Dear Pastor Lawyer,
As I was reading my Bible the other day, I came across this passage: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor erers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) I know some people who come to our church who fit into some of these categories and I can’t believe that the loving God that I serve would keep them out of the Kingdom because they live in ways that he created them to be. What do you think?
Many people join you in your response to this passage. To begin with let me ask you this: Are you upset that all of the categories are on the list, or are you just upset that one or two are on it? Most people think some of the characteristics on the list ought to be on it, but that the ones they are participating in, or those that close friends are experiencing, should be kept off the list. This is because most of us think we are in some sense special and should be allowed to do what we want to do. At the same time we understand why other people’s sinful behaviors should be denied. People tend to think their own sin is too important for God to think badly of, but other people’s sin is too terrible to enter the Kingdom of God.
The problem, however, isn’t with the list. It’s with our understanding of our place in creation. We think we are the center of the universe and God ought to cow down to us or hit the road. We aren’t upset when he lets us have our way, but as soon as he stands for righteousness, or justice, or holiness, or purity – look out! “Who does he think he is, anyway?” we ask. Well, he thinks he’s God and he thinks we’re not.
When you break the list down, you see that each one of the behaviors on the list is exactly opposite of some fundamental aspect of our humanity. Several of these things affect our human uality (fornication, ery, effeminateness, and homosexuality), created by God to operate in a particular manner both for our health and wellbeing and for our correct relationship to and with God. Many of the others affect how we trust in God for our sustenance and love him with our whole hearts and minds and strength (idolatry, covetousness, drunkenness, swindling, reviling, and stealing).
You mentioned that God created us this way. In a way, you’re right. God did create us sinners. We sin because we are like our head, Adam. But God also commanded us not to participate in the behaviors on this list (and a few others, by the way). He said that if we do, we will suffer his wrath and will be cursed with eternal Hell. On the other hand, he says that if we want help with our stealing problem (or whatever) we can call out to him and he will help us. It will be on his terms of course, he is still God, but he will come to us if we seek him with all our heart. So, we are created sinners, but we’ve been commanded not to sin. We are held responsible for our sin and accountable. We are guilty of sin, even though we are all born that way. But there is a solution to the dilemma. We can cry out to God from the depths of our misery and ask him for relief and forgiveness. He will hear and he will heal. But we must remember that he is God and we are not.
I hope that helps,