“Will homosexuals go to hell?” a friend of mine asked me recently. I went silent. I knew that they knew that I am a professing Christian. Not just a church goer, but a born-again follower of Jesus Christ. I also knew that they knew that I am a speaker and published author of matters concerning responsible sexuality and the Christian faith. I also knew that they knew that I have a few friends who are gay. I was silent, neither because I feared my friend nor because I didn’t have an answer for her query, but rather, because I wanted to know the real question. I have been asked this question severally and I have watched several unhealthy debates between the LGBT community and the Church on the issue of same-sex unions spiral downwards such that more hatred, dissensions and chaos than solutions are birthed in the aftermath.
There are two cop-out reactions to such a weighty question for a Christian. And if you don’t think that the question is weighty, I dare say you’re either not familiar of the pluralistic culture we live in or you’re not cognizant of the scriptural responsibility of a Christian and their mouth. The first cop-out is to give a resounding “Didn’t you read the Sodom and Gomorrah Story?” in the name of truth. The second cop-out is to say, “I can’t judge” in the name of being loving. Those two reactions are cop-outs because they avoid the real issue and seek a quick-fix reaction that, unbeknownst to many Christians, injures the world. The former reaction creates aggravation from the LGBT community for the Christian’s obvious lack of sensitivity. The latter reaction creates a false sense of peace and makes the Christian seem sensitive and loving; but even the LGBT community (as atheists and many other non-Christians), know the Bible’s stand on the issue and regard this as a clear cop-out from a Christian who is fearful and weak in their stand. It is regarded as complicity. Perhaps you’re a Christian reading this and saying, “Ernest, are you saying there’s a different answer to that question?” Yes, there is. I call it the bold humility response- a combination of solid un-watered-down truth and solid un-watered-down love.
My friend looked at me and pressed, ‘Well, you’re a Christian, right? Will homosexuals go to hell?”
“I’ll tell you this for sure,” I finally responded to her, “heterosexuality will not take you to heaven.”
I saw the disappointment in her face. She wanted a fight and I didn’t give it to her. I can’t say that the response is my own. I heard that brilliant response from Pastor Timothy Keller which was inspired by Jesus’ response on whether or not to pay taxes to Caesar. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God,” Jesus said. The Pharisees did not get the fight they longed for. Jesus’ and Keller’s responses on a sensitive issue, each in his own time teaches me a few things that Christians can adopt in the 21st century with regards to the LGBT agenda.
Response 1: Focus on issues instead of non-issues
Had Jesus’ response been a direct, “Yes, don’t pay taxes,” it could mean his undue incarceration. Jesus realized that the people around him were trying to trap him. The Christian ought to ask God for wisdom to see if the question is a trap leading to an unnecessary debacle or if it holds an underlying more blatant issue. In Jesus’ case, he foresaw the useless debate and answered in God-given wisdom. That wisdom is available for every Christian who has the Holy Spirit in them. When my friend asked me “Will homosexuals go to hell?” the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that the real issue in her heart was “Why is the Christian God portrayed to be so vindictive and wrathful if he is a God of love?” The response, “heterosexuality will not take you to heaven” begs the inevitable response from her (if not silence). The inevitable response is this: “Who then will go to heaven?” You see, Beloved, the question “Will homosexuals go to hell?” presupposes that entry into heaven is based on your sexuality. And if that presupposition in not true, then I’d challenge the author to ask as well: “Will liars go hell?”, “Will pornography viewers go hell?” or “Will heterosexual-adulterers go to hell?” When I avoid non-issues, it helps me address the main issue that every Christian should be focusing on: the gospel! The gospel says that EVERYONE is hell-bound. The gospel says it’s not your sin that sends you to hell but your rejection of a saviour from sin (all kinds of it). The gospel says the most moral heterosexual sitting in a pew without the Saviour is damned. The main issue of the gospel helps me then explain the problem of sin, God’s plan of salvation for every man through Jesus and the result of our response to that salvation- whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual and the transformation that comes with that salvation.
