A common challenge presented by practicing homosexuals who claim the title “Christian” is, “I’m gay, and Jesus loves me, so what’s wrong with that?” At the core of this challenge is the belief that Jesus’ love is all we need.
Jesus loves us because we are His creation whom He created to have a relationship with, but He didn’t die for us so that we can remain in our sins. Our sin is what separates us from God and breaks that relationship. Romans 3:23 and 6:23 says, “[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, … [T]he wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus is our Savior because He sets us free from our sin according to Matthew 1:21, “[Y]ou shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus died to free us from our sins and to transform us into a new creation. Second Corinthians 5:15–17 says, “[H]e died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” No longer is the Christian identified by his fleshly passions. Jesus died in order that we might no longer live according to our sinful passions but according to the lifestyle that Jesus has called us to.
The first word in the gospel is “repent,” which means “to change one’s mind or purpose.” This is seen in Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:7; Mark 1:15; Mark 6:12; Luke 13:3–5; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 17:30; and Acts 26:19–20. Salvation is conditioned upon our willingness to turn away from our sins and align our passions and actions with what the Bible says. Our salvation is not dependent upon how much God loves us. According to John 3:16, God loves everyone enough to have died for us in order to offer us a way of salvation, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Certainly, God has a passionate love for all men; however, not all men will be saved. Second Peter 3:9 teaches that if the decision of who should be saved were entirely up to how God feels, then everyone would be saved, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Not all men receive salvation because God’s love and desire to see all men saved is limited by His justice.
Certainly, Jesus loves us, but Scripture teaches that this is not sufficient to secure our salvation. Matthew 7:21–23 teaches that we must have a relationship with Jesus in order to receive salvation, “‘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. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” The word “know” in this passage means more than “to be aware of.” Clearly an omniscient God is aware of these people. Instead, this is a word that can mean “to understand completely” and “implies an active relation between the one who ‘knows’ and the person or thing ‘known.’” Jesus says to these people that they may have thought that they loved Him, but there was no intimacy—there was no relationship. Because of this, they do not receive salvation.
It is not enough that Jesus loves us; we must also love Him. Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we truly love Him, then we will keep His commandments, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” According to John 15:10, it is through obeying Jesus’ commandments that we abide in His love, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” Jesus was not so soft and sentimental that He had no standards. In Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus said that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of God.
Certainly, this is an impossible task on our own, but Ephesians 5:25–27 teaches that Jesus is actively sanctifying those who belong to Him, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Additionally, 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches that God empowers His people to overcome temptation, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Those who truly love Jesus will follow His commandments to reject the practice of homosexuality in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20; Romans chapter one; 1 Corinthians chapter 6; 1 Timothy chapter one; and Jude chapter one. Certainly, Jesus loves homosexuals, but Jesus does not save homosexuals—just as Jesus does not save thieves, drunkards, adulterers, idolaters, and anyone else whose identity continues to rest in an act that God has declared to be sinful. Instead, Jesus saves people who have repented of these actions and have assumed their identity as a child of God through Jesus Christ. Certainly, this includes individuals who continue to struggle with the temptation of same-sex attraction, just as there are children of God who continue to struggle with the temptation of drunkenness, adultery, and idolatry, but their identity rests in God, and they strive to submit themselves to His commandments.
Therefore, “Jesus loves me, and I’m gay, so it must be OK” reveals an ignorance of the true gospel, but this ignorance is not unique to homosexuals. Far too often we ourselves depend upon this very same excuse for any number of other sins. We convince ourselves that God will overlook our sinful behavior because He loves us. Subconsciously, we ourselves declare, “Jesus loves me and I’m a liar, proud, greedy, spiteful, unreliable, a gossip, or any number of other sins; but it must be OK.” Somehow we convince ourselves that Jesus loves us, and we are flawed creatures; therefore, Jesus must accept us just the way we are. Certainly, Jesus loves each and every one of us, but Jesus is not content to overlook our sin. Just as it was before we were saved, our sin breaks our intimacy with God. It drives a wedge of separation between us and God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “[Y]our iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Fortunately, 1 John 1:9 teaches, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The good news of the gospel is that we can be freed from our sins and experience an intimacy with God if we will place our trust in Him and simply give up our sinful habits, choosing instead to obey God’s commandments.
Not every sin is as obvious, risky, or influential as that of practicing homosexuality. Nevertheless, every sin is rooted in the very same mistake: the refusal to submit ourselves to God’s commandments. Fortunately, we have a God who loves us enough to refuse to ignore our rebellion. We have a God who stands ready to rescue us from any sin in which we find ourselves ensnared and to bestow upon us a new identity: child of God.
This article is excerpted from the book Laid Bare: Uncovering the Relationship Between Homosexuality & the Gospel.
1. Vine, W.E., Merrill Unger, William White Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 525. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
2. Ibid, 347.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.