I got this email a few days ago insisting Christians need to be more "inclusive" of open homosexuals. It's a popular notion these days, so I thought I'd share this with you and respond here publicly:
Matt, you put yourself on a pedestal as this “great Christian” but you do more harm to the religion than anyone else. As a gay man I can say I’m happy to see how finally a lot of Christians and different churches are realizing that Christianity has to be INCLUSIVE of the LGBTQ community and other lifestyles. Not judging of them. Gays and trans people have felt alienated by Christianity and now progressive Christians have finally started to pull the religion into the 21st century and reach out to all of us. Jesus preached tolerance for all people and lifestyles not HATE. The prodigal son was WELCOMED back not told to go away! You are still trying to make divisions and tell some of us Christians we are not Christians just because we live differently. You are a truly sh*tty person and you come off as a bad writer and an uneducated idiot. Just stop talking. You make Jesus mad every time you write your garbage.
-A gay man who loves Jesus
Hi. Thanks for writing. A few points.
First, as I'm constantly reminded, the sins of homosexuality and fornication have existed since Biblical times. Still, it was prohibited in the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 19:1-13, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9) and by every Christian church for the first 20 centuries of Christianity's existence. Since you are a self-identified Christian who thinks the moral teachings of the Bible should now be suddenly updated, I have to ask: What changed?
What was revealed in the last few years that proved the prophets, the apostles and all Christian denominations until recently wrong? What new piece of information did humanity obtain? What great revelation occurred? You think a 2,000-year-old faith that professes timeless Truths should "keep up" with the whims of modernity, but why? What do we know in our time that the Church didn't know — that God Himself didn't know — up to now? Be very careful in how you answer that question.
Second, I have never referred to myself as a "great Christian" — or a "great" anything for that matter — so I'm not sure why you put "great Christian" in quotes. I consider myself a greatly flawed Christian, even a "sh*tty" one, as you so helpfully and compassionately noted.
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See, you need to stop reading with your emotions and read with your brain, man. Your emotions tell you that anyone who advocates virtue is automatically claiming to be virtuous, because it's easier to dismiss a point based on the perceived motivations behind it rather than consider the point on its own merits. It's like I'm saying two plus two equals four, and you're countering that I'm not such a brilliant mathematician. Well, right, but I never said I was a brilliant mathematician. I just said two plus two equals four, because it does, and because even a stupid man can see that.
It's difficult to have grown-up conversations these days, because people like yourself see every mention of moral truth as either a personal attack or a statement of superiority. This is the real damage you cause in the Faith. It's not that you're sinful — we all are, to be sure — it's that you want to be coddled. You want to shut down professions of Truth that are inconvenient or uncomfortable. You want to modify Christian teachings not because you tried them and found them wrong, but because, to paraphrase Chesterton, you found them difficult and don't want to try them.
I have many sins, but I will not tell you they are not sins. I come to Christ a sick and broken man looking for healing. You apparently come a sick and broken man looking to be assured you were never sick and broken to begin with. That is the only real difference between us. Or I should say, it's the only real difference between Christians and "progressive Christians." Both groups are sinful, both groups are weak, both groups need Christ desperately, but one wants — though they may so often fail — to go Christ's way, and the other wants Christ to go theirs.
Third, I'm tired of hearing this "inclusive" stuff. Yes of course the Faith is made for people like you. It's made for all people. It's not a cult or a club. There's no entrance exam or membership fee. Christianity is for everyone. If that's what you mean by "inclusive," fine, but a better word would be "universal." In any case, that isn't what you mean, is it?
When you ask for an "inclusive" Christianity, you ask for a Christianity that, rather than calling you to serve it, bends down and serves you. You're asking to be "included" in the Faith on your own terms. That's just not how this works, brother. As Christians, we have no authority to "include" you in that way. You must include yourself.