Response 2: Love them
Every Christian knows (or ought to know) that you are not saved by living a good life; you are saved by admitting that you can’t and allowing that humility to accept Jesus as a Saviour. He lived the life you couldn’t live and died the death you should have died. One principle that I have adopted in my own life is this, “don’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian.” Whilst every human being has a level of morality (that may coincidentally agree with the Christian’s), I have found it difficult to expect an unbeliever to share my gospel worldview. You cannot sit an exam you were not prepared for. The unbeliever does not have the Spirit that I have. They do not have the conviction that I have. The world will always act like the world and it shouldn’t surprise us. Well then, what’s left? To love them. Rick Warren once said, “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” Jesus said in Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (ESV)
Response 3: Stand by Scripture
Christians are fully aware of what the scriptures say about homosexuality. We know the accounts of Sodom and Gomorrah, the homosexuals that brought war upon the tribe of Benjamin, the commentary about being given over to sin from Saint Paul in Romans 1. One thing that Christian’s mustn’t do in the wake of the LGBT agenda is to pretend we do not know the truths of scripture. When Ireland overwhelmingly voted for a pro-gay constitution, Matthew Parris, a gay atheist in his blog the Spectator stated, “Even as a (gay) atheist, I wince to see the philosophical mess that religious conservatives are making of their case. Is there nobody of any intellectual stature left in our English church, or the Roman church, to frame the argument against Christianity’s slide into just going with the flow of social and cultural change?” The world isn’t bashful to ask what the Christian’s view is, but somehow we are ashamed to declare what the Bible says. It’s because we value being liked by the world. The follower of Jesus Christ must respond to the following dilemma in the 21st century: to value the approval of God or to value the approval of man? Charles Spudgeon once said that the church that the world likes is very likely the one that God abhors. True followers of Christ must unashamedly rebuke the USA Episcopal Church that now joins same-sex unions in matrimony because scripture is clear. At the same time we must rebuke Westboro for their infamous brutal and uncalled for pricks on gay people. We must stand by scripture if we are true followers of Jesus. However, the call to stand by our Biblical convictions isn’t purely from the standpoint that a random gay-atheist in Ireland wants to see some Church drama. Nay! The Christian has a biblical responsibility to speak up. 1 Peter 3:15 says “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV). We are told to speak up, but the caveat is gentleness and respect. Christians who are pressed to speak on the LGBT issue must always remember that truth without love is aggravation; it speaks but in a way that no one listens. James 1:20 says “…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV). On the other hand, love without truth is sentimentality; it affirms us but like carbon monoxide kills us silently in the name of sensitivity. However, truth dosed with love is rich! It won’t be easily accepted for its veracity, but it will be considered for its affection. Every Christian knows that the prophecies predict a global tribulation that is accompanied by death for those that stand with the faith of Jesus. In fact, we know very well that the growing LGBT movement is a partial fulfilment of the forthcoming scriptural prophecy that talks of a holocaust that may shame Hitler’s. The little LGBT squabbles are nothing in comparison to what’s coming. And if you know that to be true, then don’t avoid the issue. Fear God’s disapproval more than man’s disapproval. Stand by scripture with bold truth and extravagant love.
Response 4: Turn the other cheek
Father Jonathan Morris, a New York City clergy and Christian author, was walking down Broadway 22nd Street on June 29th 2015, just past midday when he ran into the gay marriage parade. Two men from the parade walked by and spat on him. “Oh well… I deserve worse,” he said on his Official Facebook page in response to the unkind act. I admired his reaction. He did not write an obscenely long post on equality and human rights. Instead he responded as Christ and turned the other cheek. At times, turning the cheek means silence. Wisdom cries, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28 (ESV). It’s the same wisdom that Christ warns us when he says , “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV). If no one told you, allow me to do so; it is okay not to have anything to say. At times you need to lose some battles in order to win the war. And the war that’s at stake isn’t a dislike for rainbow colours splashed on Facebook profile pictures; the war is a gospel message being ridiculed because of a bad example of the believer’s tongue.
Response 5: Fix our own problems
One reason, I believe, the church is finding it difficult to respond to the LGBT issue is because of the issue of hypocrisy and false doctrines. If we opposed sex before marriage among heterosexuals in the church with the same vehemence as we do the LGBT, then perhaps our hypocrisy wouldn’t override the gospel. Pornography, masturbation, sex before marriage among heterosexuals dissatisfies the same God who isn’t pleased with sex between the same genders. I struggled with porn and masturbation personally and I know how you can sit comfortably in a pew and not feel as bad as someone who struggles with something “worse”. It’s hypocrisy and the Lord rebuked me for it. And when it comes to doctrine, many of our in-house matters need fixing too. We are living in a deceptive Church age where:
- Biblical teachings are substituted with entertainment.
- The Gospel of Salvation and repentance is substituted with self-improvement sermons such as “7-steps to get your happiness back.”
- Discipleship and spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and memorizing scripture are seen as something that pastors do and not necessary for the rest of the congregation.
- Biblical stories are substituted with lifestyle enhancement messages and modern tales.
- Promoting holiness, purity and obedience to the scriptures is termed as being legalistic.
- Concern for the physical body outweighs concern for the soul
- Our children are discipled by Sunday school teachers instead of their fathers.
- Raising children is an interference to making money.
But it’s not a shock either. Paul the Apostle warned us about this. “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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2nd Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV).
So, as we oppose the LGBT, let us also ask ourselves, what are we inviting them to? Sow-a-seed-and-God-will-bless-you doctrines? God-wants-you-to-be-happy sermons? Are we simply transferring them from one boiling cauldron to another? The basic core truths of the faith must be revitalized and you may be surprised to see God win over some in the LGBT movement by the light of the gospel. Perhaps because of this light, the next time my friend asks me, “Will homosexuals go to hell?” I will have the confidence to give them a better response. I will not delay but say, “They don’t have to because Christ went to hell for them already.” What they do with that salvation that Christ offers is up to them, not me, because the conviction of the Holy Spirit is not a man’s job. And if the gospel stands, the true doctrine of salvation will help save bits of our already crumbling world.
(I am cognizant of the impulsively burning keypads commenting right now, so let me just warn you. If you are rude, uncivil, abusive, sarcastic, hateful and prejudiced in your comments, I will delete it. 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 is the bar.)