This episode is part of my podcast series DEAR ATHEIST… If you prefer, LISTEN NOW.
I saw a post the other day that presented the argument that homosexuality is not the only sin that God condemns, and if Christians can be divorced, remarried and still go to Church, why can’t they be gay and still go to Church?
There are a number of issues with this argument, and I think there’s also a great misunderstanding too. It actually raises up a lot of questions that need to be understood, before the question can be thoroughly appreciated and answered. One is:
DO CHRISTIANS STILL SIN?
I’ll be the first to say “Yes”, though I’d like to add not intentionally nor willfully. But that would be wrong to proclaim and hard to defend. The battle to kill self is ongoing, and yes, Christians still willfully sin, knowing that what they are doing is wrong, but feeling like they have no choice or they just can’t stop doing it. So, however hard it may be for some believers to accept this reality of their brethren, especially in light of what John says; that we cannot continue to sin (1 John 3:9), it is the truth that true believers and mature believers still sin, and sometimes willfully so, while on a journey to being perfect as the Father is (Matt 5:48).
Another question is:
IF THEY CONTINUE IN WILLFUL SIN, DO THEY LOSE THEIR SALVATION?
Basically, are they still proclaimed righteous before God, though they engage in habitual sin? If our salvation was never by works but by grace, can our sinful habits still separate us from God? This is a tough one to answer, and one that Paul had to address in biblical times.
There is an account of someone, in the book of First Corinthians, who was caught up in sexual sin, being incest, and the Church didn’t know how to deal with such. They abided with him, probably because they didn’t want to judge nor condemn him. However, Paul rebuked them for ignoring the matter and taught them that they were supposed to judge one another, saying that the saints would judge the world! And his counsel was for the person committing this grave sin to be removed from fellowship. This can be found in 1 Corinthians Chapter Five.
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
However, in the second letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he asked that the person should be given grace and brought back into the fold, so that condemnation wouldn’t destroy his faith. He encouraged forgiveness and reconciliation, seeing that the man had been convicted of his sin and was in repentance of it. It is captured in Chapter Two verses one to eleven:
But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.
Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
From this account, we can learn that:
1. The Church is an agent of God to address and condemn sin;
2. The Church needs to take disciplinary action against offenders, including removing them from their midst, to minimise their disruptive influence;
3. The Church should extend grace to fallen saints and continually seek their reconciliation into the fold, knowing that the devil’s goal is our disunity.
I don’t think this incidence says that one who is engaged in such willful sin loses their salvation. What it should do is caution those in sin, that they are on a dangerous path or mission, being used by the devil to taint the image of God and disrupt His mission to bring reconciliation to all men. Because when we are in sin ourselves, we do not seek for others to be made right with God. They should see that if they continue in willful sin, they are working against God, and MAY find themselves among the condemned.
There’s no way someone sincere will get the idea from these passages that God endorces sin and abides with it gracefully. He counters sin, He rebukes it, He disciplines it and He forgives offenders and seeks their reconciliation and restoration. Ultimately, the end of sin is death, and those who continue in it, despite the efforts of the Holy Spirit and the Church to restore them to holiness and peace with God will find themselves on the day of Judgement SELF-CONDEMNED (John 3:18-19). That is, despite God and His grace given unto them to salvation, they chose depravity and death.
Another question that may arise and needs consideration is:
WHAT IF HOMOSEXUALITY IS PSYCHOLOGICAL AND THUS A SICKNESS?
I don’t think many homosexuals see their condition as an illness or even a sin. Many say they were born that way, and the idea that they were born wrong is both an accusation to God and an insult to them. Trying to argue that homosexuality is some sort of sickness that can be healed has met with a lot of backlash.
But for the sake of argument, are there sick people in God’s Church? Yes. Even among the saved, Christians still get sick and not all are healed. How do we understand, appreciate and accept that, knowing that
1. God loves and cares for us;
2. God heals us and wants to restore us;
3. There’s nothing too difficult for Him to do.
Why then are there Christians who still die from sickness? Some people say that they didn’t have enough faith. I tend to disagree. Some people say it wasn’t God’s will for them to be healed. I also find that hard to believe. It’s like saying it isn’t God’s will for all to be saved, because not everyone will be saved. Yet, God proclaims that that is His will for Mankind (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9).
