Biblical answers for lgbtq and s

©2018 michael martin | mike@truthquest.org

1. introduction

In our world today, there is perhaps no more polarizing issue than the issue of sexuality. In a culture that is fixated on sex, many people have reduced their entire identities based upon sexuality.

Today, many people define their identity as LGBTQ. This is short for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning. While none of these things are new, these issues have become a lightning rod in our culture, with LGBTQ activists pushing for elevated status on the one hand, and the church pushing back for “traditional” values on the other.

“Traditional” values aside, many people, especially young people, are struggling to understand what to believe about this issue. Sadly, it has become a minefield of belligerent bickering and rage, both from the LGBTQ community and from the church, with both sides focusing too much on their preferences and their comfort.

But despite all of the confusion and bickering, God’s Word holds the clear and surprisingly simple solutions to these issues. Here, we will explore what God’s Word tells us, not only about LGBTQ issues, but also about how we, as followers of Christ, should think about and respond to these issues, and especially the issues of our own hearts.

 

2. is LGBTQ sinful?

To begin, let’s get this out of the way. The Bible is, in fact, very clear that homosexuality is sinful. But as we take a few moments to establish this fact from Scripture, keep in mind that there is much more to this discussion, which we will explore later on.

As to the topic of homosexuality, we can be sure that it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, we see it recorded as far back as the book of Genesis:

a. sodom and gomorrah

genesis 19:4-7

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom–both young and old–surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.”

Here, the wicked men of Sodom wanted to rape the angels who had come into the city after speaking with Abraham. The angels, who had come into the city to carry our judgment against it were greeted by Lot. They went into his house, where all the men of the city later surrounded his house and demanded that he surrender the angels to them. The mens’ homosexual intentions were clear, as Lot urged them not to do this “wicked thing.”

Indeed, homosexuality was a huge problem in Sodom, so much so that the term “sodomy” was coined to describe homosexual behavior.

But there is more to the story.

In the very next verse, Lot offered a “solution” that was no less wicked:

genesis 19:8

Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.

Would it have been any better if the men of Sodom had raped Lot’s daughters instead of raping the angels? I can’t imagine how Lot considered this to be a solution to his problem. The fact that God rescued Lot from Sodom as it was later destroyed indicates that Lot was not as committed to his sin as were the people of Sodom, but Lot’s extremely poor judgment must also be called out as sinful.

Later in Scripture, the events at Sodom and Gomorrah are looked back upon with additional context:

jude 1:7

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Here, a broader definition of Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin explains that sexual immorality and perversion were among the causes of their destruction, likely including any number of non-homosexual sins. But Ezekiel goes even further:

ezekiel 16:49-50

‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Here, we see that in addition to the specific homosexual sins already mentioned, the people of Sodom were arrogant, gluttonous, and without compassion, all while being haughty, acting superior and disdainful.

To be sure, homosexuality was among the reasons why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, but it was not the focal point. There were many other sins involved as well, many of which, if we’re honest, can be found among ourselves. But let’s continue our exploration:

b. levitical laws and punishments

In Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, homosexuality is again called out as sinful:

leviticus 18:22-23

“ ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

“ ‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

leviticus 20:13

“ ‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Again, the Bible is clear about this issue. Nevertheless, homosexuality is far from being the only sin mentioned. In fact, a great many other sinful behaviors, including many that so-called “straight” people might commit, are listed in these chapters, along with their prescribed punishments.

On a side note, we might think it extreme for death to have been prescribed as a punishment in that day for homosexuality, but the fact is that all sin carries the price of death:

romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And, we must not forget that we have all sinned:

romans 3:23-24

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Indeed, all of us have sinned and deserve the punishment of death. We can all be thankful that the loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has already paid the price of death, saving all who trust in Him!

c. first corinthians

Next, let’s look at First Corinthians’ take on homosexuality:

I corinthians 6:9-11

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Again in this passage, homosexuality is clearly and directly identified as a sin. However, once again, it is important to recognize that homosexuality is not the only sin listed. Once again, most of the sexual sins listed are the kind that are committed by “straight” non-gay people.

