I was asked an interesting question by a friend on Facebook today in response to a post I put up from Tim Keller expertly explaining why punishment in the Old Testament is not how we act today. After reading the piece, which focused a bit on the OT punishment for homosexuality versus what our response as Christians today should be, my friend asked: “Can homosexuals be Christians and still be (practicing) homosexuals?”
I answered his question with a question: Can anyone be considered a Christian who openly embraces their sin life, denying that it is sin or admitting it is sin but telling God they don’t care what He says and do it anyway?
It’s a bit of a trick question and one of my favorite teaching pastors, Andy Stanley, would call it the “Loophole” question. You see, Andy rightly notes that we Christians always want to find loopholes in the Bible to excuse us from whatever the Bible tells us to do. The knock on us as Christians is we spend an enormous amount of time holding others accountable to what scripture says – dare I say judging others – and then we excuse our own unbiblical behavior using some loophole we’ve created.
I want to spend a few minutes today talking about biblical loopholes and how we as Christians need to eliminate that thinking from our pea brains and instead come before our God and just admit we are guilty and accept his eternal forgiveness, grace, mercy and love.
The Bible is such a great book because it has every conceivable situation in it that we will ever find ourselves, including this loophole stuff. In fact, you can find the very first example of a person trying to justify their actions by finding a loophole in the first book of the Bible in the first story.
Adam and Eve are told they can do anything they want but they can’t eat the fruit off one tree. Adam and Eve, you had one job and you blew it. God confronts them and then it starts. Adam claims that eating the fruit really wasn’t his fault. He was just there minding his own business when “that woman” God gave him told him to eat, so being a man who always listens to his wife, he did. See, not his fault. And who made this woman thing anyway?
God turns to Eve and she exercises her own loophole: It wasn’t my fault, I was beguiled by the snake. It was his fault…and didn’t you make that snake? So isn’t it you’re fault? That’s what she’s implying, too!
We learn right there in Genesis that we as human beings don’t want to follow the rules. Further, we don’t want to take responsibility for our actions. And, when pressed we will find someone or something else to blame…including God! That’s the formula for finding a loophole. And we all do it! Thanks Adam and Eve!
A couple of Sundays ago in Sunday school I decided to push the envelope a little. I found a website that had a list of all the sins in the Bible. The list was 22 pages long with 667 sins listed. There were some duplicates, but it was impressive! So I asked the group if they recognized any of these things in their individual lives. One person groaned, “Heavy….”
But as they started to look through the list you could see their minds working. If they had thought bubbles above their heads they might read: “Yeah but there was a reason for that.” Or “Okay, but I needed to respond to that.” Or “That doesn’t mean anything, that can’t possibly be a sin!” You get the idea. It’s our human nature to find a justification for the reason we did something that someone – including God – would see as inappropriate or wrong. It’s brutally hard for us just to admit guilt, failure, or sin because it upsets our own image of ourselves. So instead we deceive ourselves and find loopholes where we’re not really at fault or guilty of anything!
If we’re honest with ourselves none of us would have written the Bible the way it reads. We’d all loosen the rules a bit so we’d have more breathing room. But the Bible is not our book it’s God’s book so it’s His rules. The only person who gets to define what a sin is and is not is God – period.
But here’s the problem, Christians want to find loopholes for one of two reasons:
- They want to keep doing what they’re doing without it being considered wrong
- They don’t understand the freedom that comes with submitting to Jesus
The first one is self-explanatory and really gets to the crux of my friend’s question and my answer. Are you truly a Christ follower if you embrace your sin life knowing full well it’s not what God wants for you? I think you’re on the slippery slope if you don’t hate your sin but instead embrace it as okay. It’s addressed in a couple of places in scripture that I’ll let you look up if you’re interested (Romans 6:15; Matthew 7:21)
The second one is the one I find more disturbing. There are Christians out there – many of them – so illiterate in our theology that they don’t understand that we all fall short of the glory of God which is why Jesus had to come and pay the price for us. But because He did pay the price – taking the sins of the world onto Himself – we are no longer under condemnation but can live holy lives.
In other words, we don’t need loopholes!
In this world I will sin; I am a fallen man and not perfected yet. As a Christian I fight my sin like crazy but like the Apostle Paul I continue to do the things I don’t want to do and not do the things I want to do. Yet because of Jesus I have NO FEAR WHATSOEVER of coming before God the Father and confessing my sins and accepting complete forgiveness not because of me but because of Jesus and the fact that I am His!
Let me put it this way: God knew everything you would do – good, bad, and ugly – before the beginning of the world and He made you anyway. Do you really think you need a loophole to try to convince Him you didn’t do what you did? He already knew you’d do it! So just be honest and come to Him openly and accept His forgiveness and love in your life. The only person you’re fooling is you! Unfortunately lots of Christians are fooling themselves but not fooling God a bit and the thing they’re being is a fool.
So let’s get back to my friend and his question. Is a practicing homosexual a Christian? I had a great theology teacher named Elmer Towns who said this, “The only person that I am sure is saved is me.” I have no idea if any given practicing homosexual is saved. That’s between them and God not between them and me. My job is to love them. If they are in the church my job also is to tell them that they are choosing something that God sees as wrong and they need to deal with that.
But is it any different from the church lady who thinks gossiping is okay? Or the long-time member who reads their horoscope every day and believes what it says? Or the church lay leader who thinks being angry and argumentative is a personal strength? Or the plethora of Christian husbands who are harsh with their wives? Or the same number of wives who don’t respect their husbands? Or the 650,000 Christian women who have abortions each year? Or the large percentage of Christians who divorce each year? Or the single men and woman having sex out of wedlock? I could go on and on but you get the point.
We all fall short of the glory of God in some way or another. Every one of us sins every day. So that’s not really the question. Here’s what I think the real question we should be asking is:
Do you try to justify before God that what He calls sin is not sin?
That, my friends, is the loophole that could turn into a noose.