When people discuss the fact they identify as LGBT they often say that they were “born this way” (cue the Lady Gaga). They say things like, “God made me this way, and God doesn’t make mistakes.” Of course such statements are meant to bolster the belief that their status as LGBT is a good thing. And in turn they are meant to reject the idea that it is sinful and wrong. It is often objected that if LGBT individuals accept the biblical view of sexuality and marriage then they will be condemned to a life of struggle and hardship. They will face a lifetime of identifying their desires as sinful. They will be sentenced to a lifetime of struggle against acting on those desires.
But what they (and those in general who support the LGBT agenda) don’t understand is that a person who is LGBT does not have a corner on the market of identifying desires as sinful. They don’t have exclusive claims to the struggle against acting on sinful desires. This is in fact a description of every Christian.
What Christians know is that that the root problem of all that is wrong in the world is sin. The first sin of disobedience (Genesis 3:1-7) brought pain, suffering and death (3:16-19). It warped humanity and creation itself (Romans 8:18-23). The sin of Adam and Eve brought more sin and death to all (Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). This sin has warped us – all the way down to our DNA. It is the source of every sickness and every condition and predisposition that is passed on to us.
Sin is the source of sexual desire for those of the same sex. But sin is also the source of sexual desire for those of the opposite sex outside of marriage. So do the LGBT individuals feel desires that will have to be labeled sinful and against which they will have to struggle? So do I as a Christian. When given the opportunity to look at a beautiful scantily clad or naked woman and lust after her (and those chances abound in our world, even if you want to avoid them), every fiber of my being wants to look. Well, it would be more accurate to say that every fiber of the old man in me wants to look. It is a struggle not to look. It is a struggle in which most times the new man in Christ wins (more on that in a moment) … but not every time. There are times when sin wins.
It is true that in the case of LGBT individuals the only answer to struggling against sin may be a celibate life (though we can never lose sight of the fact that there are individuals who had lived this life and then later enter into a biblical marriage). On the surface it may appear that this makes their situation completely different. Yet there are many Christians who, because of their life circumstances and the desire to settle for nothing less than a spouse who believes the same thing and will receive the Sacrament of the Altar with them each week, face the reality that almost certainly they will have to remain celibate. I know people like this. And one could argue that because there is technically the possibility of having sexual union with a spouse, the reality that it will never happen makes the situation even worse.
The LGBT individual does not have a corner on the market of the struggle against sin’s impact in a condition that may have a genetic basis. Many Christians struggle with the hardship of anxiety and depression. The Christian who faces the crushing weight of depression struggles to get up from bed and get going – even as he or she struggles to believe God’s promise of love and care. When the only respite from the depression is sleep which ends too soon, and there is only the prospect of struggle day after day, a Christian can be tempted by despair and thoughts turn to suicide – perhaps even plans begin to be formed.
Christians are sinners. They are people who face the challenge of sin and fail. They face the hardships produced by the sin of a fallen world. What makes them different from the world is that through the work of the Holy Spirit they confess their sin. With the psalmist they say, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD” (Psalm 32:5 ESV). And in faith they look to Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. They believe that he was pierced for their transgressions and crushed for their iniquities (Isaiah 53:5) and then rose from the dead so that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).
But there is more to it than that. It is true that Christians continue to struggle against sin. The old man is still present. As Paul said:
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:22-25 ESV)
Yet through the work of the Spirit the Christian is new man in Christ. They delight in the law of God in their inner man. They have received regeneration – rebirth – in the water of Holy Baptism (Titus 3:5; John 3:5). They are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). They have shared in the death of Christ through baptism (Roman 6:2-4) and now because the Spirit who raised Jesus is in them (Romans 8:11), just as Christ was raised from the dead they walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Now by the Spirit they “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13 ESV). They struggle against sin, and though they do not succeed all the time, they do in fact succeed in that struggle.
The life of the Christian is a struggle against sin. St. Paul wrote of himself:
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 ESV).
It is the Spirit of the risen Christ who makes this struggle possible. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus that provides forgiveness when we fail. This is the difference present when LGBT individuals acknowledge their desires as sin, and believe in Jesus Christ. This is the difference that is present in Christ for all people who struggle with sin in a fallen world.
Confessing the desires as sinful will mean that LGBT individuals leave the world. They leave a world that tells them to embrace their sin – to let it define their life and provide their identity. But as Christians they receive a new identity and a new community that supports them. St. Paul wrote, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV). In the Church – the Body of Christ – they receive brothers and sisters who face the same struggle against sin. Together because of the Lord they, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 ESV). Together as the baptized they, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV).
Christians do this because they know what Christ has done, and they are encouraged in doing so because they know what Christ will do. All Christians face the struggle against sin. But we know that the struggle will come to an end. We know that the impact of sin will be removed and the old man will be destroyed. For as Paul told the Philippians, “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself”
(Philippians 3:20-21 ESV).
LGBT individuals are urged to confess sin as sin so that they can receive forgiveness in Christ. They are encouraged to take up the struggle against sin through the work of the Spirit. But like all Christians, they can do so in the knowledge that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that struggle will come to an end and everything will be “very good” once again (Genesis 1:31).
AMEN! AND Excellent!!ReplyDelete
Well done, Pastor Surburg! Amen.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this extremely helpful post.ReplyDelete
May God grant us all His strength, mercy and grace to continue the struggle!
Fantastic, Pastor Surburg!ReplyDelete