I need to say I’m sorry for something, ask forgiveness from some of you, and clarify a few things.
I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the article I wrote yesterday on World Vision’s announcement/reversal along with my commentary about unrepentant homosexuality (and other sins) precluding salvation. And when I say “good feedback,” I don’t mean that it was all positive and affirming. In fact, nearly all of it was negative. I got called a lot of names and accused of a lot of things, and it’s never a viscerally pleasant experience when that happens.
But It’s good when that happens, because I always want to take the time to pray about it and consider whether the observations people have made about what I wrote are right, biblically speaking. Because I want everything I write to line up with God’s word. And it doesn’t always line up, and sometimes I need other people to help me see that. Hey, I’m a sinful human being. I mess up. Often.
So here’s where I need to say I’m sorry to some of you and ask your forgiveness.
First, I’d like to clarify what I am apologizing for:
1. Anything I said that was not in line with Scripture. I have read and re-read my article and do not see anything that is in conflict with Scripture, but if anyone can point me to any Scripture I have violated, I would be most grateful. As I said, I want everything I write to line up with God’s word.
2. My tone. I am deeply and sincerely sorry that my tone was offensive to some of you. I know that many of you, as do I, have friends and loved ones being held captive by Satan in the sin of homosexuality. When you’re walking through the pain of losing someone you love to Satan’s clutches, even the gentlest reminder of that loss can be excruciating. Please believe me when I tell you I know how that feels from personal experience. It hurts. A lot. However, my tone was not nearly as gentle, sensitive, or compassionate as it should have been to those of you who are grieving over your homosexual loved ones. Where I perceived that I was simply being direct, I came off as unkind and unloving. That was not my intent at all, and I am sincerely sorry.
3. My lack of clarity. I am extremely sorry for my failure to be completely clear in what I wrote in yesterday’s article. I did not communicate clearly enough on two points: a.) Whether or not people who are homosexuals can be saved, and, b) whether or not people who are genuinely saved can continue to struggle with homosexual temptation and sin. Let me take another shot at it.
a) Let me state unequivocally that any unbeliever who repents of (turns away from, abandons) his sin (all sin, not just homosexuality), asks God to forgive his sin, believes in the physical death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for his sin, and trusts that in that death, burial, and resurrection Christ paid the penalty for his sin, may be saved. Anyone. Homosexual or heterosexual. There is no sin a person can commit, physically or mentally, that prevents him from repenting and being saved.
What cannot happen is for a person to be saved apart from repentance. Scripture is very clear about this. Just a few examples:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand… Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:2,8
John the Baptist said that, and Jesus said of him, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
Jesus himself said that. Repent and believe in the gospel.
To the woman caught in adultery,
“Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 1:6,10, 2:4-6
This was written by John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, etc.), one of Jesus’ “inner circle” of disciples.
The Bible knows nothing of a willfully unrepentant conversion to Christ or life in Christ (what we used to call a ‘carnal Christian’ in the old days). It is a contradiction in terms and simply does not exist. Every time I have ever heard or read the term “gay Christian,” (including in the announcement by World Vision) it has been in reference to people who stubbornly, proudly, and unrepentantly continue to practice homosexual behavior despite knowing that the Bible says it is sin. That is why I said “there is no such thing as a ‘gay Christian,’ because that is the way the term is most commonly used. If people are using the term “gay Christian” to mean someone who used to be a homosexual and God graciously saved them out of homosexuality, or if they are using that term to mean someone who is truly saved but is tempted by, and sometimes even falls into homosexual sin, but then genuinely repents and strives to live a Christlike life, there’s a more accurate term for that: Christian. That is not the group of people to whom I was referring when I said, “there is no such thing as a ‘gay Christian’,” because that is not how the term is commonly used. I apologize for not explaining that issue more clearly.
b) I thought that when I said, “There are people who repent of those things, are graciously saved by God, and who may continue to struggle against those sins” (in my original article) I was being clear that, yes, people who are genuinely saved can be tempted by, and even give in to, any number of sins, including homosexual sin, and then repent of those sins and be forgiven. But I think I was wrong in not expanding on that thought, because it caused some misunderstandings. That’s my fault, and I’m sorry.
