A few years ago, I was asked why Christians don't seem to accept those who are homosexual. I tried to give the best answer that I could to that question, and thought that it was time to try to present a more detailed explanation here in light of the increased media furor over homosexuality. Much of it is phrased as an individual reply, which is how it started, to someone who felt rejected by the church.
First, and foremost, know that God does, in fact, love everyone. He gave Himself to die for us and to secure a free means of salvation for us. The statements that some groups like to spout about God's hatred for people who do particular things (homosexual acts being but one example) is in error.
The Bible declares that God loves everyone (John 3:13-21). That should not be interpreted as meaning He loves, condones, or overlooks the actions of anyone. There is much that is done by Christians and by non-Christians which he hates. But He absolutely loves the individual and wants each individual to have a proper relationship with Him that is eternal.
I'm a sinner, saved by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus. If you've prayed the sinner's prayer and accepted Jesus into your heart as your Savior, then regardless of what any of us has done in the past, we start on equal ground in God's eyes. We all have to live out our lives in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
As a Christian, I accept 100% of the Holy Bible as the revealed truth of God. I can't pick portions that I like and leave out the inconvenient bits and you can't either. If you don't believe the whole thing, then accepting Christ as your Savior is pretty pointless.
There are short historical passages that are subject to debate, primarily because relatively little of the Bible talks about them. An example of this would be the couple of chapters dealing with creation. I think as time goes on, an interpretation of the Bible that is in line with scientific discoveries will be accepted where now there is disagreement among Christians who prefer a classical view and those who can see a way scriptures could incorporate a very old earth. This better interpretation of the Bible will continue to present a consistent view of the areas of scripture that God included for completeness sake and science. None of these passages really matter for our salvation.
Likewise, there are some prophetical passages that are very figurative in wording. I firmly believe that as the prophecies are fulfilled, there will be universal agreement among Christians that a particular passage has indeed been fulfilled in a particular way much as the passages dealing with the birth of Christ and His death become very clear and obvious in hindsight. Until the fulfillment of those prophetical passages, their exact interpretation is open to discussion and there is bound to be disagreement between various Christians as to how the passages will be fulfilled. By the time most of these yet unfulfilled prophecies come to pass, all Christians hope to have left in the rapture. So, like the historical bits, they don't matter for our salvation. It will be new post-rapture Christians that will be looking at what is going on around them and reading Daniel and Revelation to try to grasp what is going to happen next.
Finally, there are many laws in the Old Testament dealing with life in general. They provided guidelines for the Israelis of old to live in a way that was healthy in their environment (the dietary laws). They provided a structure for their civil life and religious life that would allow them to flourish as a civilization and not run afoul of God's standards. Christ said He came to fulfill the law which He did on Calvary. After that, the New Testament church was not bound by the Old Covenant's ceremonial laws. Their only observance of them (circumcision for example) was done to keep peace and not offend. They recognized that the power of God was through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and His salvation was through Christ and not through acts or ceremonies. They had a New Testament or Covenant founded on Christ that they had to follow. They were not required to adhere to the dietary laws, but were instructed not to give offense by what they ate or drank, for example.
So what is right and wrong?
That didn't mean the old standards of right and wrong passed away in the New Testament (Mt. 5:17-20; 1 Tim. 1:8-9). Indeed, when you read the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly said things like "You have heard it said... but I say..." (Mt. 5:21-22) where His New Testament standards are higher and harder to meet than the Old Testament ones. The one thing that is clear about sin and trespass issues in the Bible is this: Although the history and prophecy may not always be spelled out in detail, thus leading to multiple interpretations that we may not fully understand, any issue dealing with eternal life is crystal clear. When it comes to homosexuality and other sin issues in the Bible, the passages are not open to interpretation. God didn't want any confusion as to what He considered sin to be.
This "Bible is Truth" position is getting to be less popular in the Christian church today as many churches and denominations strive to be politically correct and all inclusive, but it doesn't make it any less true. The simple fact is that God never said he had an all-inclusive club. He's got an exclusive club with easy but strict rules for membership. Many denominations are on dangerous ground on what they allow to go on in the lives of their members and leaders. Politically correct is not eternally correct, and the eternal Judge is the only one whose opinion matters.
