Brad Hambrick has written a helpful book for Christians as they think through their interactions with individuals within the LGBT community. This book challenges us to make friends and love others as Jesus loves. Brad takes a humble approach that stands firm on the Word of God, while giving us both theological reasons and practical ways to love others.
I was drawn to continue reading this book when I read this in the introduction, because I share the same concerns:
“Of all the issues in the church, the one that creates the greatest amount of discomfort and diversity of opinion may be homosexuality and same-sex attraction (SSA)…the church has yet to articulate a wise and biblical way to move toward those in our churches and communities who struggle with same-sex attraction” (p. 8).
Brad presents a way to join truth and love in our conversations with those who struggle with SSA or related temptations. He states that he believes that “we can honor the Word of God and also incarnate the Son of God, who was criticized for befriending sinners” (p.11). The remaining chapters lay out a theologically-informed and very practical way to do this in our own spheres of influence.
The focus of the book is on relationship, specifically friendship. Rather than approaching someone with SSA with an agenda, Brad suggests that it is in building genuine friendship that we are most influential. This type of friendship requires knowing a person deeply. We are given a roadmap that challenges us to develop this depth of friendship.
Compassion and Friendship
Chapter two offers answers to the questions we have about how to relate to those with SSA, as well as what our views as Christian should be. His approach is helpful and balanced, and I encourage you to read it and wrestle with your own prior held convictions and approaches and see if God might be teaching you a fresh and compassionate approach.
Chapters three and four continue to unpack just what a friendship with a person with SSA can look like and how to go about it. In chapter six we are given an example of how to navigate a conversation in a scripted format. It is insightful, as well as applicable in our own potential relationships that this book challenges us to pursue. Reading this scripted conversation gives us a sense of confidence (“I can do this”) if our tendency is to shy away from having difficult conversations with those who struggle with SSA.
A Biblical Understanding of SSA
Brad offers a look at some “key markers on an SSA journey.” This section of the book offers questions that we can ask in order to understand our friend’s experience. This is, in a sense, a “how-to” section of the book that helps us to view our friend and our own beliefs about SSA through a biblical grid.
As you reach the end of this book, it is the author’s (and my) hope that the reader will have:
“1. A genuine desire to have friends who experience SSA
2. An appreciation for the experience of SSA (recognizing that every person’s story is unique) which allows you to ask good questions
3. A growing comfort level with how to express your Christian faith in conversations with friends who experience SSA” (pp. 121-122)
This book will be helpful for any believer to read individually, or perhaps in the context of a small group as it lends itself to discussion very well. It would be helpful for counselors to read in order to think through their approach to a counselee who is struggling with SSA (or a family member of someone who is). It would be an excellent Sunday School assignment with discussion, so that these topics are discussed among the general congregation. Christian teenagers would benefit greatly from reading this book as they navigate relationships in their spheres of influence.
A Personal Take-Away
It has been difficult, as a parent of two children living within the LGBT lifestyle, to find resources that offer encouragement and hope. To be honest, I generally read books on these topics with a bit of trepidation because I have found many to be harsh, unloving, and even hopeless. This book eased my hesitation immediately as I read Brad’s approach to this topic. I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the last page, and felt immensely grateful to have an author and fellow biblical counselor who is willing to say that Christians can and should have SSA friends.
This was a unique and impactful book, and I am grateful for it. I hope and pray that many will read it, leading to improvement and change in how the church approaches these issues.
Ellen Castillo is the Executive Director and a Biblical Counselor at Word of Hope Ministries on the Central Coast in California. Word of Hope Ministries is a biblical counseling and training center that serves local churches and is also available online.