The Gospel of Self-Love

By Tony Palacio

I recently came across an article at Christian News Network called, “Liberty Univ. Under Fire for ‘Destructive’ Counseling, Winking at Sexual Immorality on Campus,” written by Heather Clark on April 10, 2013. It got me thinking, “Isn’t this a ‘Christian’ college? How is it that this is what is now being reported about in Christian colleges?” I applaud journalists such as Heather Clark for unashamedly calling attention to what has been an ongoing challenge within the Church. And then another thought occurred to me, “What is it that is causing this rise in unbiblical behavior by Christians and, more importantly, why does it seem to be getting worse within the Christian community?”

While reading this piece, another (previous) article was cited called, “Liberty Student Turned ‘Gay’ Counseled to ‘Like Himself,’ Tells of ‘Homoerotic Man Games’ on Campus,” also written by Heather Clark just three days earlier on April 7, 2013. In it, Clark reports on a former Liberty University student who “came out” to faculty members that he was gay. There was an essay by the former student which was also cited several times, so I decided to hunt down this essay written by Brandon Ambrosino in The Atlantic. I wanted to learn more about how Liberty University handled his situation, and more importantly, what did Ambrosino come away with from this situation? What was the message that he concluded? And what is the message that potentially many others are concluding based on the counsel of those in authority and representing God’s kingdom?

While my article might springboard from the story of a gay man’s struggle with homosexuality while at a university, this goes way beyond the “homosexual debate” and all of the hysteria that is raised on both sides of the issue. Rather, I am going to point to something that should be far more alarming to evangelical Christians, something that has unfortunately been going on in the church for far too long as it relates to sin of every sort, not just homosexuality. It is my personal conviction that much of this can be traced back to the Emergent Church and the progressive nature in which their brand of “Christianity” is taught.

We begin with Liberty University student Brandon Ambrosino’s admission to his sexual orientation to one of his professors, Karen Prior. According to Ambrosino, after making an off-colored remark in one of Prior’s classes he was asked to come speak with her the following day. He assumed, correctly, that the talk would be about his homosexuality. However, Prior let Ambrosino be the one to confess this without having to pry it out of him. Ambrosino recounts how Prior reacted immediately after he broke down and confessed:

“She got up from her chair, and rushed over to me. I braced myself for the lecture I was going to receive, for the insults she would hurl, for the ridicule I would endure. I knew how Christians were, and how they clung to their beliefs about homosexuals and Sodom and Gomorrah, and how disgusted they were by gay people. The tears fell more freely now because I really liked this teacher, and now I ruined our relationship.

‘I love you,’ she said. I stopped crying for a second and looked up at her. Here was this conservative, pro-life, pro-marriage woman who taught lectures like ‘The Biblical Basis for Studying Literature,’ and here she was kneeling down on the floor next me [sic], rubbing my back, and going against every stereotype I’d held about Bible-believing, right-leaning, gun-slinging Christians.

When I heard her sniffle, I looked up at her. ‘It’s going to be ok,’ she said. ‘You’re ok.’ She nodded her head, squeezed my shoulder, and repeated, ‘I love you.'”
–Brandon Ambrosino, Essay: “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s Christian University,” The Atlantic, April 4, 2013

Now I will agree (in part) that it was a welcome relief to read that Prior didn’t confirm what Ambrosino suspected was true of all Christians and how he expected her to react. Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends. Was Ambrosino really “ok” as Prior suggested, or “ok” according to scripture? Do Christians cling to their “beliefs about homosexuals and Sodom and Gomorrah” because they are bigots and just want to be mean? Or is it because the Word of God explains that homosexuality is a sin, just as it does every other sin? (I’ll admit, there are some who are mean-spirited and do not act according to scripture when it comes to sin, however these are not whom I have in mind when making this statement.) Let’s dig a little deeper as to how Liberty University personnel dealt with this particular situation, as well as a few others, and what Ambrosino came away with.

Ambrosino goes on to share the story of the woman caught in adultery who is brought before Jesus. He correctly retells the story and is forthright in ending with Jesus’ words, “Go, and sin no more.” And it is this one phrase, from Jesus Himself, that far too many within the church have failed to uphold. Does this mean we are suddenly expected to be perfect? No! But what it does mean is that as much as it is possible, “go and sin no more.” We are told in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” 1 Timothy 5:20 is more intent when we read, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” I fear that what is happening in our church today is that people do not fear the Lord anymore. (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10)

Just after Ambrosino shares the story of the woman caught in adultery, he confesses the following:

“Many of the same passages of Scripture that condemn adultery as abominable also condemn homosexuality. Anyone who is even slightly familiar with Torah or the Book of Romans would have to admit that both activities are regarded as sinful.”

