Can you be an unrepentant, practicing homosexual and a follower of Jesus Christ? I want to answer this question and then follow it up with a second, perhaps more pertinent question, what if a person doesn’t practice sodomy, but approves of those who do? Just to be clear I am discussing how to deal with those who claim to be Christians yet either practice homosexuality or approve of those who do. I am not talking about how to interact with non-Christians on the subject.
Sexual Immorality Keeps You Out of the Kingdom
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? 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. (1Cor. 6:9-10)
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev 22:14-15)
An unrepentant sinner of any kind is bound for Hell. This includes thieves, liars, drunkards, and the sexually immoral, such as practicing homosexuals, adulterers, porn addicts, and lesbians. Just to cut off “but what about,” I am not talking about a man struggling with his sin, fighting it, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. Nor am I talking about a new Christian or immature Christian who does not understand what the Scriptures teach nor has learned how to wage war on sin. I remember hearing of a Christian couple, new to the faith, who were living together unmarried. They had no idea it was wrong, until a pastor told them. That is not the situation I am talking about.
I am talking about a man or woman who is living in unrepentant sin, has been confronted about that sin, encouraged by their leaders to repent, refuses to repent, nor believes they are doing anything wrong. Such a person is not a Christian. If they are baptized and in a church they should be excommunicated. Therefore a man living an unrepentant homosexual lifestyle is not a Christian. Their actions so contradict the Scriptures that they should not be part of God’s people.
This should not be controversial. If a husband regularly cheated on his wife and refused to amend his ways is he a Christian? If a woman constantly steals from her employer with little remorse is she a Christian? If a person lies and lies and lies with little change or sorrow are they a Christian?
I understand that handling these things requires pastoral wisdom. I am not saying the first time a man sins you kick him out. I am not encouraging being mean or belittling those who struggle with sin. Nor I am saying you don’t counsel them and help them as they struggle with their sin. But they must see it as sin, call it a sin, and fight against it if they are to be called Christians. If they will not call it sin then there is a huge problem.
What About Those Who Approve, But Don’t Practice
What about those who do not practice homosexuality but approve of those who do? These people are commonly called “affirming.” I will divide my answer up into two categories, the sheep and the shepherds. Let’s begin with the first group, sheep.
If a Christian who is not a leader, i.e. pastor, elder, deacon, professor, blogger, etc., said they think it is fine to engage in sexual immorality as a Christian what should our response be?
First, I would determine if they understood what the Scriptures teach? Our generation does not know the Bible. Even a Christian raised in a Christian home and in church can enter their twenties knowing little Scripture. Often they get stories or verses out of context. They hear the news or listen to liberal Christians and develop their standards. First, do they know what the Bible teaches?
Second, if they do know what the Bible teaches I would then determine why they still think it was okay to live in unrepentant immorality. Often this comes down to a faulty interpretation of the Scriptures using either emotion (but they are so loving) or an argument that undercuts the plain meaning of a text (homosexuality in Romans 1 is talking about rape). After determining why they felt it was okay I would then address those arguments using the Bible, as well as church history and natural law.
Third, if after much discussion they still thought sexual immorality was fine for Christians I would warn them that they are contradicting Scripture on a major point and therefore should consider the wrath of God and the danger of leading other Christians astray. I would encourage them to repent or leave the church.
Finally, at some point I would excommunicate them, but it would take a while. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. A person who believes sexually immorality is okay for Christians will lead people in the church astray. For the good of the church, the glory of Christ, and for the sake of their own soul they must be removed. But it should be done after a lot of prayer, discussion, and tears as any excommunication should be.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
But what about leaders? What about people like Rachel Held Evans or a Christian professor who thinks it is okay for homosexuals to marry or a pastor who says homosexuals are welcome and never have to repent and change? Well the answer may not be liked by many, but it is easy. They are liars, wolves, and false shepherds. They must be driven away from the sheep by faithful shepherds. We should call them to repent of their false teaching and flee from the wrath of God. If they don’t repent, we should repeatedly and soundly refute their arguments, lawfully work to get them removed from our denominations, churches, and seminaries, pray their books don’t sell, their blogs shut down, their ministries go under, and refuse to invite them conferences. This is not being mean. This is loving Christ enough to protect the souls in His church from lies and damnation.
These wolves get no benefit of the doubt. They are teachers. They are supposed to know better. We don’t need to discuss if they know the Bible or not. They are teachers. They should know the Bible. If they don’t then they should step down until they do. A man or woman who says a person can live in unrepentant sin and still be a Christian is sending people to Hell. A pastor who won’t call homosexuals to repent is shepherding souls over a cliff. They should be publicly condemned. People should be encouraged to leave their churches, denominations, seminaries, and to reject their teaching. There is no need for private discussion, though that is fine. They are public teachers. Public refutation is not just fine, but absolutely necessary. These teachers need to be named, not just hinted at.
This hard approach is not necessary in every area of disagreement. Sometimes good Christians can disagree on ethical and doctrinal issues. The Bible is not equally clear in every area. But when it comes to sexual immorality, as well as numerous other ethical issues, it is clear: you cannot practice sexual immorality and be a Christian nor can you approve of those who do so and be faithful to Christ.
I would be much more patient with a practicing homosexual who claims to be a Christian and a layman who is affirming than I would be with teacher or pastor who says sodomy is okay. But in every case the goal of any pastor should be to protect the sheep and honor the Shepherd.
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:29-32).