A few years ago my younger sister called me up to invite me to The Forum, a self-improvement program that demands an almost-religious commitment (and a lot of money, though they don't mention that at first). She insisted the experience would make me a better Christian because The Forum regards all religious beliefs as valid and strives only to improve the individual. I said for that reason alone it wasn't for me: Jesus is very exclusive in His claim and call.
Before long the conversation turned, as it has before, to my sister's lesbian status. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, she said-a point raised in the comments on my last column. (See also Part one.) True, said I. But Jesus was very clear about His identity with God the Father: "I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me" (John 8:28). This includes upholding the moral law (Matthew 5:17), which all of us have failed to keep. That's why, after establishing His identity, Jesus challenges us to be clear about our own: We are sinners. The homosexual who insists on acting out "who I am" is not acceptable-none of us is acceptable as we are. The good news is that we have a chance to be something else. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). But the first step in coming to Christ is to repent of who we are.
It seems to be assumed, by many inside and outside the church, that since Jesus is all about love He could never sanction ostracizing homosexuals. He doesn't ostracize anyone, but calls all people everywhere to repent. That call comes from a burning heart of love that sacrificed everything: His status, His power, His life, even His union with His Father. He did it "for the joy set before him," a greater good by far. He did it for us, and our only proper response is to sacrifice all for Him. Not just our sins, but also our virtues, our relationships, our sexuality. Some of us have yet to find a suitable partner. Until we do, we abstain from sex and seek to glorify Him with our single status. Some of us are in loveless marriages without a scriptural justification for divorce. Until the situation changes, we pray for restoration and find unexpected joy in the Lord. If our circumstance or sexual inclination requires celibacy, we live celibate for His sake. If we fall, we ask His forgiveness and try again. Is this easy? Of course not-it's agonizing. It was agonizing for Him, too.
What would Jesus do? It's better to ask what He did-surrender His will entirely to the Father, becoming our sin so that we could become His righteousness. He saved us from sin, not to sin, and our call, if we believe Him, is to surrender everything we are. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)." We die the death, we live the life, for the joy set before us.
What Jesus did has profound implications for how His church treats homosexuals-a subject for my next column.