Let me start by being perfectly clear. Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is clear on this teaching. There is nothing intolerant or discriminatory for a church to call homosexuality a sin. So, given that homosexuality is a sin, what is necessary for a practicing homosexual to be saved? Which of the following descriptions do you think best fits salvation for a homosexual?
- They need to believe in Jesus Christ and become a heterosexual.
- They need to believe in Jesus Christ and, if they have true faith, they will no longer have or act on homosexual desires; if they continue to have or act on these desires it indicates that their faith wasn’t real.
- They need to believe in Jesus Christ and while they may still have homosexual desires they must no longer act on these desires.
- They need to believe in Jesus Christ and try hard not to act on their homosexual desires.
- Or maybe it is something else.
I have been disappointed by the typical church responses to homosexuality. I believe that our response to the process of salvation for a homosexual reveals a great deal about our practical theology of grace. Not the doctrine that is in our belief statements, but the teaching that is in our heart.
One approach taken by the “dreaded liberal” churches has been to quit calling homosexuality a sin. According to them, it is a lifestyle choice based on the way we were born. They would say we can’t help the way we are born; we aren’t responsible for our desires. I believe that this teaching is minimizing the concept of original sin and the depravity that all humans inherit. We are all born in sin, with the desire for sinful things. The resulting sin is not excused just because we are all born that way. That sin requires a Savior. And the desire for this Savior requires God to draw each of us to Him through His Spirit. Minimizing sin minimizes Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
At the other end of the spectrum are the common conservative Evangelical responses described in the bullet points above. All of these suggest that, if you are a homosexual, salvation requires you to believe and to change your desires and/or actions. Each of these viewpoints is adding our works, or at least the works of the homosexual, to the free gift of salvation.
If we must become something else in order to be saved, like changing from a homosexual to a heterosexual, doesn’t this really say that we must do something in order to merit our salvation? If heterosexual sinners can be saved on faith alone, but homosexual sinners need something more, have we made sexual preference a merit? Is it something that we can boast about? Salvation is a gift to sinners, not to reformed sinners.
What about the “true faith” argument? Isn’t it true that we are a new creature in Christ when we have been born again? We most certainly are. But there are still two important points that must be considered in this.
First, salvation is what creates the change to the new being, not the other way around and that new being still lives with sinful flesh. We are given a living spirit and a new heart, but these still reside in the old flesh until the day we are glorified. So the struggles, and failures, with sin remain. As Paul describes, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” – Rom 7:18b-19
Second, salvation is not becoming righteous, it is being counted as righteous even though we aren’t righteous. This is not denying sanctification, it is making clear the important distinction between justification and sanctification. We are counted righteous based on the righteousness of Christ credited to us, nothing else. The degree of sanctification present, or lacking, in our daily lives does not alter this declaration. It is important not to confuse justification and sanctification as I pointed out in an earlier blog.
Why does this matter? Because salvation for the glutton, the gossiper, the blasphemer, the fornicator, the liar, you, and me is no different from salvation for the homosexual. If we add some element of our efforts in one of these cases, then we must add our works for all cases.
In order to be saved, we don’t need to believe in Jesus Christ AND
- Become a saint; nor
- Provide evidence of that faith by no longer having or acting on sinful desires; nor
- Have refrained from ever acting on our sinful desires; nor
- Have tried our hardest not to act on those sinful desires.
It is something else.
It is faith alone; faith that is a gift from God. Salvation is the same for Jew or Gentile, male or female, young or old, and straight or gay.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://blog.lifeassuranceministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Rick_1_5x2.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He serves on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.[/author_info] [/author]
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