In a heartbreaking story, a Plymouth, Mass., teenager died in March after eating half a store-bought cookie that had a little peanut oil in it. He had been diagnosed with the peanut allergy at age 8 and was careful with his diet. Two hours after ingesting, the 19-year-old doubled over, turned black and blue, and was unable to breathe.
It terrified me to realize how one’s body can turn on itself so violently. If that young man had realized the small taste of cookie would cost him his life, he would gladly have passed it up. What will a man give in exchange for his life?
The person with a severe allergy to peanuts would never dream of saying, “I’m going to eat peanuts anyway, even if they kill me. It’s not fair that because my body reacts badly to peanuts I should have to refrain for the rest of my life from something I enjoy while other people do not have to.” That’s a ridiculous scenario. To be sure, a person with such an allergy might indeed think his body’s predisposition unfair, but he would nevertheless stay away from the dangerous legume—and he would even think it a pretty good bargain to deny himself peanuts if that’s all he has to do to stay alive.
It got me thinking about the things God asks us to give up in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Salvation is by faith. Yet there are lifestyle choices that God said would disqualify an unrepentant practitioner from entry into His holy presence:
“… Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Let us grant for the sake of argument that a person is born with a sexual preference for a person of his own gender, just as another person might be born with an allergy to peanuts, or whatever else one may be allergic to. Let us say that, as the Bible declares, “men committing shameful acts with men receiv[e] in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27). Would you not think it reasonable to give up that predilection for homosexuality if it would save your life from that terrible sentence?
Does that point sound heartless? Is it callous and ignorant for a heterosexual to suggest that it’s better for a homosexual to be celibate all his life than to forfeit eternity and possibly contract AIDS? But brothers, do we not all have to give up something to enter the kingdom of God? Homosexuals are not unique in this. When the curious crowds at the Jordan asked John the Baptist what they should do to escape condemnation, he handed them each something to give up.
No one enters eternal life without walking away from his sinful desires and picking up his cross and following Christ. A person’s very life depends on it.