From the Heart of a Pastor
by Pastor Byron MacDonald
I received a letter this week that was both the cry of a heart and a challenge to us as a church. It was a challenge that came from one speaking on behalf of those who struggle with the temptation of homosexual desires.
It is not that this individual is living a homosexual lifestyle, though some do wholly give into the temptation.
A person can share the struggles concerning other issues in life and find understanding, empathy, and prayerful assistance. But somehow this temptation seems to be outside understanding, empathy, and prayerful assistance within the Christian community.
Can someone share with us their struggles with homosexual temptation, and still find themselves loved, accepted, and appreciated? Is this temptation forced into the dark secret world, and, thus, grows in its power and control? Is this a temptation that others cannot be honest about for fear of labeling and rejection? These are signifiant and troubling questions.
Neither fears, nor attractions and propaganda that come from culture should determine our response. What does the Bible say about this?
First, the Bible states that sin lives in all of us. It says that sin lives in the flesh of Christians.
Sin lives in each and every one of us. Romans 3.23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Isaiah 53.6, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Second, the Bible teaches there is no sin Jesus cannot deliver us from. We can triumph over each and every sin. We can bring every sin into the light of the grace and truth of Jesus, and find forgiveness and help to overcome.
When Paul addressed the Corinthian church, he talked about their former sinful lifestyles, including homosexuality. He writes, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God."
What thrilling Good News! There is no sin that the blood and power of Jesus Christ are not able to forgive and overcome.
Third, the Bible teaches that temptation is not sin. Temptation is not sin, it simply means sin lives inside me. It may motivate one person to greed, another to lust, another to pride, another to prejudice, and another to homosexual desires. How terrible it would be to judge someone for the nature of the sinful temptations they may have.
Listen to the words of Paul, talking about his own struggle with sin as a Christian. Romans 7.15-17, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If then, I do what I will not do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do. If then, I do what I will not to do, I agree the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but that sin dwells in me."
What Paul says is the struggle with sin indicated that he is not his sin, but that sin does live in him, and it is powerful.
Fourth, the Bible says homosexuality is not some strange form of sin that would cause us to put someone down who wrestles with those desires. 1 Corinthians 10.13, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
What hope we have! Our particular temptation doesn't make us strange or perverted. It is common to man. Whatever our temptation, we have the promise of the help of God to overcome it.
Fifth, the Bible says the blood of Jesus is able to cleanse us from all our sins. There is forgiveness and cleansing. 1 John 1.9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Sixth, the Bible teaches us to bring our sins and temptations into the light as they cannot live in the light. James 5.16, "Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Galatians 6.1-2, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering your self lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Seventh, the Bible says those who battle sin have Jesus on their side, even if they yield to temptation. 1 John 2.1- 2: "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."
My prayer is that we are a community of love, grace, and truth. While we will never endorse sin or sinful lifestyles, we will always welcome sinners. We will be honest about the sin that lives in us, and bring it into the open for prayer and help. We will be a community that gives freedom to others to share their struggles with sin and temptation.
Sin cannot live in the light. Be sure you have no prejudices or categories of sin that force others to keep their temptations in the dark. Jesus was known by the fact that He kept company with sinners. May our Church have that same reputation. For the day we forget that it is all about grace isthe day we are blind to our own sin. May our Church truly be a place where we love one another, not because we hide who we are, but because we can bring who we are into the light and find acceptance, love, prayer, and real help.
From The Pastor's Chat by Rev. Byron MacDonald
Rolling Hills Covenant Church Bulletin, Palos Verdes, California.