Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Here’s a list of some of the people who don’t get to go to heaven. This is a tough, uncomfortable list, especially in 21st century America. Sure, we can agree that some of these people are evil and shouldn’t be in heaven. But banning gay people? And it seems like everyone is having sex, or having a few too many drinks. And when you look at some of Paul’s other lists, we see that he includes liars and people who are disrespectful to their parents. If we include those people, then no one’s getting to heaven. After all, who hasn’t given their parents a little lip, or told a little white lie?
But we’re missing something subtle here. Paul isn’t saying that anyone who has ever done any of these things is permabanned from heaven. He’s talking about identity. He doesn’t say “anyone who’s ever had sex outside of marriage,” he said the sexually immoral. He doesn’t say “anyone who’s had romantic thoughts about someone of the same sex,” he says men who practice (ongoing) homosexuality. He doesn’t say “anyone who’s ever stolen something,” he says thieves. You get the picture.
God isn’t demanding perfection. If he was, none of us would get into heaven. But he does require that we change our identities. Check out the next verse:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:11
I love that line.
And such were some of you. Were.
Once we were defined by our greed, our lust, and our alcoholism. We were once defined by our rebellion, our lies, and our addictions.
But no longer. For Christians, yes, we were those people. But now, by the grace of God, we are changed. We are made new. We are found innocent of our sins and are gradually renewed, day by day.
God has made a way, through his son Jesus, for us to be new creations. We are no longer defined by the broken identities we once had. Instead we take on new identities as sons and daughters of God. How awesome is that?