A Compelling Question
My beloved friend and brother Christian asked me my thoughts on how we should view sanctification and homosexuality. He made the point, and it is a valid observation, that for many Christians, the one unforgivable sin seems to be homosexuality. That or any of the derivations encompassed in the LGBTQ+ label. The gist of his question was, “How do we address the doctrine of sanctification and the person who professes Christ as Lord and Savior but then at times returns to their homosexual sin?”
So here we go…
Sanctification Isn’t Immediate
Let’s get this straight. Justification is a once and done issue that took place at the cross. Jesus, suffering under the wrath of the Father for the sake of the elect satisfied the debt that was owed. However, justification is not sanctification. Despite this doctrinal truth, most Christians in Western Christian Culture appear to believe in immediate sanctification when it comes to certain sins.
There is an apparent belief that when a person repents and believes the Gospel they are immediately freed from certain sins. This is, practically speaking, immediate sanctification. While many who appear to behave this way would deny that they believe it, their attitudes belie their claims.
I have interacted with many Christians that have flatly stated that the answer to homosexuality is the Gospel. Certainly, that’s true. But what does it mean? Is the Gospel a promise that the very moment a homosexual repents and believes they are immediately and perfectly delivered from that sin?
If the answer to that question is “yes”, then what about all other sins. I would argue that homosexuality is the only sin we treat this way. Because, as I previously stated, many Christians practically believe in immediate sanctification in this area.
So, my one rebuttal is “yeah but?” And it will continue to be. When I preach the Gospel to a bunch of drunks outside of a bar or a strip club, I am not expecting that they will immediately be delivered from that lifestyle. Does God have the power to deliver them? Yes. But that isn’t how it works most often.
We see it time and again in Scripture. Paul and others tell us to pursue holiness and to keep ourselves unstained from the world. Even in Galatians we see instructions for us on how to deal with a fellow believer that is caught in a rut of sin.
So, again, “yeah but?”. Why is it we seem to let the gluttonous fat guy stay in his gluttony when he gets saved? I don’t mean to quibble here, but it is true. When I wrote my essay about my desire to lose weight, I spoke about an individual that I had interacted with that met the definition of glutton. But he would call down hellfire and brimstone on anyone that stepped outside of the lines of decency that he had drawn for everyone but himself. No offense was more egregious than missing “special meetings” and sexual sin.
Why is it that the glutton can take their time getting set-free from their sin, but the homosexual is expected to walk away immediately without “back-sliding”?
Sanctification is Progressive for Everyone or No One
We need to be consistent and equitable. Despite our best efforts all of us are prone to the sin of partiality. Nowhere is this more evident than when we are confronted with certain sins. I do not find it untenable for us to be highly disturbed by the child molester. Likewise, Scripture speaks profoundly regarding homosexuality. But it also speaks with the same depth about thieves, gluttons, drunkards, the sexually immoral, and the effeminate. None of these will inherit heaven.
So how are we to understand such passages? And trust me, I want to be incredibly careful here, because I am about to look down the barrel of a loaded gun.
I would suggest that we should understand that the person who openly and flagrantly flaunts their sin with no outward signs of conviction or repentance towards God is not a Christian. Therefore, the man who legitimately struggles with an addiction to pornography and is sickened by it can very well be in the Kingdom. An overweight woman who has never been taught self-control; but hates the way she abuses the good gift of delicious food can be in the Kingdom. So, it goes for all of us.
So, why the incessant need to draw a border around homosexuality and set the person who struggles outside the camp? Sanctification is going to be progressive for every sin beleaguered sinner who belongs to God through the adoption purchased by Christ. We don’t get to set anyone outside the camp because we despise the sin they struggle with.
You don’t get to claim God’s forbearance for yourself while you kick your drunkenness. But then tun and harbor derision for your neighbor who is striving to follow God but struggles with their attraction to people of the same sex.
What I’m not Saying About Sanctification
As I mentioned above there is no excusing flagrant rebellion against God. Furthermore, I want to get real serious with you here. There is no room for affirmation of homosexuality in the Bride of Christ. Just as we would not tolerate the man who abuses his family physically or sexually. We must put out the person who would return to the self-abusing sin of homosexuality as well. There is no room for equivocation on this matter.
Those that have been born again will be striving for a life of less and less sin. We will never attain sinless perfection this side of eternity, but we should be battling to display the righteousness of Christ. When we consider the last half of Romans 8, we learn so much about sanctification. We are being conformed to the image of Christ. All the positive and negative things that happen to us are for our good and meant to mold us and shape us.
When we suffer the consequences of our sin that works to conform us. It is a chisel in the hand of our Creator as He conforms us through the process of sanctification. Because He is Thee Good Father, He disciplines those He loves. Thus, we do not get to stay in open rebellion against Him without being chastened and still claim we are part of the Bride.
No matter what your sin may be, this is something you need to consider. Stop thinking that your pet sin is less of a concern than your neighbor’s.
Loving One Another Means We Fight for Sanctification Together
As I close this, I want to harken to my Galatians reference. In Galatians 6:1-5, Paul compels us to consider our sinning brothers. He does not say “restore them in a spirit of gentleness only as long as their sin is one you don’t partake in.” He goes even further and makes it clear that an attitude of superiority indicates we are in an inferior position.
Think about that for a bit. If you think you are nailing it. That it is your place to run around pridefully highlighting your brothers’ sin by bragging about how good you are; you have failed in the law of Christ. Instead, love for the brethren compels us to come alongside the sinning brother gently. Yes, even the one struggling with homosexuality, and wrapping our arms around them and promising to fight that sin with them. Likewise, they should help us fight ours. This is the epitome of the love of Christ being worked out in us.
The Gospel compels us to partner with one another in pursuit of our Savior. Not merely to make us look better as if we are some white-washed tombs. No. Instead, for the sake of each other as we are made to look outward towards those around us for the glory of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!