Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality

By Preston Sprinkle

Today, in 2021, I think it’s safe to say that most people know at least one individual who identifies as gay, lesbian or is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle are seen nearly everywhere we look. Gay culture has been widely accepted and is often glamourized on television, social media, in movies and other places of influence. It is no longer taboo or frowned upon by most. In fact, I’m not quite sure individuals even “come out of the closet” anymore. It’s possible there is no closet for them to come out of or perhaps the closet that was once enclosed is now a big, open, walk-in closet full of bright clothes and colorful accessories. 

All kidding aside, there are real individuals struggling in this world with the very real bent towards same-sex attraction (SSA). [See Lead With Grace, Live By Love for a more in-depth discussion on the difference between same-sex attraction and homosexuality] 

Culture tells those who feel attracted to members of the same-sex that it is natural and acceptable to act on their feelings and attractions. Those who believe the Bible is God’s infallible Word, believe otherwise – that experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA) is not in itself a morally culpable sin, but rather acting on the sin makes the attraction a sin. (Similarly to harvesting angry thoughts but not acting on them or thinking about robbing a candy store but not actually robbing the candy store. Does that make sense?)

The problem is that culture controls the world. Many individuals are gleefully living out “their truth” as homosexuals (gay or lesbian) while others are silently battling the feelings they know are wrong, but are tempted to act on because they know the world says it’s okay. 

Some of those most effected by SSA are tweens, teens and college-aged adults – both in and outside of the church. I know this to be true not just because of statistics I’ve found but also because I have witnessed young, impressionable, hormonal tweens and teens identifying as gay…in my very own neighborhood and in my church.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I have a special place in my heart for the LGBTQ+ community – my brother is a gay celebrity drag queen in Hollywood, CA. I can relate to this topic on many levels, especially when it comes to being a conservative Christian who biblically loves my family member despite their lifestyle and worldly beliefs. I do not take this conversation lightly.*

With that said, I’ve had many people reach out to me over the years for recommendations on books for teens to read on homosexuality and the Church. It took me a few years of vetting, but I finally found one!** 

Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality by Preston Sprinkle answers many of the popular, real-life questions teens have about homosexuality while focusing on how Jesus would respond to the LGBTQ+ community if he were here today. 

The author is a Christian and a college professor who has come in contact with these issues firsthand and is not afraid to enter into honest, vulnerable conversation. I absolutely admire the courage it takes to have open dialogue. Moreover, Living in a Gray World reads just like that – a conversation. I compare it to how parents should approach the “birds and the bees” conversation – the conversation on homosexuality and gender identity should be ongoing and progressing, especially since culture is constantly changing.

The problems stay the same, but they are often packaged differently. 

Living in a Gray World is geared towards high-school and college-aged students. As a parent of a 5th grader, I would agree with the targeted audience. This book was a bit too raw for the tween-to-middle-school-aged child, however, it is written in a very approachable, relatable and non-judgmental tone that is perfect for the high school-to-college-aged audience it is intended. 

After reading Living in a Gray World, the reader will learn:

  • What the Bible says about marriage
  • What the Bible says about homosexuality
  • What the difference is between gender, transgender, sex and intersex
  • How to live truthfully loving and lovingly truthful
  • What to do if you think you might be gay
  • How to act/react around friends who are gay or who come out of the closet
  • How to approach and respond to the increasing influence of gay-culture 
  • What to do about “gay Christians”
  • What to do about supporting gay rights or attending gay weddings, plus other practical, real-life questions

I have read a lot of books on this topic and Living in a Gray World does a satisfactory job at covering FAQs while staying biblically rooted and theologically sound. Additionally, I think Preston’s writing is very down-to-earth which made for his message (i.e. God’s message) to be clearly heard and constructively received. Additionally, I appreciated how Preston connected the issue of homosexuality to people – people who struggle with SSA are imperfect people just like you and I, equally made in the image of God, fully capable of sin, and in desperate need of a Savior. 

I also valued how Preston tied everything back to truth and love – if you want to speak the truth in love you first have to listen

How can you lead someone to where they’re supposed to go if you don’t understand where they are coming from? This point was actually a big takeaway for me and one that I hadn’t heard before in other Christian books on homosexuality. 

Sure, speaking the truth in love is not a new message I’ve learned, and it probably isn’t new to you, either. What is new news to me, however, was how Preston related Jesus to the conversation of homosexuality. I found it very intriguing how Preston questioned how Jesus would interact with the LGBTQ+ community if he were walking the earth today. It’s a fascinating thought, don’t you think? His response was one that changed my entire perspective and approach to living out both truth and love. 

Preston ensures the reader that acceptance doesn’t equate to affirmation (mic drop). Preston recounts numerous incidences where Jesus hung out with “the least of these” (tax collectors, drunks, prostitutes). Jesus first loved these people as they were, without engaging in similar behavior or endorsing their practices, and his other-worldly type of love stirred in them an affection for change. It’s a love that is so overpowering and unconditional that it cannot be ignored. It’s a conviction experienced out of a love so strong and a grace so redeeming that it makes a blind person see the road to repentance.  

It seems so plain and simple, I can’t believe I missed this point before, but oh my goodness, it makes so much sense! I guess I am one of the many who fall into the trap of fearing to engage because I fear that doing so will send an affirming message or taint my “Christian reputation.” 

Preston addresses this, too, when he reminds the reader that Jesus hung out with sinners and did not care about his reputation. He prioritized the Kingdom and knew there was a lot of work to do within his 33 short years of life. So, Jesus went about his Father’s work and the best way to do that was to listen and engage with those he knew needed him the most. 

Can you imagine the world today if more Christians lived like that?

Preston says Christians should not be afraid to hang out, befriend or spend time with those within the LGBTQ+ community because doing so is living out both love and truth. Still, Preston warns not to get complacent in affirming or condoning sinful behavior (hence, the title and use of the word, “gray,” throughout the book). 

At the end of the day, a sin is a sin is a sin and acting on same-sex attraction (whether it be physical acts, lust, porn exposure, etc.) is a sin. 

All and all, I would recommend Living in a Gray World for teens, young adults and adults alike, especially if you are new to the homosexuality discussion. If you are looking for further resources, I highly suggest visiting the author’s website. Preston has written several books relating to gender identity and sexuality (from a biblical perspective) and he also has a podcast called Theology in the Raw where no topics are off-limits (click here for my review of Theology in the Raw)

As well, check out The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender.

*I’ve spent a good decade researching, studying, asking questions and seeking biblical counsel on all things pertaining to sexuality and gender identity – both from theological and secular sources because I desire to understand where individuals are coming from so I can potentially help lead them to freedom. If you or someone you know is experiencing SSA, I would love to have a conversation with you. As well, I have a plethora of resources I can recommend. Please send me an email and we can further this convo. 

**Living in a Gray World was actually released back in 2015. After conducting book reviews for four years now, I have recognized the importance of vetting every author before taking the time to read a book. This has prolonged my personal endorsement of a Christian teen book that addresses homosexuality thoroughly in its biblical context and Christ-centered worldview. 

***I personally purchased this book. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my very own. 

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