Loving Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Faith
About the Guest
Ron Citlau experienced a dramatic change in his life once he came to faith in Christ. What helped him as a young believer was the community of the church surrounding him, loving him, and accepting him where he was. Adam Barr joins Ron and explores how we can do a good job loving new believers as we continue to call them to holy living.
Adam BarrAdam T. Barr serves as senior pastor at Peace Church, a healthy, growing community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As the president and founder of Borderlands, a worldview ministry, Adam has lectured across the country on this topic and produced video curriculum. He also serves with Kevin DeYoung on the board of RCA Integrity, a renewal movement in the Reformed Church in America that gathers pastors from across the denomination each year for the Integrity Conference, where Adam has presented some of...more
Ron CitlauRon Citlau graduated from the University of California, Riverside and Western Theological Seminary. He has served in ministry positions in Southern California and Kansas City. He is the pastor of Calvary Church in Orland Park, Illinois, part of the Reformed Church in America. Ron struggled with same-sex attraction his whole life and has worked with and walked alongside many others who have struggled with sexual brokenness, as well as equipping pastoral leaders to serve those dealing with sex...more
Ron Citlau experienced a dramatic change in his life once he came to faith in Christ. What helped him as a young believer was the church loving him and accepting him where he was. Adam Barr joins Ron.
Loving Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Faith
Bob: Ron Citlau’s conversion to Christ was dramatic. He was a well-known drug user and sexually-immoral. When he came to faith, that also meant he started coming to church.
Ron: To be able to go into this community—I mean, I was broken and everyone knew it. They loved me as I was, and they accepted me where I was at. I was on this great trajectory of the person of Jesus. I was beginning to realize what it meant that He was my Lord—they could really just support and cheerlead that. Now, I had to be corrected, at times—and there were times to do those things—but mostly what they did right was love me where I was at.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to spend time exploring today how we can do a good job of loving new believers in Christ as we continue to call them to holy living. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think where we’re going to be focused today is right at the heart of where most of our listeners would like to be as they deal with this subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in our culture. They want to be people who are characterized by compassion—
Bob: —without compromise.
Dennis: That’s exactly right. We want to be loving / we want to be known as Christ-followers, who represent Him in a world that needs people to put some shoe-leather to their faith.
We’ve got a couple of guys with us who have done a great job on a book called Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends without Losing the Truth. Adam Barr and Ron Citlau join us on the broadcast. Ron/Adam—welcome to the broadcast.
Adam: Thanks for having us.
Ron: Yes, great to be here with you guys.
Dennis: Both of these guys are seminary grads, pastors, authors, parents. Adam lives in Middleville, Michigan.
Dennis: And Ron lives near Chicago. You guys collaborated together on this book to write it.
I love the way you start it—I mean, you begin it with a statement, basically. I’m going to kind of paraphrase it here and add something to it. You say that “In the next year, you’re more than likely going to face”—and I would add: your children or grandchildren are going to face—“some of the following scenarios.” I’d like you just to pull out a copy of your book and just share with our listeners—back and forth—that list with our listeners.
Adam: “A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it. If you’re not, family members may call you unloving and judgmental.”
Ron: “You’ll be invited to a cousin’s wedding to someone of the same gender.”
Adam: “Your elementary-aged child will come home, talking about bullying. The curriculum will feature a major section on the need to respect peers from LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] families.”
Ron: “You’ll show up for one of your kids’ soccer games and discover that the woman who comes to every game with little Billy’s mom is not his aunt.”
Adam: “Your company’s Human Resources Department will hold a session on how to build a tolerant work place for LGBT co-workers.”
Ron: “You’ll encounter someone who says the gospel cannot bring healing to our sexual identity orientation.”
Adam: “You’ll have to share a bathroom with someone of the opposite gender who self-identifies as your own.”
Ron: “You’ll have to have a conversation with your college-aged child and learn that she thinks your view on homosexuality is bigoted—a 21st-century version of 1960’s racism.”
Adam: “You’ll read about a nationally-recognized church leader endorsing the idea of same-sex marriage.”
Bob: And you end that whole list by asking the question: “Are you ready for this?—because this is the world that we’re all living in right now.”
Adam: Right. What’s funny is—that was written probably two or three years before the book came out. By the time the book was going to come out, I looked back and thought, “This seems kind of outdated.” [Laughter]
Bob: I just have to ask: “What caused a couple of pastors, who are friends with one another, to say, ‘Let’s write a book together and tackle this subject.’ What was the impetus for you guys coming at this, Ron?”
Ron: For me, it comes out of my own personal story. When I was young, I began to have same-sex feelings. I dealt with sexual abuse—someone abused me. I grew up in a really broken reality—mixed with drugs, and alcohol, and just broken decisions. I was a real mess. I found Jesus and His church, and I found profound healing and transformation. Many years later—now, I’m a pastor. I have four boys—I’ve been married for 12 ½ years. God has done extraordinary things.
