I don’t write as an evangelical pastor completely unfamiliar with homosexual culture. I’ve never had a homosexual desire in my life, which may (in some homosexuals’ minds) disqualify my first statement. I don’t write, though, from a theological ivory tower of sterile non-interaction with gays and lesbians. I know them. I care about them. I love them.
National Basketball Association center Jason Collins’ revelation on Monday – as the first athlete in major American sports to declare he is gay – has only amplified the lightening speed of the cultural acceptance of homosexuality within our country, Western culture, and the global society. This is confirmed by Collins receiving a congratulatory phone call from President Obama, an affirming statement by former President Clinton, and support from a host of other professional athletes and society notables. The gay issue – and its political agenda of equality for gay marriage – is front and center in society at this time in history and it appears that there will be no stemming or stopping that momentum. Since Collins’ disclosure on Monday, the strong current of this cultural tide seems to be turning its focus toward other athletes who are “in the closet,” (implicitly) pressuring them to “come out” and make this watershed moment only greater through the vehicle of the popularity and power of the other major American sports (like the NFL, MLB, and NHL) – most notably the National Football League.
When I watch Collins interviewed in the last two days, I have no anger in my heart toward him. I have no hatred. I have no condescending, self-righteous pity. But I do have an acute sense of sadness. Profound sadness. This man has a soul. He’s been troubled for years by the hidden “secret” of his sexual orientation – both personally and professionally. And the angst and torment of that burden has been rolled away by being the first to “raise his hand” in the classroom of professional sports and declare who he is sexually. This is a salvation-like experience for Jason. It’s spoken of by him in very spiritually-liberating language. This makes me sad. Profoundly sad.
I’ve heard this same language from gays I know personally. “Salvation” for those struggling with homosexual desires ultimately comes through self-acceptance (of those desires and their lifestyle implications). In other words, a gay man or lesbian woman feels somewhat “born again” when they settle into the reality that they are a homosexual and embrace all that that means for their life. And those feelings of self-acceptance and personal happiness are only magnified when others around them morally accept and socially embrace their homosexuality.
I am sad because Jason will face a holy God some day. And it won’t matter what his loved ones, friends, teammates, and fellow NBA alumni thought of his homosexuality. It won’t matter that he was a hero to the gay community and to society at large. It won’t matter if two U.S. Presidents congratulated him or NBA Commissioner David Stern was proud of him. It will matter what God thinks. It will matter whether Jason believed Jesus Christ died on a cross to liberate him from his sin. It will matter if his life reflected the power of believing in the gospel – a power that gives us the ability to say no to sexual sin, be it heterosexual or homosexual.
This is what makes me sad – tearfully so – for Jason Collins and my own loved ones who have found salvation-like liberation through similar confessions and therapies of self-acceptance. But this is pseudo-salvation. It’s a deceptive relief. It’s an erroneous gospel. And I want them to know true salvation. I want them to experience actual relief through confession of sin and repentance. I want them to know what it truly means to be born again. And, again, I do not say this as a monstrous Pharisee of crushing traditional moralism. I say it as a relative whose eyes fill with tears, longing for their true transformation. I say it as one who hugs them when I see them, because I love them as family and respect them as individuals and wonderful contributors to society. I speak as a neighbor who treats homosexuals with genuine respect and friendliness in our interactions and conversations. I say it as a broken man myself – a man daily and desperately looking to the living God through Jesus Christ for help to live as His Word demands. I speak as a man who’s felt the liberating bliss of knowing the judgment of God has been removed from my head through the Savior’s cross – and who at times lays awake at night pondering that judgment, its terror, and praying for those I know who are still under it, heterosexual and homosexual alike. Seeing Jason Collins celebrated, his courage lionized, and his lifestyle cheered makes me sad in light of that coming judgment. So sad.