Several weeks ago there was quite a commotion in the religious community over comments made by singer Lauren Daigle on the issue of homosexuality. At the time she was considered a Christian singer, although recently she takes issue with such a label. When asked whether or not homosexuality was a sin, she replied, “I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” The responses to Daigle were exactly what you would expect. One set of Christian bloggers and commentators blasted her for not taking the opportunity to speak Biblical truth to the masses. The other set praised her for not excluding the homosexual community. I, on the other hand, think the problem runs much deeper than that. I don’t think she shied away from speaking the truth, nor did I think she was intentionally trying to include the homosexual community. I think she most likely had no clue how to actually answer the question. And you can see that in the way she chose to answer the question. No, she’s not God (and hopefully no one was confused on that point), but we are not devoid of information on what God considers sin.
Now I know that’s very presumptuous to say she didn’t know how to answer the question – and of course, I could be completely wrong about that – but given what I’ve seen in how this issue is addressed inside the church, the odds are in my favor that I am right. How many people who have blasted her on this response would have known how to respond in a Biblical way – and articulate why? I’m willing to bet that the extent of her knowledge on the issue is that everyone in church has said it’s wrong but she has no idea why. And now she’s met a lot of really nice people who are part of the homosexual community, and now she really doesn’t know why it’s wrong. In fact, the reason why she said she wasn’t sure about how to respond was she had “too many people that I love” that “are homosexuals.”
Sadly, I think that’s how the majority of the youth in our churches are going out into the world. Do any of our youth (or even adults) really understand why some churches think homosexuality is a sin? Why some churches think it’s not a sin? And how to make sense of it? The issue becomes even more confusing when they encounter “gay Christians” who seem nicer and “more Christian” than heterosexual Christians. How can they still insist homosexuality is sinful when they are now their friends and so loving? The reason why there is this general confusion on this issue is that, despite the outcries from outside the church, this issue is not addressed sufficiently in the church.
1. The niceness of the person is not the measure of sin
The first thing we must remind ourselves and our youth is the niceness of the person is not the measure of sinfulness. We know the truth of this when we stop to consider the alternative, but it sometimes gets lost when we start inserting our emotions about people when we are judging people’s actions. Someone could just be the nicest, friendliest person you know but they have cheated on their spouse. I think we would agree that their “niceness” does not then negate the sin of adultery. Someone could be the most charitable and generous person you’ve seen, but if they abuse their children, you wouldn’t allow their charity to mean child abuse is no longer sinful. Those outside the church are making these same judgments too, though it’s not on the issue of homosexuality. If a pastor of a church were to be exposed as having embezzled money, you better believe the nice factor of the pastor would not be used to excuse his actions. Nor should it. Nice people do sinful things all the time (that’s because we are all sinners) so clearly that cannot be how we determine sin. It is so important that our youth understand this. They will meet many wonderful, nice homosexuals, but that does not mean God approves of homosexuality.
2. The Bible is not silent on this issue
The second thing to remember is that the Bible is not silent on this issue. So the larger concern is that most youth (and adults) are not even aware of what Scripture has to say on this. This was part of Miss Daigle’s problem. She thought she had to be God to make a statement on this issue instead of realizing that God has already made a statement (LOTS of statements) on this issue. But here’s where the church has to be even more diligent on how it addresses homosexuality, and any hotly debated social issue for that matter: it not only must expose how Scripture addresses homosexuality as sin, but how those who say it’s not a sin use Scripture to affirm homosexuality. That way people can know how to engage in a discussion with others and hopefully explain Scripture in context.
3. The Biblical stance on homosexuality should be convicting - even to heterosexuals
The third thing to remember is that speaking on the issue of homosexuality can be terribly convicting – no matter your sexual orientation. While there are many passages across both testaments that speak to the sinfulness of homosexuality, the overarching concept of how God intended all sexuality to be is given in the words of Jesus Christ. When asked about the issue of divorce in Mark 10, Jesus quotes from Genesis 1 and 2, saying, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he [Moses] wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Here Jesus establishes what God intended for us with respect to relationships and marriage. God made us as two distinct genders and established the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman. He even assumes a heterosexual relationship when He says a man shall leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife in marriage. God invented and gave us the pleasure of sexual union to be enjoyed within this perfect design of marriage. Satan has thus distorted that in numerous ways to pull us away from God’s perfect design; Satan cannot create new pleasures for us so he works to pervert those that God gave us.
