: A Christian dilemma also


For the past few decades, coming out of the closet—revealing one's same sex attraction (SSA) to family and friends—has been heralded as a major step in a person's life. In many cases, especially among the famous, it is now tradition to "come out" by way of a grand announcement on social media. These announcements typically make national and international headlines and are met with overwhelming public acclaim.


A common thread in coming out announcements is embracing one's "true identity." Any time the word "identity" comes up in cultural discourse, Christians need to take note. Our identity, after all, is in Christ and Christ alone. All other identities burden us and return us to the slavery of our pre-justified condition:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5: 1).

This raises the question as to whether there is even a right way for a Christian experiencing SSA to come out of the closet. Here we consider the reasons coming out may be an appropriate choice for an SSA Christian, and how doing so could actually be a form of Christian witness.


Why come out?


For everything there is a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3: 7). Coming out may be right for an SSA Christian when it serves their faithful witness in gentleness and humility. This means when it has the greatest chance of showing their love and devotion to God, and can be done in a way that shows others the quiet power of the Holy Spirit. Coming out may not serve this purpose in every area of a person's life, so the Christian should also consider the question of who.


Who should you come out to?


You want to confide only in those you trust (Proverbs 11: 13). Your first act of coming out should be to God, who is the most trustworthy of all:

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62: 8).

You also want to give fellow Christians the opportunity to share your burdens (Galatians 6: 2). Telling a trusted person about your SSA may help them understand why you interact with members of the same sex and members of the opposite sex the way you do. It can provide an opportunity to ask for prayer specific to your circumstances. It can also simply be comforting to know that someone else is aware of your situation—and not judging you. Ask yourself who might be suited to come alongside you in this. Here are a few people to consider:


  • Trusted church leaders. It's appropriate to bring your concerns to spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13: 17), especially those you believe are wise enough to understand them. Coming out to a trusted leader gives them an opportunity to pray for you in circumstances that may be somewhat unique in the congregation.

  • Christian parents and siblings. These are the people who probably know you best and have the greatest stake in your success and happiness. How effective will your witness be by sharing the fact of your SSA with them? What positive benefit will it have for your faith walk with them and theirs with you?

  • Close Christian friends. These friends are your social circle and your support group, and since you chose them, they are especially suited to understanding your witness to them. Coming out to a few Christian friends can also simply be practical, since it can help them understand your lack of interest in dating or seeking an opposite-sex partner for marriage.

  • Spouse. This could be the hardest person of all to come out to, since they could see it as an act of betrayal or even worse. Coming out to one's spouse need not be a deal-breaker, however. I personally know many men and women in opposite-sex marriages that did not end after they shared the fact of heir SSA with their partner. These marriages are not without unique challenges and sacrifices, but coming out to a spouse need not mark the end of a marriage.


It may be appropriate also to come out to people outside one's circle of Christian family and friends. In these instances, doing so should be determined by practicality and done with few words, with gentleness, and with humility. For example, a work colleague may express interest in you romantically. In that situation, it is appropriate to tell them you're not interested and also—if the Spirit leads—why you aren't interested: because you are SSA, LGBTQ+, "gay," "lesbian," or whatever terminology seems to fit the occasion. There is no need to explain or to witness unless the Spirit leads it.


How should you come out?


All our actions and words are to be informed and guided by the Holy Spirit. In our interactions with others, we are to be gently and humbly responsive (1 Peter 3: 15), gracious, and "seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4: 6). We are also to speak the truth—in love (Ephesians 4: 15). Speaking the truth in love refers not only to how we proclaim the gospel but also to how we relate to those around us. Coming out should therefore be done in a spirit of outward-directed gentleness and humility—the polar opposite of the "oversharing" that is so common these days. The Bible warns us repeatedly not to overshare:

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues (Proverbs 10: 19).
The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues (Proverbs 17: 27-28).
Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity (Proverbs 21: 23).

As tempting as it may be to conform to the world's pattern of coming out by way of a grand announcement made to as many people as possible, coming out for a Christian should be done quietly and within a specifically Christian frame of heart and mind. It should be an act of love, for God first, and then for the person with whom you are sharing. Since you follow Christ, it is essential to let fellow Christians know what your SSA means for your faith and lifestyle going forward. It is also essential to let them know what your SSA means for them. I suggest you build your coming-out statement around three key (and equally important) points when you decide to come out to fellow Christians:


  1. Statement: the fact of your SSA

  2. Witness: your intention to remain true to God's standard of sexual purity

  3. Connection: open the door to a deeper level of Christian relationship


These three elements will keep your statement properly focused and will also help people see that your statement is a witness of faith and not a witness against faith. Depending on your specific circumstances, your statement might sound something like this:

I'm attracted to people of the same sex. I can't seem to change these attractions, but I can control my response to them. I want you to know that I'm committed to following Christ in purity. I feel God wants you to know about this so you can understand me and my faith walk better, and so you can keep me in your prayers.

Conclusion


For a Christian, coming out is an act of love—but not in the same way as it is for the world. While wordly coming-out is self-directed and often boastful, coming out for a Christian is subject to one's identity in Christ, is directed toward the listener with gentleness and humility, and is above all a form of witness. The end goal for both speaker and hearer is greater faith, greater love, and greater relationship.


–by Rick E.

Rick E. is the director of Free in Christ Ministies

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