Free To Love In Christ: Why I Changed My Mind About Homosexuality and LGBT Christians

by Dustin Cannon 

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The truth is I never wanted to be here. I didn’t want to write this. I was quite content in my perfect little Christian bubble where all my doctrine was carefully buttoned up in a sound foundation of Christian tradition.

But then everything changed. It was one of those defining moments that become chapter markers in our lives. These are moments that create a clear separation between the before and the after. And whether we like it or not, things will never be the same.

That is exactly what happened when I met Sam and heard his story.

You see I always said I believed that being gay was a choice. It had to be. Otherwise how could it be a sin? And even if it wasn’t a choice, it still had to be a sin because the Bible says so. Right?

Deep down, however there was always something that didn’t quite seem right.  I had known people who were gay. I had known them when they were little kids and you could just tell.  Even so, it didn’t matter because I was taught that we should never interpret the Bible through the lens of our own experiences.  We interpret our experiences through the lens of the Bible.

I still believe that. But here’s the thing.  When our experiences are so strikingly different than what we have been taught the Bible teaches, we must question our theology. For me, I had no choice.

The experience with Sam completely unraveled everything I believed about God and shattered my theology into a thousand pieces.

 

Over the years, I had the privilege of seeing many people’s lives changed by the Gospel. I witnessed Jesus bring healing and redemption to some of the most broken and needy people amidst all kinds of circumstances with all kinds of different stories.

For those who were ready to give their hearts to Jesus, He never failed to impart new life, hope and a sense of peace.

Well … Almost.

I couldn’t help but notice that the gospel didn’t produce the same kind of fruit for those who were gay. I have heard other Christians describe the same experience.

I didn’t have an answer for this particular issue. And since the church has always taught that homosexuality was a sin, the issue always came up in discussions about God. It was impossible to take a neutral position.

People would tell me they had prayed, but God didn’t answer their prayers to make them straight. At first, I brushed it off the same way most Christians do. I told myself that they didn’t really want to turn away from their sin. They didn’t really want to repent.

But then I met Sam.

Sam desperately wanted to be pleasing to God, but he had been taught that his same-sex attraction made him an abomination. This kept him from truly walking in relationship with Jesus. I know. Shocking.

In his shame, Sam felt he needed to remain at a certain distance from God because after all, you can’t “live in sin and be a Christian.”  Sam prayed with all his heart for God to change him. He truly didn’t want to be gay. He told me of the sleepless nights pleading with God on a tear-soaked pillow. For five years he begged God until he finally gave up. Bitter and broken, Sam moved on with his life coming to terms with the fact that God must not want him.

I had heard others say that they had prayed for God to take away their same-sex attractions. This wasn’t the first time.  But there was something  Sam said that stood out and caught my attention. He said he knew that God promises to always answer  prayer when it is according to his will. And so he asked his church friends why his prayers were not being answered.  They said it was because his prayers must not truly be for the glory of God. They said maybe deep down the only reason he didn’t want to be gay was because he wanted greater acceptance by friends or family.

Really?

I’m not surprised he finally walked away from God. Who would want to worship a god who could play such cruel games with people’s lives.

And so, for more than 10 years I tried to pick up the pieces of my shattered theology. I needed to put it back together. And I would come close, but there was always something missing.

The pieces simply would not fit anymore.

Kind of like when you want to return a coffee maker to the store and you can’t for the life of you get it back in the box the way it was.

Something wasn’t right in our understanding of sexual identity. There was something different about this so called “sin”.

Those born with same-sex attraction or who were coming to terms with their true sexual identity were not finding life. They were not experiencing the hope and peace of the gospel.  They were not finding in Christ “a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light”. (Matthew 11:30).

Quite the opposite really.

People were coming away with an agonizing hopeless despair that was pushing them further away from God.

There had to be something wrong with our understanding of the issue. I researched everything I could find on homosexuality in the Bible and in church history. To my surprise, there are theologians who have been able to shed new light on the usual passages in the Bible that Christians use to clobber LGBTQ people. And they make a compelling case that the church has historically misinterpreted those Bible verses because of a failure to understand the culture, context and original language. They make a convincing argument that the church has allowed the lens of their own biases and bigotry to color their interpretation and translations of the Scriptures.  And that was very helpful. (For more information on the Biblical case in support of same-sex relationships see the video at the end of this post.)

But it wasn’t enough for me. Both sides can claim that the other is interpreting scripture considering what they want it to say.

There had to be more.

There had to be something bigger.