The Bible says that we have to accept Christ as Savior as the only path to eternal salvation and unity with God. There is no other path (at least if you have heard the salvation message Rom. 2:12-16). For those who have not heard the Truth, the Holy Spirit (the classical conscience) has from youth pointed out the differences between right and wrong, unless the person has finally reached a point that they have stopped listening to the Holy Spirit (Mk. 3:28-29; Mt. 12:31-32), so everyone is without excuse. Of course, for those who have heard the Gospel message the choice is clearer. Either accept Christ or reject Him.
It is not enough to just believe that Christ exists. The devils believe and tremble (Jas. 2:19). It is also not enough to just accept Christ as Savior. That is only the first step. The Bible goes further. It says we must make Jesus the Lord of our lives. We must also repent of our sins after accepting Christ as Savior. Christ declared this in Luke 13:1-5 for example. What is repentance? It is simply that we stop our sinning.
That can be a struggle. There are still times each week that I stumble and fall and don't live up to God's expectations of me in one way or another whether in thought, attitude, or deed. I'm doing better than I was a few years ago - a few months ago even, but I still have a long way to go to reach the "Be ye holy; for I am holy" of 1 Pet. 1:16 (read 1 Pet. 1:13-25 for full context).
So why are Christians judgmental or why am I not made to feel welcome at religious services?
If we're all struggling with perhaps one sin issue in our lives or perhaps many sin issues, then why do Christians pick just a few sins to come down hard on? This is a very fair question.
The Holy Spirit reveals to each individual items they need to deal with. Sometimes this is done through commentaries. Sometimes it is done through the reading of the Bible (the best source). Sometimes it comes through messages in tongues and interpretations and words of knowledge or prophecy directly from God through the working of the Holy Spirit via individuals.
Every Christian and every Christian church should be welcoming of everyone. I try very hard not to judge people, because I recognize that I have logs in my eyes at times (Mt. 7:1-5). I'm working to get myself right first, and if something I write helps someone else get right with God, so much the better. But my job is not to judge the hearts of other people. My job is also not to judge their individual acts or group acts. My job is to order my own paths as God directs. I have enough of a hard time doing that consistently without trying to worry too much about what others are doing.
Any worldly person who has committed any sin or trespass against God should be able to attend any Christian church without being condemned for the life style they have lived and the deeds they have done. Many churches fall down at that and I apologize on behalf of Christians everywhere who have treated other sinners as outcasts. The number of "ideal" church members are mighty few and most days I still have a ways to go to measure up to His standards!
There is a difference, however, between being able to attend without feeling an outcast, and becoming one of the fellowship through membership or even being able to expect close friendship with the members.
Why aren't homosexuals more accepted?
Don't be deceived. The Bible is clear. Homosexual acts are unacceptable to God, in both the Old and New Testaments. You won't find it on a word search, but if you look at Lev. 20:13 or the end of Romans 1:16-32 just to quote an example from both Testaments so you don't think it's just an Old Testament thing, it is clearly an abomination in the sight of God. It's just flat out not acceptable behavior. It is sin in His sight, and as such is something that must be repented of, just like any other sin. A person who has lived a homosexual lifestyle can't just accept Christ as Savior and then go on about their life as if nothing needs to change.
Mankind has fallen since Adam and Eve were created. We aren't what we once were. But God is just. He won't call something a sin that a person has no control over. Since He calls homosexual acts sin, it isn't something a person is born with and has no ability to change. At the very least celibacy should be an option and the tendency to sin fought against as any other Christian must fight against the temptations of the enemy. That's not a popular view right now, but at least it is consistent with the Bible. And in the long run, His opinions are all that count. Mine aren't worth a hill of beans if they don't line up with what He says.
I will be the first to admit that I don't understand why God condemns homosexuality or disapproves of any other form of stable permanent relationship regardless of the number of individuals involved. I know it is not for me as I have enough to do to keep one wife content. But God didn't ask me what I thought when laying down His laws and feelings on what is right and wrong. He didn't ask the opinion of any leading psychologists, sociologists, doctors, celebrities, conservatives, liberal activists, judges or politicians either. He simply said what was acceptable and unacceptable to Him.