Yes, homosexuality is called out as sinful, but what about general sexual immorality? What about adulterers, whom Jesus identified as anyone who looks on a woman lustfully in Matthew 5:28?

matthew 5:28

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Suddenly, it’s not so easy to single out the LGBTQ community in terms of sin. Not when pornography is so popular. Not when even the lingering lustful gaze at an attractive person besides our spouse qualifies as adultery.

And we haven’t yet even mentioned the non-sexual sins listed in First Corinthians, including idolatry, stealing, greed, drunkenness, cheating slander. Do any of these hit close to home?

d. first timothy

As in First Corinthians, Paul specifically lists homosexuality as a sin. But once again, it is among many other sins listed:

I timothy 1:8-11

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Once again, all of the sins listed here are problematic, and every one of them is, by itself, enough to send us to hell.

e. transgender and gender confusion

In addition to the rising attention being given to homosexuality in our culture, we are also seeing transgenderism and gender confusion rising sharply. Debate has arisen over what “gender” means, how many genders there are, and how we should relate to one another based upon it all.

Young children are now encouraged to think about what gender they feel like, and to then identify as that gender. This has led to confusion in our society. Young girls are led to believe that they are gay or the wrong gender simply because they don’t like to wear dresses. Kids are led to believe that if they’re not strongly attracted to the opposite sex that they must either be the “wrong” gender or that they are gay. This confusion has brought our society to the point of not knowing how to relate to one another. This concept of identity will be explored in depth in a later study.

Genetically speaking, gender is a binary question. That is, a person’s gender is established in the womb, when a newly forming baby gets its chromosomes from its mother and father. A child with XX chromosomes is female, while a child with XY chromosomes is male. The “Y” chromosome which makes a person male is either present or it isn’t. While this is simplified, the result is that all humans are inherently male or female.

Behind the genetics, God is at work, knitting together each boy or girl in the womb:

psalm 139:13

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Not only did God create our physical bodies, He created our inmost beings. God created our souls. And while we can debate over whether our souls are male or female, it remains true that God created each one of us to be male or female, as He did with Adam and Eve:

genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

When Genesis chapter two goes into more detail about the creation of Adam and Eve, we can see God’s reasoning for making males and females:

genesis 2:18

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

God did not want the man to be alone, and so He made a suitable helper. In fact, God ensured that Adam himself recognized his need for a companion, as he had Adam name the animals:

genesis 2:19-20

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

With the fact of Adam’s need for companionship firmly established, God made exactly the kind of helper that Adam needed. But that suitable helper was not just another man. Instead, God created something especially suited to compliment the man:

genesis 2:21-23

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

for she was taken out of man.”

The helper that Adam needed, ideally suited to him and his needs, was a woman. As such, men and women were created to need one another. And when they abided in God’s wonderful design, the two had unity and no shame.

genesis 2:24-25

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The message is that the ideal companion for a man is a woman, and the ideal companion for a woman is a man:

I corinthians 11:11-12

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

This wonderful design continues to function well today, provided that both men and women live by God’s design. For this reason, Scripture tells us that men should appear as men and women appear as women:

deuteronomy 22:5

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.

I corinthians 11:14-15

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

This is not intended as a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts about how we should all dress and do our hair. There’s nothing wrong with women wearing pants or having short hair. The point is that God created men to be men and women to be women, and we shouldn’t try to look like something other than what God created. When we try to be other than what God created, we fight against His design and His intention for our lives. And anytime we fight against God’s design in any way, we only do harm to ourselves.

 

3. heterosexual sins

In the title of this study, you saw “Biblical answers for lgbtq (and s)”. The “S” is for “straight.” We would be remiss if we were to ignore all the ways in which “straight” people sin. We have touched upon some of these issues already.

galatians 5:19-21

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The whole laundry list above represents only a fraction of the sins that any heterosexual person might be guilty of. One does not have to be LGBTQ in order to fall into adultery, pornography, promiscuity, or other sexual sin, all of which are just as deadly as any LGBTQ sin. It is time for the church to stop treating LGBTQ as something worse than all these other sins.

 

4. why does the church make sexual sins such a big deal?

