Devout Christians have struggled with divergent sexual orientations among their offspring for generations. It is not that they are simply aghast at what this means physically; they are more alarmed at the possibility their children may not be "saved," that they may end up in Hell because of their sexual choices. They quote their favorite scriptures -- e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 -- condemning homosexuality as sinful, and do a lot of praying.
When God created mankind, the emphasis was not upon sexual orientation; it was upon populating the earth with humans, something that only a male and female could accomplish. To that end, any other relationship was considered a sin against God. Obviously, this thinking was carried over into the New Testament, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul, a Jew who was converted to Christianity.
One day a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he should do to have eternal life. Jesus queried him about keeping the commandments, and, as it turned out, the young man had indeed been keeping the commandments. When he asked what else he should do, Jesus said for him to sell what he had and to give it to the poor, and then come and follow him. The man went away sorrowful because he could not bring himself to actually become that involved with Jesus, not even to obtain eternal life (See Matthew 19:16-22).
When Jesus admonished his disciples about how hard it was for someone rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, they "were greatly astonished, saying, 'Who then can be saved?'" To which Jesus answered, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (See Matthew 19:23-26).
The problem is simple: There are just too many sins for anyone to gain entrance into heaven by himself. The Apostle Paul elaborated upon this in Romans 3:21-24 when he pointed out that "there is no difference (between Jews and Greeks -- insert is mine) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." He followed that by telling the people how to be saved. He said in Romans 10:8-9 "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
According to Jesus, "every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31). Any unforgiven sin, even a single sin, may be enough to condemn a person. Christians believe that is why Jesus died for them on the cross. In Ephesians, Paul further explains that "God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Are people with a different sexual orientation going to be condemned forever? No, not if they have surrendered their lives to God through Jesus. This is true for all people since everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's glory. It is wrong to equate one's personal desires and feelings about a particular lifestyle with salvation. There is only one unpardonable sin, and that is against the Holy Spirit (God), not about whether you are a man or woman.
While there are people who want to pursue various sexual lifestyles because they like to push the edge of acceptable society, a person's sexual orientation appears to have been created genetically, not by choice. In addition, changing a person's sexual orientation for any reason does not excuse that person from leading a good and productive life in the sight of God.
According to UCLA's School of Law's Williams Institute, around 47% of the 16,000 LGBTQ (lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgendered, and queer) people tested were either moderately or highly religious. LGBTQ people are found across the age spectrum, in every social/ethnic group, among married and single people, among those who are parenting, and among both rural and urban dwellers. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center analysis, 26% of Americans identify themselves as agnostic, atheist, or "nothing in particular." These figures compare with a Gallup analysis in 1917 which estimates 67% of the American population is religious.
We have a tremendous number of religious groups in the United States and perhaps an equal number of people with divergent lifestyles. Some are because of sexual orientation and some simply because people like sinning more than keeping God's commandments. There is plenty to like or dislike, but we should be careful about making judgmental statements about who is saved and who is not saved when we should be leaving judgment up to God.
Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.