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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Can a Homosexual Be a Christian?

Homosexuality, and really all forms of sexuality, seems to be one of, if not the most culturally sensitive topic at the present moment. Some people deem homosexuality acceptable while others deem it unacceptable. I know people on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between.

This topic is also heavily debated within the Christian community. Entire church denominations are wrestling with the level of involvement of homosexuals in their congregations. I think the question at hand in the church is really this: Can a homosexual be a Christian?

Honestly, I’ve been very hesitant to write about this topic because no matter what I say, I’m sure I’ll offend almost everyone who reads this article; both Christians and non-Christians could be offended. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to write this article because I seem to have a different perspective on it than most people I know. As always, I’m going to be answering this question with the Bible. If you’re tempted to stop reading at this point thinking you already know what I’m going to say, I would encourage you to continue reading because you may actually be very surprised by my perspective.

First Things First

Rather than beat around the bush on the issue in order to be politically correct, I’m just going to go straight to the heart of the matter: God calls homosexuality a sin. If you disagree with this point, then feel free to take up the matter with God; he’s the one who said it. Here are three specific passages from the Bible which condemn the practice of homosexuality:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. – Leviticus 18:22
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. – Romans 1:26-27
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Whether we like it or not, the Bible is clear that homosexuality is sin.

Some passages of scripture, such as Old Testament laws about sacrifices, were written for people at a certain time in history. Do these passages fall into that category or do they still apply to us today? It is true that these passages of scripture were written to certain groups of people. However, the truth contained in these passages remains just as applicable today as it did many years ago. Homosexuality is still just as much sin today as it was back then.

How Severe of a Sin Is Homosexuality?

Sometimes you may hear Christians attempt categorize sins with some being more or less severe than others. When considering homosexuality, many Christians I’ve interacted with categorize it as a severe sin. Therefore, it is assumed that homosexuals cannot be Christians. This thought process is backed up with the verses I quoted above from 1 Corinthians which state that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But when I read the Bible, I don’t see any mention, let alone the condoning, of categorizing sin. It’s just not there. The biblical writers viewed all sin and its consequences in the same way. According to one biblical writer, “The wages of sin is death…”[1] The “severity” of the offense is inconsequential. The first humans to walk the earth ate a piece of fruit they were forbidden to eat, and the consequence of their sin was death. In the second generation, one human killed another, and the consequence of his sin was death. According to the Bible, a sin is a sin is a sin is a sin. All sin is offensive to God and all of it is deserving of death.

If we take a closer look at the verses I quoted from 1 Corinthians, we’ll see this point confirmed. The writer of these verses listed a host of sinners who would not inherit the kingdom of God. He listed homosexuals, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers. Do you know anyone who solely worships God? I don’t. Everyone I know, including myself, is an idolater. Do you know anyone who hasn’t looked at another person lustfully? I don’t. Everyone I know, including myself, is an adulterer. Do you know anyone who hasn’t been greedy? I don’t. Everyone I know, including myself, is greedy to one degree or another. Every single one of us is deserving of death because we are all sinners.

Why Do Christians Believe They Will Inherit the Kingdom of God?

If all people are sinners and therefore deserving of death, then why do Christians believe they will inherit the kingdom of God? Be prepared: My answer to this question is going to challenge both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Simply calling ourselves Christians doesn’t change what we deserve; we still deserve death. Simply calling ourselves Christians doesn’t change our sin; we still live in sin every single day. And there’s nothing we can do to stop sinning because there’s nothing we can do to change our heart condition; our hearts are still evil at the core. We’re not spiritually sick; we’re spiritually dead.[2] Last time I checked, dead people couldn’t do anything, let alone raise themselves from the dead.

