How To Heap Burning Coals On Non-Affirming Friends & Relatives
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Heaping burning coals on someone’s head. Hang with me, though, to see how effective this can be.
This week kicks off the season of family get-togethers and friend’s parties that can be stressful for anyone, but the parent of an LGBTQ+ child knows the added stress of possibly being surrounded by non-affirming relatives. In the best of scenarios, there are a few allies in the room, but that’s rarely the case in families with a conservative faith background.
If your natural instinct is to avoid these situations or to hit them head-on with a slay-them-all attitude, I’ve found something that’s more helpful.
Heap burning coals on their head.
Really? You say.
There’s an old proverb that fits these scenarios perfectly and when acted upon, stuns most adversaries.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.” (NIV)
It’s brilliant. (As God-inspired wisdom is.) Be kind when someone else isn’t.
When a relative or friend asks you the equivalent to, “Is your child gay?” Smile wide and excitedly respond, “Yes he/she is. Isn’t it remarkable that we get the privilege of having him in the family?” Or, “How unbelievable is it that God trusts us to love her?”
If someone states they’re not sure how to treat your child, respond, “I’ve watched you love her unconditionally before you knew this, yet she has always felt this way. Bringing it to light shouldn’t change your love. You have the honor of showing God’s deep, unconditional love, and I know you will do it beautifully. There’s no need to fear.”
Our gentle words call them to a higher behavior. When we respond this way, they inwardly know they aren’t as gracious; thus, the burning coals.
Our sense of what an honor to have this child in our family can set the stage for a different atmosphere in the room. We act as if they will agree.
And if they don’t, it makes them the outsider, not us.
If all else fails and someone wants to debate the issue or tout a love the sinner, hate the sin agenda, you can always respond:
“I’m so sorry this pushes a button for you. I’ve been where you are so I understand, but today is not the day to debate the issue. My child won’t feel you love him with that kind of thinking. If you’d like to hear how I’ve come to support him, I’m willing to share at a later time. Of course, that’s assuming you’re open to hearing and learning – not just debating. Debating won’t be productive for either one of us, so I’m not interested in that. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company today.”
Usually, a gentle response turns away wrath and helps others rise to a better behavior. In the end though, if your child is feeling bullied, you can always leave the party with an “I appreciate all of you and wish we could stay, but we need to get going. Maybe next time we can stay longer.”
Or better yet…
Ask the offensive person if they are willing to stop the debate, judgment, or theological discussion and instead love everyone for the remainder of the gathering. If they won’t, would they consider leaving?
This takes guts but empowers you and your child, and gets you out of victim-mode.
Whatever your plans are this season, I encourage you to have a few answers to the volatile LGBTQ topic ready ahead of time. (If needed.) You’ll walk into any situation with more confidence.
Other Proverbs that apply:
Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV)
Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (NIV)
We reap what we sow. Kind words and loving actions are needed if we truly want to make a difference in this community. It may not seem like we’re making headway right away, but eventually, love wins…even if it’s just to free and empower our hearts.
Praying you have a peaceful and blessed holiday season,
P.S. If you’re going through emotional pain from being “uninvited” to your family gatherings, this article contains wonderful ideas on how to handle it.