I received this question from a long time friend who had read my recent article “John, you have deviated from the truth.”
John, I still don’t understand what you are saying at times. I was involved in extra marital affairs, I lost my marriage and am attempting to start fresh with my sexuality, and in my walk with Christ. Could I have stayed in adultery, without repentance, and still been a faithful Christian? Help me understand this.
First of all, many of the principles I will use to answer your question are in articles I have already written about. (Articles on Homosexuality, and “God Suprise Me!) But, please allow me to try to compose an answer to your question.
What I am saying more than anything else is that we are all on a journey of transformation. Some people are what I would call “pre-Christian” and hopefully they will find Christ’s salvation to become real for them. Others have already been enlightened to Christ’s gift and have started on their transformation journey. But, none of us are on the same time line and it is very hard to compare life experiences as it relates to our relationship with Christ. And, we all know, no one has achieved perfection as yet. We are all falling short of God’s standards.
During Jesus’ ministry, he dealt heavily with the Pharisees. He constantly challenged their law oriented religion. Pharisaical thinking and actions are that of expecting people to satisfy the Law Code through good behavior and submission to the law. They attempted to teach that we could gain favor with God by being good obedient sons.
Many Christians still act like Pharisees today.
Within the church community many still function as though they can earn God’s favor through their good works, their clean living and expect others to follow suit. While Jesus told the Pharisees that underneath their polished exteriors was a cauldron of stuff that was clearly wrong and needed to be cleansed. Of course, Jesus was trying to show them their need for His salvation in preparation for His sacrifice for their sin. He was certainly not saying that He expected them to “clean it up” on their own. (Matthew 23:25-26)
Jesus came to fulfill the law Himself so that we are freed from the eternal consequences of sin. He came to give us freedom from condemnation of the law. In acceptance of His gift, He gave us a new heart. Those with His new heart are growing into the likeness of Christ.
What is a faithful Christian? Is it someone who’s behavior is perfect? Well, no, none of us is perfect. But can we be closer to perfect than others? Maybe if we are comparing our outward signs of life. But, actually I have known you a long time and I knew you when you were involved in adultery. You were representative of many wonderful manifestations of your walk with Christ. You revealed the fruit of a man who placed your relationship with Christ as an extreme importance. But during that time, you were struggling with your humanity. I never judged your walk with Christ differently after I found out about your adultery. You are a man, and a man who knows Christ deeply.
I think we really need to rethink what it means to be a “man after God’s own heart” like our old friend David. Was David a faithful God worshipper? I think we would agree that He was faithful to God even when his relationships were really messed up.
There are many people who would call themselves faithful Christians in arrogance while not being willing to look at their own lives honestly. They exhibit religious pride and practice. And there are many gay people who struggle with deep insecurities about their relationship with God because they love Him so much. How do we judge a “faithful Christian?”
The Complexity of Homosexuality
This is a huge can of worms because of the intrinsic nature of homosexuality. How do we define homosexuality? The word itself is really only good as it describes a collection of related items. It is vital to separate behavior from the person. Gay people hear all the time that they must repent of homosexuality. A person cannot repent of “homosexuality” if the understanding of the word is same sex attraction and a unique personal response to gender. For the majority of gay people, their life experience is unchangeable and not something that can be “repented” of. So, to say that a gay man or lesbian must repent of their homosexuality will certainly be confusing and challenging.
So, it is hard to compare heterosexual adultery with homosexuality and without clarifying our verbiage and context it can become quite mixed up. If on the transformation journey God moves a gay man to no longer engage in indiscriminate sexual relations then we can compare that to what you experienced with adultery. This is something that falls into the category of sanctification. But at the same time, we have to be very careful when judging anyone being a “faithful Christian” if we are only considering their behavior. We all know how flawed our lives are. The most powerful and influential spiritual leader goes home to their own human experiences and if we were to look only at their human behaviors, they would not satisfy the requirements of a perfect God in and of themselves.
So, why would we place a finer grid onto the gay community than we place on other human experiences? Are gay men or lesbian women under a magnifying glass that we are not willing to subject our lives to?
I recently had a pretty passionate discussion with some men about how many Christians can get so angry about homosexuality. I asked why we have not had such a heavy discussion about things like divorce, or greed? Why is the hammer so heavily aimed at gay people and yet there are so many other things that we ignore? We are either under grace, forgiveness, and God’s transformation process in each of our lives or we are not.
Why would the Christian community not want to see as much grace for the homosexual as we seem to have for those who are divorced, or the greedy? Why do I so often hear such negative responses about allowing God’s grace to be poured out on gay people who are so misunderstood by society and even more so, by the church? When Jesus began His public ministry, the things he point out to the new disciples were things like; anger, divorce and remarriage, prideful praying and fasting, selfishness, and worry! He pointed out our common temptation for hatred and bitterness with our enemies. He compared these to the law and revealed to the disciples that they desperately needed a Savior.
Why am I being told I have “deviated from the truth” with this issue and living through “cheap grace” when the hoarders of worldly goods are sitting in church with their hands lifted high? Shouldn’t the homosexual be sitting there too, under God’s grace? Well, I certainly understand that grace cost our Savior more than we can imagine, or think. But, He freely gave it to us. Some people respond to them as though they are the lepers of our society – that is unless they “repent” and even then, celibate homosexuals who say “I am gay” are mocked and rejected just because they are attempting to be honest about their sexuality.
When I was worshiping at a large church, without knowing it, I was barred from ministry within the church, rejected, scorned, and gossiped about. Oh, I never saw or heard it for myself. People didn’t come to me personally. And it wasn’t coming from the pastoral staff because they continued to embrace me completely. There was a continual encouragement from the staff to offer to do things within the church. But, there was the “old guard” who prevented me from serving within their church. I heard all about it later. I was involved in ministry to “the gays” that were unwelcome at their church. I represented the scourge of our society and they didn’t want anything to do with that.
The Real Message
Someone has to be willing to say to the homosexual, “God loves you intimately, He wants you in His house, He will not give you more than you can handle and along life’s path, you are free, totally free. Do not live under shame and condemnation that Jesus didn’t place upon you.” Who will be willing to be an ambassador of the gospel of grace for anyone who so desperately needs a deeper connection with God?
So, what would Jesus say to us? How would He minister to the gay community today? I think it is clear. Zacchaeus, (Luke 19:5), The woman at the well (John 4), The woman caught in adultery, (John 8:3-11) and there are so many others. What I see in His response to the fringe of the culture of the day, is that He responded to each one differently and always respectfully. There was not a “one size fits all” response from Jesus. He understood where each one was at and what the next step of their life would need to be. He was known as a man who would eat with sinners! (Matthew 9:10-13), The Rich Man (Mark 17:20-25). Jesus’ responses to the men and women around him were all unique. In listening to the deepest places of their hearts, He didn’t respond the same way to any of them.
One of the First Christians!
And, interestingly enough, one of the very first converts after Jesus’ death and resurrection was a black eunuch! (Acts 8:38-40) This shows you how much God does not discriminate and how much we do. Without question, the eunuchs of Jesus day were probably some of the people that fell under condemnation and criticism just like the gay people of today do. And we all know what black people have gone through in our recent American history.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
Sorry if this sounds a little strong, It isn’t about you. You just provided a question for me to flush out some more things.
I really appreciate you asking, my friend. I am open to questions and thoughts.