Alan’s monthly letter for March 2012
A homosexual man asked my wife, “Do you think I’m going to Hell?” That’s a tough question. If you say yes, then you sound judgmental. If you say no, it looks like you’re compromising your convictions. Either way it seems you lose. I think, however, the answer is easy: Yes, homosexuals are going to Hell.
But guess what? Liars are going to Hell too. So are gluttons, drunkards, and adulterers. Do you see a pattern here? Everyone is going to Hell.
There’s nothing singular about people who engage in same-sex intercourse. Whether you go to Heaven or Hell has nothing to do with the kind of sin you’ve committed. It’s about moral culpability. Guilty people deserve to be punished and innocent people go free. That’s a basic principle of justice.
The problem is that this question often carries with it an incorrect assumption: Homosexuality is so offensive that it’s unforgivable. Violators go directly to Hell. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. But this is not true. God doesn’t have special rules that govern how to levy punishment on homosexuals.
Perhaps rephrasing the question would help: Can people with same-sex attractions (SSA) go to Heaven? Yes, they can. Even if they’ve engaged in homosexual behavior, it’s still possible to be pardoned for their actions. This is no different than those who are selfish, steal, or commit adultery. People who commit these crimes can be pardoned from the punishment they deserve.
Even though that’s good news, believers are still berated for their moral views on homosexuality. But Christians didn’t make them up. God did. It’s like yelling at the DMV employee for failing your driving test. He’s just telling you the rules of the road. He didn’t make them up. Blame someone else.
Besides, it’s not like God is pointing the finger just at homosexuals. God’s an equal opportunity judger. Some people who went to church last Sunday will be in Hell. Some people who study the Bible will be there too. Why? Those people have also committed crimes that render them guilty. And going to church or reading the Bible doesn’t earn them a pardon.
That’s because we don’t get to make the rules for reconciliation. God does. So being a “good person” doesn’t matter. Seeking to be “sincere” is irrelevant. Trying to be “true to yourself” won’t help. It’s God’s Kingdom: He’s the King and it’s His domain. He decides the terms for acquittal.
He also shows no partiality towards whom He pardons. A churchgoer has no advantage over a homosexual. Each has an equal chance at forgiveness no matter what they’ve done.
This is great news. God is willing to grant us a pardon for our bad behavior. We can accept the pardon and go free or pay the penalty ourselves. It’s our choice. That means a man or woman can live a life of homosexual behavior and still be cleared of their guilt.
Although it sounds too good to be true, people who are exonerated know it’s anything but easy. The process involves an important consequence: We give God a lifetime of allegiance in return for a pardon. That means we’re no longer the absolute arbiter of our life. Rather, we hand over that privilege to the judge who negotiated our freedom.
Fortunately, the judge is good and looks after us. He knows that even though we’re absolved from our crimes and freed from our punishment, justice has not been completed. Our guilt has been lifted, but needs to be placed on another. So, the judge makes arrangements with a willing substitute to bear the blame: His next of kin.
The substitute is agreeable to trade his innocence for our guilt even though a transaction like that isn’t normally allowed. In this instance, however, the substitute is able to make the trade because the judge sanctioned the deal. It’s also fair because He’s willing and He’s willing because He’s family. It’s a family affair.
Who wouldn’t take a judge up on that offer? Who wouldn’t be grateful to his next of kin for His trade? God has done everything possible to keep people out of Hell. Some people just aren’t willing to accept the terms.
I’m not here to declare who is going to Hell and who isn’t. That’s not my point, nor is it for me to decide. That’s God’s job.
Instead, I want to offer some tactical advice. Sometimes you can’t answer a question like the one my wife faced with a simple yes or no. It’s not because you’re avoiding the difficult question, but because you don’t want to give a misleading answer. Plus, you want to make sure the person is asking because they genuinely want to listen to your response and not just pose a gotcha question.
So I suggest you rephrase the question with the following: Can homosexuals go to Heaven? Then you can clarify an important truth. Everyone is guilty (the bad news), but everyone has the same chance to avoid punishment (the good news).
Trying to share this news with homosexuals isn’t always easy. That’s why I’ve been writing a new book for Stand to Reason’s Ambassador’s Guide series—like the one I wrote on Islam. This one will be on homosexuality. The purpose of the book is to equip believers to know the truth, but speak it with compassion.
In fact, I spent two weeks in February writing a large portion of it. I’d like to ask you to pray for me as I finish and publish it this year. Writing is always a challenge for me—both in finding time and also writing well. Not only will I appreciate your prayers, but I know the people who read the book will appreciate them too since they’ll be using it to help them be effective ambassadors on a very controversial topic.