All encompassing.

For two years I pleaded with God to either show me what was true or to clear my conscience so that I could stop this wrestling.

Then one night I saw it…

The answer had been there all along. It was woven throughout the fabric of the Gospels. It had been right there in front of me in the person of Jesus Christ. And what I found didn’t just apply to sexual identity or homosexuality. It was so much bigger than that shattering the traditional Christian understanding of sin, grace and even what it means to be saved.

Many Evangelical Christians will stop reading right here and now. I will be labeled a heretic. But those who know me know of my passion for the truth and the depth of my love for Jesus. So, I ask that you bear with me long enough to hear me out. That you ask God to reveal to you the truth of the Scriptures which has become lost under the doctrines of men for more than 500 years of church tradition.

What If We Have It All Wrong?

What if we have missed the point of Gods law and what Jesus was trying to teach us?

What if we have missed Jesus?

That was what Jesus accused the religious leaders of in the Gospel of John chapter 5.

After getting frustrated that they were always questioning him for breaking the letter of the law Jesus said to them

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5-39-40).

 

Throughout the Gospels Jesus was always turning the religious world upside down.  Jesus shocked the church with his attitude toward the Sabbath. They tested him in John chapter 8 to see if He would follow the law which required stoning the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:-12) and they were right. The law required that this woman be put to death. There is no question about that.

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

But Jesus did not support the letter of the law. Instead He chose once again to interpret the scriptures using a hermeneutic of love and compassion 1 further demonstrating that love is truly the fulfillment of the law. (see Romans 13:10) That’s why they crucified him. He claimed the authority and freedom to do that.

Jesus taught that we do not serve God’s law.  God’s law serves us (see Mark 2:27).

Jesus taught that there is no law but love and whether something is sin or not is a matter of the heart.  Anything can be sin or not depending on the intent and the motivation of the heart. Motivation can sanctify or defile any action. This is affirmed over and over by Jesus and also in the Old testament and the epistles of Paul.

It just wasn’t possible before Christ because of our hard hearts. (see Matthew 19:8)

Therefore, the Pharisees couldn’t see the truth. (John 5:39). They were looking in the wrong place.

The truth is not a book.

The Truth is a person.

Jesus is the Truth. (see John 14:6)

Jesus is Bigger than the Bible.

What do you think Jesus meant anyway when he said,

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

 

We don’t have to wonder what he meant, because He tells us in Matthew 15:1-9.

“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ ””(Matthew 15:1-9)

Jesus was saying “You people still don’t get it. You have completely misunderstood the purpose of God’s laws.”(my paraphrase of the situation in Matthew Chapter 15)

According to Jesus when we focus so much on the letter of God’s laws we miss the point. And unless we realize that true righteousness comes from within the heart then we are not welcome in the kingdom of God.

Over and over again in the Gospels you will find Jesus getting frustrated when people held so tightly to the letter of God’s law that they missed the spirit of the law. (Read Matthew chapter 23 to see Jesus really let them have it. Some of the most harsh and angry words ever spoken by the Lord against the church leaders are contained in this chapter.)

The spirit of the law is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I fear much of evangelical Christianity is missing the point. Jesus teaches us that rules have nothing to do with true righteousness, yet it seems all the world ever hears from the Christian community is condemnation.

Without love and the fruits of the Spirit we are missing the whole point of why Christ came.

Some will say that these old covenant rules should still be looked to as a standard by which we are to live. That might be true from a secular standpoint. We need laws based on morality for a civil society. But the truth is focusing on religious rule keeping breeds hypocrisy and more sinful behavior. No one can ever meet the expectations which we set and so that leads to dishonesty and therefore hypocrisy.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the law actually arouses sinful passions in us like when you tell a child that he cannot do something and that makes him want to do it all the more.

For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. (Romans 7:5)

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6)

But how can we do this?

How can we be released from the chains of the law?

How can righteousness come from our hearts when scripture teaches that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked? (Jeremiah 17:9)

The answer is in Jesus Christ. Our righteousness and the accompanying freedom come from Christ and His fulfillment of the law.

From beginning to end, the message of Jesus was that true righteousness was a matter of the heart’s intent and that external obedience alone was not pleasing to God.  In fact, you can hear His utter disgust at the religious leaders. Hypocrites. Blind guides. Brood of vipers. The most severe language Jesus ever used was reserved for the religious teachers who weighed people down with the rules of men while puffing themselves up. The prevailing message of the Sermon on the Mount was that true righteousness was internal and not external.

