I see it and I recognize it, but I’m going to step in it anyway. There is a serious debate going on about the connection between behavior and salvation. The particular question is whether practicing homosexuals can go to Heaven. Recently the leader of a group known as “Exodus” has made some statements that disturb the system. In an interview with Lisa Ling, and in reference to people who continue to live in a homosexual lifestyle, Alan Chambers said, “I do believe they will be in heaven with me … if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
This perspective has gotten Chambers into trouble. People are saying that he should step down from his leadership position. People are saying that he is a heretic.
But notice what he did not say. He did not say that a homosexual lifestyle was good or even “acceptable” for a Christian. He did not say that homosexual behavior was without negative consequences or that it was not sin. He did not say that homosexuals should not seek to change. He also did not say that homosexuals were “good enough” to get into Heaven. He said nothing positive about homosexuality.
What he said was that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus, and I take that to mean a saving relationship based on accepting the love of God in the life and sacrifice of Jesus, will be in Heaven. His idea of salvation appears to be centered on Jesus, rather than the behavior of people, even people who claim to know Jesus.
So now the question is: Can a gay Christian go to Heaven? Good grief!
Two things: First, the gay lifestyle is a search for love. Yes, it is broken and aberrant and, from the perspective of most of us, disturbing. But the feelings within the hearts of gay people are usually very deep reactions to the world in which they grew up. The flesh of the gay person is just as confused and just as wrongly wired as that of the rest of us.
For some people, acceptance and love are found in food. Some find it in buying things. Others find it in serving people or recognition at work or in pets or in collecting things. We do these things because they make us feel what we want to feel. This is what the flesh is all about—finding ways to feel the way we want. Some feel much better about themselves in fantasies and indulge in p-rn or romance fiction. Some go from partner to partner seeking that special feeling. And some feel better in a close relationship with someone of the same gender.
Feelings lead to actions. A person addicted to buying things in order to feel good might be tempted to do wrong things to get enough money to continue buying. A person who eats to feel good can damage his health and become a glutton. Wrong thinking leads to wrong doing. Whether it is homosexual behavior or a critical spirit, it comes from wrong thinking.
And, whether we like to admit it or not, we carry a bunch of wrong thinking into our Christian life. And wrong doing. I know that I didn’t think and act in the way I thought I should or in the way I wanted when I became a believer. I still don’t. And, I’d be willing to bet, neither do you. It is certainly possible to overcome our feelings, to not let them dictate our actions—but it is hard work and we all know it. The simple truth is that we didn’t come to Christ by perfect behavior and we don’t have to behave perfectly to remain in Christ. The only behavior that brings and keeps salvation is Jesus’ behavior.
So is it possible for practicing homosexual Christians to go to Heaven? Here’s my second point, and it’s important: Christians go to Heaven. The one requirement for Heaven is eternal life in Jesus. Those who come to Jesus and place their hope and trust in Him will find Him faithful—even when they are not. Christians go to Heaven. Imperfect in this world, broken and struggling and hurting and confused and compromised and sad and wrong and burdened, but Christians. Just like you and me.
Let’s be honest. If people who still practice homosexuality, but have a relationship with Jesus, cannot go to Heaven because of their behavior, then there is no hope for any of us. It is either Jesus, and Jesus alone, or we have nothing.