9 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,10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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 6:9-11
To some degree everybody should be able to identify with at least one of the sins on this list. We know from the Sermon on the Mount that God regards as sinful even thoughts of sin or thoughtless words. One does not have to be a persistent, public or criminal offender in these regards. So what does this passage mean to convey? Are we not saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection and the promise that is given in connection to them? Can persistent sin undermine grace?
Looking at this passage in its context, there are some things to keep in mind. First, none of the things above preclude a person from being saved by Jesus. They are all sinful, all damnable, but all forgivable.
Second, when we are connected to Jesus through baptism (washed) our sins are forgiven. That means that God sees us as righteous even though we may not have mastered our urges and cleaned up our action.
Third, being forgiven does not make sin innocuous. It still offends God. It still ruins our witness to others. It is not who we want to be. Making friends with these sins is the danger. When we declare that any one of these things or others not mentioned here are okay, or just the way I am, or some other justifying rationale, we cross a line into unrepentance. We become “unrighteous” again. The unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God. So let’s look at this list, knowing that it is not comprehensive, and think about how these sins might be the undoing of the righteous.
It starts with sexual immorality. How far has our society come in normalizing sexual immorality? This term is an umbrella for many ways we twist God’s creation of sexuality to be something he does not intend. These things rise from our sinful nature and appeal to it. Sex is meant to be an act of love and commitment to one person of the opposite sex. Whether pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, lust, porn or any other twist, these are things we need to recognize as sin, resist, flee and confess to Jesus. For many it will be the most strenuous fight against a single category of sin in their lives. The sexual revolution may have changed societal norms, but it does not change God. It is critical that we understand this. We may have to confess failure all our lives, but we cannot embrace sexual immorality as acceptable.
Next is idolaters. Few of us have problems with classic idolatry, though it does still exist. Our problems can come with things that we treat as a god without identifying them as God. What do we fear, love or trust more than God? The big offenders are money and self. One can elevate too far institutions like government, science, even the form of our worship. We can love our families, but must not put them before God. Let the Holy Spirit show you where you approach or cross over to idolatry.
Adultery comes next. This is clearly a part of sexual immorality, but gets individual attention because it is so harmful. Adultery ruins marriages, which ruin families, which often ruin lives, and can become a wound that travels from generation to generation. People get involved in affairs to meet needs, but they do not think of the consequences to others and possibly to their relationship with God.
Next is the sin that gets most of the press out of this paragraph: homosexuality. Homosexuality is not something everyone feels. Hence it is easier to segregate from the rest of the list for condemnation. Like the rest, homosexuality has some root in our sinful nature. So, to an extent, we are born that way. But genetics is an insufficient explanation. There are many routes to homosexuality. No one explanation will suffice. Some men and women will be born and develop characteristics that don’t fit within our cultural stereotypes of being a man or woman. This does not make them homosexual. Rejection, ridicule, labeling will all help a homosexual identity to develop. This can be deeply seated and hard to change. Others fail to find acceptance by the opposite sex and either choose or are recruited to the homosexual identity. Some merely have no moral boundaries and choose homosexual behavior. Others develop it through sexual abuse. There are no doubt other homosexualities. Whether the product of choice, victimization, rejection, strong genetic predisposition, or whatever; the end result is something that is contrary to God’s design and therefore sin.
The sin of homosexuality is no less damnable nor less forgivable than any other. Christ died for homosexuals. But like all other sins, the trap is found in endorsing it. A person may have to accept that this is what they are, but they also need to understand that God calls them to something higher. Finding identity and acceptance in Christ is the road to peace of mind and self-acceptance. Becoming heterosexually oriented may or may not happen for every person. It is not a prerequisite of salvation.
Several more sins are found on this list. I will take them up in the next entry. The important points are believing God’s identification of sin, understanding that these things result in eternal separation from God, understanding that forgiveness and eternal life is offered to all through Jesus, and as people who belong to God we are to live in repentance and fight the temptations that will still follow us.