So, if you are sick, which is being ill without your choice or control, can you no longer be in fellowship? I guess it depends on the sickness. And the type of fellowship. You can fellowship without being physically present. Pastors visit the sick at home and in the hospital. It doesn’t mean that because they aren’t physically gathering, they aren’t part of the Body… Some sickness will require separation, so that the health of others will be preserved. It’s not a judgement on your Christianity nor salvation, it’s just a practical issue of life.
But admitting you are sick is admitting that you are not well and need help, from God and/or others to get better or to manage your condition. You won’t find a sick person, up and about, denying that they are sick and trying to do what healthy people do, without taking care for themselves. Actually, you just might. But it shouldn’t happen. Sick people who refuse to get help are the reason we have mental institutions. Not because we don’t love them, but because we care for them AND we also care for those who they may harm, if they aren’t given proper treatment and support.
Furthermore, just because you are born with a condition doesn’t make it natural. There are many people born with defects and life threatening health conditions, who need treatment from the moment they breathe their first to their last. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love them or God doesn’t want them to be healed or made whole. Nor does it mean that they can’t change nor be healed. As rare as these things are, they do happen.
There’s even an account of a man who was born blind. And the funny (and uncomfortable) thing about that account (to me) is that Jesus said that he was born that way and endured all that suffering and guilt, just so that Jesus would come and touch him and heal him and bring glory to God! Can you just imagine???
As believers seeking answers, we need to consider this passage, found in John 9, as well as other teachings about sin and God’s love to understand how we can relate to the LGBTQ community.
SO TO ADDRESS THE INITIAL ARGUMENT…
I think there is a presumption and a misunderstanding that people who are homosexual can’t also be believers and are therefore not welcome in the Church. That is clearly wrong. We are all able to come to the knowledge of God’s love for us and we are all given the grace to become like Him – holy. That is our goal.
We are not saved so that we can accept ourselves as we are and continue to do what WE think is right. We are saved so that we can come into a RELATIONSHIP with the Father, and learn and accomplish His will for our lives and His Kingdom. Every Christian has to forsake all. Every Christian has to die to themselves and live for Jesus. And this means that we accept His definition of righteousness and we submit ourselves to it.
Jesus said “if you love Me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15, 23), but I frequently hear from those on the other side of the homosexual agenda that “if God loves me, He will ignore my sin“. Yes, God has forgiven you, but He also wants you to see that you are IN NEED of forgiveness and repentance and purification. If you can’t see that, then you can’t and won’t accept His forgiveness, because you will see it as a presumptuous insult on your righteous person! And only those who CONFESS their sin and RELY on God’s transformative grace, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, will be saved and are thus Christian.
For me, that’s the bottom line with the homosexual agenda on God’s love, which they use to say that no matter what they do, God still accepts them and supports them in it. It’s just not true nor biblical. I’ve said it before that LOVE has a definition. TOLERANCE isn’t love and isn’t God’s way. God doesn’t tolerate us, He transforms us! If we do not want to be transformed we will always resist and ultimately reject His love.
So Brethren, that’s where practicing homosexuals and other Christians engaged in a varied amount of sin are different. True Christians recognise and accept when they sin and deal with guilt, and do seek the grace of God to live right and for Christ. They do not comfortably sin and justify themselves, but seek the liberation and peace of God. But when a homosexual person refuses to accept that their actions are sinful or that their lifestyle is against the will of God, then they cannot and will not change.
We cannot help people by telling them that they are not in sin and do not need forgiveness. Neither can we help them by saying that everyone sins, and no sin is bigger, and God is gracious, so don’t worry about it! Clearly, that’s the attitude Paul was addressing when he said – “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2).
Those who willfully sin and justify themselves in it are not submitted to God, but want Him to be submitted to them. It just can’t work. We fall at His feet, not the other way around.
There are homosexuals who are living for Christ. They consider themselves Eunuchs for the sake of the gospel. I can imagine that it isn’t easy. But God who calls us empowers us to walk in righteousness.
I do not have homophobia any more than I have a phobia of sinners or people who are sick. However, I must admit that I am afraid of the criminally insane, and I think that makes me normal. Anyway, how I feel towards homosexuals is more of compassion and an understanding of our humanity.
I am not against anyone, I am just for God. I believe God can do all things, and that includes both HEALING and CHANGING those who believe that they were born homosexual or actually have a preference for the same sex. We all have our crosses to bare in this walk with God. May God help us to be gracious and loving with one another, and edify and encourage each other with the truth.
Photo credit: http://www.pixabay.com
If you liked this post, you might like NO UNCLEAN THING: ANOTHER LOOK AT HOMOSEXUALITY
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