The hope Christians have in inheriting the kingdom of God doesn’t come from anything they do or don’t do; it comes from the work of their Savior, Jesus Christ. As one biblical writer put it, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[3] We were enemies of God because of our sin. But God’s love is so great for his people that although we were his enemies and although we wanted nothing to do with him and although we were still enmeshed in wickedness and sin, he came to earth as a human being and suffered the punishment we deserved. Jesus, God in human form, lived a sinless earthly life and suffered his own divine wrath in our place. Christians will inherit the kingdom of God only because of what Jesus did; they have absolutely nothing to do with it.

If Jesus died in the place of idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers while they were still sinners, then can’t we also conclude that he died in the place of homosexuals while they were still sinners? If Jesus was waiting around for all his people to fix themselves before saving them from eternal death, then no one would inherit the kingdom of God.

Doesn’t God Want Our Sinful Lifestyles to Change?

A common argument for why homosexuals can’t be Christians is because homosexuality is a lifestyle rather than something which randomly happens from time to time. The problem with this argument is that it disqualifies everyone, not just homosexuals, from being Christians.

Do you know a single Christian who doesn’t struggle with habitual sin? I don’t. All of us, including me, your family and friends, and even every church pastor, struggle with habitual sin every single day. The worst part is that we are only occasionally aware of it.

Here’s where it gets really challenging. When I read the biblical stories of people who I know belong to God (because it says so), I don’t see God revealing all their sin to them while they are alive. One obvious example of this is with King David, a guy who is labeled “a man after God’s own heart.” Yet, David had a harem of wives. Having multiple wives was just as much a sin 3,000 years ago as it is today. But there is no record in scripture of God revealing this sin to David. He lived a lifestyle of sin. Does that mean he wasn’t one of God’s people? Not at all. The Bible makes it very clear that David belonged to God.

As followers of Jesus whose hearts are being transformed to be like his heart, we will grow to detest sin, and specifically the sin inside of us. It’s not all going to happen at once; it’s something which seems to gradually take place over time. For example, I struggle with habitual arrogance. Did I recognize my sin when I first began following Jesus? Not at all. But over time, he has been revealing how deep my sin goes. I’m now at the point where I absolutely detest my arrogance. But that doesn’t mean my struggle has ended. I still struggle with it. I still find myself regularly being arrogant. The only way for my arrogance to change is for God to transform my heart, a process which takes lots of time. Will God fully remove my arrogance while I’m living on this planet? I don’t know. I hope so.

That’s just way that sin has invaded my life. I’m absolutely certain there are other areas where sin is present of which I’m completely unaware. Does that make it any less sin? Not at all. It’s just that God hasn’t point it out to me yet. And similar to King David’s struggle with adultery, he may never point it out.

In the same way, homosexuality is a sin which God may or may not decide to point out to people who struggle with it. If he does point it out, things probably aren’t going to change overnight; it may take a lifetime for them to change. In the meantime, it’s going to continue to be a struggle. Hopefully God is gracious enough, like he has been with me, to transform their hearts during this life.

Some Final Thoughts

As Christians, we need to remember that God is in charge and not us. Even if he has given us a participatory role to play in shepherding some of his people, he’s still the ultimate shepherd. It’s not our job to play God for people. Sometimes he may call us to participate in convicting people of their sin and other times he may not. It’s not up to us to decide when we want to participate and when we don’t.

Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves whether we trust God? Do we trust him to be gracious enough to convict people of their sin? Do we trust him to transform their hearts in his timing? Do we trust him to save sinners like you and me?

Can a homosexual be a Christian? Let me ask it this way. Can an idolater be a Christian? Can a gossiper be a Christian? Can a liar be a Christian? Can an adulterer be a Christian? Can a thief be a Christian? Can a murderer be a Christian? Apparently they can because some of the big names in the Bible struggled with one or more of these habitual sins. Yet God saved them. If God can save idolaters, gossipers, liars, adulterers, thefts, and murders, then certainly he can save homosexuals too.

[1] Romans 6:23.
[2] See Ephesians 2:1-3. For more reading on this topic, see my articles titled “Mental Disorder or Evil Heart Condition” and “Are There Evil People in the World.”
[3] Romans 5:8.

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