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Sacrifice or Struggle?

When you think about it, it must be very difficult; we should seek to understand, be truly empathetic, and certainly tenderhearted, but we must not make the category error of confusing sacrifice with the struggle against sin.
This short video clip is extremely illustrative when it comes to understanding how a subtle category error gives credence to the “Gay Christian” movement, while also seriously diminishing the finished work of Christ. Beth Moore speaks passionately, sincerely, emotionally, and convincingly about the “tremendous sacrifice of celibacy” that same sex attracted professing believers make as part of their commitment to Christ.

When you think about it, it must be very difficult; we should seek to understand, be truly empathetic, and certainly tenderhearted, but we must not make the category error of confusing sacrifice with the struggle against sin.

Let’s think about this for a moment: When we consider sacrifice, we think of a noble, selfless gesture, where a person gives up something that rightly belongs to him (time, comfort, possessions, his own life) for the good of another, or for the cause of Christ. But is that what same sex attracted professing Christians are doing? Is their celibacy truly a sacrifice? The language used here indeed suggests that if one refrains from practicing that which the Bible clearly prohibits—something sinful—then they are making a tremendous sacrifice.

The Argument

The argument being made is one that is based very much on emotion, and also one which validates same sex attraction instead of condemning it as something belonging to a fallen, sinful human nature. The implication is that anybody who would disagree with this sentiment is cold, harsh, and uncaring; the fear of these labels drives people to capitulation. Please, do not be confused, for the truly regenerate believer giving up the practice of what Scripture clearly forbids is to be seen more as the Christian’s struggle against sin, not as a sacrifice of something that is theirs by right.
This fallacious perspective starts from the worldly assumption that sex is an inherent right which every person is guaranteed. Given this assertion, refraining from engagement in sexual activity is to sacrifice what is rightfully yours; but this is not a biblical view of sex. Sex is a gift of God’s common grace, which is to be enjoyed for His glory and purpose, only in the context which He has ordained – marriage between one man and one woman. Sexual gratification is not something that is promised to every individual, nor is it a God-given human right. All of this may seem to be nit-picking, but these categories are so very important for us to have a truly biblical perspective on this issue.

The Attitude of the Truly Converted

See, for the truly converted person, the attitude is not “I’m sacrificing my natural desires and my only hope for intimacy for the sake of God” as much as it is “Through Christ, I’ve come to see that my desires, no matter how strong, are contrary to who I am in Him; they are contrary to His word and to His will for my life as a believer.” While very real struggles with sinful thoughts and desires remain, they no longer define us, Jesus does. Our identity is in Christ (Gal. 2:20). We have been purchased at a high cost, we belong to Him, we are being conformed to His image, renewed in our minds, we are new creatures in Christ, the old has passed away, replaced by the new! This is the good news of the gospel! Yet, it is precisely here where the battle rages, the struggle with indwelling sin that takes place.
The way we used to think, things we simply took for granted, the things we would partake in we now see for what they are, which is sin. Those things that defined us no longer do (1 Cor. 6:11); however the temptation still remains, calling us back to our former life of sin. The battle is real and it is fierce (Rom. 7:7-25), yet we are called to meet the enemy in the power of the Holy Spirit, renouncing our sinful ways, putting off the old and putting on the new, repenting when we give in; we die to self that we may live for Christ, count the cost, carry our cross every day, work out our salvation with fear and trembling, stand strong even as we recognize our own weakness, flee from sin when all we want to do is indulge. You see, it is not a tremendous sacrifice, but an ongoing struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It’s hard most of the time, extremely difficult some of the time, but His grace is sufficient all the time.

Sacrifice or Struggle Against Sin?

Let me ask: is it considered a sacrifice for a heterosexual person who deeply desires relationship and sexual intimacy in the context of marriage abstains, even if it mean life long celibacy? The biblical answer is no, because to indulge in those desires would be sinful rebellion against God. To put it in a slightly more crass way: are you doing God a favor by denying yourself from participating in what the Bible clearly defines and condemns as sin? Again, we must empathize, sympathize, encourage, lift up in prayer, but we can not categorize this as a sacrifice. We would call it what it actually is, which is faithful obedience to Christ.

There is an event in Israel’s history which is illustrative of this very controversy. In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul is commanded to carry out God’s judgment against the Amelekites by utterly destroying them, and devoting all of their possessions to destruction – he was to take no spoils. However, Saul of course did take the best of the spoils, disobeying the explicit command of God. When Samuel confronts Saul of his sin, Saul justifies himself by explaining that he took what he did with the intention of sacrificing it to God. But don’t you see the problem here? Saul’s refusal to devote to destruction all the possessions of the Amelekites was itself sinful; they were not his to sacrifice, and so the sacrifice meant nothing; indeed, it was no sacrifice at all! So it is with the “gay Christian.”
A homosexual identity is something that is in itself sinful, it is not ours in Christ, and so to refrain from acting on those temptations cannot rightly be called a sacrifice, and to do so is actually a disservice to the obedience on display. Samuel tells Saul “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Sam. 15:22). When a same sex attracted Christian refuses to indulge in sin, this is nothing more or less than faithful obedience to Christ, any other classification is inaccurate and misleading.

That is the danger of this category error; sacrifice is not the same as struggling against sin. In addition, when we commit this error, we diminish the finished work of Christ. Jesus never considered the laying aside of sin as a sacrifice, so when we call it a tremendous sacrifice, we rob Him of the glory due His name. No! We gladly give up our sin, even though we struggle with it. It does not define us, it is not who we are anymore, Christ has set us free from it and its condemnation! Our desire is to live in obedience to our Lord, the only one who made a truly tremendous sacrifice by dying on the cross in our place at Calvary.
Joe Griffo is Pastor of Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Learn more about him here
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