When I interacted with Adam, we felt that the Lord was doing something—that we needed to just retell our story—the gospel story about the good news of Jesus. We don’t need to be ashamed of it, and we don’t need to hide it.
Bob: And I’ve got to stop you here because I’ve had friends of mine—same-sex-attracted friends of mine—who say: “You know, the stories you guys like to tell on Christian radio programs, like FamilyLife Today—you like to tell the stories of same-sex-attracted people, who wind up married and have kids. You want that to be the dominant narrative of the day. You want the message of folks to be: ‘If you experience same-sex attraction, you can be fixed / you can be cured. I mean, look at Ron—he got fixed / he got cured. That can be true for you too.’”
Dennis: And “You get fixed by becoming—
Bob: —“heterosexual. You get married and you have kids—
Dennis: Yes, exactly.
Bob: —“and that’s God’s purpose and God’s design.”
And, honestly, you jump back—10, 15/20 years—and that was our dominant narrative. Has that changed, Adam?
Adam: Well, I think, when you put the gospel at the center of the question, it’s changed because the reality is—if you look at anyone of us and you look deep down in our hearts and deep down in our souls, many of us struggle with compulsive sin—at least, desire—most of our lives. We can look—and some of us can even trace the thread of particular failures/fallings. We can look back and we can see it dominating our story or, at least, lying beneath our story.
Bob: You’re talking about something bigger than—
Adam: Something bigger than sexual desire.
Adam: Every one of us. So, when someone deals with a particular sin issue—when we place it, rather than just as a behavioral question or ethical question on who’s allowed to get married or who isn’t, but how do we deal with sin, period—for every one of us—we’re going to see that there’s a broad spectrum of issues that we all deal with.
By re-contextualizing this question around the gospel, suddenly, we find that there are going to be a lot of different stories of what it means to live the Christian life for people who struggle with this particular area.
Dennis: And what I’d want them to know is that the story of the Bible is about how God stepped out of eternity to redeem man from his brokenness. Redemption takes a lot of different faces.
Adam: Yes. For a long time, the church has probably—has probably overpromised what might happen in the lives of the same-sex struggler.
Bob: So Ron, if you’re talking to a guy today—he says: “I’m gay. I’m a Christian.” Maybe he says, “I’ve decided to remain celibate,” or maybe he says, “I’ve got a partner.” What are you telling him ought to be the trajectory for his life? Are you saying: “Hey, look at me! You can be free from this and you can get married and have kids,” or are you saying something different from that?
Ron: I’m saying that there’s an extraordinary adventure that anyone can have with the person of Jesus. Where He takes us and how He does it really is His work. But any person, whoever they are and wherever they’re at, can encounter Jesus—and that is whom everyone has to reckon with at the end—
Ron: —whatever their thing is—but anyone can come. What He does—which is always extraordinary—is His work. I think what we don’t want to do is undersell the beauty of the gospel—what He can do. Even for those of us who still walk with a limp—that, even in my limp, God is still profoundly sustaining me.
Dennis: “Those of us who walk with a limp”?
Dennis: How about “all of us,—
Bob: All of us!
Dennis: —“who walk with a limp”?!
Dennis: We’ve met the One who has forgiven our sin. Some of us are going to carry our propensities—our temptations/our desires—all the way to the end of our lives. But the point is—there can be hope in the person of Christ.
Bob: So, Adam—how did you get drafted into this project and writing this book?
Adam: Well, Ron’s story and mine are different. I grew up in a pastor’s family—I grew up loving the church and loving Jesus / knowing Jesus. I didn’t have a radical kind of rebellion experience and then a coming back in, but I did end up going to a Christian college that had a pretty wide diversity of theological instruction. In our religion department, there was a liberal presentation that you would often hear—of: “What is the nature of Scripture?”
At that time, I really had to reckon with: “What does the Bible really say about some of these issues?” I realized—that was in the early ‘90s—I realized this was going to be an issue that was going to tear the church apart. As a pastor’s kid, who grew up loving the church of Jesus Christ, I really felt: “This is the big issue coming on the horizon. Soon it will not just be an issue that you get right or wrong—it will be a practical life issue for everybody in the church.”
Dennis: Ron, let’s go back to your story and have you unpack that a bit more.
Dennis: You kind of ran by a number of points. Did you grow up in a home where the gospel was taught / the Bible?
Ron: Yes. I had Christian parents and an intact home—a whole enough home—a variety of things were going on there. My dad always struggled with addiction. The brokenness of my dad really affected the home life—so, we really parented ourselves—my mom did the best she could do. It was really in that space where the enemy, I think, pursued me.
