This is the fourth blog in a five-part series I’ve written in support of Christians being free to love our LGBTQ family and friends without bounds. But before I dive in to what the scripture says about our calling for this type of unconditional love, it’s important to cover the basic biblical truths that are frequently responsible for misconceptions as it relates to the Law of Moses.
Eventually, after all the years and all the struggles, God’s people finally arrived to Canaan, the land the Lord had promised to give them. God deeply cared about their success and well-being as they began to build a new life in their new homeland, so through Moses, He gave them a set of thorough instructions intended to direct, protect, and prosper them. The Bible refers to these divine rules and regulations collectively as ‘the Law’.
The Ten Commandments, which most people are familiar with, makeup the law, as well as additional laws and precepts that were intended to ensure the Israelites were able to thrive in all aspects of life. You may recall that these additional laws given to Moses were so specific that they even included details related to what meat products the Israelites could and couldn’t eat. But before you go thinking God must be a total control freak, let me further explain that each and every one of the laws He gave His people were for the sake of their own good. Even in the case of restricted meats, it is fact that those restricted meats were much more likely to spoil and cause illness (or even death) to His beloved children, who had not yet known the joys of refrigeration.
In a previous blog, I explained the sin nature that came upon mankind the moment Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden. And, that directly following this event we can see, in the book of Genesis, the visible signs of death in the form of animal skins that God provided Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. This is also the first time we see the concept of atonement in action. You see, Adam and Eve’s sin was so great that the non-negotiable price of it (to themselves) was instant death (both physical and eternal). But out of God’s great and amazing grace, He spared them by allowing the death of another as a sacrificial substitute.
But mankind’s sin was perpetual, as was their need for atonement. So, once the Israelites had arrived in the Promised Land, as a part of the Law, God instructed the Israelite priests on how to perform these sacrifices, not only to attempt to pay the high price of their sin, but more importantly, so that they would be acutely aware of the perpetual continuation of their spiritual devastation.
That said, the Law accomplished many things for the Israelites, but it had one major flaw (other than obvious hardship of killing animals day-in and day-out)--- it did not accomplish anything long-term. However, it was never intended by God to solve anything, because the Law was always considered by Him to be a temporary fix to an eternal problem.
“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” – Romans 7:7 ESV
Looking to the book of Romans, Paul tells us that the purpose of the law was to not only define sin as sin, but also to portray the truth that mankind, who is born of the flesh, is not able to achieve total justification or salvation by their own efforts. No amount of animal sacrifice could do it. Because as it turns out, conquering the death that comes from sin required and requires… something… actually, Someone, more…
The Bible tells us that even before the foundation of the earth was created, God had a plan to reconnect and reconcile all His lost children to Himself with a sacrifice so superior that it needed only to happen once… His son, Jesus.
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” – Romans 8:3 NLT
Scripture reveals much about Jesus’s life and ministry through the four gospels. Within these four books, Jesus tells us over and over again that He is the only way back into the Kingdom of God and that ALL are welcome so long as we believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths that He, alone, is our personal Lord and Savior. But…
The latter part of the New Testament directly connects belief in Jesus with the requirement of two things… repentance and obedience. Repentance is the physical turning away from sin. Repentance is a by-product of obedience, which is the surrendering of fleshly desires for a life that is alignment with God’s will. So most Christian's thought pattern on the subject tends to look a little like this:
Where there is no (observed) obedience, there has been no repentance. Where there is no (observed) repentance there has been no faith. Where there is no faith, there has been no relationship with Jesus. And where there is no relationship with Jesus there has been no salvation. Where there has been no salvation, there remains in the hand a first class ticket to hell.
So what gives? Do these two truths contradict each other? And what does that mean for those in same-sex relationships? Can an actively gay person be a Christian?