We go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel. We offer an invitation. We extend a greeting. We fight to win souls. But the souls must come of their own accord and must accept the Truth of Christ willingly and in its fullness. You must enter into the Truth. You must be the one who accepts it. You must be the one who "includes" the Truth in your life. Your lifestyle must change to accommodate the Truth, not the other way around.
By the way, Jesus never uttered the word "lifestyle," much less did He preach that they all ought to be tolerated. Recently, we've started referring to sins as "lifestyles" and pretending that this rhetorical maneuver somehow changes the morality of the issue. It doesn't. A sin is still a sin, and He instructs us all to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11), which often means dramatically altering our lifestyles.
Indeed, when people came to follow Him in Scripture, He told them to first leave their earthly pleasures behind and then continue along the road (Luke 18:22). He made it very clear that there is in fact a correct lifestyle, a correct way to live, and that way is narrow. Matthew 7:13 tells us the broad and "inclusive" road is the one that leads to damnation. You must choose, then, to walk through the right path, the narrow path, but it will be difficult and demanding, and it will not and cannot be widened to include you.
We all struggle with sin. But struggle is the keyword. Struggle. Fight back. Plead with God in agony to help you defeat these demons. Go to Christ begging that He help you overcome your temptations and live with chastity and temperance. Don't demand that your sin be allowed to accompany you into Heaven. It can't. We can accompany our sins into Hell, or ditch the whole ugly package on the side of the road and come Home.
In "The Great Divorce," C.S. Lewis said, "If we insist on keeping Hell, we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven, we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”
That's our choice, in a nutshell.
Yes, as you mention, the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11) was welcomed back by his father. But have you read the entire parable? The son realizes the error of his ways, makes the journey back home, and when he arrives he pleads for forgiveness. "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." Wow, that's, like, a pretty intense declaration. Notice he didn't waltz back to his dad's place and casually brag that he blew his fortune on hookers and booze but he's not sorry and intends to get right back to it first thing tomorrow. If he had, I think the story would have ended differently.
We see the same sort of thing play out in the passage about the two criminals crucified next to Christ (Luke 23:39-43). One of the criminals is unrepentant and demands that Jesus rescue him from his fate and allow him to continue on sinning. The other realizes he deserves his punishment and, in those final moments before death, professes his faith in Christ and repents of his sin. Christ assures the repentant man he will be with Him in paradise. Our Lord very noticeably does not make this guarantee to the other. A really bad sign for that dude, to say the least.
But for the penitent criminal, imagine the joy. What a beautiful thing, what a privilege it must have been to die next to Christ, to be forgiven everything he'd ever done and welcomed into eternal salvation. Now, that is inclusive. And that is an opportunity open to all of us.
It's so simple, really. The message is so hopeful and good and joyous, which is why I resent attempts to dilute it into oblivion. All we have to do is follow Christ, spread the Gospel, fight against our sins, and repent for the times when we fail in that fight. That's all. That's the "how to" of Christianity. It seems you want to remove, well, all of those ingredients and still call yourself a Christian. You might as well remove all the yeast and flour from a mixture and call the goop of water, butter, and salt that remains "bread."
I'm reminded of a great moment from a fantastic book called "The Power and the Glory," set during the persecutions in 1930s Mexico. The protagonist, a sinful, degenerate, alcoholic priest with an illegitimate daughter, is facing execution for his faith. Hours before they march him to death by firing squad, he's in his cell reflecting on his life and praying for forgiveness:
He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing done at all. It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that there was only one thing that counted — to be a saint.
Powerful. The man knows he has failed God so many times in his life, he lacked even the little restraint and courage that was required to follow Christ perfectly, yet because he believed, because he repented, because in these final moments he hungers for the Lord's embrace, he will enter Paradise all the same.
Inclusive? Sure. I'd call that inclusive.
