There’s no easy way to write this article. It’s not a task I feel particularly comfortable about performing but, I believe, it is necessary to write this article. As the title suggests, I’m going to be covering a range of topics that are undoubtedly, surrounded by controversy.
I figured it’d be easiest to outline my context for clarity’s sake. I am a self professing Christian, I adore Jesus and it is my life’s goal to make his name known throughout the earth. I want to see lives transformed and I want to see hearts soften. I know that the majority of people who are likely to read this article will not share my contextual perspective and I wish to urge you to hear me out, I want to right some serious wrongs. This article itself shall not attempt to convert you to Christianity, I believe that, in order to share the gospel and bring people into a loving relationship with Jesus, a personal touch is needed that just cannot be actualised digitally.
Speaking as a Christian, I do uphold the doctrine of sin, I think it is real, apparent and abhorrent to God. I do however, want to make some distinctions about sin which I think mainstream (by mainstream I mean the stuff we read about in papers, see on the TV etc.) Christianity has failed to make apparent in today’s society. I write this article because I am desperate to dispel some myths and eager to see the name of Christianity dissociated with words such as, ‘bigotry’, ‘intolerant’, ‘homophobic’, ‘racist’…
I think it’s vital to approach this argument by defining some terms. Society as a whole, especially secular society, has a widely false understanding of what sin actually means. This is largely the fault of outspoken Christians who have made a point of fighting against, what they perceive to be, sin.
Biblically, the Christian doctrine of sin is strongly established with a whole sweep of scriptures aiding our understanding. The big danger is when people take one or two isolated verses out of their context and use them to build their doctrines.
In his book, Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, defines sin succinctly, ‘Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature’. One glaringly obvious point to note with this definition is that the emphasis is on God’s moral law and not man’s moral understanding. It is when the emphasis is placed on the latter rather than the former that some of the bigger issues pertaining to our subject matter arise. Sin isn’t attributed to only individual acts but, to the much wider area of attitudes we hold towards things.
Jesus really was a radical man when he spoke on God’s moral law and sin. The super-spiritual, highly religious attitude towards sin in first century Judaism was to loudly and violently oppress it. Speaking into this Jesus addressed the layman, and persecutors alike by saying things like this:
‘You have heard that it was said, “you shall not commit adultery”, -One can imagine the religious folk would have begun looking round the crowd and sneering at those they believed to be guilty but, then Jesus adds- ‘But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matthew 5:27-28) again, I can imagine the looks of horror that might have crossed the religious folks’ faces as Jesus spoke this damning addition to the moral law.
So sin is way more than any one particular thing and, Jesus broadened the scope of sin by telling us that sin concerned even the heart condition of humanity.
I think, part of the problem when we talk about homosexuality, sin and the church is that, for too long, the church has treated homosexuality like it is the biggest problem on the earth today. I do not see how any rational person alive today can carry those perceptions. My younger brother is gay, I love him to bits and, whilst he’s far from perfect (neither am I), I can hardly say he is part of the biggest problem on earth today. Far from it in fact. I look at the shocking treatment of homosexual athletes in Russia that has become a predominant feature in the media recently. I look at that and cannot help but think the persecutors are a way bigger evil in the world today than any, ‘evil’ a gay person might or might not be capable of.
Sin is all encompassing. The bible teaches that God created things to work in a specific way. He created out of love and a desire to see relationships bloom. In order to get true love from his creation he had to give his creation a choice (love has never been involuntary and always requires choice). Now, the bible also teaches that sin was not part of the intended creation but is a consequence of choice. In Adam, the choice was made to disobey God and enter rebellion, a heart condition that persists today.
However you look at it, humanity is in rebellion against apparent moral laws. This isn’t something that a Christian perspective can claim exclusivity on, there’s plenty of atheists, humanists, secularists, agnostics, Buddhists etc. who also share the view that humanity as a whole rebels against a standard moral code. Those who disagree might want to tell me why rape, murder, and other depraved acts are perceived as so.
It is this state of rebellion that keeps us separated from God. Not because God wants to punish us to an eternal hell but, because we don’t want that relationship with God. And, that is the true meaning of sin. Sin is the rebellion. It isn’t specific.
Being a Christian isn’t about going to church on a Sunday, it isn’t about dressing or behaving in a certain way. There is only one thing that makes somebody a Christian; they recognise their utter hopelessness to do what is morally sound in the eyes of God, they see that Jesus has made a way for us to restore our relationship with God and they take seriously Jesus’ call to, ‘follow me’.
That’s it. A Christian is called to follow Jesus.
Here’s the interesting thing, Jesus was a radical man (and that is putting it lightly). His call to, ‘follow’ him consists of some pretty tough stuff to act out upon. The most important aspects of a life dedicated to following Him include a desire to give up all traces of one’s life before that moment, a desire to love everybody (Jesus died for gay people too!) and an earnest desire to live according to God’s moral law.
That isn’t to say we can’t make mistakes, any true follower of Jesus knows that it is really tough living in this world without caving to the pressures of it. We can all get sucked into idol worship in the form of consumerism, lust in the form of pornography addiction and exploitation of men and women. We can all get sucked into anger and hatred (dare I say it, the culture of hating the church for their treatment of homosexuals is equally as depraved as the church’s treatment of them). The beauty of Jesus is that his Mercy is renewed daily and, once saved, always saved!
Humanity is not righteous. Gay people are not righteous. Feminists are not righteous. Straight people are not righteous. Christians are not righteous. The pope is not righteous. Jesus is righteous. The only way we can hope to be made righteous is by following this Jesus.
I want to conclude by making some things clear. IT might seem I’ve skirted around the question of whether or not I think homosexuality is a sin. I haven’t and shall answer it now but, I needed to say the above beforehand (context really is a wonderful thing). I take Jesus seriously. I take what he said seriously. When Jesus spoke about sexual immorality, he referred to the moral code we see in the old testament book of Leviticus. If I am to take Jesus seriously, then I must also take seriously the teachings of Leviticus (some might be quick to quip about some of the more culturally absurd teachings of Leviticus, stoning for example but I’d have to say that is a conversation that would require a much more considered response than what I am capable of offering here without detracting from the intended purpose of this article) and, Leviticus makes it clear that homosexuality is listed as sexual immorality.
I need to make this crystal clear: whilst I think homosexuality (the act of homosexual sex in specific, not the attraction between two people of the same sex) is a sin, I do not think it deserves special ranking in a list of sinful behaviours. My own sin is equally as rebellious to God’s moral code as anything a homosexual may do. I am entirely against the persecution of Gay people and think that they have as equal a right to live life as a straight person does. I am entirely against -for that matter- the persecution of any people group for any reason, persecution never betters anything! Jesus solved the world’s immorality by sacrificing himself, his perfect righteousness, so that those who believe may be made righteous in Him. We need to follow that example, fighting against immorality by sacrificing ourselves and loving unconditionally our fellow human beings!
I understand that this issue is broad, I welcome conversation on subjects I might not have covered in this article as well as, points of contention you may wish to make in regards to points I did make in this article. I do ask however, that it be kept civil. I am all for healthy debate, I am fully opposed to bigotry, anger, hatred and name calling. Any comments I deem to fit into the categories stated will be deleted.