How Should Christians Approach Pride Month? Sam Allberry
What do Christians do with Pride Month? On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host Sam Allberry--a pastor and author who's experienced same-sex attraction. He offers thoughtful, wise, and compassionate principles on LGBT+ issues.
About the Guest
- Visit Sam Allberry's website at samallberry.com
- Order Sam's book: Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions About Jesus, the Bible, and Same-Sex Sexuality
- Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
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What do Christians do with Pride Month? As a pastor who’s experienced same-sex attraction, author Sam Allberry offers thoughtful principles on LGBT+ issues.
How Should Christians Approach Pride Month? Sam Allberry
Shelby: Hi, Shelby Abbott here. I just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today’s conversation on FamilyLife Today covers some sensitive, but important subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears, so please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast.
Alright, now let’s jump into it.
Sam: I was just talking with someone this week who was complaining about the Christian sexual ethic and saying it’s all hardship and denial and all the rest of it.
I said, “In one sense, but would you rather have a starring role in a story that means nothing and goes nowhere, where you get to do everything you want, but it doesn’t have any meaning and it doesn’t count for anything, or would you rather have a smaller role in a story that is profoundly beautiful that gives your life dignity and purpose and meaning and significance?”
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.
You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Today is June 1st, and it’s the first day of Pride Month.
Ann: I’m hoping that we can serve and help our listeners walk into this month with a perspective of love, of grace, and of wisdom and Jesus.
Dave: —and Jesus. I think a lot of us, me included, are “How do I understand this? How do I approach this? How do I love people?”
Ann: “How do I talk to our kids about this?”
Dave: It isn’t just the month of June. This is a conversation that every family, especially Christian families, is going to need to have—
Ann: —and should have.
Dave: —all year long.
I can’t think of a better person to come in and help us think through this than Sam Allberry who is sitting right here in FamilyLife Today’s studio with a smile on his face. [Laughter]
Ann: Sam, we love having you with us.
Sam: I love being with you.
Dave: Honestly, I can’t think of a better person that I would want to have in the studio right now, and not just because of your book that came out ten years ago now—right? —Is God Anti-Gay? It’s been re-released.
Dave: Why has it been re-released?
Sam: That book came out in 2013. Same sex marriage wasn’t a legal thing in the U.K. or the U.S. That immediately feels like—
Sam: —decades and decades ago.
The conversations have moved on, the questions have moved on, some of the language has moved on. I realized, “I want to go through the book, do some re-writes, add in some things now that are being asked now that weren’t being asked then and really reflect where the thing is at right now.
One other factor is I wrote the book originally primarily for Christians, and I’ve heard so many people who have used the book evangelistically. I thought, “Okay, if I’m going to do a re-write, let’s try to make it as accessible as I can for someone who’s not a believer.”
Ann: If you haven’t already read a lot of Sam’s other books, he’s a pastor, he’s an apologist, he’s an author, he’s a speaker. Some of your books include: What God Has to Say About Our Bodies, Why Does God Care About Who I Sleep With, and you’ve also started writing some children’s books.
Dave: Let’s start with your story. Page one in your introduction: “I first began to properly understand something of my sexuality around the same time that I began to understand Jesus Christ.”
Take us back.
Sam: I was around 17 years old. That was when I first started to hear the gospel. That was around the same time I was beginning to acknowledge to myself that I was attracted to guys, not attracted to girls. This was in the early 90’s so a very different world [compared] to the one we live in now.
I was then beginning to think through what to do about that. I remember saying to myself, “When I go to the university—” I was looking to universities in different places than where I had grown up—I remember thinking, “Maybe when I go there, I can start to explore my sexuality, and then no one at home would ever need to know.”
That was my plan. Then I heard the gospel and became a Christian, which hadn’t been part of my plan. [Laughter]
Ann: Had you ever heard the gospel before?
Sam: Not really. I grew up in Southern England. You always hear bits and pieces about Christianity and the Bible, but I’d never really heard the message of God’s grace. I had heard the ethics of Jesus and by implication, “This is the ethical way to live.” I never quite understood how His death fit into anything. Because if it’s “Go and be a good person,” I don’t know why someone then has to hang on a cross.
I heard the gospel clearly for the first time when I was 17. That’s when I thought, “Okay, that’s what this is all about. It’s God being kind to lost and bad people,” rather than as I had assumed growing up, Christianity being about God congratulating good people.
