My favorite Book in the Bible is Romans. Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians is an incredible treatise on salvation: why we need salvation, what’s involved in salvation, how we gain salvation, and how we live it out. Right from the beginning the apostle Paul introduced the good news of Christ, but to show why the good news is so good, he started with why we need Jesus: we are sinners. And what did he use as an example of our sinfulness? The sin of homosexuality.
“For this reason God delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error” (Rom. 1:26-27).
It’s easy to see why this is one of the passages Christians use when discussing the subject of homosexuality. But they stop reading too soon. Paul continued:
“And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know God’s just sentence — that those who practice such things deserve to die — they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them” (vv. 28-32).
The way some in the church talk, there is no one more sinful than a homosexual. But look at all the sins Paul listed. Paul wasn’t throwing homosexual offenders under the bus by themselves; Paul also threw gossips, people with envy, those who disobey parents, the arrogant, and the unloving under the bus too. In other words, he didn’t leave anyone out!
We are all sinners. Period.
I’m tired of people rallying against one form of sin as though it is the worst of sins. In the 70s, the issue was divorce. In the 80s, it was abortion. And as the LGBTQ+ crowd has risen and become more vocal, so have those who have made this crowd the ultimate villains.
Our human nature is to find a definable bad guy to stand against—and it’s always someone whose sin is not our own. It’s easy to rally against a sin when it’s not your particular sin.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not dismissing the sin of homosexual acts. It’s a sin because it goes against God’s perfect standard for our lives. But the sins of arrogance and a lack of mercy are equally sinful, destructive, and repellant to a holy God.
Jesus did not raise a cry against one sin over all others. The gospel is grounded in the truth that we need saving from ourselves because all of us are sinners. No one is exempt. And the depravity of our sin prevents us from ever climbing out from under it on our own. The gospel—the good news—is the incredible love and grace of Jesus who took our depravity on Himself and paid the penalty.
Paul’s point in Romans was not to exclude and pick on homosexuals. His point was that all of us have missed God’s standard … but Jesus met it for us.
I’m sorry that too many Christians have lost sight of that. We can avoid the self-righteous stance that only focuses on the sin of others if we adopt Paul’s testimony as our own: “‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ — and I am the worst of them” (1 Tim. 1:15).
Jesus freed me from my depravity, and I just want to wallow in God’s grace. My desire is to lift up that truth and see others discover that same grace-filled salvation.
One final observation about the Book of Romans. Paul dealt quite decisively with our sin and depravity, but he spent a lot more time focusing on what Christ has done to remove that depravity and bring us into the light and love of the Father. May we do the same: let’s acknowledge sin but spend more time parked on the grace, forgiveness, justification, and righteousness that is ours when we walk with Jesus.
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