Jesus isn’t shocked by sin.
He’s angry at sin. He is outraged over sin. He hates sin. And though He never sinned, He was beaten and killed for sin. But Scripture never records Jesus being shocked by sin. “Really??? Again?? Can’t you get it together? What do you think you’re doing?” None of those words ever crossed Jesus’s lips.
See, Jesus knows people. He knows we are inherently sinful (Romans 3:23) and yet He steps in and loves us, woos us, pursues us (1 John 3:1, Romans 8:37-39).
But we. We are often stunned by the sins of others. Someone confesses their sin to us and our jaw drops to the floor. We think, “How could THEY ever do THAT? I would NEVER.” Jamie Ivey, in her book If You Only Knew, calls this “sin shock.”
Our words and even our body language drive people away, and in essence we’re telling people, “Your confession is not welcome here.” We’re creating a culture that tells people, “It’s better for you to carry the weight of your guilt and shame around than confess it.”
This seems to be especially true when someone reveals same-sex sexual sin. Rather than responding with compassion and humility, we quietly stop asking them to serve in the church nursery, we fire them from their camp counselor job, and we look at them suspiciously when a same-sex hug lasts a few seconds longer than we think it should. Though we say with our mouths that “all ground is level at the foot of the cross,” we tend to view same-sex sexual sin with a Pharisaical attitude: “God, thank you I’m not like them” (Luke 18:11).
For lack of a compassionate space to confess and be offered something truly better, many gay Christians struggling with sexual sin are drowning in guilt and shame, suffocating under the weight of the burden they carry alone – all for fear of what the rest of us would think. And that’s blocking them from the freedom that’s found in bringing sin to light, in repenting, in knowing that their pain and shame and guilt are all welcome at the table.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We have Jesus. And because we have Jesus — the very same Jesus who wasn’t shocked when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him, the same Jesus who knew Peter would deny Him and yet pursued him, the same Jesus who didn’t bat an eye when the Samaritan woman with five ex-husbands showed up at the well — because we have that Jesus we can create a culture where people are expected to confess and repent of sin (even sexual sin) and where people have a safe space to be transformed into the likeness of Christ (not transformed into a person with opposite-sex attractions).
No, Jesus isn’t shocked by sin. He welcomes confession and does not condemn (Romans 8:1). In fact, He was the one condemned for sin. Neither should we condemn when our brothers and sisters confess sin to us. Instead, we value others and their lives and their stories. We humbly listen and we love well. When sin is confessed, we remember the hope of the Gospel and we lead people to the Redeemer who died for that very sin and who is continually redeeming us from our sin. And we begin to change the culture of our churches from one filled with “sin shock” to one where people are free to confess and repent and be freed from the weight of guilt and shame.
Is that what the LGBTQ+ are really after, repentance? I’d say there are those who, as you indicate. Recognize their sin and wish to turn away. My fear is, many are asking for acceptance under the laws of inclusion and wish to be accepted for their sin, not in spite is it. They don’t recognize their sin as sin, yet champion to be a part of Christ’s kingdom and accepted, continuing in sin, and not repenting. I hope I’m wrong!
Anecdotally, I’ve seen that gay people are just as interested in repentance as straight people. You’re right that many gay people want society and the Church to make their sin more comfortable, but I could say the same about most straight people (and even most straight Christians). EQUIP’s first focus is on the gay Christians in our churches who already submit their sexualities to a traditional sexual ethic, but they need help from their churches seeing good fruit from that submission. Once the submission of gay Christians to a traditional sexual ethic actually produces undeniably good fruit, gay people who aren’t Christians or are progressive Christians will be drawn to what God wants to offer. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to brainstorm how your church can become a place where there is undeniably good fruit!
I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate and admire your thoughtful and authentic responses (both here and in other blog posts). Thank you for engaging in this incredibly complex conversation with honesty and compassion. It leaves room for people to ask questions and be challenged in their thinking and responses.
Thanks for the encouragement Eric!