taking the words of Jesus seriously

You probably read that title, and muttered the answer to yourself. Your answer. The one you’re sure of.

Of course. Are you crazy? I hope so. Not a chance.

Let’s start with a few assumptions:

1. Homosexuality is a sin. Even if you think it’s not, please read on. It’s not that this isn’t an important topic. It is. But as you’ll see, what I’m saying doesn’t depend on that part of the argument.

2. The gay people I’m talking about are not celibate.

3. The gay people I’m talking about are not remorseful about their lifestyle.

Ok. That’s our starting point. Our case study. Let’s call him Clarence. Clarence is gay. He is in a relationship with another man. He is a Christian.

But he can’t be a Christian! I hear some of you cry. Hold that thought.

Clarence goes to church. With his partner. He thinks Jesus loves him, and will accept him. Yes, he is gay. But that’s just the way it is. Maybe it’s in his genes. He doesn’t feel like he decided to be gay. He didn’t ask to be that way. He just is.

Related: Why Hearing “I’m Gay” Changed My Straight, Christian Life

Clarence sits in church next to Henrietta. Henrietta is obese. She went through years of self-loathing, but then decided that liking herself is more important than trying to lose a battle which twenty years of diets have convinced her she will never win. Maybe it’s in her genes. But she’s sure Jesus loves her. She didn’t ask to be fat. She just is.

Next to Clarence and Henrietta sits Kirk. Kirk is an investment banker. He grew up in an affluent area, went to private school, came out of a top university into a top job. He lives in a penthouse by the river. Drives a brand new BMW. Never more than 2 years old. He is saving up money to have a really comfortable retirement. He tithes, but he’s really not thrilled about it. After all, 10% of his salary is so much more than it is for some other people. It’s not fair. Why should he pay more? He’s sure Jesus would love him just as much if he only gave 6%. It’s not his fault he’s rich.

Across the aisle from Kirk sits Lou. Lou has been coming to church all his life. With his parents. He still does. It’s only natural. He still lives at home. Even though he’s 37. That whole Living On Your Own thing just never appealed. Too much like hard work. So Lou works 10 hours a week. Doesn’t really volunteer at church, even though he’s got plenty of time on his hands. That would get in the way of XBox play. Besides, it’s not legalistic, right? Jesus loves Lou as much as everybody else. It’s not his fault he has a slow metabolism.

Here we have four people. Each of them sinners. Each of them convinced that their sin is ok. How would you respond to them?

It’s interesting that in Christianity today, a lot of Christians would feel comfortable with the label “sinner” for the homosexual, almost in a Victorian brimstone way. It’s not really so acceptable to call fat people “sinners”. That would seem cruel. Even inhuman. The slothful person? I’m not sure a lot of people would see that as a sin in our Couch Potato age. And, as for the rich person who doesn’t want to give up too much of his money? Well, curiously he’s the only one Jesus specifically addresses in the Gospels:

1. The young rich man who doesn’t want to give up his money to follow Jesus.

2. The rich man who stores his riches, but is struck down before he can enjoy them.

3. The issue of riding camels through eyes of needles.

But how many of us would see that man, not as a sinner, but actually as successful? Even as a role model? How many of us would enthusiastically celebrate his sin?

So, what conclusions can and should we draw?

I think one of the main conclusions is that, according to scripture, what happens to one of them, based on this one sin, is likely to happen to all of them. They are all in the same boat. They have each rationalised their own sin to themselves. None of them is repentant. None of them is asking for forgiveness. All of them consider themselves to be Christians. All of them probably feel secure in their salvation.

In that light, our reaction to them should be similar. That is, how we treat an Obese Christian should really be the same as we treat a Gay Christian, or a Lazy Christian, or a Greedy Christian. Or any Christian who sins. That is, any Christian. Right?

Also by John: 2 Problems with the Creationism v. Science Debate

So, has your answer to the question, “Do gay Christians go to heaven?” been at all affected? Has it changed? Perhaps you know someone who sins regularly and justifies it to him or herself.

Let me take that question one further:

Do any of us not justify our sins to ourselves?

Do any of us live with such purity, self-awareness and clarity of God’s mind that we can honestly say that we recognise every sin, taking each one captive in turn, never feeling justified in our own, habitual sinning?

How could you even know? What is the content of the plank in your own eye? Which of its contents do you ignore while pointing at and condemning others’ splinters?

It is at moments like these that I truly thank God that I am not the judge. And when I stand on that day, with my life as my witness, I will happily depend not on my behaviour, not on my efforts, but entirely on His grace for my redemption.

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