“Jesus called the crowd to him and said,

“Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”” (Matthew 15:10-12, 15-20)

In Christ, there is no longer any law but love. Love fulfills the spirit of the law. (See Matthew 22:40 and Galatians 5:14, 1 Peter 4:8).

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 28:37-40)

This is what Paul meant when he wrote

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

 

And so with God’s law fulfilled in Christ, whether something is sin or not is a matter of the heart.

It is a Matter of Faith.

This is affirmed by Paul in Romans chapter 14 where he teaches that nothing is unclean in and of itself. It is the selfish desires of the heart and intent that defiles. Whatever is not of faith is sin. There’s nothing whatsoever unclean that is not sanctified or defiled by the heart.

“Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” (Romans 14:13-14)

For example, consider Rahab. She made it into the James chapter 2 Hall of Fame of Faith. What was her great act of faith? She lied.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:25)

Yeah, that’s right! A lying prostitute was commended forever in the Bible for lying.

Here is the interesting part.

She lied (sinned) in faith and it was credited to her as righteousness.

We must stop putting God in a little Bible-verse box. 

For those of us who are in Christ by faith, we can trust our conscience when aligned with what the scriptures teach about loving God and our neighbor. When our conscience tells us that something is sinful and not pleasing to God, then clearly to go against our conscience makes that thing sinful for us because it could not be done in faith.  My critics will say that there must be a standard. I agree. The standard is Jesus Christ. The standard is love and that is why Jesus said all of the law could be summed up in loving God and loving one another. There is nothing else.

Many well-meaning Christians will say that I have abandoned the authority of Scripture. But the opposite is true. It is because I believe that the Scriptures are a true and accurate testimony of Jesus, the incarnate Son of the living God, that I changed my mind about the nature of sin, grace, salvation and homosexuality. It is why I have come to accept, affirm and support my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters, if you cling to Jesus Christ in faith and love God with all your heart, and love everyone else as much as you love yourself then you are truly free from chains of the law, whatever the theologians may think it says. You are also free to love whoever you choose. You are truly free in Jesus Christ.

Please check out Part Two of this article – Why God Never Wanted Us To Know Right From Wrong

May the grace of Jesus be with you.

*The above is from my upcoming new book A Hooker and A Homosexual Walk Into A Bakery: The Parable Of A Lavishly Loving God Who Doesn’t Give A Damn About Keeping Score which will be available December 2017.  Please follow me on Twitter or join my mailing list to be notified when it is available.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.

About The Author

Dustin Cannon lives in Virginia with his wife and children. He is the author of That We Might Love and Calling Down The Power of Heaven.

He is currently working on a new book called A Hooker and a Homosexual Walk Into A Bakery – The Parable of a Lavishly Loving God Who Doesn’t Give A Damn About Keeping Score  (Available December 2017)

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8 Responses
  1. Alicia

    I find it very hard to understand this reasoning regarding sin. It seems to me that using this logic, if I don’t FEEL that something is a sin, then it isn’t? So, if I feel that lying, whether in one particular situation (say to not hurt someone’s feelings) or as a constant way of life, is not a sin, then it isn’t? I apologize for not understanding your viewpoint, as to me it seems flawed. You can’t say it works for homosexuality and not anything else. Also, Paul was referring to food and days of the week in the passage in Romans you speak of (Romans 14:13-14). If you start at the beginning of the chapter and progress to the end, you will notice that he references meat and days of the week. It makes sense because in those days, folks were concerned about eating food sacrificed to idols if they were unaware of the sacrifice, as well as eating animals that were previously considered unclean, such as pigs. Also, there were questions as to the validity of a Sabbath day. If Paul had meant that anything could be acceptable for us if we believed it was, he would have not said to the Corinthians later that there were sins that would cause a person to not see the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

    Everyone, homosexuals and heterosexuals alike have the free will to decide whom they will love. If this were not the case, then we should accept cases of adultery and fornication, because heterosexuals can’t help it. It has to work both ways. Homosexual acts are no different than heterosexual acts. We always have a choice.

