I know the following is a lengthy post, but I felt it could be possibly helpful to people thinking about sin in the church. I wrote this letter to various churches in my local area who were struggling with sexual sin.
I'm sorrowed by the condition of sin in our world, and the lives that are destroyed or being decayed by fleshly desire. While we strive to follow His laws, and His commandments for individual life, government, and society, we also recognize our faults - and our inherent drive to consciously and unconsciously rebel against Him. Seeing this in our own lives, we understand the need to support and encourage other Believers in recognizing places of failure or shortcomings before our God. (1 Corinthians 5 - Paul talks about the church judging sexual immorality, and guarding against it.)
As we have been burdened for fellow Christians who have compromised the truth of Christ for modern sensibilities, please know that this isn't an easy letter to write. But I hope to accomplish it with sensitivity, prayer, and the support of scripture. And although there have been those who have tainted Christian debate and discussion with misguided anger and unnecessary fear, I have faith that we can share in a mature conversation about sexual morality in the church.
The discussion of various “hot-button” issues have been nothing new to Believers, and Christians have long struggled with watering down the words of Christ in order to be more appealing to whatever society they happen to be a part of. When Paul wrote to encourage fellow believers of his day, many churches, like today, were struggling with Christianity and their Pagan society. But Paul, being ordained by God for the task of growing His church, sought to prayerfully encourage and help them understand the hope and truth of Christ. (Romans 1:22-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) In our own time technology has advanced, but as prior stated, we’re not so far removed from the difficult issues Paul and his fellow believers debated about. God's words are just as relevant today, as they were then - and anyone who suggests otherwise is denying God's message to His people.
Being aware of those who justify that the message changes with the times, and how they point out that passages which discuss ancient law are no longer applicable today, the following point is not so easily dismissed: While Old Testament laws of stoning to death law-breakers are not something practiced today, the seriousness of what God communicates is no less important. The sin of which God takes such a stance on is of vital importance to Him, and we’d do well to recognize such importance today.
As for those who might say God’s laws are designed to merely hold us down or make us unhappy, clearly refrains from understanding the purpose of His wisdom. Sin damages His people, their relationship with Him, their relationships with others, and their interaction with His creation - and clearly cannot be tolerated by His sense of divine justice. Even if somehow we cannot understand the importance of an issue from this side of Heaven, His law is given from a perspective that our eternal, timeless God understands. In similar manner, a parent may punish or make their child cry - not to make them angry, frustrated, or hurt by such punishment - but to help them learn or prosper in a wisdom which they have yet to understand.
However, it does seem that the popular notions of the day are giving in to compromising or twisting the scriptures for the sake of being more appealing to secular crowds. Don't get me wrong, the Believer must continually reach out with heart-felt love and understanding to the non-Christian and the sinner. Were it not for the grace of God, we too would be wallowing in some manner of destructive behavior unpleasing to our Lord. As Paul discusses in Romans, there are many sins which displease God. But Homosexuality is the one upon I believe the church is having difficulty correctly interpreting in the society of today. I’m concerned when Christians make no effort in helping the sinner depart from their sin. As Luke 5:32 reveals, Jesus clearly tells the scribes and Pharisees that “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” With the stance some churches take today on the sin of homosexual behavior, it seems as if they are also stating that those who make no effort to turn away from drugs, alcohol, pornography, adulterous lifestyles, or any other sinful behavior - are just fine by God. Romans 6:1-2 admonishes us that this is simply not true.
Of course, I also am aware of those who say the Bible does not speak clearly about the sin of homosexuality, or that a true interpretation of His words tells us that God has no problem with this particular sin. Worse, there are those who say that Jesus is a savior who is an all-inclusive God, unwilling to pass judgment upon anyone. Sadly, this is a distorted gospel which strips away the truth, power, and yes, even love from the words of our Lord.
Having already expressed my views of Old Testament Law, I’ve attached scripture from the NKJV Bible which discusses sexual sin. To understand God’s mission for the church today, we should consider why Israel of the Old Testament was God’s chosen people. Was it because God desired for them to share His message to the world? Was God happy with them in the long run? Even though they had been given clear direction and guidance by God, they continually gave themselves over (the Bible utilizes the word “prostituting”) to surrounding pagan nations out of self-serving interests.
When prophecy was fulfilled in Christ arriving upon our world, people soon began to think that the message of the Old Testament somehow vastly differed from that of the New Testament. But as Jesus states in Matthew 5:17-20, unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. What does He mean by this? As the scribes and Pharisees knew Old Testament law backwards and forwards, how can our righteousness exceed theirs? By Jesus also saying in vs. 17 that He didn’t come to destroy the Law of the Prophets, but to fulfill it - does this mean that Old Testament law is somehow done away with in the eyes of Jesus? This simply cannot be so. For in the rest of Matthew Chapter five, Jesus uses the foundational laws of the Old Testament to build upon, discussing how humanity can work at making their hearts even more pure before God. As Believers, do we really want to risk interpreting God or Christ through our own social trends or fashions? Regardless of modern thought, the Bible doesn‘t look favorably upon man’s attempts at earthly wisdom. Matthew 5:19 - whoever teaches men to break the least of His commandments will be least in heaven. Deuteronomy 23:17-18 - don’t bring harlots or the price of a dog to the house of God. Romans 1:22 - Professing to be wise, they became like fools. 1 Timothy 1 - beware of other doctrines, and don’t give heed to fables. 1 John 5 - Keep His commandments.
In light of this, how should believers respond to people who are “repeat offenders” in sin? In Matthew 18:15-20 (Dealing with a sinning brother), Jesus tells us that anyone who refuses to repent of sin should be treated as an unbeliever who needs salvation. Whether it be the homosexual, the drunkard, the drug user, or the pornography addict, those who are willing to depart from their sin, are able and welcome to find the redemptive hope of Christ! However, if we face someone who continually refuses Christ and his law (John 6:29 - “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent), we can pray for them, but they will not - or cannot - be a part of God’s family (His church) until they accept Christ on the terms He has given us. While a part of this world, we’ll always battle sin, but the individual who makes the choice to invite Jesus into their life will find the strength from Him to turn away from their destructive lifestyle. Ministries like Exodus International (http://www.exodusinternational.org/) - a ministry for helping people struggling with homosexual sin, is one service where people can be encouraged, prayed with, and lovingly counseled to embark on a path towards the life God has designed for them.
In conclusion, I hope to be able to talk with you about this important topic. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would be interested in dialoguing with you about this, and any other important topic which you might like to address. As a Believer in Christ, I do not “hate”, but I do believe that God has clearly defined what is and is not acceptable for His people. We must not water down or redefine His gospel for the sake of increasing church attendance, or for the fickle demands of social fashion. Because now, as in ages past, the Bible - a road-map for living the life God has designed for us- speaks a message not of ignorance or of hate, but of the true redemptive power of Jesus to rescue us from our sin!
Matthew 13:15 (Jesus speaking)“For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears. Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”
All scripture taken from New King James Version
Sodom and Gomorrah
Genesis 19: 4-11
Laws of Sexual Morality
Old Testament (dealing with sexual sin)
Deuteronomy 23: 17-18
Matthew 5:17-20 Do not teach others to break God's law
John 8:11-12 go and sin no more
Rom. 1:22–32; Professing to be wise, they became fools
Romans 6:1-2: Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
1 Tim. 1:3-11 the law is not made for a righteous person
1 John 5: 1-3 Keep His commandments
Jude 5-7: Sodom and Gomorrah given over to sexual immorality