He expects us to live up to His standards. Those standards didn't change from the time He laid them down to the Jews in the law through the various centuries of domination by many other foreign powers, through the Greeks, and into the Romans. God again reiterated his views on marriage in the New Testament as being between one man and one woman (Mark 10:2-12). His standards still have not changed and will not change as evidenced by the book of Revelation which speaks of future classes to be barred from heaven.
No person can have their life both ways. You can't live a life that the Bible calls sin, based on a direct and clear reading of the Holy Bible, and then expect to be accepted on equal basis as other church members or develop friendships that are as deep as you would like with the members. People will treat you differently, just as we would treat any other person differently if they were living a life that the Bible says is sinful. It's one of the commands, after all, to not get entangled with the world or make friendships with the people of the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18). That doesn't mean we can't reach out to them, but we are to reserve close friendships to Christians.
As Christians, we are expected to turn from sin or at least be striving for a sin free life to the greatest extent possible. None of us will be perfect in this, but we need to at least be trying and not going about our business as though nothing is wrong or needs changed in our lives. If you are trying to do that, join the club and we'll try to help you and forbear with you as you forbear with us. But if you just want to go on living like you always have, there's bound to be friction, just as there would be for any other person who wanted to enter the fellowship of believers, carrying the Christian name, and was still living in some other unrepentant state. These days, most in the homosexual versus Christian camp expect to be accepted as equals, and that just doesn't line up with the Bible's teachings.
Does everyone struggle over something?
We are all struggling with repenting of things the Bible says we shouldn't do. That is true from the highest most vaulted preacher or religious leader to the person who has just accepted Christ as Savior. Everyone works on repentance on a continuing basis. It is usually different things for each person. The Holy Spirit helps with this, but every Christian has to deal with suppressing the world to live the life Christ expects of us - that holiness thing again. You should not expect Christ to let you keep your pet sin, just because you don't think it is harming anyone (except possibly yourself). If He expects all the rest of His followers to give up their pet sins, which He does, you can be sure the same applies to you! The Bible is crystal clear, black and white. There is no gray on this matter.
You should never be prevented from attending church regardless of your past or present conduct. At the same time, you also cannot expect people to accept you into membership or close relationships when you are choosing to live a lifestyle that the Bible declares is an abomination to God. Every Christian has to try to adhere to all of God's standards.
The same Bible that condemns homosexual acts is the same Bible that we Christians are basing their faith in salvation on. You have to go by the whole thing. Not just the parts you are comfortable with. Christians should love you with a Christian love, and counsel you, and try to help you. They shouldn't gossip about you or denigrate you or seek to humiliate you either publicly or privately. But they should not be expected to accept you as you are and say that is OK and try to form close friendships with you.
I'll be perfectly up front that there are double standards in many, if not all, churches. There are many church members who aren't living up to Christ's standards on Monday through Saturday, but since they aren't obviously sinning on Sunday they can put up a front and be accepted by people who don't really know them. That's true of men and of women both. It shouldn't happen, but it does all the time, and it isn't fair, and you have every right to be mad about the hypocrisy in religion. I'm pretty sure God is fed up with it too.
God, at least, isn't hypocritical at all. He doesn't see any one sin as worse than another. About the only distinction are sins that end up permanently involving others, which could include all manner of sexual sins. These are only worse because when more than one individual is partaking in the sin, it is harder to eliminate from your life. From God's point of view, lying, fraud, and wrath are just as black in His sight as homosexuality. There is no gray with God. Any evil that we do separates us from Him. He expects us to all do better! If you remember, Jesus' anger was reserved for the church, and not the sinners. I suspect that hasn't changed over the years.
What about God's Grace?
God's grace is wonderful. I pray that His grace will be sufficient to cover all those who call on His name, including you and me when we do things that displease Him.
The thing is, I care about you and everyone else out there. I don't have any authority to take any positions on just how far His grace will stretch for those who are clearly living in rebellion. I believe that His grace does has some elasticity for those who have accepted Christ but who make occasional mistakes and take some time to ask forgiveness for them, but that is personal hope and opinion that doesn't have wild amounts of scripture backing. I certainly wouldn't venture to say how far His grace can be stretched.
I am also always mindful of Heb. 10:22-31, speaking of continuing sinning when we know better. I don't want to fall into the hands of an angry God and I hope you don't either. He plays for keeps. So I'm pressing toward the mark and trying to be better today than I was yesterday.
