‘Am I going to heaven?’ — Questions the Supreme Court didn't answer

June 30th, 2015

The Supreme Court made a landmark decision last week about gay marriage. They answered a question that has divided our country for a very long time. Though SCOTUS answered one big question, they spawned many others and unearthed some old ones along the way. I know how divisive this issue is among Christians. But if we miss the people amid the situation, we miss seeing Jesus. Here’s the thing about Jesus: He always saw the people —the hurting, the broken, the proud, the religious, the marginalized — and he dug past the surface issues to hit upon the deeper questions. There are deeper questions at play here. Here is one of them.

Friday afternoon I received a Facebook message from a former student of mine. It is honest, sincere and personal. This represents the questions we need to be screaming the response to:

“David I have questions that I don’t feel comfortable with asking other members of my church with the whole equality business that’s going on. My question is if I chose to be gay is it first a sin? And second how can the God that I know and I love and who is love and made me in his image punish me for loving another one of his children? I guess what’s to happen if I live my life through? Does that mean I can never go to heaven because I choose to be gay? I’m just really confused and I feel like you can break it down for me.”

And therein lies the deeper question, one that SCOTUS can’t answer, one that has been, is and will continue to be asked. My response:

“First off, thank you so much for coming to me with this. What an honor you would come to me.

“Second, this is a highly complex issue. I’ve watched on Facebook as mud has been slung on both sides over the past few days. It breaks my heart to see so many people who all claim to love Jesus tear at each other.

“Third, I believe that if you have faith in Jesus, your identity is first and foremost a child of God. Not a lesbian. Not a heterosexual. Not a woman. Not even an American. Rather it’s a child of God. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ There is an identity shift that happens when we believe in Jesus. That identity shift also includes the identity of “sinner.” Because of Christ you are a child of God. A child of God no longer is a sinner because that’s not what defines you. Sure you will still sin but it’s not who you are anymore. Lean in to who you are, not who you were.

“Fourth, the church is all over the place on the topic of homosexuality: Is it a sin? If it’s a sin when is it a sin? If it’s not a sin then what do we do with the verses that says that it is? etc.

“Personally I really wish I could read the biblical text and see the argument that homosexuality isn’t a sin. Unfortunately I still see that it is. The way I read it, the sin is not in the orientation but in the act. The same holds true for heterosexuals who engage in sexual acts outside of what God calls holy. Culture doesn’t define holiness, God does. And that steps on all people’s toes.

“Fifth, Romans 8:38-39 says, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ God loves you right where you are. Now Jesus doesn’t want to leave us where we are, but nothing changes or keeps us from that love. So no, I don’t believe that being gay keeps us from heaven. I think we walk in more faithfulness and/or less faithfulness. I know personally there are times that I’ve walked in less than great faithfulness with Jesus, but I’ve still been walking with him. He always walks with me, even when I act like a dumbass.

“There is a big debate over this right now in the church. But if I really believe in Jesus, I believe that he leads those who are trying to live faithfully to him. What that looks like from here? I’m going to let him sort that out.”

There are going to be many more questions that get raised as we enter into this new future of American Christianity. My prediction is that none of them will entail easy answers. (One big one is how do we live faithfully from here?) But let’s not forget there are real people asking real personal questions in our midst. May we transcend the debate to focus on those before us… kind of like Jesus did. 

David Dorn is the Lead Contemporary Pastor for Marvin United Methodist Church in Tyler, TX. He is also the author of “Reclaiming Anger,” “Under Wraps Youth Study” and the founder of The PREPOSTEROUS Project

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