The point is, Christianity includes us, Christ includes us, but He will not include our sin. We have to choose to shed our sin, pick up our cross, and follow Him. That's what it means to "be included." You say that's what you want, but do you? Do you want to leave your earthly pleasures behind, cut off whatever parts of your life are causing you to sin (Matthew 5:30), and die with Christ? I can't answer that question for you. I have a hard enough time answering it affirmatively myself every day.
Christianity is truly a simple formula, but a painful one. If we will not include the pain and sacrifice in our lives, we will not include the Faith.
Fourth, Christians churches in America were never guilty of "alienating" unrepentant sinners like the "LGBTQ community." They are so attached to their sin that they literally define themselves by it. They look for "community" not with the Body of Christ, but with those who share their urges and fetishes. They elect to reject the difficult aspects of the Faith. They alienate themselves.
There are many accounts in Scripture where Jesus delivers a controversial message that is hard for people to accept, and many of his followers abandon Him altogether because of it. You'll notice that Jesus never backtracks and apologizes. He never chases them down as they walk away and explains that He didn't really mean all that stuff and really they were just taking it out of context.
In John 6, after Christ proclaims Himself the bread of life, many of his disciples are upset and threaten to leave. He does not beg them to turn around. He just continues right along speaking the Truth. He does not change His Word to cater to those who choose not to accept it. They are alienated by their sin, not by Him.
With that said, I do think many churches are guilty of alienating a certain group. As others have pointed out, the minority that rightly feels disaffected are those striving to live the Christian life. While western Christendom has worked so hard to shelter and welcome people who do not even desire to follow His Word and who, in fact, wish to subvert and change it for their own purposes, the ones really left out in the cold are those who try to be virtuous, chaste and faithful.
The Christians who would now be called "extremist" or "fundamentalist" or "conservative," who stand against the cultural tide, who resist the temptation to succumb to the heretical fashions of the day — these are the Christians we need to include more. They have accepted the Faith for what it is, they are trying, though imperfectly, to walk through the narrow gate, but what do they find? Churches that treat them like nuisances. Church services designed to appeal to the secular crowd at the expense of giving the faithful the sacred and invigorating experience they deeply crave. Christian leaders who provide no leadership. A faith muted and watered down for the benefit of those who wish to destroy it.
These believers are trying their best to keep their hearts pure in a society that heaps mockery and scorn upon such efforts. They despair sometimes wondering how they'll ever manage to raise their children to love Jesus in a country where even His supposed followers celebrate sin and bestow blessings on the worst kinds of evil. They've watched their nation discard virtue and truth and God. They feel isolated. They feel betrayed. They are beaten and exhausted in their fight against sin because they feel like they are fighting alone. They feel like Christ on Calvary shouting, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Of course, God has not forsaken them. But many Christians have. Many churches have. Many pastors have. Many Christian leaders have. They need to be equipped, encouraged and inspired in their mission to defeat sin, follow the Word and walk the narrow path to salvation, but these Christians are frequently left wondering where to turn.
Certainly the culture is no help. The education system is usually just another obstacle. The government, the media, even sometimes their own families are against their quest for holiness. So they run to their churches and their ministers and their fellow Christians and often they are greeted with secularized gospels and "progressive" gospels and "prosperity" gospels and gay gospels when all they want is the Gospel, in all its truth and fury.
John Chrysostom said the Holy Scripture should be "engraved upon our hearts." There are some Christians who wish to adhere to it with that level of severity. They are the minority that all churches should be bending over backwards to embrace. They are the ones who need to be included again. They are the life of the Faith in this country.
Frankly, the church has not failed if it makes open homosexuals or anyone else feel uncomfortable in their sin. That is a success. That is the church doing what it's supposed to do. But it has failed if it makes the faithful and the sincere feel unwelcome. This is the real problem, the real crisis.
I'll pray Christian churches in this country always "include" the Truth, not liberal sexual dogmas or any other form of blasphemy.
As for you, I'll pray you leave your sin behind and come to Christ remorseful and empty handed, ready to be His servant.
As for me, please pray I do the same.
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