Why should Christians care what a small minority of the population does?
God does have a hand in everything that goes on, yet He is constrained by the free will that He gave mankind. If you read the Old Testament, His treatment of Israel was based on how close their relationship was to Him. It is easy to argue that people living in a particular lifestyle aren't hurting anyone and they should get all the rights and privileges of the rest of us. Looking at single individuals, it is hard to refute that - one individual's choice shouldn't matter to any group of people.
But as you look at the Old Testament, it is clear that as the kings and leaders either permitted, led, or encouraged their subjects to lead lives of sin, God's hand of blessing was gradually removed from the nation as the people reveled in their new found freedoms to sin. God would raise up a prophet to warn the people of their actions and attempt to convince them to return to Him. Usually, it took something like famine, or an attack from a neighboring country and perhaps years of enslavement for the people to return to the righteous standards of God and repent from their evil ways. When they did, God took them back. The cycle repeated often.
The United States of America isn't Israel. We don't live under a theocracy as they did in the Old Testament days. But Biblical principles still can hold true with modern nations. Christians in America have no wish to see a country that nobody can argue has been blessed fall out of the grace of God.
No Israeli king worshiping Baal thought when he awoke on a particular day that that day's idolatrous worship service would be the point where God would say, "Enough!", turn His face away, and remove His hand of blessing and protection. Yet eventually God always reached His limit. Likewise, no Christian is able to say just what law or decision by a particular state or the federal government will be the one that causes God to turn His face away from us. But this particular debate could be that time.
The thing we can say for certain is that it was bad when God removed His helping and protecting hand and that we don't want to go through that in the United States. This causes us to speak out against things that the Bible makes clear God disapproves of, even though we know it is mostly falling on deaf ears.
It is easy to say that if you don't believe in God, you shouldn't be bound by the "restrictive and patriarchal" attitudes of Christians. It is to the Christians' shame that we don't see or at least report as many miracles in our day as happened in the New Testament church or the Old Testament. That isn't to say that they do not happen. We have had a miraculous healing in our personal family. We didn't need that to know that the Bible was true, and we haven't been very good about telling others of the thing that was done for us, and that is to our discredit. There are many others who have had miraculous events occur in their lives who keep it to themselves or just let a few close friends who are probably already Christian know.
When we don't speak, it is easy for those who do not know God to scoff at the existence of God. We need to be better at letting people know that God still is and is still at work. If we were, then perhaps there would be less of a rush to permit sin to expand and grow in our nation and we might all do a better job of adhering to His standards of living.
What should you do?
I'm sure you've heard all this before. Please don't be mad at me for saying it again. Read the Bible yourself - cover to cover. I really believe that Jesus is returning soon. I don't claim to understand why He said some things were wrong and others were right. All I can speak on is what He has declared through His word. He's pretty clear on this subject (and a champion of living a pure and sinless sexual life regardless of orientation for that matter, lest the non-gay readers of this column think they get a pass).
There are denominations which are friendly to the homosexual community. There are some individual churches and pastors who are welcoming to them, even when the overall denomination is not. I know that there are options where you will feel more at home. My concern is that these will lull you into a false sense of security that will fail you eternally. I know most people today don't like what the Bible says, but God's expectations for His people have never changed. Maybe His grace will extend to those trying to straddle this fence, but an eternity in hell, separated from God is a long time to risk if the conservative position is correct. God has always struck me as conservative and not liberal when it comes to His standards of behavior. I can't risk preaching a liberal position when the Bible is so clearly conservative on this issue. Eternity is at stake. Too many today are glorying in temporary pleasures at the cost of a lost eternity and I don't want that to happen to you or to me!
Please don't give up hope. Please don't give up on us Christians. We're just trying the best we can. Most times we stumble along the way, pick ourselves up, and dust off and try to carry on. We all make mistakes, and whether we want to or not, we judge when we shouldn't. All that matters is what the Judge says in the end. There are going to be a lot of surprises when the trump sounds and His Church goes to meet Him in the air. I hope to see you there and that should not be construed as a judgment on you. It is a realistic expression that I have probably many years ahead where I could fail on something and lose my way - it has happened to better people than I.