We’ve established that all of these sexual sins are equally as problematic as any other sin in terms of separating us from God. So why does the church so often make such a big deal about LGBTQ sins and other sexual sins? Let’s take a further look at First Corinthians chapter six:

I corinthians 6:12-20

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

While our society might permit many varieties of sin, those sins can easily gain mastery over us, and sexual sin is especially dangerous in this way. Continue reading:

I corinthians 6:13-14

“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

The body was designed and created by God for His purposes, those do not include sexual immorality of any kind. The reason for this is described as we continue on:

I corinthians 6:15-17

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

God considers our bodies to be members of His body. In other words, our bodies are not our own. And for this reason, we have a responsibility to use them according to God’s design:

I corinthians 6:18-20

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

As you can see, all other sins we can commit are outside of our bodies. But since sexual sins involve our bodies, and since our bodies belong to Christ, sexual sins are especially offensive because we are defiling a body that belongs to Christ.

It is for this reason that we are told to honor God with our bodies. And this applies just as much to “straight” people as it does to LGBTQ.

Additionally, sexual sins, both LGBTQ and “straight,” carry with them elevated consequences in the here and now:

romans 1:26-27

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The “due penalty” described above likely describes the sexually-transmitted deseases that occur in both LGBTQ and in heterosexual sin. Diseases and other physical difficulties arise as a result of sexual sin that otherwise do not generally occur.

And so, while sexual sin is no worse than any other sin in terms of separting us from God, it does carry greater risks and consequences in this life, in addition to defiling a body that belongs to Christ.

a. if nobody is harmed, it isn’t a sin?

We would be remiss if we failed to address this question. Many people assert that LGBTQ lifestyles do not harm anyone, and therefore cannot be problematic or sinful.

While we could debate the issue of whether LGBTQ sins harm anyone externally, LGBTQ sins are no different than any other sin in that all sin results in death for the one who commits it:

romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

However, even aside from this point, it is not the degree to which people are harmed that defines something as a sin. In other words, a sin isn’t a sin because it hurts other people. A sin is a sin because God defines it as a sin. He is the judge who determines what is sin and what is not, regardless of the amount of harm a sin may or may not seem to do.

james 4:12

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

God is our judge. It is God alone who determines what is sin and what is not, and He has defined this for us in His Word.

And based upon God’s Word, we are all convicted and guilty of sin of one kind or another, regardless of whether we think our sin is bettor or worse than anyone else’s.

b. born that way?

Many have argued that the sinful behaviors we have discussed are the result of being born that way. They’re not wrong.

The debate about whether people are “born gay” or born as the wrong gender or born with the tendency toward any other particular sin is irrelevant. Because the truth is, we are all born as sinners:

psalm 51:5

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

ecclesiastes 7:20

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

job 15:14

“What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?

Since we are all born as sinners, we are all naturally inclined toward sin:

jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

When we sin, it is not because of external or even biological factors. We all sin because we are, in our hearts, sinners. We were born as sinners, and sin is our natural inclination:

james 1:13-15

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

mark 7:20-23

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Despite the fact that we are all born as sinners, we are all nevertheless held accountable for our sin. If, for example, a man is born with a disposition toward alcohol addiction, he is no less accountable if he gets drunk. Similarly, despite our natural-born inclination toward sin, we are still accountable to God for our sin. Therefore, the question about whether we are “born that way” is irrelevant. We are all born as sinners, and are all still accountable to God:

matthew 12:36-37

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

hebrews 4:13

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

II corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

 

5. the root problem

All of the sins that we’ve discussed so far, whether sexual or not, can be traced to a single root problem. It begins, as all sins do, when we turn away, even momentarily, from God:

deuteronomy 5:32

So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.

II timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

When we turn away from God, we are facing away from Him. When we face away from God, we will continue to face away from Him unless we make a special effort to turn back to Him.

When we refuse to turn back to God, we can find ourselves becoming committed to sin, intending to go on sinning regardless of what God says. And so, whatever sin we might be committed to becomes a life-dominating sin.

The form that this life-dominating sin takes is not the focal issue. Rather, it is our commitment to continue living in our sins that is the real problem. If we are committed to living in LGBTQ sins, heterosexual adultery, or any non-sexual sin, we are in grave danger.