This is how God designed us to work: one male, one female joined together in marriage to create the family. As the Creator of all things and the Author of life, He knows what is best for us – not because He wants to deny us things, but because He knows what is best. It’s exactly how every parent is with their children. From the child’s perspective, parents seem so unfair because they deny them from experiencing certain things. But from the parent’s perspective, those restrictions are there because they know what is best for the child; the parents want to direct the child’s path and decisions to be the least destructive and the most fulfilling for the child. Just like the parent denies those things that may appear fun to the child but actually bring harm, God does the same with us. Satan wants us to think all of these sexual unions and relationships are where the fun is, but God wants us to experience what is best for us. Just like the child thinks eating hot fudge sundaes every meal would be so much more fun than eating vegetables and grilled chicken -- but the parents know what is best in the end. Here’s why this is convicting for everyone. This construct of how God intended us to function in relationships excludes all sexual unions that are not within the marriage between one man and one woman. While obviously God’s design excludes homosexual activity, relationships, and unions, it also excludes a lot of heterosexual activity, relationships, and unions. Therefore God’s stance on this issue is very clear. Unlike what Daigle thinks, we don’t have to be “god” ourselves to understand what He desires for us.
4. We are all a sinful and rebellious people
The fourth and final thing to remember is that though this is God’s purpose and design for all humans, we are a rebellious people. We consistently shake our fists at God and say that we know better than He does. We insist on “following our hearts,” thinking the perversions Satan has set before us are better for us than God’s design. For those who have called on the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins, our call is to live like it. We need to remember our true purpose is to walk in obedient submission to God’s will because God’s will is what is best. Even though that’s impossible to do while here on this sin-filled earth, we must continually strive toward that. This is what Jesus meant when He said to “pick up our cross” and follow Him. We have lost the context of this since a cross to us is just a symbol of Christianity. But when Jesus spoke those words, the cross was a symbol of public execution. We are to die to our own selfish desires and submit to God’s will. As we realize that God’s will is better for us anyway, that becomes easier to do. So for the Christian engaging in sexual activity – whether heterosexual or homosexual – outside of marriage between one man and one woman, they need God to draw them out of disobedience and back into obedience.
For those who have not asked forgiveness through Christ, they are walking in full disobedience and rebellion to God - whether homosexual or not. Therefore, unbelieving homosexuals don't need God to save them from their homosexuality, they need God to save them from their sins – all of them. The reform needed for them is not just to "stop being gay" but to understand that all of their sins - sins of bitterness, envy, lying, anger - are keeping them separated from the very One who created them. Our sins, even the tiniest of moral indiscretions, are so offensive to this perfectly Moral God that we cannot be in His presence. But out of His great love for us, He came down to this earth and laid down His life so that this relationship could be restored. It is because He loved us first that we love Him. And as Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commands." (John 14:15). We are to strive with the Holy Spirit to live holy lives because we follow a God who is holy and we are to honor Him with our lives. Only in His power we can overcome the sins that so easily entangle us.
Having just finished the Christmas season, have you noticed that there is a universal question asked of all children this time of year? “Have you been a good boy/girl this year?” And, without fail, the child nods their head in the affirmative. “Oh yes!” That kid could’ve burned down the neighbor’s house and he’ll still say he was good enough to stay on Santa’s nice list. Apparently, we need to do a better job of reminding kids that some children might get coal and switches from Santa at Christmastime!
