Good works are not optional for the Christian. Christians who live in habitual, unrepentant sin show themselves not to be true Christians. Of course, we all stumble (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8). But there’s a difference between falling into sin and jumping in with both feet. It doesn’t matter the sin—pride, slander, robbery, covetousness, or sexual immorality—if we give ourselves to it and live in it with joyful abandon, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. Simply put, people walking day after day in the same sin without a fight or repentance go to hell (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 3:14).
In our day careful attention needs to be paid to the issue of sexual immorality in particular. This isn’t because Christians are prudes or like to judge others or are obsessed with sex. We have to talk about sexual sin because it is the idol of our age. For the church to be silent on the most important ethical matters of our day would be irresponsible and cowardly. This means Christians have difficult waters ahead, especially as it relates to the issue of homosexuality. How can we talk about sexual immorality in a way that is both true and gracious?
First, we need courage. We need courage to say that unchecked, unrepentant sexual immorality–like unchecked, unrepentant theft, greed, drunkenness, anger, and bitterness–cannot be tolerated in the church. We need courage in our churches, our denominations, our schools, and our parachurch organizations to affirm clearly—not just on paper, but in our preaching and actions—that blatant sin, of any kind (especially when it is persistent), is to be lovingly rebuked, not celebrated and solemnized. The peace-loving, conflict-avoiding, middle of the roaders need courage to stand on God’s word and not compromise for fear of being thought mean, narrow, majoring on the minors, a distraction, or arrogantly self-assured. Young people especially need courage to stick out in their schools and among their friends as they winsomely defend the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman for a lifetime.
Second, we need humility. We need to check our own hearts to make sure our courage does not become hostility, and our love for the word of God does not become disdain for those who disobey it. We need to ask God to show us our blind spots, whether it has to do with divorce, or greed, or self-righteousness. We need to repent of pride. We need to repent of our own sexual sins.
Third, we need love. We must be willing to touch—emotionally, socially, and physically—those who sin just like us, even if they sin in different ways than some of us. We need to love enough to listen to those who struggle with sexual temptations. We need to love enough to suffer with those who suffer and be willing to suffer for standing on the word of God.
Fourth, we need hope. We need hope that God can change the hardest heart and slowly, over time, change the deepest addictions, habits, and affections. And if he chooses not to, we need hope to believe he can give us the grace to walk in the light as he is in the light. We need to offer hope—the hope of God’s mercy, the hope of forgiveness, the hope of eternal life, the hope of a warm, truth-filled, grace-saturated church community, the hope of 1 Corinthians 6 that “such were some of you.”
Finally, we need prayer. Pray that evangelical churches and institutions would not do the easy thing and try to make all sides happy under the guise of conversation and dialogue, but do the hard, loving thing and call sin sin so that grace can be grace and God can show himself to be the sort of God who forgives our iniquities, heals our diseases, redeems our life from the pit, crowns us with steadfast love and mercy, and satisfies us with good. Pray for those who struggle with sexual temptation—whether it be pornography, lust, or same gender attraction. Pray that our churches would be welcoming places for strugglers, sinners, and sufferers. Pray for open doors to minister to those who often hate the church—sometimes for bad reasons and sometimes for understandable reasons. Pray for those in the gay community—one of the least reached peoples on earth—that they would be open to the truth of God’s word and that our hearts would be open to them. Pray that God would rid us of unrighteous anger, cowardice, compromise, and fear. Pray that the precious, holy, merciful name of Jesus would be hallowed, and that the light of Christ would shine in the dark places in our cities, and in the dark places in our churches, and in the dark places of our own hearts.