This Christmas season, we’ve shared about preventing the wounds of the closet, encouraging kids in our churches to share with their parents, and ensuring kids are known at the table. Be a part of the solution by offering family to single Christians this season. Regardless of sexual orientation, celibate Christians without a nuclear family may feel particularly lonely over the holidays. Check out this invitation from Yucan Chiu, a pastor who has put Equip’s teachings into action by offering a place in his home to gay celibate Christians.
Over the course of the last five years, my family – myself, my wife and two daughters – have opened our home to include seven additional people in the mix of family life. These individuals have stayed at different times and for various lengths of time (from six weeks to two years), and each has become “family” in varying degrees. Some have been LGB sisters and brothers, some have been straight. With each, we’ve learned a lot and (hopefully) grown, becoming more like Jesus in the process. More importantly, we’ve become more like the family Jesus envisioned for His people; I believe we struggle today, as the Church at large, to know how to become meaningful “family” across the single/married divide, thus cheating both singles and marrieds out of a more meaningful experience of Jesus.
Being “family” like this is not easy, even with the best of intentions. Different personalities, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, energy levels, and eating habits make every moment a potential learning experience. Add in bad days at work, a tough day with the kids, a pandemic, and… well, you get the picture! But the challenges have been worth it because we’ve all been able to see Jesus a little better. We’ve received the “hundredfold now” of “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children” (Mark 10:30); we’ve met Jesus directly through each other (“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Matthew 25:35); we’ve experienced His Spirit among us as we do life together (“Don’t you know that you all are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you, corporately?” 1 Corinthians 3:16).
Our last addition was during the fall and winter months of the pandemic, a difficult time for many churches to offer any meaningful sense of family at all. A family friend in his early 30s, James (not his real name) had fallen on some hard times with his chosen family of the last two years, and did not want to face the cold, Northeast pandemic winter months on his own. We had already been in conversation about how our local church could be a better family for singles, especially LGB singles. After a time of praying and processing altogether, our family of four brought James in for a memorable six months. From daily evening prayers to taking a New Year’s Eve family vacation together, listening to Taylor Swift’s new releases with our kids to getting in the dog walking rotation and more, James became a part of the Chiu clan for a season.
Of course, things didn’t just “happen.” Intentional, and sometimes difficult, conversations needed to be had to discuss “misses” due to different expectations, miscommunication, and hurts. James was mature enough to understand and communicate his feelings, and my wife and I were mature enough to be shaped by James as well (I bring this latter point up because a mindset of my past upbringing would have simply said, “Hey, you’re living with us, so you live with us on our terms, not yours.” That sort of thinking is not the way of Jesus). We were also mature enough to know how to set boundaries and specific conversation times to have these more intentional sorts of conversations.
And of course, we all needed to be plugged into the larger family of God for our overall well-being. When we started this conversation of being family, James invited the rest of the church elders to pray and process together. Throughout the stay, James, my wife, and I were plugged in with others in Christian community as well, getting emotional and relational needs met there, too. And as the winter slowly melted away and James sought discernment for his next steps, others were a part of the journey as well.
James has been gone now for just over a month. My (introverted) wife has asked for a moment to take a breather from having additional family members. Our family of four continues to try and understand what it means to be the family of Jesus. We hope to be able to host some others soon. And would you believe it, just last week an opportunity dropped in our lap again for a new family member this summer. As we’ve begun to ponder the possibilities, a sense of excitement has swept each member of the family. We’re eager to continue to be with Jesus yet again in this way, and look forward to the growth and transformation we’ll all experience.
Can I challenge you to consider extending family to celibate Christians in your church? Whether you’re an empty-nester, pastor, single individual, or family with an extra bedroom, you can pursue Jesus’s vision of family by offering your home to those walking out singleness for the Lord.