In Romans chapter one, we see a description of what happens when people turn away from God and commit to their sin. It begins by exchanging the glory of God for things that are less than Him:

romans 1:22-23

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

As a result of the willful choice to turn away from God, God gave them over in their hearts and minds:

romans 1:24-25

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

Think about it! Although God has revealed Himself to all of us through His creation (Romans 1:20), many people turn completely away from Him, exchanging His truth for a lie. This is when people are given over to their own lusts and sinful desires:

romans 1:26-27

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

As this continues, the mind becomes more and more depraved:

romans 1:28

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Finally, as they commit to continuing in their sin, their minds are filled with wickedness, and in hatred toward God, they lose their ability to reason or think clearly:

romans 1:29-32

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

As you can see, committing to and living in a sinful lifestyle, no matter what the particular sin is, leads down a dark and deadly path.

If we live according to our fleshly desires, we are unable to submit to God:

romans 8:5-8

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

 

6. the Biblical response to sin

No doubt, you have seen or heard about “pride” parades that celebrate LGBTQ lifestyles, and you might even be bothered by the idea. But before we induldge our indignation, let’s take a closer look.

a. pride?

Biblically, of course, we are certainly not to be proud of our sin:

I corinthians 5:1-2

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?

What people in the church often forget, however, is that it is just as wrong to be proud for our perceived “righteousness,” or for anything else.

psalm 101:5

Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.

proverbs 16:5

The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

The truth is, those in the church have nothing to boast about except for Christ alone.

ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

I corinthians 4:7

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

I corinthians 1:31

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Sadly, the church in America has too often earned the title of “homophobic” by being proud, haughty, belligerent, judgmental, and self-righteous. Too often, the church has made the mistake of elevating LGBTQ sins to a level where they are somehow considered worse than nearly all other sins.

In doing all of this, the church has done great damage to itself, pushing away many of the very people it should be reaching out to. The LGBTQ community is not the enemy! Rather, like every one of us once were, they are lost souls who need a Savior.

b. judging others...

An old saying goes, “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” In fact, Jesus said as much in John 8:7 when defending a woman who had been caught in adultery:

john 8:7

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

His point, of course, was that no one was without sin. It would be incredibly foolish and hypocritical to pass judgment on someone else for sinning when we are guilty of sin ourselves. This is further illustrated here:

matthew 7:1-2

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Contrary to what many people believe, this verse is not saying that we are never supposed to point out the sin of others. Rather, Jesus is saying that we are not to pass judgment on others while harboring sin in our own lives. As Jesus continues, this point is clarified:

matthew 7:3-5

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Here, Jesus tells us to first deal with our own sin before dealing with someone else’s sin. In fact, Jesus taught us to think of our brother’s sin as a speck, while our own sin is a plank. In other words, our own sin is of much greater urgency, concern and consequence than the sin of others.

This is not to say that we are to ignore the sin of others–especially brothers and sisters in Christ. But as verse five above points out, we have to see clearly by taking the plank out of our own eye before dealing with the speck in a brother’s eye.

inside or outside the church

This raises another point. When we do address the sin of others, we should be concerned with those who already know Christ and are part of His church:

I corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

This passage makes it clear that we as believers in Christ are not to concern ourselves with the sin of those outside of the church. When it comes to dealing with sin, our concern should be for those who are inside the church, who have the Holy Spirit, who need to live by the Spirit.

We should not expect those outside the church to behave as though they have the Holy Spirit within them. Those who sin outside of Christ are only doing what comes naturally.

But when we see a brother or sister in Christ who is caught up in a sin, as verse 12 above points out, we are to deal with it, as the following passage also shows:

galatians 6:1

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Here, we see that believers in Christ have a responsibility to work for the restoration of brothers and sisters who are caught up in sin. But again, we must guard ourselves against self-righteous feelings of superiority, and against being tempted to fall into the same sin ourselves.

There are many Scriptures that further illustrate the fact that we are all sinners and that, apart from Christ, none of us are righteous.

see also:

matthew 18:21-35

romans 3:23

psalms 14:3

psalm 53:3

romans 3:12

In light of all of this, perhaps the most succinct statement comes from the Apostle Paul in First Timothy 1:15, where Paul writes:

I timothy 1:15

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst.

