"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
There seems to be this common misnomer out there that our society gets to determine what’s bad, what’s really bad, and what’s maybe not so bad. According to Roman Catholicism, a venial sin is a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation in Hell as an impenitent mortal sin would do. But whether sin is small or large – the Bible makes no distinction as to which of them separate us from God’s love – they all do! For that is the nature of sin as Isaiah writes, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
But it is for this reason that Christ came to save us from that which we cannot save ourselves from, namely sin, both small sins and great sins. That is why Paul states, "you were bought at a price." That price was your Savior’s blood that he poured out on the cross.
It’s understandable that the world segregates sins into nice little accepting categories from that which is unacceptable because they have unregenerate minds. An example of this hypocrisy is when the world condemned Michael Vick for his dog-fighting days for his cruelty to animals, and yet you will see these same people supporting the murdering of little babies at their abortion rallies. We accept such hypocrisy from the world – they are, after all, unregenerate.
But it’s one thing when we see this hypocrisy in the world, it’s another thing when we see it in the church because we ought to know better than to segregate sins. Tell me one sin of your million that you’ve committed that wasn’t deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment in hell. You can’t because you know that all sin is damming to God.
Look at how Paul in his letter to the Corinthians carefully crafts his words by writing a list of sins right alongside homosexuality so that the reader cannot reach the conclusion that one sin is worse than the other. Paul writes, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10).
I wonder how many people in the church believe that a perpetual church skipper due to laziness is in just as much contempt with God for the sin of idolatry as the perpetual homosexual offender? How many churches treat the sin of gossip categorically the same as gay sex? Probably not too many of us, yet the Bible does. We’ve come up with the categories of what is more vile and offensive to God, yet God would have us know very clearly that it’s not the sin that keeps people from heaven, it’s unbelief or impenitence. And unbelief results from love affairs with sin that eventually can enslave us all to our own sin. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).
Wouldn’t it be nice if the church started to see people with just two classifications instead of the many pigeon holes we put people into based on their struggles or their defiance against God? These two classifications would be, “A person wrestling with sin in their life but continuing to seek forgiveness in Christ,” and “A person not wrestling with sin, but embracing it.” That’s ultimately going to be the difference in how we treat the individual, right? If someone has come to embrace sin, no matter the sin, be it a perpetual church skipper or homosexual, we let them know that they will meet a judge and NOT a Savior on Judgment Day. And we tell them this not because we’re any better than they, but because we truly love them and want them to enjoy heaven with us.
But to those who struggle against a gossipy tongue, sexual immorality, homosexual tendencies, greed, drunkenness or other wrongdoings in life – we tell them, “Christ has died for your sin and has forgiven you for everything you’ve ever done, said, thought, or acted upon. And his grace won’t stop forgiving you even when you succumb. Therefore, don’t throw in the towel and give up your fight to shun evil, but shun in the confidence of God’s grace for you!”
Perhaps if we classified all people in these two categories, we would be prepared to minister to the struggling homosexual, rather than classify him or pigeon hole him as a homosexual to give him the impression God died for some sins, but certainly not his sort of sins.
Let’s go back to the original question, “Can homosexuals join the church?” Perhaps a better question is this: Can people who skip church, drink too much, sleep with someone other than their wife, greedy and dishonest people, and people who have used their tongue for gossip…, can they join the church? I’m sure that category covers the 1,000 plus members at Bethany, including your pastors. Joining Christ’s church is not an exclusion of one sinner to the next. No, that’s what the world does, it picks and chooses what is morally acceptable and what is not morally acceptable. Christ Jesus, our Lord came into the world to die for all sinners and desires all sinners to repent and turn to him for forgiveness, life and salvation, and he promises to freely give it! Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Remember Paul’s words to you, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” When you feel like sleeping in because you had a late Saturday night, remember, you’re not your own anymore, you belong to him who bought you with his blood! When unsanctified desires of the human heart creep into your mind – try not to act on them, for you are not your own, you were bought at a price. Fight Christian! Not because victory or defeat hangs in the balance of your abilities to resist temptation, but because you were bought with the precious blood of your Lord Jesus Christ, who has now set you free from those things in life that would have otherwise destroyed you. Praise be to Christ, our Savior, he gives us the victory over our sin, in spite of our many failed attempts at avoiding it! Praise him now by honoring him with your bodies!
Thanks for the question – certainly a pertinent topic for the church to contemplate. I pray, God’s Word has helped you.