    My heart aches for Sam, named in your article. It honestly does. Struggling against desires of the flesh is so incredibly difficult. Yes, God does always answer prayer for His children, but it is not always in the way they want it. Because God did not ‘reverse’ his sexual desire for men, God didn’t answer Sam’s prayer? Was his hope that the desire would just melt away and struggling would never be a part of his life again? That would be nice, but it is not so. Even Jesus had to endure temptation of the devil. During this time, Jesus was modeling how we should respond to temptation – using the Word of God. Again, the logic presented here would claim that a thief that is struggling against his desire to steal who fails time and time again, should no longer consider stealing a sin because he obviously ‘can’t help it if God hasn’t made him stop.’ Kleptomania is considered a medical condition, some doctors believe that sufferers are born that way. Why do we not look upon these souls in the same way? The truth is we will always battle sin. None of us has achieved perfection. Some struggles are harder than others. I do have to say that anyone who said to Sam that he was not sincere, was not speaking the truth in love. Just because Sam’s struggle was harder than his neighbor’s did not make him less of a Christian. Another point to consider: God could have been answering Sam’s prayer in another way. Maybe he gave Sam the opportunity to meet someone going through the same (or similar) struggle and they could have supported each other. We should always be aware of other ways God answers our prayers and trust that His ways are higher than ours.

    Some like to claim homosexuality is not a sin because ‘love is not sin.’ You must look at that sentence from a different perspective. Love may not BE sin, but it can lead to it. Love leads to sin if I love someone else’s spouse. Love leads to sin if a unmarried couple chooses to have a sexual relationship. Jesus said even desiring someone in your heart is sin. You may think that I have lust and love confused. I do not. There are plenty of broken marriages in the world, destroyed in the name of ‘love’ because a husband or wife fell in love with someone else. Humans are very capable of choosing who they love. That is what separates us from the animals. Otherwise, we are nothing more than creatures who are incapable of making rational decisions and run on instinct.

    Your reference to Matthew 15:10 also puzzles me. I’m confused because this passage refers to the Pharisees’ obvious dislike for Jesus not washing His hands prior to eating. Jesus’ explanation is rebuking the action of washing, providing another picture of faith versus works, because the Pharisees were not just about Moses’ law, but also added their own uninspired religious ceremonies and traditions to God’s commands.

    You ask us to look up Matthew 22:40, another passage of Scripture about loving your neighbor. It also mentions that this love ‘fulfills the law and the prophets.’ First, we need to understand what Jesus was referring to. The law and the prophets is in essence referring to the Old Testament, aka Scripture, which Paul clearly says is ‘useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction…'(2 Tim 3:16). If Paul is to be believed, (and if he isn’t, most of the references made in your article must be removed) then the understanding of what God considers sin still stands. All of it. Not just what we feel we can condemn without offending anyone. Yes, Jesus fulfilled the law, but as he said in Matthew 5:17, He did not come to abolish the law and the prophets (meaning we still need to know what sin is in the eyes of God and that we need a mediator), but to fulfill it (to make complete the prophesies of His coming). In doing so, Jesus made it possible for man and God to communicate again through Him as our Mediator. Israelites no longer needed priests and special days and offerings and the 613 laws. Each Israelite (and also the Gentiles) could have something they never had before. A relationship with God through His Son. This did not mean that they could do as they pleased. Jesus also modeled this by showing us time and time again, pictures of His grace when sin was present. He did not, however, show us that sin could be ignored. No matter what the reason. You mention the adulterous woman who Jesus spared. This was a picture of His grace, not a picture of Him turning a blind eye to her sin. Believing such would indicate that God can tolerate sin. This would be a contradiction because Jesus is God, therefore sin must be addressed and dealt with. This is where the picture of grace is given. The only thing the people of that time knew was stoning and other punishments for sin, because they had no Savior. By extending His amazing grace to her, Jesus was giving us all a glimpse of what was to come through His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus also told the woman, as He sent her away: “Go and sin no more.” These words cannot be understood to mean “You are forgiven, but it’s OK to do it again.” To understand His words in that way would be to agree that a Christian can have unrepentant sin. This cannot be possible, considering 1 John 1:6 says that if we claim to have fellowship with Him [Jesus] but walk in darkness, we are liars.

    I do not believe that anyone, at any time, and for any reason should ever hate homosexuals or shame them into believing they are not valuable enough to God for Him to answer their prayers. The very thoughts exude an un-Christlike attitude. Homosexuals are loved by God. If this were not true, then the Bible is not true. I recently read an article on this very subject in which the author states that Christians cannot follow the left (liberal) or the right (conservative). Jesus was neither left nor right. We are in error to believe that He was. Why? The right says, “You are wrong.” The left says, “You are loved.” Jesus says, “You are wrong AND you are loved.”

    1. admin

      I want you to consider Rahab. She made it into the James chapter 2 Hall of Fame of Faith. What was her great act of faith? She lied.

