The way I was born

From Gary Ledbetter.

“Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. —Psalm 51:5

It’s a sentiment repeated with pounding regularity—a mantra long past any reasonable or critical thought. When Pastor Brett Younger of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth (speaking of his church’s welcoming and affirming stance toward homosexuality) asked on Dec. 2, “How can anyone who knows Jesus believe God condemns people for the way they were born?” he echoed the rhetorical question asked by liberal Christians and psychologists for more than a decade. And there’s an answer to the question.

God doesn’t condemn people for the way we were born. But the nature we share from before we were born becomes a problem as soon as we are able to make a moral choice. We, all of us, were born sinners. As a result of being sinners, we sin. And the wages of sin is death.

Rather than supposing that those of us encumbered by a belief that God has revealed himself in the Bible are singling out a particular sin for condemnation, I might ask why Pastor Younger and others who agree with him want to single out homosexuality as the one place where we are under no obligation to resist our destructive urges. The narrow agenda comes from the left.

Is a thief condemned if he never actually steals? Of course not; deeds have a quality that desires don’t. Neither is a person guilty if he has a mere urge toward immoral sexual behavior. Our current blurring of sexual desire and sexual behavior is done to imply that the behavior is of no more consequence than the desire.

If the thief does steal, is it reasonable to expect exoneration based on his (or his therapist’s) assertion that he’s always wanted to steal—he was born that way? How about an alcoholic or an adulterer or a brute with a bad temper? Of course we recognize the personal and socially negative aspects of these actions.

It is wrong for our society to pick and choose acceptable negative behavior based on which advocacy group has the most influence. It is more wrong for those who claim the name of Christ to blink at some sin because sentiment will not allow us the courage to speak prophetically. It is blasphemous to suppose that the God who inspired the books of Moses and Paul expressed a different nature in the Gospels.

No one can deny that some combination of nature and nurture makes some people more likely than others to gravitate toward one or more of these behaviors. Does that predilection change the moral quality of the behavior?

Actually, I was born with an orientation toward all kinds of sin. In some settings I want to lie. In another setting I want to gossip. In some circumstances I want to apply my hands to the throat of another and shake vigorously. This selection of temptations is not also a selection of orientations; it lists a few urges of the one orientation toward sin. A desire to steal hubcaps off the parking lot of liberal churches would be condemned in a way that extramarital sex might not be in that same liberal church, yet both urges come from the same orientation—that of a selfish sinner.

The Bible condemns immorality of all kinds. Some of these behaviors have more devastating impact than others. Theologically, they are all the fruit of our fallen nature. It is neither gentle nor loving to lie to people about anything the Bible says.

I don’t know what Broadway Baptist is going to do next year when they take up the issue again. I don’t know that the church will even be Southern Baptist this time next year. I do know, though, that justifying anything the Bible calls sin by invoking the all-accepting love of Christ (who wrote the Bible) is a false gospel. On a more secular plane, it’s also absurd hypocrisy to champion behavior based on a supposed aspect of our nature unless we’re willing to open the doors of all the prisons of our country.”

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