Lessons We Learn From the Homosexual: The Nature of Sin
"Sin is a sickness, not just something you do from time to time, like stumbling or fumbling or having to sneeze. It's in you mister. Sister, it's in me...." -Charlie Peacock (from "The Point" on strangelanguage)
Christianity posits that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." We also maintain that this universal state is not meant to be permanent. While we shall never achieve sinlessness before the earth itself is redeemed, we urge all Christians to come as close as possible. Through their walk with God, we assure these young ones, they will be able to overcome any sin that comes their way.
And yet multitudes of gay and lesbian Christians struggle in vain to overcome the homosexuality they are told to relinquish.
Studies suggest that among homosexual Christians earnestly dedicated to change, only one third obtain any such change whatsoever. What's going on here? It is often noted as a significant stumbling block of faith and a hard truth that proves homosexuality's normativity (or at least genetic inevitability in a fallen world). It drives many of those who earnestly seek God to abandon His ways or His church in frustration and despair. It is the chink in the armour of God.
How does one such as myself, who testifies to the possible victory over homosexuality available to all, get around this terrible statistic? One fact (not the subject here but eminently valid) is that not all are to be used as heterosexuals. This sounds cold to many, but the testimony of an unchanged homosexual Christian can be much more efficacious than that of a happily-ever-after ex-gay husband. It is not unjust or unheard-of for God to preserve one in his or her struggle in order to use their story. This brand of redemption is common and perhaps most inspiring. And all of us have struggles throughout our lives, one of which may be homosexuality, but it is not in any special category of difficulty and shame.
The other reason for this unbalanced ratio is that which concerns me here: the very nature of sin.
There is much debate as to what the 'sin' of homosexuality is. Is it the sex act itself (and if so, what constitutes sex?)? Is it a romantic relationship with another of the same sex? Is it simply the sexual desire toward one's own sex? Is it determined by acts, fantasies, desires, personalities? What, then, is permissible?
Paul would answer this question very simply, borrowing the language of his own time. "'All things are permissible for me.' But not all things are beneficial. 'All things are permissible for me.' But I will not be brought under the power of any (1 Corinthians 10:23)." We are reminded that God's commandments are not a dead, rigid law to restrict us but a living code of conduct to preserve us.
Charlie Peacock hits it home with the quote heading this post. "Sin is a sickness, not just something you do from time to time." Sin is a sickness. Sins are but the outward symptoms of this universal disease. Throughout Scripture, we are redirected within. It is our hearts that matter, the motives and designs of our inner being that prompt us to commit the physical sins others see. The problem is much deeper.
When fighting any common disease, it is important to not treat just the symptoms. Such treatment may be necessary to allow the deeper cure or prepare the patient in some comfort, but the true victory must come from a direct assault against the disease itself. Treating the symptoms of sin (our acts, fantasies, desires) will inevitably end in frustration. We cannot defeat these things while the true cancer continues to devour us. Will-power and self-control are essential virtues in the fight against sin, but they will only get you so far if you ignore the other battle front.
Sin, the sickness itself, is a deep infection of our very beings. The treatment of this disease is reliant on God, and it requires the sufferer to be reliant on Him. It undercuts the symptoms and hits the cancer where it has taken root. Its defeat shows itself outwardly in the way we act, the people we love, and the things we desire. But these things are not "the point." They are not the reason or the means. God wants to deal with us, not just our behaviours.
Above all, we must remember that we live in the era of grace. Our job is not simply to control our behaviours. Our goal is to become as much like Christ as we can. This drive will inevitably include dealing with sin, but each act of disobedience is not our damnation. It is also, however, not to be overlooked. It is a sign of the state of our inner being. It is the symptom that reminds us of our sickness. As Charlie Peacock continues:
"This is what it's like to be loved. This is what it's like to be forgiven. To be living in a way that you don't have to fear being zapped by God because you don't measure up.
"After all, that's the point."