Joel Osteen told Oprah Winfrey in an interview Sunday that his message was one of hope for all people, not just those in the Christian community, explaining his views on sin and homosexuality. His comments on whether gay people could go to heaven have, in particular, sparked debate among viewers and readers of The Christian Post.
During the interview, which appeared on “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” when Osteen was asked whether he believed homosexual people could go to heaven, Osteen confirmed that he did, although he added the caveat that God welcomes all who repent of their sins.
“I believe a gay person will be accepted into heaven,” Osteen said. “I believe you have to have forgiveness for your sins and sometimes we (the Christian community) look at gay as being a bigger sin than being proud or not telling the truth," Osteen said. "I don't think God categorizes sins."
Instead, Osteen believes that people are constantly changing and growing, and that no one would have a chance in heaven if sins could not be forgiven. However Osteen clarified, “I believe that homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture.”
However, Osteen did not condemn people who were homosexual. “It’s a hard thing in a sense, because I’m for everybody. I’m not against anybody. I don’t think that anybody is second-class,” he said. “But when I read the Scripture in good faith I can’t see that it doesn’t show that as being a sin.”
One commenter on The Christian Post’s forums responded to Osteen saying, “I see nothing wrong with what Mr. Olsteen said, Homosexuality is a sin and can be forgiven just as any sin (except disbelief) can be. What I do take offense with is his apparent definition of ‘Repentance’. To say that I know that I sin, but am going to continue doing so IS NOT biblical repentance!”
Another commenter, “Elnora Dawson-Bishop ,” joined the debate: “I don't understand why so many people want to lash out at what Joel Osteen said. He said nothing wrong and didn't bash or make a judgement call. He simply stated what is in the Bible and we all know all scriptures are inspired by God, he is the one who said homosexuality is a sin.
She added, “Now the scriptures are beneficial for teaching and setting matters straight. If he was to not stand up for what the scriptures say then he would not be teaching correctly. When you teach you have to stand firm and believe in what you are teaching. Pray for the individual not the sin, and that is what he is doing.”
Commenter “Rob Adams” gave his opinion: “I'm not a big Osteen fan. Not that there's anything wrong with his ministry. Everyone has a place in the body. He feeds the immature Christians the milk that they want. That is his place. I do not like his message solely for the reason that I like meat. That doesn't make it wrong. I applaude his stance on homosexuality.”
Osteen continued to tell Oprah that there were “forces trying to hold us all down” but offered a message of hope. He said God has a plan for everyone’s life and supported that all were capable of achieving great things.
“There are some great people that just haven’t broken through,” he said.
The pastor has received much criticism from others over his views or the lack of doctrine in his sermons, which Osteen has tried to take as constructive criticism. “I always want to listen to people and receive good criticism, but I just don’t have to answer to them I have to answer to God.”
He said, “I try to get up every morning and search my own heart. I say ‘God, am I doing what you want me to do?’”
The pastor’s wife, Victoria Osteen, supported her husband’s positive message, “I think that the people are hungry for a message of hope. I think that they’ve been down long enough."
Osteen described the future of his ministry as one that could encompass all. “Our vision is to throw a wide net of hope over the world to get people to realize that God is good, that he’s for them, and that he’s got a great plan for their life,” he said.