Pastor Bob O'Bannon
Below is the ninth post from Pastor Bob in an ongoing blog series designed to help Christians think through the issue of homosexuality in a careful and Biblical way. For more on the reason for this series, click here.
Question 9: Are all homosexuals going to hell?
In all discussions of controversial matters, particularly the question of homosexuality, it is important for Christians to consider not just what they say, but what other people hear them saying. Just because you assert something that seems crystal clear to you, does not mean it is crystal clear to your hearers. Often, when we make a statement regarding theology or ethics or morality, people will read between the lines and hear a statement that we actually never intended to convey.
For example, when a Christian says, “Homosexual activity is sinful,” people often hear us saying, “All homosexuals are going to hell.” But is that what we are really trying to communicate?
There is a frequent misunderstanding among some Christians, and certainly among many non-Christians, about the way it comes to be decided in God’s mind that a person would go to hell. Many assume that it goes something like this:
A person is born into the world. That person is basically good until faced with some kind of important moral decision, such as whether to accept Christ as Savior, or whether to commit himself to some kind of illicit lifestyle. If the person makes the wrong choice, God then responds with a decision to send that person to hell. The implication is that it is only the “big sins” that qualify a person for eternal condemnation.
Christian theology actually teaches something quite different. It is not just the big sins that make people guilty before God; it’s the small sins too. James 2:10 says, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Gal. 3:10 says, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” The sin of envy or coveting or lust will send a person to hell just as quickly as the sin of homosexuality. This is why even the most faithful Christian has no justification to feel smug or self-righteous in comparison to a person struggling with same-sex attraction – all are in need of grace, because nobody has abided by all things written in the Book of the Law.
Bottom line is this: if a homosexual person goes to hell, his or her sexual orientation will not be the reason for his/her condemnation. Sinners are not condemned for any one particular sin at the exclusion of others; instead, sinners are condemned for possessing a heart that from Day 1 is set against God in rebellion and defiance. In Eph. 2:3, we read that we are “by nature children of wrath” – that means that we are under the wrath of God naturally, because of who we are by nature, not because of any one specific sin. As I wrote in an earlier blog about the question of whether homosexuals are born with their sexual orientation, we don’t become sinners when we commit our first sin; we commit sin because we are by nature sinners.
So, are all homosexuals going to hell? The answer is no, because some homosexuals, by the grace of God, will humbly recognize their sin, call upon Jesus for forgiveness, and will seek by the power of God’s Spirit to conform their lives more and more to the righteous requirements of God’s Word. This is precisely what Paul meant when he wrote: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Next week’s question: What’s wrong with homosexual relationships so long as no one is harmed?