I was sad to hear a big blow up in the news recently regarding a Christian rugby star saying gays are going to hell. The truth is, gays do go to hell, and so do straight people. Tall people, short people; good people, bad people; white people, black people. That’s why Jesus chose to sacrifice His life – because we ALL needed saving from hell, destruction, the consequences of a fallen, sinful state. God so loved gay, straight, good, bad, rich, poor people, that He made a way that we can all come to know His grace that saves us from the bondage and corruption of this fallen world. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking one people group is going to hell, when another one isn’t; or, that one people group is good enough to earn eternal life, when others aren’t. We’re all in trouble if we have to stand before a perfect, all knowing judge!
Jesus told a story to help clear up the prejudices, ignorance, and arrogance around whom God thinks will enter eternal life. He said that two men appeared before God in the temple. One man was a religious man who seemed to others to do all the right religious things. The other man was well known for getting things … well, wrong – very wrong! To re-translate it into today’s culture, one man was a straight, religious leader, and the other was a gay sex worker.
The religious leader walked to the front of the temple, lifted his head, and declared all the good things he had been doing and how he wasn’t like other sinful people, especially the gay sex worker. People probably agreed with him – he was very religious, and he wasn’t like other ‘sinners’. On the other hand, Jesus said the gay sex worker stood at the back of the temple, with his head lowered. He felt shame, guilt, and a genuine disconnection from God. He simply beat his chest and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner’. I expect people would’ve agreed with him as well – he was obviously a sinner!
But then Jesus, having no interest in being politically correct, nor trying to win the favour of the religious elite, turned this story on its head. He said:
“I tell you that this man [the ‘sinner’], rather than the other [the self-righteous], went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Full story in Luke 18:9-14]
No doubt, some of the hearers of this story were quite offended. Jesus had cut right across the culture of the day and revealed the heart and righteousness of God. The truth is, both men were sinners in need of God’s mercy, but only one recognised it and asked for it. The other was too busy trying to prove he was good enough by comparing himself with others. If we really want to be good enough to earn a right standing before God, we need to compare ourselves to God’s perfect character, holiness, and glory. At which point, we all realise none of us are that good!
To bring this into today's media hype over a comment taken out of context about gays going to hell, I’m hoping people would take the time to read and understand the wider context of Israel Folau's statement (see ‘PlayersVoice.com.au’). None of us are perfect; none of us are righteous (right in God’s eyes) by our own lifestyles, moral compliance, or character. We all need the mercy and grace of God to save us and make us right.
Gay or straight, religious or worldly, God loves us all so much, He gave Himself as the man Jesus, to live our lives, and take on our sin, carrying it to the cross for judgement. Anyone who would humble themselves and ask for mercy in Jesus’ name will find grace, forgiveness, and a cleansing from all sin, forever. So, let’s just be clear: we all need that mercy, because without it, we all have sins that will be judged, not by the media, but by a perfect, all-knowing, holy God. It’s a good thing that He is also loving and merciful! Maybe if we spend less time judging each other, we’ll have the time to seek and discover the amazing, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. Let’s not kid ourselves, thinking that this is about lifestyle choice, culture, or religion. It’s about having to give an account for our lives to our Creator, on His terms, not ours. “Everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”
His love – Our sin – His grace – Our hope