In recent months, moral controversies have come into the public limelight again. The last time this happened was almost ten years ago when casinos were planned to be built in Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa. Many Christians then took a stand against them and today I am glad to say that Christian groups and many individuals do not as a rule patronize the dining and entertainment facilities available there, let alone the casino – entry to which is discouraged by the $100 entrance fee. We need to remind ourselves of where we stand on moral issues. Gambling goes against the goodness of putting in good work and encourages people to find shortcuts to make them rich.
Today, the controversy is about LGBT or the issue of sexual relationships between members of the same sex. By no means is friendship between members of the same sex ruled out; in fact many of my best Christian friends are from the same sex. However, the Christian stand is against “gays” (I wonder what is there to be gay about?). There is a recent statement by the National Council of Churches Singapore to which our church belongs, through our membership of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Singapore which in effect says, love the sinner, but hate the sin. This is also the thrust of the statement by the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Singapore.
Why is this a moral issue? Neither the Ten Commandments, nor the Apostles’ Creed which we often recite, lists homosexuality as a sin. Homosexuality goes way back before these statements of Christian beliefs. The law which we transgress when indulging in sexual relations with the same sex is that of natural law morality. When God created the world, He put into place laws which would govern the running of the created world. Genesis 1:27 says,
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Homosexuality says that male and female are not God-given attributes of who we are. The distinction between them is supposedly man-given and so we can erase that difference by man-made laws. However, to erase that difference is an offence against the law God had put into nature itself when He created human beings. There are many other natural laws which govern creation. To violate them takes away the goodness that God embedded in nature. To take a simple example, to deliberately vomit after eating is wrong, for food is meant to be digested after being enjoyed. Yet, I have read of people in the past who have deliberately done that in order to keep on the enjoyment of eating! We are only to vomit if we have eaten poison.
So too, sexual relationships are meant to be between persons of the opposite sex in order to be fully enjoyed and lead to, as in many cases, the procreation of children among other benefits such as lifelong companionship between two persons, even though no children are possible or anticipated.
Adultery is consequently also a sin, but this offence is not embedded in nature: God in His mercy revealed a second category of morality, those laws which center on God-revealed morality. God’s revelation of His Ten Commandments (you are not to commit adultery is the seventh commandment) is found in Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20. As Christians, we are privileged to know such God-revealed morality and to know means to obey. To those given much, much more is expected.
There are many who do not know God’s law but they will be judged fairly: God will not judge them as if they disobeyed His law when God’s law was not first preached to them. Paul wrote in Romans 2:12 that “those who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law.”
We need to take the current public morality debate to preach what God’s law is, that human beings were created male and female by God Himself. This is how we can love the sinner, yet hate the sin. When God’s law is not preached, men and women can lapse into greater and greater sin for Paul wrote in Romans 1:19 that “(God’s) invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” We need to preach what God’s invisible attributes are, which are made evident in the nature of the male and female sexes. Paul went on to write in Romans 1:11 ff. that “they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking…..claiming to be wise, they became fools…therefore God gave them in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves…”
How then are we to love the sinner? In spite of the sin against God’s natural moral law and God’s revealed moral law? We can love the sinner when we are reminded of God-sanctified grace, the grace given to us by God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 1:2 that “in these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son….he is the radiance of the glory of God…..and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”
The purification of our sins is through our Lord’s death on the cross and so we are to approach those who are homosexuals or adulterers, those who go against God’s law as expressed in nature or revealed through Scripture, with the same love God the Father had for us. God sent Jesus to be fully man, to live with parents and family, to teach, exorcise, heal and feed, but above all to die on the cross so as to take away the punishment God has to impose on us. Jesus was able to do this, for Jesus was also fully God. As we are freed from the burden of sin, so we are to free others from the burden of their sin, whether consciously done or not, through our blessing them, through our acceptance of them and appeal to them to repent. We thank God for the morality He has revealed, in natural law and in Scripture, and we bless God for the sanctified grace of our Lord Jesus which has absorbed all sins on the cross.