How do you respond to the person who on the one hand says they are gay and on the other says they are a follower of Christ? I quite often encounter this situation and the response, which seeks to be consistent with biblical Christianity, is not always as straightforward as one might think. For one, we all fall into sin from time to time, even to the point of being openly and stubbornly wanton in our rebellion against God's law. Does this mean that during these periods of foolishness we are no longer to be considered "Christians" or we have, by our refusal to repent, revoked God's saving grace in our lives? I find no biblical support for such a position, in fact, quite the contrary. Take King David, for example, who sinned egregiously against God committing murder and adultery. Was David considered "lost" during the time he was unrepentant?
Similarly, one has to be very careful in casting broad judgments upon those who claim to be "gay" Christians. Now, to be clear, homosexual behavior, or any other lifestyle, contrary to God's law, is absolutely incompatible with the Christian life and constitutes disobedience and salvation dictates repentance. This would be no different than the Christian man who persists in adultery. In both instances, each could be truly saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ while at the same time openly rebelling against God. Some may say "yes but, if such a person were truly a Christian, they would come under conviction of the Holy Spirit." I would agree, however, I cannot nor can anyone define a biblically "acceptable" period in which this conviction should be accomplished. We simply cannot know where a person may be in their relationship with the Lord or what the Lord is doing in response to their rebellion.
Therefore, these situations require a great deal of humility, caution and grace in our response out of fear that we might sin in our own words and deeds and cause harm to a brother or sister in Christ.
One such situation presented itself in one of the many responses to my recent article Freedom for All Except.... A man, I will call "John," from South Africa wrote:
As a Christian I stand in awe at God's extravagant love, His all encompassing and unconditional love for us all. I am amazed on a daily basis at how He takes us, blesses us, breaks us and uses us... but the work is always His! I know that God uses me in ways for which I feel I am not worthy - but He has deemed me worthy. EVEN though I am gay!
For the most part, I would agree with this statement. God does indeed love sinners, however to imply, in this sense, that God's love is "unconditional" is to suggest that He overlooks or ignores our sin. This is a wholly unbiblical premise. The issue of our sin (or rebellion) is the very reason for God's redemptive plan, which was accomplished in Christ, and His love alone is the impetus for that plan being put into action. This is why God's grace is so amazing! As the apostle Paul wrote, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)
While God does indeed offer mercy and forgiveness for our sin, He nonetheless commands us to repent or turn from our sin having been set free from the bondage to sin. (Romans 6:16)
Here is the second part of "John's" response to my article:
Michael, when you realise that I am far more than my gayness, and that my sexuality is but a portion of my whole, you will realise that it is not MY sexuality that threatens you, or your family, or your community, or your country for that matter. It is the love of Christ which addresses YOUR pain… I am a member of a local Methodist Church where I and my partner are welcomed and are in active service as church members. Our church follows the teachings of Jesus Christ – spreading a message of love, forgiveness and inclusion into the Kingdom community. We do not practice any form of exclusivity, once again taking our example from Jesus Himself… The church has to change as society moves on, evolves and changes and so our understanding of God's word also changes.
The following is an edited version of my response to "John."
Thank you for taking the time to share your comments. If I understand you correctly, you are stating that homosexual behavior and following Christ are not opposed to one another. While I cannot know your heart and I do indeed hope that you have experienced the saving grace of God, we can know that certain behaviors are expressly forbidden in Scripture. These behaviors include homosexual acts in the same way Scripture prohibits sex outside the covenantal commitment of marriage. (1 Cor. 6:9-11 and 6:18-20) The theology of sex given to us in Scripture conforms to a particular understanding that is compatible with nature, limited to monogamous couples of the opposite sex, and procreative in its intent. Nowhere do we find biblical support for engaging in homosexual acts and there are numerous passages where such behavior is expressly forbidden. As followers of Christ, we come to faith as sinners in need of redemption and while God does indeed love us, He also commands us to turn from our sin. Salvation demands repentance. We cannot continue in our sin and hope to justify this through agreement with the ever-changing culture. God's truth transcends time and culture.
My dear brother, I am not in anyway "threatened" by your homosexual behavior; I grieve for my own sin as well as the sin of others. But, I am particularly grieved by efforts to legitimize that which God calls sin, and as followers of Christ we are called to speak the truth in order that our 'brother may be saved,' in the same way that Nathan confronted David. This is love! Secondly, I am grieved because sin inevitably and always hurts people, including you. I do not judge you, judgment is the Lord's, but His word is clear on this matter, and therefore I exhort you to turn from your sin and stop deceiving yourself into believing that the Lord is unconcerned with your sin. He loves you, yes, but He died to atone for your sins and mine. It is our sin that we must turn from if we want to truly follow Christ.
While I have focused on the subject of homosexuality in this particular situation, we have a responsibility to call a brother or sister, who is under the domination of any sin, to repentance. (James 5:19-20) There are a multitude of sins which dominate us, and the challenge for those who truly love is to show grace and yet call the wayward to repentance, being open to this exhortation in our own lives.
S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to the reformation and renewal of society through the reformation and renewal of the Church. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources, and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org