Dennis: You weren’t protected, as a young boy, growing up? Is that how the sexual abuse occurred?
Ron: Yes, I think I wasn’t protected. I think I was given too much freedom and space, as a child. I think that freedom and space was very costly for me.
Bob: Did you realize the evil that was going on when you were being abused, as a child?
Ron: I did and I didn’t. You know, abuse is such a weird thing.
In one sense—you’re part of it, and there’s a part of it that’s appealing for the abuse victim—for some of us. There’s a part of it that you know is predatory. You know that somehow you’re entering into a world that you shouldn’t be in. It was all of those things. And it was very destructive to my emerging self.
Bob: When did the issue of same-sex attraction start to manifest itself for you?
Ron: Early adolescence.
Bob: And did that scare you?
Ron: You know, I was so divided, as a person. There was very much this good boy—religious self, who played the role—and then there was this very hidden part. I was very ashamed of it. That would go on for a good ten years—where I would try to be someone on the outside—but, then, internally, in the shadows—I was this other person.
Dennis: You know, one of the things that I think we underestimate, as followers of Christ, is how our casual words can be picked up by a young man, like you, who is struggling with something like this.
Your radar is up. You’re picking up words/attitudes which compounds your shame and drives you even further into isolation. Do you remember that happening?
Ron: I do. Now, my dad—who has passed away and who is with the Lord—whom I love dearly and whom we reconciled, profoundly, in the last year of his life—there are things that happened in my early childhood, both the absence of his reality and some of the things he said, that literally pushed me into those dark places that you’re talking about.
Bob: During later adolescence and your early 20s—dealing with same-sex attraction—still going to church?
Ron: I was, off and on. I was a significant drug user—I mean—I was going hard.
Bob: You were medicating the pain in your life with drugs—
Bob: —and acting on your same-sex attraction?
Ron: I was actively sexually-engaged—a lot of drugs / a lot of alcohol. It was just kind of me running into the pit. The more of the shame that came / the more of the darkness, the more I made bad choices. The destruction in my life, over a four- or five-year period, was so profound.
Dennis: What did the bottom of that pit look like?
Ron: It was kind of a drug-induced paranoia, where—even the relationships among my pagan friends—no one wanted to be with me anymore. I had—I had spent everything. I was literally the prodigal son in the pit with the pigs. I remember being in my parents’ garage. The Lord just whispered to my heart—He said, “Today you choose between life and death.” All of a sudden, I just saw my life—I knew that, if I kept going, I would either end up in prison or death. I just began to weep—I mean, this is a person who had no conscience. Within a few weeks—I had a friend, who was a pastor—I just went over to the church he was attending at the time. I said, “I want to follow Jesus.” That began the journey.
Bob: Did anybody know? Did your family know what was going on in the darkness of your life?
Ron: They knew the edges of it, but they did not know the profound valley I had put myself in.
Bob: And you weren’t telling anybody, “Hey, I’m gay”?
Ron: No. Again, it was a different period. This was the early ‘90s. I was part of the Christian culture—a fairly conservative culture. I went to a Christian high school. I was deeply ashamed, and I didn’t want people to know.
Dennis: When you came to faith in Christ, did you walk the aisle? Did you come forward at church? Did you go to a pastor, privately, / a leader of the church? What did it look like to come clean?
Ron: It was a little Vineyard Church in Southern California. I went up the aisle. I remember it—I had a little pot pipe that I carried with me wherever I went. I just handed it to the pastor and I said, “This time, I want to find out what Jesus really has to say about my life.”
Then, that began a six-month journey of just beginning to—I didn’t trust anyone, which was evident in the sense that I never told anyone what was going on—so that began a very long journey of building trust with a few people within this community. There was a moment where I began to just share what was going on. Then, over a few years—where I actually went into the darkness with people—I said: “This is what I’ve done. This is where I’ve been. This is all the things…” It was there that I met Jesus, and I’ve never been the same since.
Dennis: What did they do right?
Ron: What they did right is they loved me where I was. I can’t tell you how wrong it is when someone, who is profoundly broken, begins to turn to Jesus and you begin to fix them. They don’t need to be fixed—they need Jesus because Jesus is profoundly better at it than we are.
Ron: And to be able to go into this community—I mean, I was broken; and everyone knew it—and they loved me as I was and they accepted me where I was. I was on this great trajectory of the person of Jesus. I was beginning to realize what it meant that He was my Lord—they could really just support and cheerlead that. Now, I had to be corrected, at times—and there were times to do those things—but mostly what they did right was love me where I was at.
Bob: Were you sober from the day you handed your pot pipe over to the pastor?