Christians sin. I sin. You sin. Everybody sins. Daily. Hourly. Minute-ly. Being a sinner, one thing I’ve learned is that Satan is not terribly creative with temptation, but he is efficient. Once he’s successful in getting me to commit a particular sin, he continues to come at me with temptation to that particular sin because he knows that’s where I’m weak. (Why bother experimenting with other temptations when he already has one (or several) that works, right?) So, while I’ve heard of people who were saved out of homosexuality or drugs or thievery or whatever, and from the moment of conversion were never again tempted to do those things, I think it’s far more common for Satan to continue to tempt people in their weakest areas, particularly a sin as powerful and consequential as homosexuality.
The difference between a “gay Christian,” (as I described above in point a) and a genuinely regenerated Christian who is tempted by and might give in to homosexual sin is, again, repentance. One of the hallmarks of people who are genuinely saved is that they hate their sin. They don’t want to sin. They do their best to avoid sin. They look at it with disgust and are disgusted with themselves when they give in to it. And when they do sin, they confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness, which He kindly and lovingly pours out. Yes, genuinely saved Christians, especially brand new ones, may fall into even a “big” sin, like homosexual sin, many times, but as God continues to work in their lives, they grow up into Christ, and they begin to look and act more like Him. They, and people who have known them over a long period of time can see the progress God is making in their lives little by little.
There are many, many people who claim to be Christians. I think the most recent statistic I read was that over 80% of Americans claim to be Christians. I think if that were true, America would look very different. It is not what people say with their mouths that shows or determines whether or not they are actually born again. It is the fruit of their lives that is the evidence. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
And in John 3:36:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
If we have friends or loved ones who claim to be Christians, but have shown little or no progression towards Christlikeness, proudly embrace their sin, and show no signs of repentance over a long period of time, it may be time, as painful as it might be, to consider that, while they may have prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” made a profession of faith, or been baptized, it’s possible they were never genuinely saved. It might be time to begin praying for their salvation and offering them the hope and forgiveness that can only be found through true repentance and faith in Christ.
So, again, I am sincerely sorry for anything I said that conflicts with Scripture, for coming off as harsh or unloving instead of using a more compassionate tone, and for not explaining things clearly enough. If I offended you in any of those ways, would you please forgive me?
For the sake of clarity, though, I need to make sure I explain what I am not apologizing for, because I don’t want anyone to think I am apologizing for biblical truth. (And, in fairness and appreciation to the Christians who wrote to me, none of them asked me to, and all of them agreed with what the Bible says on this subject.)
I am not apologizing for the Bible’s stance that homosexual thoughts and behavior are sins that require repentance, nor for my agreement with the Bible about that, nor for writing about it.
I am not apologizing for sharing the gospel in a “law, first; gospel, second” format. This is the proper format for sharing the gospel. Repentance is required for salvation, but in order to repent, people must first understand why they need to repent and what they need to repent from. We cannot just assume that people already know this.
I am not apologizing for the content of any of the remarks I made which are in line with Scripture, though, again, I do apologize for any instance in which the way I made those remarks was unnecessarily offensive.
I am not apologizing for temporarily holding off on taking World Vision’s reversal decision at face value. While I rejoice that they quickly changed their policy back to one that conforms to biblical standards, and I was glad to read the statements they made in the reversal decision, there are still major problems with Richard Stearns’ theology as evidenced by his remarks in the original announcement. Problems that major don’t change overnight, and Richard Stearns is still at the helm. Furthermore, in subsequent information that has come to light, there is a question about whether or not World Vision actively and verbally shares the gospel with the people they serve. If you’d like to read an excellent article about why it can be prudent to watch for the fruit of repentance for a period of time, click here.
Finally, if you are reading this and you are a homosexual (interestingly, the people I usually hear from on these types of articles are heterosexuals), please know that there is hope. If you call out to Christ in repentance and faith, He has promised to set you free from your sin. All of your sin, not just homosexuality. You can find freedom, cleansing, peace, forgiveness, comfort, and a brand new life in Him. I hope you’ll trust Him today.
Thanks to all of you faithful readers who bear with me, a sinner saved by grace.