When I began to hear grace taught, I thought, “Oh, this makes sense of, not just what Jesus says, but of what Jesus did.”
Ann: He wooed you to Himself.
Sam: He did. I remember thinking very early on as I began to protest the gospel, never realizing “I need this. My heart is not right with God,” I remember having this overwhelming conviction that Jesus had died for me, that I needed forgiveness through his death and that I could trust Him.
I didn’t know what following Him would involve. I had no idea what discipleship would look like. I didn’t know what Jesus said about any of the kinds of things we’re talking about today. But I knew that He loved me [so], whatever He did say would be okay because it’s Jesus.
I remember thinking, “This Jesus is way more compelling than the kind of vanilla Jesus I had grown up imagining. The kind of looks like one of the Bee Gees; sounds a bit like Gandhi image I had of Him. [Laughter]
“Just go off and be ethical,” which is a bland Jesus, but this Jesus was far more compelling to me; that He would give Himself for me. I remember thinking, “This is someone I can build my life on.”
Dave: Now as you came to Christ as a 17-year-old and you’re thinking through your sexuality, was that primary as you decide “I’m going follow Christ; I want answers on this?”
Sam: It was an important question for me. Again, I hadn’t been planning on acting on anything yet partly because of feelings of shame about it. So, I didn’t already have skin in the game in the sense of already starting down the path of having a same-sex relationship. But it was important. I wanted to know where things would stand with Jesus on this.
But again, I knew I wanted to follow Him, so I knew I was prepared to follow Him whatever He did end up saying. I just didn’t know what He did say. God gave me that kind of faith very early on, which I’m grateful for because when I eventually did come to understand what He teaches and it’s obviously very challenging, I didn’t question the goodness of it because I already knew that Jesus is good. I didn’t necessarily like everything He said, but I liked the guy who was saying it and that was enough.
Dave: I highlighted last night early in your book you say, “God’s word to me on this issue at times, feels confusing and difficult, but it is nevertheless deeply and profoundly good. The gospel of Jesus is wonderful news for someone who experiences same-sex attraction.”
Walk that out a little bit.
Sam: It’s not good news if your main reference point is, “How much stuff do I get to do that I want?” It’s pretty bad news if that’s your outlook, but it’s bad news for everyone if that’s your outlook.
It’s profoundly good news because of the story He’s inviting you into. I was just talking with someone this week who was complaining about the Christian sexual ethic and saying, “It’s all hardship and denial and all the rest of it.”
I said, “Well, in one sense, but would you rather have starring role in a story that means nothing and goes nowhere, where you get to do everything you want but it doesn’t have any meaning and it doesn’t count for anything, or would you rather have a smaller role in a story that is profoundly beautiful, that gives your life dignity and purpose and meaning and significance?”
Just purely on the metric of “Do I get to do what I want sexually?” Yes, Christianity can feel like bad news. But if we raise the metric to “Do I want my life to count for something? Do I want my life to mean something?” Because if you take the secular sexual ethic, you have to take the secular story, too. You can’t say, “I’m going to do whatever I want sexually” without also taking the fact that if that’s the case, your life doesn’t mean anything.
Whereas Jesus is inviting us into discipleship, He’s inviting us into denial. He’s so upfront about that. But He’s inviting us into His story where we get to be part of something so profoundly beautiful, which actually then far eclipses our desires for sexual satisfaction anyway. Sexual satisfaction turns out - “It wasn’t that big a deal.” But what Jesus is inviting us into really is.
Ann: I love that. It’s so beautiful, and the way you paint the picture of it is so beautiful. As we think about marriage or sexuality or our desires that will bring us fulfilment, now that I’m older I can say, “Those things are nothing in comparison to the beauty of the gospel and knowing Jesus.”
Dave: That’s because she’s married to me. [Laughter] That’s probably what I just heard.
Ann: No, we have a great marriage. You’re amazing, but still nothing compares to—
Dave: I’m kidding. I agree 1000 percent.
Ann: Yes, but when you’re younger you don’t really get that. A lot of people don’t have that good view of God - that He’s good.
Sam: I think part of where we haven’t always helped ourselves in the wider Christian community is we sometimes just given people the negatives without any of that sense of “Here’s how we taste the goodness of God.” We’ve given a list of “Thou shalt nots,” which are true and they’re there. But they’re there in the context of a much more compelling story.
We need to give that wider context of “This is why a good God would say these things about sexuality.”
