She had been raised in the faith since she was a child. Church had always been a part of her life and she had accepted the teachings of the faith without question. Then she entered law school. It was while she was there that she began to have her doubts.
The source of her doubt surprised me. I expected to hear that she had struggled with deep theological issues or a perceived lack of alignment between her faith and the teaching of modern scientists. Her thoughts did not run that deep. Her concerns were much simpler. She just didn't like what the Bible said. She struggled with the Bible's definition of sin, especially with regard to the church’s teaching on sexual sin. She simply could not understand how a loving God could allow people to be born with same sex desires and then say that these desires were wrong.
We talked for quite a while, returning again and again to her discomfort with God’s seemingly arbitrary nature. As we talked I thought of how our conversation embodied one of the major challenges facing the church today. The Bible's teachings do not make sense to the world in which we live, and the world demands answers. What response do we give to those who define love differently than we do? What do we say to a world that struggles with the moral positions set forth in scripture?
The common answer, one that I have heard from people in my own church at times, is to avoid emphasizing specific sins or God’s judgment on them. The theory is that people who otherwise might come to a faith in Christ could be driven away by talk about the need to repent,change or leave any lifestyles behind. Better to introduce them to God’s love and let God change them over time.
This theory is appealing as it reduces conflict. It is appealing, but it is wrong. It presents a half truth about the gospel message. The truth is not only that God loves us, but that He loves us in spite of the fact that we are wretched, self-indulgent sinners. The truth is not only that God calls us to Himself, but that God calls us to die to ourselves, to leave our desires behind. The truth is that God wants us to be truly happy but that true happiness can only be found in Him, not in fulfilling our own desires. Every person who wishes to follow Jesus will have to lay aside some desire with which they were born, some tendency present since birth. They do so because they accept the truth that we are not okay the way we are, and that we need to change. They do so because they understand that the blessings of eternity far outweigh any joy earthly life can bring.
My friend demonstrated the real issue for many who claim faith today. She wants to pick the parts of the Bible she agrees with, to decide for herself what is true and right. In so doing she reveals the truth- She only believes part of the Christian message, the part that makes her feel comfortable and good about herself and others. The whole Christian message is much more difficult.