A gift, freely given.
Granted to us, not due to our own works, but due to the loving grace of our God, who, while we were still sinners, died for us. He gave his life for us, so that we could be free from the effects of sin and welcomed back into relationship with Him.
Unless you’re a gay couple of course.
You see the gay couple are judged by a far higher standard then all others. They are told that their relationship invalidates their salvation. That their love for one another is enough to undermine and counteract the saving grace of God.
The gay couple highlights for us where the church has erred on this discussion of salvation. They reveal to us a heresy which has damaged the church and distorted the gospel.
A heresy of works.
Before we Start
Now before we go on I would like us all to consider something.
Our brothers and sisters in the gay community are far too often ridiculed, mocked, rejected and discarded without even an acknowledgment of their humanity. I ask that as we discuss this that we do this in love. Not discussing some vague theological concepts but remembering the very human lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ who this discussion involves.
We must also note that the question of whether homosexuality is a sin or not, is an open one within the church. I know that this will grate some people, but I believe it is important that this is acknowledged. There are many Christian brothers and sisters who share differing views on this, and there are logical and scholarly arguments that can be made on both sides. It is not as clear cut as some have made it appear.
The church has been so very wrong about so many things in our past that she must remain humble enough to leave open the possibility of being wrong about this also. The apparent sinfulness – or sinlessness – of being gay is not what I will be discussing in this post. I will leave that up to you to journey through. I, however, hope that by the end of this piece you will start to see that the question of whether being in a gay relationship is a sin or not should come secondary to the question I will seek to address.
Knowing this, let us korero in humility and grace. Remembering that this korero – and how it is conducted – has a huge impact on the lives of very real people.
As always, let us move forward in love.
And so, back to our previously scheduled discussion.
Are a Christian couple who are also gay, putting their salvation at risk?
The church will go on to affirm again and again that it is “not the feelings of being gay” that are a sin, but the acting on those feelings. And so, it is believed by some, that since the couple have embraced “their sin”, that this must mean that they have unrepentant hearts and so have also rejected Christ.
Essentially what we are saying is that if we do not acknowledge all the sin in our lives, strive against it, and attempt to live a pure life that we are in fact rejecting salvation.
Some too might be uncomfortable with the word striving. So, let me put it differently.
The idea that is held by some theologians is that though our salvation is not a result of good works, it is revealed through them. We do not have to do good things in order to be saved. But, we do need to recognize our sin, renounce it, and fight against it in order for our Salvation to be made complete.
Thus, a Christian who is in a relationship with someone from their same gender will not be saved. Because, according to this view they are wilfully resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit, thus searing their conscience, and unless they “repents from their sinful ways” will go to hell.
I see some problems with this view.
One being that I believe it is logically inconsistent. Essentially, we are placing a burden on the gay community that we are not ourselves willing to carry. Each one of us sins, and each one of us fails to resist or strive against sin. So, if being gay and in a relationship is a sin, then we too must also be condemned by that same measure.
Perhaps, your response is to say that the difference between you and your gay brother or sister is that you have acknowledged your sin and thus have repented. And even though you fail, you are actively trying to resist. The gay couple however are not. They are actively living in their sin, resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they will bring upon themselves judgement.
You may even, at this point, want to refer me to Romans 1, or perhaps 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Do you not know that the wicked will never inherit the Kingdom of God… neither the sexually immoral… or homosexual offenders…. Will ever inherit the Kingdom of God.”
And so, why don’t we start there.
Romans 1 – Is Homosexuality really the point?
The problem with quoting these passages is that they do not say what we are trying to make them say. For example, Romans 1:26-34 which is often cited as an example of the utter depravity of homosexual sin and is pointed to as proof for the above statements, is actually not specifically dealing with the question of whether someone can be gay and be a Christian or not.
Paul’s point however is only understood when read within the wider context of the letter.
Starting with the first chapter Paul builds a case against humanity. He says what we would expect. Humanity is sinful, depraved, rebellious. From the Jewish readers perspective, they would have been reading this as referring to the Gentiles (non-Jews, those outside of the religious tradition and establishment). To them this would have been music to their ears. You see in their hearts they believed that those outside of the Jewish tradition were further away from God then they were. They however had the Law. They had the Torah, and the Prophets. They had their special relationship with God. And thus, they would be saved and accepted by God due to their unique and special relationship with him.
