My friends Jono and Peter both wrote some very intelligent, supportable posts on facebook on developing healthy Christian perspectives on homosexuality and gay marriage. They came at it from different angles, but both of their points were excellent. I thought a series of questions, mostly for myself, might be instructive for us all.
1) Can you sin and still follow Jesus, and still go to heaven? Yes, it seems that it is common to accidentally sin every day, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers that for those who have placed their faith in him and are sincerely following him.
2) Before someone becomes a follower of Jesus, do they need to be aware of everything the Bible calls sin so that they will agree to stop sinning? No, following Jesus is both about believing that he is the Son of God who died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God, and about learning and growing daily in a real relationship with God. We should love people and want them to be reconciled to God, just as God loves people and wants them to be reconciled to Him.
3) As soon as somebody becomes a Christian, do they need to be given a long list of everything the Bible calls sin so they can stop doing them? No, they need to learn to follow Jesus. The best way to do that is to help them learn to learn from the Bible, put them in relationship with people who will be genuinely loving and nurturing toward God, and help them hear God’s voice leading them and speaking words of love to them.
4) What is the normal progression for people to deal with lifestyle sin issues in their lives? I would like to suggest that as a part of maturing in faith, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and a supporting cast of loving brothers and sisters will eventually help the person become aware of the issues and to be transformed in those things to Christlikeness.
5) Are the teachings of the New Testament on living a life of truly following Jesus relevant to us today? Yes, while it is always important to grapple with understanding the historical and cultural context of each Bible passage so that it can be properly understood and applied to our lives, we must confirm that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for… training in righteousness” (1 Tim 3:16-17, NIV).
6) If a person who has been trying to grow in faith for a long time and who knows what Jesus wants them to do but repeatedly says in their hearts that they don’t care about what Jesus wants them to do, are they truly following Jesus and going to heaven?
I believe the answer is no. To be saved, one needs to have Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), which means that he is King in their lives and has the right to “demand” certain things. Certainly, people who are sincere followers of Jesus can struggle with habitual sins (sins that have them trapped and which they experience little success in overcoming), but at least they struggle, which acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus. Those struggling with habitual sins are very much loved by Jesus and will certainly go to heaven.
7) Are most sins illegal in the United States? No, most sins are perfectly legal as long as no one else is harmed. You can get drunk, you can have sex outside of marriage, you can lie about most things (not in court), you can be greedy or gluttonous, etc.
1) If one has the conviction from the Bible’s teaching that practicing homosexuality is incompatible with a person who sincerely follows Christ (i.e., in shorthand language, is a sin), then we must stand on that truth, just as we would for any other “sin” in the Bible. We don’t change what the Bible says is true based on opinion polls or convenience.
2) We should not treat the sin of homosexual practices (which is different than homosexual orientation, which is not a sin) as worse than sinful heterosexual practices of living together or any other sex outside of marriage, or any other sin on the sin list. As such, it should not be a barrier for people coming into relationship with Jesus or being allowed to mature in faith.
3) At some point, the Holy Spirit will bring conviction, and the Body of Believers should lovingly support the Holy Spirit’s work.
4) If we are to be able to go to church with people that have varying degrees of spiritual maturity and varying degrees of success in living up to what they even believe, then we have to take a softer, less condemning approach to people in process of growing faith and overcoming sin, and one which is designed to help people feel loved and to grow and gain victory.
5) What is “legal” in a country and what is “sinful” for a mature follower of Jesus are separate issues. Followers of Jesus still ought to follow Jesus. True, making some things legal makes it more complicated to follow Jesus, but already we grapple with this in the area of sexual purity.