Affirming sexual immorality is a departure from the Christian faith

I just read Jen Hatmaker’s interview with Jonathan Merritt in which she says that sexual immorality is compatible with following Christ. If you haven’t read it, you should read the whole thing. But here’s an excerpt:

RNS: Let’s get into the issues, and I want to start with gay marriage. You’ve created some controversy with previous comments on the matter. Politically-speaking, do you support gay marriage.

JH: From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends.

From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not.

Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.

RNS: If an LGBT friend of yours got married, would you attend that wedding?

JH: I would attend that wedding with gladness, and I would drink champagne. I want the very best for my gay friends. I want love and happiness and faithfulness and commitment and community. Yes. That’s an easy answer.

JH: I think we would parent that child exactly the same as the rest of them. Which is to say, we would always be on their side and in their corner and for them and with them. We want for all of our kids the same thing: faithful, committed marriage and a beautiful family that is committed to God and the church. I would have the same standard across the board, no matter what.

RNS: You mention faithfulness and God. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?

JH: I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.

I was grieved to read this, but not mainly for political or social reasons. I’m grieved mainly because this is a departure from the Christian faith.

The Lord Jesus, the prophets, the apostles, and the entire 2,000-year consensus of the Christian church agree that any sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sexual immorality and incompatible with following Christ. The scripture says that impenitent sexually immoral people cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11). And now Hatmaker appears to be saying the opposite. She even goes so far as to say that such immorality can be “holy” (Isaiah 5:20).

But this is a distortion of the grace of the gospel. The grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient for every sinner and saves to the uttermost. We must communicate that. But this grace must be received on his terms–by repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). If it is not received on those terms, then it is not received at all.

The grace of God “teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). That means that the grace of God is not unconditional affirmation of sinners in their sin. It’s the unconditional transformation of sinners from darkness to light. The grace that saves us transforms us, or it doesn’t save us at all (2 Cor. 3:18).  To say, therefore, that sexual immorality can be “holy” is to deny this core message of the Christian faith.

Such departures from the Christian faith rightly grieve us, but we should not be surprised when they happen (1 John 2:19). The Lord Jesus told us to be ready for them and to recognize them for what they are (Matt. 7:15-23). The path of sexual immorality is not a path that leads to Jesus. And it is neither loving nor kind to give people the impression that it is.

I hope and pray that Hatmaker will reconsider this. I really do. But I’m also really concerned that her vast influence will lead people down a path that doesn’t lead to Jesus. So clarity in moments like this one is critical. When it comes to Jesus and sexual immorality, you can have one or the other, but you can’t have both (Matt. 6:24). The path divides here.

UPDATE: The response from opponents of Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality has been almost universally positive. They understand what this means.