I believe the answer is yes. But before I provide a Biblical basis for this belief, I would be remiss not to share with you the most overlooked truth of the Bible… a truth that, if you meditate long and hard enough on it, letting it seep deep down into your soul, I think it will change the way you see Jesus forever…
And that truth is… it was Jesus’s obedience that saved (and still saves today) all of God’s children.
Scripture tells us that before the foundations of the earth were formed, long before man was created, the Father and Son had a conversation. And being obedient to the Father, the Son agreed to pick up His cross and go… to leave the glory of heaven… to suffer and pay the ultimate price to save us sinners. But that was no easy feat. When the time of His foreknown crucifixion actually came, scripture reveals the excruciating cost of Jesus’s looming obedience.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Pilate’s cronies came to arrest Him, He fell flat on His face three times and prayed that the Father’s request of Him be lifted (or removed). As we read the words of Matthew 26:36-46 Jesus’s anguish can be easily felt and seen. Yet, in His obedience, all three times He surrendered to God’s plan with the words “Your will be done.”
“For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:19 ESV
In His omnipotence, Jesus knew the brutality that was about to come to Him. And it was most definitely within His power to blow the whole place up like Sodom and ride out of there like the King that He was, but… He didn’t. He intentionally chose not to, because He knew the true heart of God. He knew the eternal good His selflessness would accomplish for those He loved most. So, He bore it all. All God’s righteous wrath. All the consequences of death. And He spiritually fought the consequential battle of our sin… and bothers and sisters--- He won! And all because He gave up His divine rights and His momentary desire to escape suffering and chose the glory-filled will of God instead.
And the same is true in our lives today. My friends, this is still a fallen world we are living in where an enemy still roams wild and free, determined to kill, steal and destroy us. And the way he accomplishes this is with thousands of temptations flying in our faces every day, along with personal invitations that encourage us to take the bait and indulge in our preferred form of disobedience. Make no mistake, these personal invitations are very specific to us based on the enemy’s knowledge of our individual weaknesses (desires and preferences). When we indulge and entertain them, the enemy of our souls gains access to us and therefore has power over us. But when we resist the enemy, scripture tells us the enemy will not only eventually flee, but also that in our weakness God’s power is made perfect in us and through us.
Obedience works in our lives today, the same way it worked in Jesus’s life. Simply stated, it unlocks the supernatural power of God (thus defeating evil)… because it is only through our obedience that the power of God is able to work perfectly through us.
The New Testament repeatedly tells us that works do not render salvation to the Christian. So, it is not by obedience that we are saved, but instead by a process called sanctification.
The Bible describes three types of sanctification:
The lost are saved by their (positional) relationship with Jesus. The moment someone claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior, Jesus stands up for them before God, as a proxy, and their sins are permanently hidden behind Him. Therefore, when our righteous God looks upon the sinner, He no longer judges them based on their vast array of shortcomings, but instead on the perfection (without a drop of sin) of Jesus. And in this way, as long as they, by faith, claim the cleansing blood of Christ (that He freely gave for all), they are eternally justified before God.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:1-2 ESV
The Bible tells us that Jesus gives an amazing gift to all those who claim Him as their Lord and Savior… the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spiritual essence of God. And this Spirit comes to live inside the heart of every believer. It not only helps believers by guiding them away from harmful and destructive sin, but it also gives the power and authority to conquer it… thus, over time, leading to the fruitfulness of a life lived in obedience to God.
While I believe scripture clearly communicates that obedience is not only for our own good and is a necessary aspect of the walk of the believer, there is also ample evidence that in most cases it is not an immediate or absolute occurrence--- it takes time. It starts small and advances a little more with each personal experience we have with God.
Sure… Paul, having previously hated and persecuted Christians, was instantly and miraculously converted into a ringleader for the cause… willing to give up his own life for the sake of getting the gospel to the gentiles. This magnificent transformation happened for him in a split second, as it does with a small number of Christians today (but not with the majority of us). This change was able to happen for him because the Lord appeared to him in a vision, in all His fear-evoking and fabulousness, convicted him and tasked him with His mission. Immediately, the proof and power of God was right before his eyes, so for Paul, his faith in that moment was as absolute as his conversion.
