A friend of mine, who I truly admire, emailed me the following. I love the Body of Christ. Nathan does an excellent job of explaining how repentance should not be “orphaned” from The Gospel.
Without further ado … here’s Nathan:
I just read your latest Jennifer Knapp blog (and Trevin’s too). I noticed in both that repentance was mentioned—and rightly so. But I think that sometimes we in the Christian world send out the repentance message of the gospel almost as an orphan. Repentance, it seems to me, is too often presented in a way that is only a half-truth (and not very liberating). What, for instance, are we asking homosexuals to repent
of? Their attractions? That certainly won’t go very far, as most of us know.
Of course, it’s hard in a blog to delve into the full message of repentance—there’s so much to it. But surely a crucial element of repentance that needs to be included at every mention is that true repentance always comes with the provision to live it out. Most of us have heard that repentance literally means to “turn around” and go the other way. But in the act of turning around—turning away from something—we are also, in the same movement, turning toward something. Too often, we emphasize the one half of the
action—the turning away—but we seldom talk about what we’re turning towards. The short answer is, of course, that we’re turning toward an abundant life of freedom in a relationship with our Creator. That too, is worthy of more than just a blog. The depths of what God has for us—even just in this mortal life—are so astonishingly wonderful, it’s hard to imagine choosing not to turn in their direction and pursue them.
Lately an illustration has occurred to me that explains that “provision to live it out” more fully.
To me, sin (homosexual, heterosexual, addictions, whatever) is like a 10,000 pound weight sitting in our living room with instructions that it must be moved out of the house. The sinner is thus given the notion that he or she must pick up that weight and move it. And, in my opinion, that’s exactly what so many of
us try to do. We see the weight and know it must be moved and so we may spend years trying to pick it up and move it out. And naturally, when someone sees the weight still in our living room, they wonder that we haven’t moved it out and they call us to “repentance.” Even WE wonder why we haven’t been able to move it out yet.
The answer, of course, is that God never expects us to lift that 10,000 pound weight at all. He’s fully aware that we simply cannot lift 10,000 pounds. Not even an inch. He, in fact, designed us so that we can’t lift such a weight. So why then would He instruct us to move it out of the house? Of course, it’s so that we would simply turn to Him and acknowledge how utterly powerless we are to move it. We simply can’t. And at the point we fully grasp that fact, God Himself deals with the weight. We really don’t have to lift a finger. In fact, all our own efforts to lift it are counterproductive in that they just reinforce our own inability.
Tragically, we see that many homosexuals come to Christ and, perhaps for a season, believe that the 10,000 pound weight just goes away at the moment they’re saved. When they find that’s not true, then they think, Oh gee. It’s not going away. Well, I know it’s not supposed to be there, so I better move it
myself. And for the next several months, years, or decades they keep trying to pick up the weight of homosexuality and move it out of their lives.
Eventually, some of these strugglers finally get so frustrated, they simply leave the faith and claim to anyone who will listen that the promises of Christianity don’t work with homosexuality. After all, they “came to Christ” and yet were unable to move the weight. Some of these people will desert the faith entirely, while others, perhaps like Jennifer, will say that there’s nothing wrong with having a 10,000 pound weight in your living room and they learn to live around it. They make do. And sometimes very successfully. Perhaps that will be Jennifer’s case, who knows.
The tragedy in such cases is that some people become so used to the weight, they no longer recognize it as a weight at all. Slowly, down through the years perhaps, they’ve accepted the weight as their lot….until it’s simply no longer a weight at all. It’s now just part of their life. The sad truth is that unless a person recognizes the significance of the weight in the living room (first that it really exists and second that it’s there for the purpose of bringing us into total reliance on God), they will have little or no motivation to deal with the weight at all.
Some will ask, so are you saying that if we simply stop trying to move the weight ourselves, God will take it away forever? That’s a fair question, and there are two ways to look at what God actually does with that weight.
The first way involves making sure that the weightlifting theory of dealing with homosexuality is never again going to be an option in our life. For most, this really requires coming to an end of their own strength. Once a person fully grasps the futility of moving that weight themselves, then freedom sets in. And when temptation (for want of a better word) arises again at some point, the immediate response will be to simply remember that we have given up trying to move that weight. It’s simply no longer our responsibility, having been given entirely to God. At that point, relief rushes in.
The second way of looking at it is when we become aware that, yes, the 10,000 pounds is still in the living room, but what was once a 10,000 pound burden to be moved, has now become a 10,000 pound monument to God’s faithfulness. Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of monument in the living room of your life?
So, here’s the thing: when we meet people who ask what can be done for the same-sex attracted person, and we want to tell them to “repent,” let’s make sure we give them both sides of the gospel coin. In my view, repentance should never be divided from its flip side. We should never ask someone to turn from
something unless we’re willing to also tell them what they’re turning toward.
It’s pretty much useless to tell a homosexual (even a Christian who struggles with homosexuality) to “repent” unless you also give them the other part of the “good news.” Otherwise, what I think many people hear when they hear the word “repent” is “move that weight out of your living room NOW!”
When a person finally realizes that God knows all about the weight and can handle it without our help, what a load (10,000 pounds worth!) is lifted, not just from our living room floor, but from our shoulders.
So can we proclaim the flip side of the gospel coin as loudly as we do the repentance side?
The bold emphasis on the last question is my doing. I would love to hear the reader’s reaction to that question.
Thank you so much Nathan.