Ron: I was, and that was after years of trying to seek sobriety. So, you know, you spoke earlier about, you know—now, I have four kids, and a wife / and 17 years later—but there were years of such struggle, and pain, and loneliness. The struggle was profound. I mean, the struggle—even afterwards, in the sense of working out wholeness—is still ongoing.
Bob: So you were off of drugs / living sober. What about your sexual desire? What happened there?
Ron: Sure. Very early on, I became sexually pure, in the sense of other people; but I was a mess! I mean, I didn’t know how to relate to people. The only kind of—you know, I was abused—so what I understood, profoundly, was kind of sexual interrelating—but I didn’t know how to talk to people / how to be with people. I didn’t know what appropriate boundaries were. I didn’t know what it meant that I could be loved apart from physical interaction. That took a long, long time. It was profoundly painful to go through, and to do that with Jesus in a community, but it is the kind of thing that Jesus does.
Bob: Adam, you know Ron’s story—you know it, frontward and backward, because you’ve known him for years and you’ve had a chance to hear his story. When you think about it, and you think about it in the context of the book the two of you have written, what are the lessons for the rest of us that come out of Ron’s story; do you think?
Adam: Well, I think it shows us how, as the church, we need to be careful about how we interact with people who are coming to faith in Christ. I think it shows us the power of community.
Adam: One of the best things we can do is love people who are coming into our midst. We have to, as the church, again, find ways so that people’s only interaction with us isn’t what they read in the newspapers or hear on the radio, but they encounter real people who invite them into their lives. I think what happens—when we begin to see it through the lens of the gospel, is every one of us understands that we’re all saved sinners.
Adam: Martin Luther had that great phrase that: “We are, at the same time, saved sinners.” When we understand ourselves that way, we find ourselves on common ground with people—whatever their struggles might be—because we’re there. The big difference is that we’ve met Someone who is making a difference, and it’s Jesus.
Dennis: There are listeners, who have tuned in today, who have heard your story, Ron, and they’re in a dark place.
It may not be the same dark place you were, but it’s of their own doing. They are in need of coming clean and coming to Christ. The invitation that Christ makes to them is the same one He made to you.
Ron: The good news of Jesus is that anyone, from anywhere, who’s done anything, can put their confidence in Him. He will do for them what they could never do for themselves—give them an eternal kind of life. That is the promise of the gospel.
Dennis: And Jesus is alive.
Dennis: This is not some kind of myth. I mean, He is alive! He defeated death. Because He did that, He can speak to people today—whether it’s in a garage, or in a car, in an office, listening to a podcast—I mean, whatever!—they can listen to the voice of Christ. The issue is: “Will you hear and will you obey?”
If you do obey, He will meet you where you are. The promise of what He will do is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” That, too, is not a myth—that’s a reality. Jesus Christ, when He invades a soul, He changes lives. He begins to make them for the purpose for which He created them.
Bob: Yes, and we have a link on our website that’s called “Two Ways to Live.” It lays out for you the two different paths that are in front of everyone: “Am I going to live a self-directed life or a God-directed life? Am I going to come under God’s authority and do what He tells me to do?” or “Am I going to do what seems right to me?” Those two paths take you in very different places with very different destinations.
I would encourage our listeners—go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click at the top of the page, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” Read through this link called “Two Ways to Live” and ask yourself, “Which path am I on today?” Again, our website is: FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the home page that says, “GO DEEPER,” to find more information about the “Two Ways to Live” link.
You’ll also find information about the book we’ve been talking about today from Adam Barr and Ron Citlau. It’s called Compassion without Compromise. You can order the book from us, online, if you’d like. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The title of the book is Compassion without Compromise. You can order, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy of Adam and Ron’s book.
I’ll also mention that on our website you’ll find information about Kevin DeYoung’s brand-new book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
There’s also information about a book by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet on this subject of same-sex marriage. And there are links to articles and past broadcasts we’ve done. We want to try to provide you with the resources you need to help you think, clearly, / think, biblically, on this subject, and then be able to interact with folks in a way that is winsome, and engaging, and demonstrates love and compassion. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions about the resources I’ve mentioned, call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
You know, we’ve been talking, here at FamilyLife, over the last several weeks, about how you would sum up what it is we’re trying to do in a single word. The word that keeps coming up for all of us is the word, “help.” FamilyLife exists to provide practical biblical help, and we’re grateful for those of you who help make this ministry possible. You’re partners with us in the ministry of FamilyLife as you donate to help support the work that we’re doing through this daily radio program.
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Again, keep in mind that any donation you make is being matched, dollar for dollar, so we do hope to hear from you.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to continue to talk with Adam Barr and Ron Citlau about the issue of homosexuality and how we can demonstrate compassion and caring for others without compromising what we believe. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
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