Dave: Now help us understand, because the narrative seems to be “If I follow Christ and I live out God’s design for my sexuality, if I’m same-sex attracted, He’s asking me to deny my identity. This is who I am.”
I know you write about this. I think your perspective is so needed. How do you separate that? Because I don’t sense any of that in your perspective, but I often hear that as the narrative: “This is who I am. This is not what I should do then. God is asking me not to be who I am.”
Sam: It’s one of those assumptions that is often subconscious. People aren’t always even aware that it’s happening, but we’ve imbibed this idea that your sexual feelings, particularly if you would say you’re not straight, your sexual feelings are who you are, they are your identity.
That’s part of the cultural narrative that we’ve received in the Western world in our time that “This is who you are. You are your sexuality.” Therefore, when someone says, “You can’t act out on those feelings,” that’s being heard as “You can’t be true to yourself. You can’t be who you really are.” That’s sounds so psychologically harmful, and you are repressing your real self.
But the question is “Who told us this is who we are? And have we ever examined that claim? Does that stand up? Is that compelling?” We just assume it.
For me, I think there is so much more to who we are than our sexual feelings. Those things often feel very significant. They touch on so many areas of life. They’re deeply personal. But the Bible gives us a far more rounded, richer, deeper view of what it means to be a human being than simply our sexual feelings.
I think it shrinks someone to say they are their sexuality. It just doesn’t deserve star billing.
Ann: Describe who are they in the fulness of God’s creation.
Sam: Exactly. I have a very dear friend who’s not a Christian. He’s gay, young guy. Sometimes we talk about this whole issue of identity, but I find that I just try to treat him as someone who is more than his sexuality. So, I’m asking about all the things that are part of his life. I’m showing him there’s more to him than just “Is he dating someone?” And if so, “How’s it going?”
That’s one part of his life. I’m always interested to know how he’s doing. But I’m trying to show him that I see more to him than just that. Because I think it sounds compelling to hear you are your sexuality. That feels like it could be true. But what it ends up implying is “You can’t really expect to have a full life without sexual fulfillment.” If that’s who you are, then that has to be going well for your life to be going well, which then makes it a very high stakes part of life.
Little wonder then in our current times these things become the occasion for all kinds of mental health issues, for anxiety and even more serious things than that because we’re being told “This is the key part of life.” It’s very easy to hear, “You are your sexuality” and to begin to believe that a life without fulfilling my sexuality isn’t really any life at all.
Ann: Sam, have people asked you that: “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out?”
Sam: Oh, yes.
Ann: They have.
Sam: More than that, they’ve not just said don’t you feel you’re missing out, they’ve said, “You are the reason that LGBT teenagers are committing suicide because you’re making them miss out.” I had a pastor just last week reach out to me and say, “Are you really telling me my message to the young people in my church who are same sex attracted is that they won’t have romantic fulfillment?”
Dave: This is a pastor?
Sam: This was a pastor. I remember thinking “There’s an assumption behind that question, which is ‘You have to have romantic fulfillment to really live.’” That’s not a Christian insight. That’s not part of the Christian story. But he’s so imbibed that cultural narrative from the world around us. You misunderstand so much about what we’re truly made for.
I wanted to say, “Actually, we do have romantic fulfillment when we collapse into the arms of Jesus, not in an icky weird way, but in a ‘Jesus is the bridegroom.’” Deeper than my romantic feelings are the yearnings I have to know and be loved by my Creator. “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you, oh Lord.” [Psalm 42:1, Paraphrased] It’s that kind of thing.
Dave: I’ve got to ask—you’ve been asked this a thousand times. I guess we’ve got to answer it: Is God anti-gay? [Laughter] It’s the title of your book. It’s something where I’m “You’ve not even asked him that question yet,” so here it is.
Sam: If there is not hope for our gay friends, there’s no hope for any of us. God is offering us full free life in Jesus. Every single one of us. He should be rushing to the other end of the galaxy to avoid us. Yet, He’s moving towards us in Christ to embrace us, to love us, to enfold us into His eternal love. He’s doing that for every single one of us.
He's not anti-any of us whilst He’s opening His heart up to us. We have this amazing opportunity to collapse into the arms of Jesus. There are things Jesus has for us as a part of that life that we wouldn’t always include in our definition of what full life should involve.
But one of the ironies, one of the paradoxes of the Christian life is as we do voluntarily constrain ourselves to be obedient to Jesus, we begin to discover “Actually, He is giving His life.”
