Everyone is clamoring for the No. 1 spot in the great gay Christian debate. For some, it isn't enough that people hold to a traditional, conservative, and biblical sexual ethic; they also want to emphasize that homosexual sexual expression is more egregious than other sexual sins and deserves greater judgment and eternal consequence.
Others insist that there are no scriptural mandates limiting homosexual sexual expression for believers. While most of us would never even question heterosexual sexual ethics, some seem fine with making special exceptions for the gay or lesbian person.
I find the arguments above exhausting. They are never-ending, one-dimensional, and somewhat pointless in the grand scheme of things. In the words of my 7-year-old, "That argument is so last year." Out of the mouths of babes.
None of this is rocket science. I am not a Bible scholar (though I greatly appreciate them and their role in my life and in this discussion), but I am a believer in the one true Christ and nothing gets more attention or time in my life than him. While "theologian" isn't in my title, I do take studying God's Word seriously and read it more than any other book. So, as others identify as Wesleyan Arminian Christians, Calvinist Christians, Anabaptist Christians, gay or ex-gay Christians, I have to admit I am just, simply, irrevocably, a Christian. I am not smart enough and don't have enough time to know how those other labels would fit or serve me or those to whom I have been called to minister.
Let's get to the point. According to John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoeverbelieves in him shall not perish, but have eternal life [emphasis mine]." It is this verse that the majority of end-zone evangelists use to win people to Jesus. No one in Christendom—to my knowledge—is up in arms about this common practice or commonly used verse. And, while I don't hear anyone in recent days arguing over who can come to Christ, I do hear plenty of people arguing over who can stay in him.
Let's go a little deeper. Read Romans 6. All of it. It's abundantly clear: believers are no longer slaves to sin but to righteousness. That means we have been sanctified—made righteous—completely. It does not say in Romans or any other place that we won't sin; it says that because of who we are in Christ, sin is not our master—even if we make it so.
To be sure, any sexual expression outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin. Grace isn't a license to sin. To claim grace as if it is only a get-out-of-jail-free card is a misuse of its unequaled power to free. It's like using a pressure washer to water the plants; it can do that, but it was designed to do abundantly more.
For anyone to point at one group of people with a certain set of proclivities and condemn them for those things while exonerating (or ignoring) another group with over proclivities is hypocritical and inconsistent. Can a believer persist in willful pride and still inherit the kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful alcoholism and still inherit the kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful gluttony and still inherit the kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful heterosexual pornography and still inherit the kingdom of God? If you aren't consistently and regularly calling all sin sinful, and calling all people (including yourself) to holy living, then how can you do so for those living homosexually? And, if you are unwilling to pronounce the same eternal sanctions on all willful sinning believers as you do on the gay and lesbian willful sinner, how can you justify that?
If we exercised church discipline across the board based on the outward and inward sin running rampant in the body of Christ, there would be no one left. So, do we ignore sin? In the words of Paul: "May it never be." Matthew 7:1-5 says it so well:
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
I doubt there will ever be human resolution to the debates surrounding eternal security, whether or not someone can be actively gay and a believer, or so many of the other weighty and divisive controversies plaguing our congregations. But I hope there will be a genuine desire to proclaim the truth of what God is for above all else. I hope that we will all take personal holiness more seriously than we do. I hope that we will seek to judge less and pray more. I believe we have an opportunity here, as believers across the great divides of Christendom, to seek Christ above all else—whether that is about our sexual identity or our doctrinal identity.
I am thankful that 21 years ago I chose to surrender my entire self to the lordship of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that, in the years it took for my sexuality to come in line with my chosen identity in Christ, his unmatched grace had already cleansed me. I am thankful for that same grace today as I seek him purposefully but imperfectly. I am thankful that I get to share all of this regularly and honestly with others who might decide to join the journey or stay on the journey because I've been an example of God's grace.
Alan Chambers is a Christ follower, husband to Leslie, father to Isaac and Molly, and the president of Exodus International. He has authored two books, God's Grace and the Homosexual Next Door and Leaving Homosexuality.
Earlier articles on this debate include a news story on Alan Chambers's recent statements, a Reformed response from Michael Horton, a Wesleyan Arminian response from Ben Witherington, and a CT Classic on "Lordship Salvation."