Friday, April 23, 2010

Forgiving Homosexuals

Background: On the internetMonk there was a discussion about whether or not the author should review "Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead". The issue: the author of the book is in a same sex relationship. I commented that if we decide not to review this book, based only on the author's sexual orientation, then we're saying that Jesus' forgiveness only goes so far. In response someone asked the question, "Has she asked for forgiveness?" Below is my answer to that question.

Also, I wrote this post under the assumption that homosexuality is a sin. In fact I'm not entirely convinced that it is a sin, but I was hoping to convince Christians who do believe that it is a sin.

I assume she has asked for forgiveness, since she identifies as Christian. I imagine that she has confessed that she is a sinner in need of God's forgiveness, and that she has asked for God's forgiveness for her sins.

Obviously she is a practicing homosexual. I can think of a few ways these things can be reconciled.

First, she might not believe that homosexuality is a sin. Does this disqualify her? Does this mean she isn't saved? I don't believe so. I don't think we need to be fully aware of all our sins in order to be forgiven. The important thing is that she has asked for forgiveness.

As an example, Leviticus says that eating shellfish is a sin. I assume (based mainly on Paul's letters) that the law against eating shellfish does not apply to gentile believers. In fact, I'm a big fan of eating shellfish. However, even if I'm wrong I'm not worried. I believe that Jesus will forgive me for sinning in ignorance. I believe that Jesus has forgiven me for the sins that I have committed unawares.

Second, she might know that it is a sin, but be unwilling to repent. This is more complicated. I think of the words of Saint Augustine who prayed, "Lord, give me chastity and constancy, but not yet." I believe that a person in this situation is still saved, although they are deeply conflicted. There is a danger that someone in this position might give up the struggle. They might choose to reject Jesus' forgiveness. However, if they persist they will certainly be saved.

Third, she might accept that homosexuality is a sin and believe that Jesus forgives even unrepentant sinners. This position seems a little shaky, although, wasn't it Luther who said, "Sin boldly, believe more boldly still"? This is a tough question, and I'm not sure what I think about this position.

On the one hand, it seems like she should give up her sin in order to follow Jesus. On the other hand, she is being obedient to God in other ways. So we see her obedience clearly isn't perfect, but then we must ask ourselves, who is perfectly obedient? I can only think of Jesus, who said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

In conclusion, I want to say that, as sins go, homosexuality is often unfairly targeted. Most men in the church struggle with an addiction to pornography. Many American Christians sin by bearing false witness. I personally struggle with anger, as do many other Christians. When Christians struggle with these sins, we rarely ask, "Is this person saved?" even if the person is clearly unrepentant. We have more patience for these sins than we do for homosexuality.

I wonder what would happen if we treated all these sins the same as we treated homosexuality? One thing is certain: we wouldn't have nearly as many sinners in church.


  1. I just want to make something explicit in response to this line: "One thing is certain: we wouldn't have nearly as many sinners in church."

    We would have exactly the same percentage of sinners to non-sinners in the church: 100% sinners. We would have fewer-in-number sinners because the church would be failing in its responsibility to welcome sinners in. There would be fewer people in the church because we wouldn't be welcoming them in.

    I expect that you are already on on this page, but I just wanted to make things clear about what I'm pretty sure you're saying and what I'm pretty sure you're not saying.

  2. More to the point, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." If we drive sinful people out of the church, then there's no point in having a church.

    I agree that we are all sinners, but even if I am wrong, and some people are genuinely without sin, my argument doesn't change. The church still exists to extend God's forgiveness, not to be a morality club.