Paul’s attitude here is spot-on, and is a great example of what our own attitudes should be. “Jesus came into this world to save me, because I am a sinner. And as sinners go, I am the worst.”

That is, my own sin is the only sin of consequence in my own life. My own sin is the only sin for which I am responsible. My own sin, as someone who knows Christ and is supposed to love Him, is the most egregious, because I know better.

We must be honest enough and humble enough to admit, each one of us, that of all the people in the world, the worst sinner is the one we see in the mirror.

c. the grace of God

In view of the realization that our own sin is the worst, the reality of God’s grace in our own lives becomes even more clear. Let’s revisit one of our earlier Scriptures:

I corinthians 6:9-11

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Look again at the list of sins above. Think of all the other sins listed in the Bible. Of how many are you guilty? But then, read verse 11 above. As followers of Christ, that’s what we were. But by the grace of God, we have been washed, sanctified, and justified, only by Jesus!

I john 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

And that grace is offered to everyone; even those whom our society might consider “undesirable.” What a beautiful truth! Time and again, we see this played out in Scripture, including these few examples:

mark 2:15-17

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

luke 23:40-43

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Do you see? We are sinners. We are the tax collectors. We are the sick. We are the adulterers and murderers and swindlers, and gossips and drunks and everything else that Jesus came to save! Regardless of how we measure our sin here on earth, every one of us is guilty before God. The question is how we respond to that, as the following parable illustrates:

luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Here, a self-righteous Pharisee boasts of his good works, as though his good works somehow compensated for his sinful pride. Meanwhile, a less “righteous” man confessed his sinfulness and humbly asked God for mercy.

question to ponder

Q. which of these men am I most like?

Q. do I give to others the same grace God has given me?

We must never forget that, apart from God’s grace in Christ Jesus, we are every bit as lost as those whom we consider to be the “worst” of sinners. Consider Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant:

matthew 18:23-35

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

As recipients of God’s grace in such a great measure, how can we dare not to extend that same grace to others?

But this grace is not merely turning a blind eye to sin. Biblical grace is like a garment that we should all be clothed in:

colossians 3:11-13

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

ephesians 4:29 - 5:3

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

As you can see, Biblical grace is founded on truth, not ignoring sin, but gently, compassionately, patiently working for the best interests of others, even by tackling sin issues that need to be addressed.

ephesians 4:15

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

 

7. the right goal

Consider this question. Are you pleased when an LGBTQ person goes “straight?” Maybe a verse like this comes to mind:

james 5:19-20

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

At first glance, it may appear that turning an LGBTQ person away from their sin is a noble goal. But look again. These verses are written to people within the church and refer to turning brothers and sisters in Christ away from their sins. The starting point here is that they belong to Christ.

We might like to hear that a person has turned away from LGBTQ or some other sinful lifestyle, but apart from Christ, this means nothing.

Our job is not to make LGBTQ people ‘straight.’ Our calling is to make disciples!

matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus’ great commission to us is to make disciples of all nations and all peoples. This will naturally include people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles, including the LGBTQ community. Making disciples is the objective, and is the only starting point from which anything else can happen.

Then, when a lost soul becomes a disciple of Jesus, it follows that we teach them, as brothers and sisters in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, to obey everything Christ has commanded us. Through Jesus, enemies of God are transformed into children who can learn His ways!

colossians 1:18-20

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Enemies are seldom willing to change their ways for each other. But when an enemy of God (as we once were) is transformed through Jesus into a child of God, everything changes:

colossians 1:21-23

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

We cannot deal with people in our world merely by pressing them to turn away from their sin. We do not have the power or authority to do that! But when a lost soul places themselves under the authority of Christ, with the Holy Spirit as their Counselor, the enemy of God becomes a child of God, and the issues of sin can be addressed far more effectively, from Father to child!

psalms 127:1-2

Unless the Lord builds the house,

the builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain.

In vain you rise early

and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat—

for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Unless we are working to please the Lord, our work is useless. Unless we are working to draw people to Jesus, nothing else we do is of any value. No amount of political activism, no amount of arguing and debating, and no amount of kindness can change a human heart; only Jesus!

Jesus is the only play we have. He is the starting point, He is the endgame, and He is the reward!