Paul however, turns this idea on its head. Turning to the Jews next, in chapter two, he basically tells this religious group of people, that their law is useless as a means of bringing them to salvation. Their unique relationship with God, their religious rituals and traditions, mean nothing. They are just as equally unworthy as those outside of their religious box.
So, by the time we get midway through chapter three, we are left with this overwhelming heaviness. Who than can be saved (Rm 3:20)? If I can’t be saved due to being outside the religious establishment, and if I am equally condemned by the Law within the religious establishment… then is salvation even possible?
It is here that Paul changes tune. Focusing now on what he eluded to earlier (1:17) he hammers home the point that our salvation comes from our faith in Jesus, not our works (4:5). This point is nailed throughout the rest of Paul’s letter as he seeks to tear down the Jewish privilege and self-righteousness of their religious system which had led them to believe that they could achieve their salvation based on their own merit.
Paul builds his case, emphasising again and again that it is our faith in Christ that saves, not our keeping of the law. His argument reaches its height when he concludes in Rom. 8 that this means that “Nothing can separate you from the Love of God…. Not angels nor demons, not death nor life…. Not even the powers of hell…can separate us from God’s love (Rm 8:31-39).” Paul even goes as far as to say that since God is for us – demonstrated by the fact that he become man and dwelt amongst us – who then can stand against us? In fact, since God has declared us righteous, who then will dare condemn us?
No one. For God himself has given us right standing with himself (Rm. 8:31-34)!
This means that salvation is assured, not by what you do, but through the acceptance of his grace and love (Eph 2:8-9).
So point of Romans one is not to declare the sinfulness of homosexuality, but to point the absurdity of attempting to be saved through ones own strength. Paul concludes that it is through faith that we are saved, not through any effort of our own (Romans 3:28).
But, Shouldn’t we be Resisting our Sin?
But, perhaps you are still thinking, “surely, we still must strive against sin!” Surely, it is not enough that we accept Christ’s gift of salvation, and then continue sinning? Isn’t that the sign of a rebellious unrepentant heart? Isn’t that a slight on the name of Jesus? Isn’t that the greatest form of disobedience and will result in us receiving God’s judgment?
It’s a valid concern. However, I think Paul has a different perspective on this that we sometimes miss when we come at this letter from our Westernized Reformed lens.
In answer to the question he says this.
“Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God (9:30),” and how was this achieved? Through faith.
In fact, Paul goes on to say that the opposite was true for the Jews. For those who “tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.” The reason for this, as Paul has stated time and time again, was because they attempted to be made right with God through what they did (9:31).
What Has This Got to Do With Our Christian Couple in the Gay Community?
You might be asking at this point; how does this apply to our brothers and sisters in the Rainbow community?
When you tell the Christian who is Gay, that they are not saved due to their being in a relationship with another person of the same gender, you are essentially telling them that God’s grace is not strong enough to save them.
Of course, you may want to pull back at this point and say that “our salvation is through grace alone, but if we keep wilfully sinning than we haven’t truly repented and thus are without salvation?” However, Paul has demonstrated to us that this is not true. You cannot earn your salvation. You cannot be saved by the law. In fact, if we set up a Christian Law unto ourselves, it is us who are condemned by it (Romans 5:15; Gal 3:8-14). Not our Gay brother or sister.
You might also react against this statement. Perhaps you would like to say that you do not wilfully sin. You are not intentionally sinning against God, rather you are repentant, striving to resist the sin in your life and seeking the Lords forgiveness.
Perhaps even at this point you would like to point me back to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. For does it not explicitly state that the “homosexual…. Will not inherit he kingdom of God?”
Well I hope not, because if so we what hope is there for the rest of us?
What About 1st Corinthians?
Let’s have a closer look at these sins which are going to bar those who participate in them from entering the Kingdom of God.
The list includes the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, people who steel stuff, people who are greedy and put their needs above the needs of others, people who get drunk, and people who cheat people or gossip and slag off others.
So, if you’re involved in any of the above, then grab your sunscreen because there’s a fiery pit somewhere with your name on it.
