Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Sinful Lifestyles

I suppose that nothing should shock me anymore. We live in a world where sin runs rampant. People aren't ashamed of their sinful behavior, but instead flaunt and make excuses for it. One such instance has made its way to the campus of my alma mater, Freed-Hardeman University.  A group of students and alumni have created a blog that features their stories--stories of the struggle of homosexuality, and the issues they have encountered throughout their lives. The thing is, the fact that this was published isn't the only thing that shocks me about the situation. I have seen multiple tweets directed at this group of people, by "Christians" that are some of the rudest things I've ever seen. Given, I have seen many positive and loving comments as well, but I am appalled that people claiming to live as Christ lived would react in such a hateful way.

 I am not here to condemn anyone, nor am I here to express my opinion. Instead, I want to look at the Bible, and focus on how Christians should respond to people who are practicing/struggling with homosexuality. I know that the overwhelming majority of people who view my blog are not homosexual nor do they have that struggle, which is why I think it's so important to focus on how we should treat these people--these brothers and sisters of ours. First, though, I will express some Biblical viewpoints on the subject of homosexuality, because I think that's an important starting point.

Let's ask a question first: Does God love homosexuals? We all know that the answer is yes. A harder question: Should Christians love homosexuals? That answer again should be yes. The problem is, some "Christians" don't. Some people bash the sin of homosexuality AND the sinner, instead of reaching out to the lost like we are commanded to do. Don't get me wrong, though; I do not agree with the lifestyle of homosexuality because the Bible does not (1 Cor. 6:9-10). However, I don't agree with any sin at any time under any circumstances, because the Bible does not.

Here's the thing, though; I'm a sinner. All of my life I have been a sinner. I will continue, throughout my time on earth, to struggle with sin. I am thankful every single day that the blood of Jesus has cleansed me and continues to do so when I fail.

But here's another question for you: does the blood of Jesus cover all sins? Yes and no. Can it? Yes. Does it always? No. Why? Because only the sins that we repent of are the ones that will be forgiven. Does Jesus want all of our sins to be forgiven? Absolutely. That's exactly why He died for you and for me. Does His blood have the ability to cleanse any and every sin imaginable? Yes. But, will those sins be forgiven if I do nothing about the sin in my life? No.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says this:

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame."

When you become a Christian, your sins are washed away. When you continue to live in sin, though, you are crucifying Jesus again. When Christians, who have tasted salvation and freedom from sin, decide to continue (defiantly, might I add) living in that sin, they are worse off than they were when they simply lived a sinful life (2 Pet. 2:21). Now, what kinds of sins are washed away when we become Christians? All sins, even the ones listed in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 (look it up: yes, homosexuality is included in sins that can be forgiven). Because you see, in verse 11, the apostle Paul writes these words:

"And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

There were people living with the temptation of homosexuality in the first century. There were people practicing homosexuality in the first century. But those people, upon hearing the Word of God and submitting to it, put off homosexuality and repented of it, and their sins were washed away.

After stating these words, Paul goes on and says the following: "the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord (v.12)", "flee sexual immorality (v.18)". How then can we say that it is ok to practice homosexuality? Unless we pervert the gospel of Christ, we cannot.

Now here's the part I think a lot of Christians miss: It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted by Satan and yet we know the Jesus was sinless. It is not sinful to be tempted with homosexual feelings, and yet, how often do Christians condemn, look down on, and shun people who struggle with this sin? Most adolescents struggle with sexual temptations of some sort, be that the temptation to have premarital heterosexual relations or premarital homosexual relations. It becomes shameful and sinful when we dwell on it and act on those temptations and urges. But you see, I'm not calling out homosexuals here. I'm saying that it is sinful and shameful to act on ANY temptations of the sexual variety before marriage, because marriage is the only place God has sanctioned such actions. We should be telling all people (straight and homosexual) to guard their hearts and their bodies, not only bashing those with homosexual feelings. It is just as wrong to act on heterosexual feelings before marriage (something we don't get up in arms about nearly enough!). For homosexuals, though, the struggle may be a bit more severe, because God did not sanction marriage between men and men, women and women. God says marriage is one man and one woman, so if you struggle with feelings of homosexuality, that will be a struggle you have to overcome throughout your lifetime. Now sure, heterosexuals also struggle with reigning in their temptations even after they get married (that's why adultery is also prevalent in our society, and mentioned numerous times in the Bible), but at least there is the option for marriage and the subsequent sexual freedom therein. For homosexuals, no such thing exists.

I say all of that to say this: all sexual impurity outside of God-ordained marriage is wrong. All sin is created equal. However, homosexuals don't have a license to excuse themselves from what Scripture clearly states. Too often, I see homosexuals who want to "have a voice" and "be heard" and "be accepted for who they really are". I cannot and will not be tolerant of something that God is not tolerant of.

A lot of "Christians" stop there. They say, "Amen! I will not be tolerant of such things!" To you I say, keep reading.

Am I to still love homosexuals? Yes. Will I SHOW that love, not just claim it? Yes. Will I welcome them to study God's word and come to a true understanding of what He requires of them? Absolutely. Will I welcome them into the assembly and worship side by side with them? Yes, so long as they are not practicing homosexuality and living in a way that God says we cannot. Will I shun them when they express their struggles, even though they want to do right? Absolutely not. Will I be empathetic, since I myself struggle with sin on a daily basis? Yes. Will I even be sympathetic to the celibate lifestyle they will have to lead the rest of their lives and the constant struggles they will go through? Yes. Will I tolerate, accept, and promote their agendas? No.

Would we EVER think it was okay for a group of single Christians to start a blog/website/twitter account about why they should be accepted even though they regularly practice sexual immorality by having premarital sex with the opposite gender? No. Because it ISN'T ABOUT THE GENDER. It's about being sexually immoral. It's about doing things that God says are out of bounds. We wouldn't accept what they do, even though they struggle with it, because we know how God feels about it. Yes, we know that God loves them. Yes, we would tell them so. We would also tell them that they need to repent, and abstain from that lifestyle, otherwise they aren't in a right relationship with God and ultimately their salvation is in jeopardy. And shouldn't that be what we, as faithful Christians want for them: to be in a right relationship with God??

As Christians, we need to stop being biased toward homosexuals. Please stop and reread that sentence. We have to stop being biased toward one kind of sin. We need to tell the world that we think ALL sexual immorality is sinful. We think premarital sex is a sin. We think adultery is a sin. We think practicing homosexuality is a sin. We think rape is a sin. We think beastiality is a sin. And then, as a whole, we need to STOP PRACTICING and TOLERATING THESE THINGS. At the same time, though, we need to all start helping and encouraging people, not pushing them out of the church. The church isn't just a place for those who have been washed to come and gather, it is a place for those who are still sin-stained to come and get cleaned.

I love God with all of my heart. I know that I fail Him day in and day out. It is my hope and my prayer that I am not failing Him by writing this post. I want to love all of the people He loves. I want to help all of the people Jesus would have helped. However, I don't want to excuse someone or something that God wouldn't excuse, because that isn't doing anyone any favors, and it's putting my salvation at risk also.

*Also, I know that I'm late on this one, but with such a sensitive topic, I wanted to be sure the post was 100% ready. 

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