Ann: John 10:10.
Ann: Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.” [Paraphrased]
Sam: Yes, so those constraints He puts around us can often feel like He’s killing us at times if we’re honest. He even uses that language: “Take up your cross.” [Luke 9:23, Paraphrased] As time goes on, we begin to realize, as Christians, “At the very moments where I thought He was taking life from me, He was actually giving life to me.”
I used to think early on in my Christian life “You obey God so that you can be blessed by God.” I came to realize, “Actually, obeying God is the blessing; that what Jesus is inviting us into is a much richer life than we would have come up with ourselves by far.”
Dave: I know that before I came to Christ—I [was] in college and I [was] living the wild life, didn’t even know that the Bible said the sins of your father will visit down into the third and fourth generation. My dad was a womanizing alcoholic. I’m a man in my 20’s saying, “I’ll never be like my dad,” and I’m literally becoming my dad.
If you would have asked me then “Why not become a Christian?” I would say, “Here it is—” I had thought it through “—There’s no fun; there’s no freedom; there’s no fulfillment. I had never seen a Christian that really enjoyed life and had fun and laughed. I always saw—there was no freedom. They couldn’t do anything. They weren’t allowed to do anything. And there’s no fulfillment.
Long story short, when I gave my life to Christ, a few years later, I’m “Real joy is in Christ.” You talk about fun. “Real freedom is not being in bondage to something you think is going to set you free [and] it ends up you’re addicted to it. It’s in Christ. Jesus even said, “I’ll make you free indeed.” [John 8:36, Paraphrased]
There’s this indeed part. It’s like you don’t even know freedom in Christ and fulfillment. The whole thing is what you’re saying, “It’s only found in Christ.” But you can’t know that until you’ve experienced it.
Dave: Help us understand. As Christians we’re stepping into the month of June.
Ann: As a Christian family, too.
Dave: Yes, how do we process this month?
Sam: It’s going to be complicated for us because we won’t, as Christians, affirm a lot of the things that are being celebrated in Pride Month. But we do love our friends.
[During] Pride Month, I do want my friends to know how much they mean to me. I am glad that people can be more open and more honest. I may not like all the ways in which that is expressed in things like Pride Month. But I really do want people to know that they are cherished, that my life is richer for knowing them. I’m not going to agree with a lot of the things people will be promoting in Pride Month, but I hope they will feel loved by me.
Our challenge is we want to love people better than the culture loves them. The culture will celebrate someone’s gayness in Pride Month. But I want someone to know I’m celebrating something far deeper in them and I’m celebrating them year-round. They are made in the image of God and loved by Him.
Dave: I’m guessing you have gay friends.
Dave: Do they feel that from you?
Sam: You have to ask them. [Laughter] But that’s my prayer. I just want to, in some limited way that I can, reflect something of the heart of Jesus to them. Because Jesus has come to all of us at our sinful worst and loved us, and I want people to step into the love of Christ as He’s let me step into it.
Shelby: We’ll hear more from Sam Allberry in just a second. “But we want to love people more than the culture loves them.” What a profound thought because real love, as human beings, this is what Christ does with us.
I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Sam Allberry on FamilyLife Today.
Sam has written a book called Is God Anti-Gay? This is a new release of a previous installment of this book that came out many years ago, now updated with new questions, new content. You can find a copy by heading over to FamilyLifeToday.com or giving us a call at 800-358-6329.
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Alright, let’s hear more from Sam Allberry about how we can celebrate the image bearers of God instead of merely their choices.
Dave: Our hope is that everyone that’s living outside of the Word of God would feel that from the people of God.
Sam: I think of one friend who had come from a Christian background, came out, sadly was kicked out by his family, which I struggle with that decision, went to live with a secular family who were very, very affirming of his sexuality and he came out on Instagram, had all the plaudits and the acclaim you would expect in our culture today. But over time he began to realize people were only celebrating his gayness.
I was trying to say to him throughout, “There’s so much more to you than this.” He began to realize it was actually quite a superficial acceptance he was experiencing, that there was more to him than this and it actually began to lead him back towards Jesus is the thing. “I want to be loved wholly, not just based on whether I’m gay or not for our culture and that kind of thing.
Shelby: When someone tells you that they’re gay, how should you respond? It’s a fair question, and a tough question, too.
Dave and Ann Wilson are joined again tomorrow with Sam Allberry who will be back along with our very own Rob Hudson to help us answer that question with kindness and clarity. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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