But for most of us, the Bible likens spiritual maturity to the growth associated with all the things that the Lord brings forth out of the ground. And it makes sense because after all, the Word of God tells us that mankind came from the dust of the earth, and will return to the dust of the earth. So in like fashion, often our faith starts as a seed planted in a dark hole, and eventually ends in a magnificent tree whose branches hang low and heavy with a plethora of spiritual fruit.
But, the journey of every Christian is unique, as is timing as it relates to the total surrendering of the flesh. But we must always remember that it is God who governs it. As Christians, in all our well-meaning intentions, we often forget that. We know the good that comes from total obedience and often think (of the sins of others) that it should be cut-and-dry; an instant and complete conversion. But it is not, and the truth is it’s really not for any of us…
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2
The moment a Christian’s soul leaves earth and receives its glorified body (thanks to the grace of God and His Son, Jesus), they have achieved the final stage (and total fulfillment of) their sanctification.
“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2
The process of sanctification is at work within the lives of all Christians, but it isn’t complete until the day we meet Jesus face-to-face. While we all fall short during our time on this planet, it’s still acceptable to God because we who love Jesus are justified by Him. He alone can instantly render the unrighteous, righteous. As we walk through the journey of life with Him, the Holy Spirit teaches us how to progressively grow more in His likeness. But it’s of the utmost importance to remember that none of us… not one of us, my friends… will ever know a sinless (and therefore guiltless) existence on this side of eternity. Only Jesus was able to do that. And because He was able to accomplish what none of us could, He was deemed qualified by God to give those who love Him a new greater commandment… one that replaced “the Law” with “greater love”.
“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:4 NIV
“Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” – Acts 13:39 NIV
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
As Christians I believe we are called to be the conduit of Christ. We are to lay our hands on all people, including the LGBTQ community, channeling His love, letting the Holy Spirit speak to them as He may. And we must trust that if we do our part, He will. He who is all-knowing, knows where they are in their individual journeys. He who is all-understanding, accepts them in their spiritual infant-hood and adolescence. But truly, truly I say to you my dear sweet friends, that He who is all-righteous will speak directly to the heart of every single one of His children when the timing is right. And with conviction, He will make His will known for their turning away from any sin that is holding them back while on their journeys with Him.
BUT… and, friends, this is a big BUT…
In order for this to happen as it should, much like with a growing seedling, the right conditions are required. God’s light needs to shine in. God’s love needs to be poured on, and this is especially true during the infantile phases of a believer’s spiritual development.
For that reason, if the rejection of a wedding initiation for “religious reasons” will stunt the growth of a homosexual’s spiritual “seedling” or destroy it all together (and I believe this sort of thing happens all the time) I think Jesus would rather us show up with bells of unconditional love worn around our necks. I believe He would want us to roll in with His light beaming from our smiling faces. And I think He would expect our hands to be weighed-down and heavy, armed with watering cans full of His sacrificial blood, ready to pour His hope on anyone in attendance who might be withering and open to receiving it...
And if a transgender brother or sister feels like they have been abandoned by their entire network of family and friends after making their plans to transition be known--- who better than the family of Christ to come to their side at the most critical time? Whether it’s with an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold as they try to make the biggest decision of their life, it’s necessary--- since only the love of Christ has the power to heal and transform, and His power works through us.
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5
Brothers and sisters, if you’ve made it this far, thank you for your support and readership. I hope this information has enlightened and encouraged you today, just as the discovery of these truths, while studying scripture, uplifted me. And please, if you feel this information might educate and empower others, feel free to tag and share. Otherwise, I hope you will join me next week for the final blog of the series where I will cover the requirements and stages of spiritual transformation as revealed to us by none other than our beloved Savior, Jesus.