Jokes aside, the sins listed here are sins which all Western Christians indulge in regularly. Greed, gossip, slagging off a mate, getting drunk or cheating on your taxes because “it’s only a cashy, and the government owes me”. We do not strive against all of our sin all the time. In fact, here in the West we don’t just indulge in our sin, we worship it.
Like it or not we in the West have created an idol out of Consumerism, Materialism and Individualism. These gods which we serve, have been brought into our churches and have been worshiped and honoured in mockery of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To say that our salvation is contingent on resisting our sin, is to condemn the entire Western Church to the fires of hell. We do not resist our sin. We do not strive against it. We worship it, we embrace it, we revel in it. If this were not the case you would see a massive overhaul of the Western church, a dramatic movement away from power, towards the margins. A giving up of earthly riches, and a refusal to participate in societal norms of fast fashion and “me first indulgence”.
But instead, out of greed, we hungrily hold on to power, refusing to compromise the comfort of our own lives for the benefit of others.
We know where our resources come from. Yet, we choose to harden our hearts, and close our eyes.
Our world, our wealth, our privilege, is built off the backs of those we have colonized and has been sustained through the blood and sweat of slavery in the Third World.
The clothes you’re wearing right now, the chocolate you ate last night, the coffee you drank this morning… there is a high chance that it is tainted with the blood of innocents, stolen from the sweat of children.
You know this, or you have chosen to ignore and forget it. But, you, me, the Western Church as a whole, are complicit in this sin. Greed, Idolatry, Theft. We bow down to these great gods daily.
The point is this.
You, me, we as the western church, none of us can say that we are not actively sinning as we participate in these things. So the question rings heavy in our hearts. If all sin, and there are none who do not actively participate in sin, then who can be saved (Romans 3:22-23)?
Everyone who accepts the gift Jesus is offering. Everyone who allows the Love of Jesus to heal them, who trusts him to set them free, will be saved (Rom. 3:23-28; 10:9-13). They will never be condemned of their sins but will be accepted by their loving Heavenly Father (John 5:24). Those last words are from Jesus. They will never be condemned of their sins. He does not say “if they do this… or if they try not to do that…” he says never.
This is the gospel. That God loved you so much, that he would stoop so far as to take on human flesh in order to save the whole world – with all its corrupt and diseased systems of oppression and tyranny – from the disease and sickness that is sin (John 3:16). The consequences of sin are death, yes. But, not because God needs to execute you due to breaking the law. Not because he has some crazy wrathful desire to punish you (1 John 4:18). But, because the disease of sin kills as surely as drinking a cup of poison.
So yes, those of us here in the West who are trapped and bound by our greed are still saved. Not because we try not to be greedy, but because of God’s grace.
So how then can we throw stones at our Gay brothers and sisters, or any of our brothers and sisters, in or outside of the church.
Our loving God saves us as we are, the journey we travel is between us and him. It is not ours to judge (James 4:11-12). So, let us obey the only law that matters. Let us commit ourselves to the way of love (James 2:8).
I would like to end this with some words to my Gay brothers and sisters. First, forgive us for the way we have treated you. We have failed to truly be whanau to you. We have failed to love and accept you in the way Christ loved and accepted us. We have condemned you, ridiculed you, belittled you and denied you your humanity. For that I am so sorry.
But, secondly, I wish to say thank you. Thank you for modelling Christ to us. For standing under the weight of our condemnation, for continuing to hold on to the love of Christ, for revealing to us how we have strayed from the message of the gospel. We have treated you horrendously. But, in our treatment of you, we have seen how the finger of judgement has been pointed back upon us. For when we judged you, we were really condemning ourselves (Matthew 7:1-2).
And to my dear brothers and sisters who may struggle with the theology within this piece of writing, I do not ask you to blindly believe. But, I do request that you pause a moment before you respond and perhaps ask the spirit if there is any merit in what I am saying. If I am wrong, then God will make that clear.
There is of course so much more that could be said within this korero. Unfortunately, to truly address a lot of the questions that get raised in this post would take a thesis or two. So, this is a start. And perhaps I will write further on this topic in the future.
But, as always, let us move forward in love. I pray that the words I have written will bring Him glory and that God will continue to reveal his Love and faithfulness to us all as we seek His face.
Bless you my friends.