Now, we can shake our heads and question our jobs as parents that every child regardless of their behavior thinks of themselves as little angels. Or, we can look in the mirror. Aren’t we just like them? Granted we aren’t so much concerned with Santa’s naughty or nice list, but we have an over-inflated view of ourselves too, don’t we? If asked if you’re a good person, most people would say yes. If asked if you are good enough to get to heaven, most people would ponder a moment and say, “Uh, yeah I’m a pretty good person.” Then we start comparing ourselves to others…always those who are worse. But we think, “Well, I don’t do really horrible things, so I’m pretty good.”
Pretty good?? Is that the standard for entrance to heaven? This is really how we should answer the question about whether or not one can get into heaven: what is the standard to get into heaven? I mean, if you asked a student if they were smart enough to get into med school, they can’t say, “Well, I’m smarter than this guy.” They have to know the criteria for entrance into med school and then determine if they were smarter than that. So just saying that you’re better than that guy over there who does terrible awful things doesn’t really tell you where you stand with respect to getting into heaven.
So what is the entrance criteria for heaven? We could use the Ten Commandments as a starting point, but atheists would view that as just religious propaganda, or really rules that don't apply to them. Other religions would say they have their own standard of behavior. So let’s look at the “major” things that all worldviews would agree on: stealing, lying, and killing. We figure we don’t steal (at least not big stuff, but maybe if you count charging time to our employer when we’re not really working); we don’t kill people (we just really hate some people); we don’t lie (maybe a little when the truth is inconvenient but not all the time). Yikes.
And that’s not even looking at the issues of the heart. Jesus defined our level of “good enough” not just by our actions but by our thoughts. That turns committing murder into just hating someone; adultery into just lust. We all stand guilty of those. Of course now I’ve inserted Jesus into this; other worldviews would push back on that. Why should they care what Jesus has to say about all of this? Well, all people look at the heart when evaluating human decency. We see as deplorable those people who act nice but are hateful in their hearts, even though they may do good deeds. We may even justify bad deeds by saying we had good intentions. Therefore Jesus saying that what goes on in our hearts has bearing on our "goodness" is something we already know, we just don’t like to acknowledge it about ourselves.
What about the rest of the Ten Commandments? We honor our parents (if we overlook all the rebellious teen years). We don’t covet (well not much, but we do have to have the latest technology before anyone else does). We don’t take the Lord’s name in vain (unless our favorite football team loses). What about the first commandment about ? We fail at that every day. We elevate ourselves in the place of God on a regular basis.
Given all that, maybe we’re not so good after all. I mean we can’t even meet the standard our mother set for our behavior. Who are we kidding, we don’t even meet our own standard of behavior! How often have we disappointed ourselves that we can’t be kinder and less selfish, that we lash out in anger or are hurtful in what we say to people? Although we may behave better as we grow older, time does not erase our sins of the past.
If we are all failing to adhere to our own standard of behavior, how do we measure up against the standard to get into heaven? And who gets to determine the standard for heaven? If it’s up to each individual, then we would all draw the line just past ourselves. That way the “really bad” people are excluded, and yet we’ve managed to include ourselves. Unfortunately, we don’t get to set the standard for entrance to heaven. God does. But we shouldn’t view it as God arbitrarily establishing some unattainable standard to keep everyone out. The standard is rooted in who God is as perfectly holy. Our failures to meet that standard is what separates us from His perfect holiness.
What can we do about that? Absolutely nothing. We have broken all those standards, violating the very purpose for which God created us. We can’t fix it ourselves; what’s been broken has been broken. We can’t time travel and undo what’s been done. Even if we could, we’ll still violate that standard tomorrow. So God out of His great love for us offered up Himself to cover over all of our brokenness – if we will just confess our brokenness and admit our need to be saved.
As we look back on 2018, we consider what was good and bad about it, and even what within us was good or bad or may need to change. May we remember that we all fall short of the glory of God and it forfeits our entrance into heaven, no matter how many seemingly good things you may have done last year. But God does not leave us helpless. He sacrificed Himself so that we may be forgiven. I pray that 2019 brings new spiritual life to those who have not found that forgiveness. For those who have, I pray that 2019 will bring a fresh commitment to follow intently the God who gave up His life for you.