Every person falls short of the glory of God. In moderation, reasonable self-determination protects each one of us from judgment or exclusion based on our particular – and sometimes unique – sinful inclinations. However, we can abuse grace turning it into a self-determined license to habitually sin or judge others – or do both.
Evangelicals tend to accuse LGBT+ people of relying on this license to sin. In this series, however, we have uncovered our own license to sin; a tendency of those who “feel bad about sin” to claim endless grace while withholding it from those who – in our view – “celebrate sin.” This posture leaves us judging others; but worse, it leaves us missing the true biblical meaning of repentance.
With the ground at the cross now flattened, two facts emerge. First, we all do the same things. Second, we all resist our own need for repentance. Now, a single question remains: how will we respond? Some of us may harden our hearts against God. Some of us may double up on self-determination by attempting to force God – and the Bible – to conform to our way of life. But some of us will realize that our time has come, and we will run toward the Lord in repentance and humility. The choice is ours.
If we accept this third option – the path of humility – our entire posture shifts, and we immediately notice three radical changes in our perspective.
First, as we descend, the seriousness of our sin rises. Take the average born again porn user: as he truly humbles himself before God, he discovers the magnitude of this sin. To master this temptation, he decides that it is healthier to simply call porn what it is: actual sex. For the unmarried person, it is promiscuous and premarital sex. For the married person, it is adulterous sex. In the past, he called it masturbation, virtual sex or a “guy thing.” When he calls it actual sex, he steps out of denial; faces his sin head on; and stops gaming how far God’s grace can be stretched.
Second, as we descend, we gain a more generous attitude toward those who sin in ways we do not. We begin to realize that we “do” sin in the same ways. We begin to see others’ brokenness with greater sensitivity. Finally, we begin to think more practical thoughts about them as real people. Let’s take a hardline conservative pastor. He doesn’t mince words: he despises homosexuality. Yet one day, he realizes how extensively porn is ravaging his congregation. After some reflection, he tells his pastoral staff: Most of us in heterosexual marriages have a biblical route to sexual expression yet so many of our people are struggling to contain this drive within marriage. How can we so casually expect gay people to – to just suspend their entire sexual and romantic drive? That likely will take a powerful encounter with the Lord; the same encounter that so many in our congregation are desperately in need of.
Third, as we descend, the strength of Christ rises to overcome our greatest weaknesses. So many are asking: “Where is the power of Christ in the church today?” People are beginning to realize all the fruitless energy we have spent trying to force others to repent before their time; while we ourselves have missed out on the biblical notion of repentance. Finally, we realize the truth: we cannot have God’s power when we live in habitual sin or biased judgment. Jesus taught: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” We are disconnected but like Cain (mentioned in my last post), God is inviting us to connect to the True Vine. He will produce the fruit.
Principle Four: The fourth and final (for now) key principle to guide “reasonable self-determination” for inclusion of LGBT+ people in our evangelical churches is this – the inclusion of LGBT+ people in the evangelical church will not materially reduce the righteousness of the church; all who claim Christ and live spiritually disconnected from Him are responsible for moral decay. If we are connected to Jesus, we should want LGBT+ people to be part of our congregation – why would we possess so much fruit and withhold it from those who need it? If we are disconnected from Jesus, then we are the ones in need of renewal. God gives us a reliable path toward renewal in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15; a path that commences with the humility and repentance of believers. Whether we’re connected to Jesus or not, let us make the first move.
POST NOTE: I have endlessly battered internet pornography throughout this series, but I hope those who struggle know that I would never intend for anyone to feel judged. To the contrary, my desire is that you sense a deep hope that Jesus will bring deliverance to you. Regardless of who you are or what your struggles or sins are, is it possible that your day has come? I hope you will join me tomorrow. I am going to share a song by Leeland that will uplift us as it humbles us; draw us into praise by bringing us to our knees; and shower us with light even as it confronts our darkness. This song calls us to exercise reasonable self-determination not for the self; but in self-surrender to God. Everyone is welcome.