WRITTEN BY MELISSA H. STRAUTMAN, LMT & Steve Wilson, Pastor-Teacher
Next week we will jump back into the Book of Ruth but for now I thought that I would share a nugget of Real-Life Q&A with our pastor, Steve Wilson, from a local college student.
“Can a gay Christian still go to heaven, even though homosexuality is a sin?”
Okay, let’s start here. Your question assumes the reality of a ‘gay Christian’ and then asks whether that Christian can go to heaven regardless of their behavior. If someone asks can a ‘alcoholic Christian’ go to heaven? The question would be the same. And to answer we first have to address what we mean by terms like ‘gay’ or ‘alcoholic’. Some suggest that homosexuality is an orientation or desire toward same-sex relationships – an attraction of men to men and women to women (I agree with this, by the way – and I think that people might well be ‘born that way’, the same way all of us are born sinners, with temptations toward specific sins that differ among us). That isn’t the same thing, necessarily, as engaging in homosexual activity – which speaks to the act itself, not the desire.
Some help here:
Some people are born with a strong temptation toward anger. If they are Christians, that temptation might well remain. They might then be called an ‘angry Christian’. But the real question isn’t what their temptation is, the real question is how do they act on that temptation. So one could be an ‘angry Christian’ who doesn’t practice losing their temper, or practice hitting people, or practice shooting people. The first is a result of ‘who they are’, in their fallen (though redeemed) humanity, the second is a result of ‘what they choose to do’, acting out that sinful nature.
All Christians are ‘sinning Christians’ – both with temptations and failings toward sin. There are no exceptions. However, the question then becomes a matter of ‘what do they practice?’, not ‘what are they tempted to practice?’ or, ‘what do they sometimes fall to?’.
Socially, murder is a crime, and murderers are locked up. However, being tempted toward anger, or hate, or otherwise, isn’t a crime, unless a person acts on it.
An ‘alcoholic Christian’, then, is certainly possible. I know many Christians who battle self-control in a lot of areas, but by the power of God’s grace, do not ‘practice’ alcoholism, or ‘practice’ other addictions. That is normal, and consistent with what it means to be a saint and a sinner at the same time.
Consider these Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul says Christians are sinners – – but … he also says there is a real sense of change that takes place when we become Christians. So much so that he says ‘such were some of you’. Now, you have to notice, he doesn’t say they formerly ‘felt homosexual temptations’, but rather, he says they ‘practice homosexuality’. It is the act itself, the surrendering to the temptation, that is in view. And more than that – – the PRACTICE OF IT was so common they WERE HOMOSEXUALS. The same for the DRUNKARDS. This isn’t someone who occasionally drank too much (which is sinful), but someone whose practice was drunkenness. The same for greed and the rest … these SINFUL PRACTICES MARKED THEIR LIVES. Paul says when you become a Christian those practices, habits, surrenders to our temptations, they have to change.
Jesus said it this way:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
So, Christians are those who love Christ – – and those who love Christ keep His commandments (not perfectly, but certainly striving after that – and certainly not practicing something other than that). If you do not love Him, you don’t keep His commandments (and you WILL PRACTICE something other than that).
Paul and Jesus are saying the same thing – – it is not true that a person is a Christian if they don’t practice (pursue) what Jesus commands, OR IF THEY PRACTICE WHAT HE FORBIDS.
James says the same thing:
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If you say you have faith – – that faith must WORK – – be active, guiding us toward obedience, not leading us to PRACTICE disobedience.
John says the same thing:
1 John 2:3–6
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Then, John gets painfully clear:
1 John 3:4–10
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
That is pretty straightforward. You cannot practice sin and be a Christian. You can sin and be a Christian, you surely can fight temptation and be a Christian – – but you cannot make it a practice to sin and still imagine you are a Christian.
Now, back to your question.
“Can a gay Christian still go to heaven, even though homosexuality is a sin?”
- If the question is, can a person who is genuinely a Christian still be tempted toward same-sex relationships? Yes.
- If the question is, can a person who is genuinely a Christian still fall to that temptation, be convicted of their sin, and repent? Yes.
- If the question is, can a person who is genuinely a Christian practice homosexuality – be identified with that practice – and go to heaven? Well – – that is really a poor question; for three reasons:
- A Christian will always go to heaven.
- A Christian will not, however, practice homosexuality (with ongoing intention)
- Thus, there is no such thing as a ‘practicing homosexual Christian’ – – and therefore they will not go to heaven; not because they are homosexuals, but because they are not Christians.
And it must be said – – this is what is too often not said – – neither will a ‘greedy Christian, practicing greed’, or an ‘angry Christian, practicing hatred’, or a ‘drunkard Christian, practicing drunkenness’, or a ‘thieving Christian, practicing stealing’. None of them will go to heaven, not because of greed, or hatred, or drunkenness, or stealing – – but because they aren’t Christians. And if you aren’t a Christian you are not going to heaven (period!).
Sounds simple enough. Except it isn’t.
The problem today is that so many churches don’t teach the truth about Christianity and what it means to follow Christ. So anyone who says they are a Christian must be a Christian. And therefore, whatever they practice must be found okay – – or there won’t be anyone left in their churches to call Christian.
So it is possible today that a genuine Christian is actually being taught that they can live however they want – – God’s grace is sufficient, they are told, for whatever practice they choose. That person, however, if genuinely a Christian, has the presence of the Holy Spirit within them and He will convict them, and they will know that their behavior is wrong, regardless of what they are told from their churches. And God will, in time, send someone to speak the truth to them about what real Christianity looks like, and that it doesn’t look like the practice of sinful behaviors. They will then be moved to repent of their sin – – and find fellowship with other Christians who believe the truth, fight sin, and always seek to follow Christ.
I do think there are lot of those folks around today – – and that is because of the horrible state of the church in America. People are confused – – and that confusion leads them to all sorts of horrible conclusions and behaviors.
None of that, however, changes what the Bible says — it does increase our burden to speak the truth in love, call sin, ‘sin’, and call professing Christians to live in obedience to Christ. If they refuse that – then we can know by the truth of God’s Word that they are not Christians at all.
In the end – all people are born with an orientation: a bent toward all manner of evil and intentional opposition to the things of God. We will, each of us, in varying degrees, follow the course of disobedience toward a certain destruction. But praise God, His grace can redeem us from our path toward destruction and deliver us from bondage to our nature (our sinful lusts, passions, and misguided orientations). He grants us life, new direction – a new orientation toward Christlikeness – – a path to eternal life.
It’s my intention to continue to bring you the best bits and pieces of God’s word taught at Grace Community Church. Don’t miss out on future issues! Please subscribe to Views From The Pew.
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Other interesting reads on the topic:
Should Christians Attend Gay Weddings? from Randy Alcorn & Kevin DeYoung
Our Odyssey Against Sexual Temptation from Desiring God