5/26/15 James, Michael early 30's
While reaching out to share the Gospel in a sidewalk conversation, I met James, a former Mormon missionary, and Michael, who grew up Catholic. Both have abandoned the beliefs they grew up in, so I asked why. “Well…” James said, glancing at Michael, “…Michael is my husband. We’ve been in a committed relationship for five years. And that pretty much meant we wouldn’t be accepted in our Mormon or Catholic churches, so we really aren’t religious at all.” So how could this conversation continue from here? I could have just agreed with James, that religion and the gay lifestyle aren’t compatible, and that would be the end of the conversation. Or I could allow our focus to be on the homosexual debate, and perpetuate an endless argument. Instead, I just asked “Do you think it would be possible to put the issue of same-sex attraction aside and just talk about the issues of eternity and salvation for a moment?” I asked if we could treat same-sex attraction as a secondary issue and think of salvation and our relationship with God as the primary issue. James agreed to this, and we had a long discussion about the differences between Mormon teachings and biblical Christianity with regards to salvation – focusing mostly on the roles of faith and good works. James’ Mormon point of reference rejected faith in Jesus as being sufficient for salvation, saying that one must also add to it good deeds. Meanwhile, Michael listened in on James’s views – which they hadn’t really talked about with each other before – and the biblical perspective which I was sharing. I felt like it was a good conversation. The Gospel was shared without the focus of attention being hijacked by a secondary issue. However, I’m sure other Christians will disagree. They would treat unrepentant homosexual practice almost if it is the unpardonable sin. But is it? The key, I think, might be the word “unrepentant”. Is it possible to receive the gift of eternal life without repentance? Generally, I think it is not. True saving faith in Jesus can only come accompanied by a repentant heart. As we have faith in the perfect and sinless glory of Jesus, we will react as Peter did when Jesus calmed the storm - “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But when we first came to faith in Jesus, did we really know the extent of our sin? Did we truly repent for all our sin, or just those the Holy Spirit was convicting us of at the time? Is not repentance a lifelong process, as God unpeels the layers of our soul like the layers of an onion and we really realize the depth of our sin? I think if I had known the true depth of my sin as an unbeliever, I would never have been able to believe it, and it is still hard to fathom. In this cultural climate of a growing acceptance of homosexual practice, the sin of sexual immorality is becoming harder and harder for outsiders to believe or recognize as sinful. The law was meant to lead us to the place of forgiveness that we find in Christ, not to be a stumbling block. If we preach that we are saved by grace and not by works, but then require a particular standard for salvation, have we not committed the unpardonable sin ourselves – trusting in man’s efforts rather than the work of Christ for salvation? Let’s be careful to use the law to lead people to Christ, not as a stumbling block that keeps people from Him.