Friendship When You Could *Like* Like Someone

Rachel Gilson | April 3rd 2020

I have a distinct memory in college of how disappointed a female friend of mine was when I answered that no, I was not attracted to her. 

She wasn’t trying  to initiate something romantic. And it wasn’t because she was afraid of what a potential attraction might mean for our friendship. I guess she just wanted to know if she was pretty. I remember laughing heartily and pointing out to her that being same-sex attracted didn’t mean that I was  to all people of my same sex! 

Yet for many Christians like me—who experience same-sex attraction but are seeking to faithfully follow Jesus—the question of friendship with people who share our gender isn’t so laughable. There is a lingering question, a posed threat: Does our potential towards forming romantic and sexual attraction in these friendships doom them from the start? 

Born Again This Way

Born Again This Way

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A rich portrayal of living faithfully and happily as a Christian with same-sex attraction that paints a compelling picture of discipleship for every believer.

Consider, for example, how in Christian circles we often treat cross-gender friendships. They are certainly encouraged in group settings—especially with the not-so-subtle goal of meeting potential spouses. But cross-gender friendships which form away from group settings, or form between people who are already married to others, are much less common, and much less encouraged. There are certainly problems to this, but there is also some  wisdom. Friendships can naturally lead to romance. 

But where, exactly, does that leave those of us who experience same-sex attraction? If received wisdom is to usually avoid one on one friendships where attraction may blossom, that seems to cut us off from intimate friendship with people of our own sex. And as we’ve just noted,  there isn’t much space for us to just form those bonds instead with people of the other sex (and that person might form such an attraction towards us!) 

From this angle, the message to the same-sex attracted Christian: Not only will you perhaps never marry, but maybe it’s not safe for you to have friends of any gender either. Good luck out there! 

Brothers and sisters, this is not  God’s message to us. Fearful isolation is no Christian’s inheritance. 

Good, Very Good, Not Good

You might recall the procession of Creation in the opening of Genesis. God created all things by his mere word and pronounced over each new segment, good, good, good! What joy. Creation of humanity leads to the blessing “very good,” a crowning moment. So we’re forced to pay attention when God observes Adam in Genesis 2:18 and says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Yes, this passage is about way more than friendship (indeed, it leads to the establishment of the first marriage). But what I want to remind us of is that Adam had full access to God, before sin even entered the world, and still, God said his solitude  wasn’t good. Adam was not deficient in his relationship with God, but he was also designed for the company of humans. And so are you and I. 

Occasionally in the church we sense an implicit  message of “God is enough, you shouldn’t need others.” So, we reason, maybe not having friends is fine if we have Jesus. Except that even Jesus needed his friends as he struggled in his own Garden. 

The triune God exists eternally in relationship,  and our loving, committed human relationships are a part of how we reflect him. And that doesn’t have to mean marriage relationships, or romance, though it could. It simply means we all need forms of human intimacy. 

Yes, for the same-sex attracted Christian there’s risk involved in developing close friendships with people of the same gender. But there’s also a risk in not developing these friendships—that we shrivel to a husk of ourselves due to loneliness. 

A Way of Escape

 So how do we mitigate against that first risk? If it’s up to us, friends, we’ve lost the battle against sexual temptation before we’ve started. Eventually, like unsupervised toddlers, we break everything we touch. 

But God knows this better than we do, and has promised to supply everything we need. Thus, since we are designed for relationship, his Spirit will guide us and empower us for relationship, if we let him. 

As a young Christian I thought it was inevitable that, if faced a certain type of temptation, I would eventually crumble. I might make it for a time, I reasoned, but my desires owned me. And they would assert their rights. 

But that’s not true.  Our desires are strong, but they don’t own us. They are illegitimate masters, squatters on the land. Jesus bought us with his own body, and he demands to take possession. Or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

This promise is not that faithfulness is a breeze. It is a promise that faithfulness is possible, because of God’s presence with us. Through his Spirit, and his Word, and his people, he will give us what we need to engage in friendship faithfully. 

In Born Again This Way, I spend time discussing more of what that means practically. But it means at least two things that can be stated in short. First, we need to have more than one good friend. With just one close friend, there could be a temptation to pour into them a spousal type of love, and to subtly substitute their company, and approval, and presence for that of God. There is more safety and wisdom in cultivating more than one close relationship. Second, we need to be honest. If we notice types of attraction  forming in friendship, we need to have a safe sibling in Christ to share that with. We’re not designed to do this alone. 

Sometimes the way of escape will mean leaving a friendship. But other times it will mean staying. I’ve had the latter situation occur, where my attractions actually dried up and died toward that friend. There is no perfect game plan. But there is a Perfect Friend who helps us. 

You are God’s gift

Not only will God  give us what we need, but he wants to give us to our church. Your brothers and sisters who do not experience same-sex attraction need good friends too. And God has given you gifts and experiences that he wants you to bless the church with! If we hole up in fear we are robbing the church of the treasures God has invested in us. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).That means at least this much: the church needs you.

We can’t pretend that same-sex attraction doesn’t present challenges to pursuing close friendships. But in reality, all humans are sinners. Every person brings into relationship their own sinful desires that threaten to strangle everything good. 

But God has called us to more. He saw us dead in our trespasses, brought us to new life, and knit us into a family. And God desires to give us everything we need to flourish in his household. Will you trust him? 

Rachel Gilson is the author of Born Again This Way. In this powerful and personal book, author Rachel describes her own unexpected journey of coming out and coming to faith... and what came next. Drawing on insights from the Bible and the experiences of others, Born Again This Way provides assurance and encouragement for Christians with same-sex attraction, and paints a compelling picture of discipleship for every believer.

Rachel Gilson

Rachel serves on the leadership team of Theological Development and Culture with Cru. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today and for Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition, and she regularly speaks at churches and on college campuses. Rachel is wrapping up her Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter.

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