We are most likely in violation of Christ’s prohibition of judgment in Matthew 7 precisely at the point where we rely upon “right beliefs” to cover our own sinful behaviors while denying the validity of others’ claim to the same beliefs due to their sinful behaviors.
Many conservative religious folks conclude that LGBT+ people cannot be Christian because of their sinful behavior. LGBT+ people who claim to have had a deep encounter with Christ are told that they are deceived because God does not bless this kind of “lifestyle.” Yet those of us from this very same religious community will largely accept the reality of widespread internet porn use – all because we have the “right belief.”
We possess the”right belief” of feeling bad about our sin. At some level, this is biblically accurate: that is to say, saved people mourn falling short of God’s glory while those outside of Christ may not experience this kind of spiritual conviction. Yet at another level, the heavy reliance upon this right belief can become a medicating balm that allows us to continue sinning. At this point, the scriptures clearly suggest that we have turned grace into a license to sin – the very charge we have leveled against LGBT+ folks who claim to be Christian.
With internet porn use so prevalent in the conservative religious community today, I think we have to ask a serious question: have we crossed the line of turning grace into our license to sin? Are we protecting our addictive lifestyles by relying too heavily on the right belief of feeling bad?
The truest sense of feeling bad must ultimately translate into right behavior. We call this repentance. Behavior must shift to match belief; or the walk must shift to match the talk. Until then, it is very dangerous to establish whether others are Christian (or not) based upon whether they feel bad about the parts of their life that we call sin. For all too often, this tendency is abused to benefit the religious majority and condemn those outside our box. More to the point, we ignore Christ’s stark warning: “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
“But what about them,” some will protest. Are we not to hold them accountable to biblical truth? This kind of complaint is understandable yet when it is strained through Matthew 7, it always tends to echo back differently. The measure we try so hard to establish for others comes back to us as Jesus counters, “but what about you?” (and me!)
Importantly, coming to this realization does not water down moral theology. If anything, it simply shifts our focus upon the urgency of repentance from others…to ourselves. The only way to ever provide a map for others to follow is to first walk the pathway ourselves.
May each of us think hard about the call to surrender our entire lives to Christ. May each of us find our spiritual identity not in sexual orientation or spiritual superiority, but in Christ alone. May each of us humbly consider, “what about me?” Lord, what is there in my life that you are calling me to surrender to you? With this kind of focus on Christ, there is neither falling into judgment nor seeking license to sin. There is the one thing that is most needed on the pathway of redeemed living: whole-life surrender.
This is so challenging that it leaves NO room for me to focus on others’ failures. When I focus instead on my failures, vulnerably share them with others, genuinely honor others’ faith in Christ and posture myself to be a learner from others’ Christian life experiences, I find that trust deepens and conversations turn away from debate and toward real questions about what it means to know and follow Jesus. These real questions do not target my LGBT+ friends – they apply to everyone! All of us have to figure out what to do with Jesus and the Bible. This involves how to handle sexuality in the context of biblical faith, but that’s just one piece for Jesus wants all of our lives.
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