      In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:25)

      A lying prostitute made it into the James 2 Hall of Fame of Faith for doing what? Yeah…Lying. Here is the interesting part. She lied (sinned) in faith and it was credited to her as righteousness. We have to stop putting God in a little Bible-verse box.

  2. Debb

    So Dustin, my question is, Are you saying that sex is included in definition of “love”? If so, then what you present here kind of makes sense. You would then be saying that “loving” others of same or opposite sex justifies having sex with them in or out of marriage. God calls sex outside of marriage fornication and commands His believers to flee and abstain from fornication so those who are attracted to same or opposite sex can exercise choice “to be holy”. God hasn’t changed His mind from His warning that those who practice (lifestyle) fornication, will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
    When you endorse a lifesyle that is sexual and outside of God’s guidelines for holy matrimony, you then become part of a deception that is NOT leading people towards eternal life in Christ. God’s love is holy and pure and a gift that comes from the Father of Lights. Sex is not “love”. Most homosexual folk will admit that their “same sex attraction” is more focused on “sex” than having pure, holy, and productive relationships with others of the same sex.
    And as for your hangup about Rahab being a lying prostitute who was acclaimed in the hall of faith for lying, you failed to acknowledge that she did not have the Spirit of God in her, so her very act out of pagan understanding, to protect God’s people, was an act of faith more in God Almighty than in the false gods she had wordhipped. Apparently she DID come into relationship with the true and living God.
    Just some thoughts…
    Debb

  3. Terry Alexander

    Homosexual was added to the Bible based on very limited understanding of the minority that is intended upon earth and has more than survived. Contrary to popular belief the answers needed, does not, and will not come from those who do not understand and aren’t wlling to care enough to seek the Throne in no assumptions. The answers will only come from the hearts enduring the oppression of false consideration and God. Nothing, nothing mankind faces should eradicate the reach to God for wisdom.
    But oh so many do not believe they need God on these issues to reveal anything.

  4. Marc Herlands

    What did Jesus say about homosexuality? Nothing. Yet Jesus said that He had revealed what God had told Him. So, obviously God didn’t say anything about being gay or being in a gay relationship of love. What did Jesus do? He healed the gay Roman centurion’s lover/servant. And then praised the gay Roman centurion as having the greatest faith in all of Judea. What did Jesus say about marriage? Let no one tear asunder those whom God has put together. Love is Love. If two people are put together by God, then it is righteous in the eyes of God. Jesus himself loved dearly one of His disciples. He was descended from King David, who when he was young, was in a love relationship with Jonathan, who was King Saul’s son. And what did Jesus say about that? Nothing. What are the Two Great Commandments? They revolve around Love. That is the standard. And the Ten Commandments were made for mankind as guides for behavior. But they must be applied righteously. Otherwise, they will not be applied correctly. I hope this helps those who have doubts that God has no issue with being gay or in a gay relationship based upon love.

  5. Jim Strickland

    Thank you Dustin for being willing to stand with your LGBTI brothers and sisters in Christ
    I too struggling like Sam and like many even got to the point of planning my own death in such a way my the wife and children would receive my life insurance money. But thankfully never carried it out unlike some many others who have.

    So much is being discovered about what was going on when The letter to the Romans was written. Yet so many ‘Christians’ refuse to see the connection of the sexual depravity of the Roman Empire and what the writer of the letter is worning about and just use it to clobber the LGBTI community when it has NOTHING to do with being gay.

    Your stand is like that of the Senior Pastor of the church I attend in London, OASIS Waterloo. Steve Chalke has too stood against the current and paid the price for doing so, but has provided a safe place for people like Sam to find a Spiritual home.

    We need to start reading that collection of books called The Holy Bible with the understanding that knowledge, research and God’s guidance has given us. That show us things have been misinterpreted, but to keep the ‘status quo’ nothing has been done about it. Even worse the lie has been allowed to be given as truth. Like the translation of the words that probably refer to ‘male Temple  prostitutes’ being translated as ‘Homosexuals’.
    Thank you again Dustin.

  6. Delsea

    I will say, simply, we know Jesus’s command to love the Lord our God above all, and secondly to love others as we love ourselves. Judgment is reserved for God. It is not for us to condemn anyone. It is in this way we are free to love. Love does not equate to sexual action.
    That said, I think it is very dangerous to not consider God’s commandments in our own personal walk here on earth. There is a standard throughout the Bible, and we must individually use our free will to determine if we will be obedient to our loving Lord.

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