As thirteen states have now officially legalized same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act has been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Christian Church in this country is now left with the prospect of the possible criminalization of its faith and message, as well as its ministry. The searching question running through the minds of many evangelical and Catholic leaders is “How do we address this issue now?” Same-sex marriage carries enormous implications for the future of not only the church, but of the family itself. Can we simply shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s out of our hands, so we’ll have to leave it up to God to solve?” I believe there is something the church and Christian believers as individuals can still do about this matter of gay rights, not only in marriage, but in all the other efforts made today to promote it as the most desirable lifestyle.

We have to go back to Calvary, and the cross of Christ, to form the plan most needed to address this aggressive push we see today to make homosexuality normal, and heterosexuality, for all practical purposes, abnormal. When Jesus was engaged in His ministry on earth, the known world under the Roman empire was a moral cesspool. Adultery, fornication, and homosexuality were all prevalent, as the writings of Paul indicate. There was a wanton disregard for the sanctity of marriage, even among the priesthood in Jerusalem, which was known for resorting to divorce, as is evidenced by the question posed by the Pharisees to Jesus (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12). Out of His teachings concerning divorce and marriage, money and the keeping of the Sabbath, the religious leaders of that time in Israel saw Jesus as a total threat to their authority, and schemed to dispose of Him through the aid of the Roman government. As He stumbled beaten and bloody up to Golgotha, those leaders had no idea that this was God Himself sacrificing Himself to save people from their sins, including adultery, fornication, incest, and homosexuality.

As the soldiers stripped Him as part of the process of carrying out the crucifixion sentence, Jesus was subjected publicly to the humiliation and shame that the sexually abused experience. As they nailed Him to the cross, and He spoke those words of love and compassion, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24), Jesus was showing how great God’s love and mercy are for all of us, since all of us have sinned. As He hung dying on the cross, and responded to the repentant thief dying next to Him with the words “today you will be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43), Jesus extended His forgiveness to all repentant sinners, no matter how wickedly they have lived their lives. As he cried out in anguish fromĀ  the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), Jesus took on Himself the pain of every abandoned or rejected child, spouse, or parent, that those hurts could be healed in those who place their faith and trust in Him. And when He triumphantly cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and died, Satan stood devastated, knowing His power to promote sin at will was broken, just as the power of sin itself in the life of the believer was now broken.

How does this impact the church and its ability to address homosexuality to a culture that is now praising it? The cross of Christ brings us back to the fundamental reality that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This message of love is what the gay community needs to hear the most, not strident condemnations, nor protest signs at their gatherings that read “God Hates Fags.” Gays and lesbians need to hear that Jesus’ death on the cross was for them, as much as it was for all other sinners. They don’t need to be given the impression that there is no redemption for them just because they’re queer. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that some of them had been homosexuals, but “were washed…were sanctified…were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:11) They need to know God’s forgiveness is just as readily available to them as it is to anyone else.

For those who might argue that Jesus never said anything against homosexuality, we have to remind them that God is the One who created man and woman, and designed them to relate to each other sexually in the context of marriage. Jesus did not change those rules, when we examine what He said about marriage and divorce. He also stated clearly, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) We need to explain that this means that everything written in what we know as the Old Testament concerning homosexuality stands, and that Jesus did not change any of it. Furthermore, we need to point out that Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t just do away with the penalty for sin for those who place their trust in Him; it broke its power over the lives of repentant sinners. Even someone who has engaged in gay behavior for years can experience the cleansing power of Christ’s blood to both forgive their sin, and give them the power to overcome the temptation to continue in that behavior.

Above all, we need to pray that God will reveal to homosexuals everywhere that their supposed gender orientation is part of a spiritual deception foisted by Satan on the world to twist human sexuality, and ultimately destroy it. This is what Satan does naturally, because it is his very nature to be a liar, and to deceive every person he can, in every way he can (John 8:44). This is why Christ died on the cross, so that lost humanity would no longer be under control of the evil one, but rather would find deliverance from both the penalty for sin and its grip over their lives. This brings us to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and its rule in truly setting the repentant sinner free.

The resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in history. Without Christ’s resurrection His crucifixion is pointless, and does no one any good. When Jesus gave up His spirit that Friday afternoon on the cross, and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom to signify the end of the separation between God and humans, it was the resurrection that served ultimately as the validation for this great act of sacrifice. Otherwise, Jesus’ crucifixion would have amounted to nothing but the vicious murder of an innocent Galilean peasant by corrupt religious leaders. When His disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead, it gave them fresh hope and vision for what was to come, even as they spread the Gospel and established the church. With Christ’s resurrection, theĀ Gospel was now complete; God’s plan of salvation for humanity was finished, and the power of both sin and death were broken, bringing new life to all who would believe.

What then, do we have as Christians to say to gays and lesbians about what led them into their lifestyle? We can point out to them, whether it was sexual abuse, parental rejection or neglect, or some other cause that led them into the life they live, there is a living Savior named Jesus who can free them from whatever controls them spiritually and psychologically, and can set them free to become holy people in God’s sight. Just as Jesus delivered people from demon possession as well as physical ailments, so God can set anyone free, through Jesus’ blood. His atoning death on the cross provides the power to overcome the pull to continue in or return to the lifestyle, and His resurrection guarantees eternal life for the repentant sinner who turns to Christ in faith and trust. This is the message gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons need to hear from the evangelical community, not a message of hatred and contempt.

Finally, we who make up the evangelical community need to make sure we have repented of our own sins, including sexual. I heard enough horror stories as a pastor about rape, incest, and philandering among church members to know the need for repentance among our own ranks. When we have purified ourselves, then we will see our Almighty God halting the runaway freight train known as the gay rights movement, as He redeems those caught up in homosexuality.

All Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV), copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission.