Everyone Sins…But There’s a Difference
How often I have heard someone say “But everyone sins!” That usually pops out in a conversation among Christians about whether the church should accept LGBTQ people as members. A conservative/traditionalist says “But sex outside of marriage is sin!” Then someone else says “But LGBTQ people can be married!” Then someone says “But we believe sex between people of the same sex is sin because the Bible says so.” Then someone else says “But everyone sins! The Bible says gluttony is sin but we don’t exclude gluttons!” And so the discussion goes.
All I want to do here is explain the difference between two kinds of sin. On the one hand is sin that is confessed as sin and repented of, seeking help to overcome, sin that the sinner is not proud of, and on the other hand there is sin the sinner is proud of, does not consider sin, and has no intention of repenting or changing.
Here I am NOT saying that sex between same-sex couples is necessarily sin. I’ll leave that question or issue for another day. ALL I want to do here is respond to the “Everyone sins…” argument.
I don’t know of any church that would extend membership to someone who is proud of being a glutton. And IF sex between same-sex persons is sin, the comparison is in error. (Of course, if the argument is about whether same-sex sexual activity is sin or not, that’s a different conversation.)
Back to the hypothetical glutton. The argument I have heard in churches is “Well, gluttony is also a sin and we don’t exclude gluttons, so we shouldn’t exclude people who have sex with others of the same sex even if it is sin.” (Rarely is the “even if it is sin” explicitly stated, but it is part of the argument.)
(I am responding here to some specific church people I have heard argue for inclusion of married gay people using this argument. I assume others have made the argument or heard it made.)
Again, I do not know of any church that would admit to full membership someone who is proud of being a glutton. If a person says “I struggle with gluttony and hope to overcome it with God’s help,” most churches I know would admit such a person to full membership. Would the same churches admit to full membership someone who says “I struggle with sex [fill in the blank] and hope to overcome the sin with God’s help?”
That’s the conversation such churches should have—whether sin confessed as sin and worked against, to overcome it, is a barrier to membership. And that should, for them, include homosexuality, adultery, use of pornography, racism and sexism, gossip, etc. My point is simply that the argument that all people are sinners and sin is not an argument FOR including as full members practicing gays. There may be OTHER arguments FOR including as full members practicing gays, but this one, which I have heard numerous times, is illogical UNLESS people who are proud of some sin are also to be included as full members.
Let’s just imagine a heterosexual, monogamous couple who claim to be Christians who have let people know they are gluttons and enjoy gluttony and do not consider gluttony sin and intend to continue practicing gluttony. What church would say “Oh, that’s okay. Everyone sins, so we accept you in spite of the fact that you are proud of being gluttons and have no intention of changing?” Maybe there is such a church, but I’ve never been part of one.
But I have been part of churches where SOMEONE makes the argument that since the church doesn’t expel gluttons and even admits to full membership gluttons, the church should include as full members practicing gay people. Maybe the church should include them, but the argument isn’t logical insofar as the church does not condone being proud of gluttony and continuing in it without repentance or any desire to change.
I realize this is a subtle point. There are lots of unavoidable double negatives. But the very first time I heard a church member use the argument FOR full inclusion of practicing gay people who are proud of being gay because some members are gluttons…I questioned the argument. The question I asked then and ask now is…are the church’s gluttonous members proud of their gluttony or even complacent about it? If so, then, yes, the church should confront gluttony as sin and the pastor should practice pastoral care by visiting the gluttons and encouraging them to repent and get help to eat moderately. If the church condones gluttony and is indifferent to it or does not consider it sin, then the church has a problem. It needs to consider and change.
*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links. Also: Note that this is not an essay about same sex marriage or LGBTQ inclusion in churches; it is an essay about reasonable argumentation and wrong use of analogies. So do not respond as if it were an argument for or against inclusion of LGBTQ people in churches.*