Brandon Ambrosino

Brandon Ambrosino

In saying this, we learn that Ambrosino understands that the Bible does condemn homosexuality, which is much more honest than gay activists who attempt to argue that homosexuality is not condemned in scripture (see my article on The Queen James Bible). However, Ambrosino goes on to state that it is “when the abstract sin is given a human face, Jesus responds with acceptance and mercy…” This statement is both true and false. In scripture, sin is never “abstract,” we are given concrete realities of sin with specific instances and examples of what sin is. Jesus responds with mercy when one repents of their sin, and when they “go and sin no more.” We are accepted by faith alone in Jesus Christ, we are not accepted based on anything else, and certainly not while still in a state of rebellion to God, which is what sin does – it separates us from God.

In John 5 we read the story of Jesus healing a man who had been afflicted for 38 years. After Jesus heals him, he later finds the man in the temple and tells him “do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” (John 5:14). This is a stern warning! Who can imagine anything worse than what this man had already endured for 38 years? And yet Jesus gives the man a clear warning. This is why it is important to share the whole counsel of God… including the warnings! If we love our brothers and sisters, we should be willing to share the hard teachings of scripture, even when it is difficult for them to hear. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

So what did Karen Prior, the Liberty University professor, have to say about how she handled the situation with Ambrosino, and what were her thoughts? We gain some insight in the piece written by Heather Clark of Christian News Network:

“Prior explained that while she “[u]ndoubtedly and repeatedly in love” told Ambrosino that homosexuality is a sin, she is unsure whether someone who is living an unrepentant homosexual lifestyle will inherit the Kingdom of God. “I do not know,” she replied. “I am not the one to judge Brandon’s salvation; God is.”
–Christian News Network, “Liberty Univ. Under Fire for ‘Destructive’ Counseling, Winking at Sexual Immorality on Campus,” by Heather Clark, April 10, 2013

Of course no one but God can “judge someone’s salvation,” however this seems to be a copout in light of the clear teachings of scripture. Prior then goes on to quote Mark 3:28-30, which states “all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men…but he that blasphemes against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness…” It seems what Prior is eluding to by quoting this verse is that all sin is forgiven, therefor Brandon Ambrosino is in the clear and can thus remain a practicing homosexual. But what Prior seems to be missing is that sin is forgiven when we repent and “go and sin no more,” not when we remain in sin!

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9 (Emphasis added)

Once we confess our sins, we are to repent and turn away from that sin. That is how God, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, cleanses us from all unrighteousness, but we must be willing to let God do so, not remain in the sin we just confessed.

We then go on to read in Ambrosino’s essay about his interactions with other faculty members at Liberty University, and their message to him.

“He [Dr. Reeves, counselor at Liberty University] was the most gentle, patient, loving man I’d ever met, and I grew to trust him with the deepest secrets of my heart. He let me say the word ‘f—’ in front of him. I’ll never forget when he raised an eyebrow about something I’d told him. ‘Two words for you, Brandon,’ he told me. ‘Bull s—!’ I realized I wouldn’t be able to get anything past this old man.”
–Brandon Ambrosino, Essay: “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s Christian University,” The Atlantic, April 4, 2013

Not only do we have a counselor at a Christian college allowing a student to curse, but the counselor curses himself as well. This is in total opposition to how the bible says we are to conduct ourselves as children of God.

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” –Ephesians 4:29 (KJV)

“And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” –Ephesians 5:4 (NASB)

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” –Colossians 3:8 (KJV)

Sadly, we are seeing this sort of language tolerated by Christian leaders, even pastors, with no one holding anyone accountable to God’s word on this subject. We are called to be separate from the world!

Ambrosino goes on:

“Did they (Liberty University Counselors] have an agenda? Yes. Their goal, which they were very honest about, was to help me to like myself, and to find peace with the real Brandon.” –Ibid

This is not only a very dangerous approach for a “Christian” counselor to take, but it directly violates scripture. Yes, we are to love one another, but loving someone also means that we are to be honest according to the Word of God. Romans 12:9 tells us that love must be sincere, that we are to hate what is evil and to cling to what is good. If someone is caught up in sin, are we to teach them to like themselves? The bible teaches us to deny ourselves!

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” –Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23

Scripture also tells us that we are to put on a new self:

“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” –Ephesians 4:20-24 (Emphasis added)

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” –Colossians 3:9-10

Ambrosino continues about his time with Dr. Reeves:

“I remember one time telling Dr. Reeves I felt like I was being a different Brandon to each person in my life. Dr. Reeves raised his eyebrows and asked, ‘Isn’t that exhausting?’ Dr. Reeves and Ryan [a grad student Dr. Reeves had Ambrosino also meeting with once per week] knew I was tired of hiding and lying, and living in fear and subjection to others’ opinions; and so they told me that I should try liking myself because, after all, I was a likable guy and they enjoyed spending time with me.” –Ibid

They told him that he should try liking himself? Where in scripture are we taught to “like ourselves” other than when we are taught to treat others how we would want others to treat us? This is as close as scripture comes to dealing with our “self”. As the scriptures state above, we are to die to self and put on the new self. Colossians 3 begins with the following:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. –Colossians 3:1-3

We are told to set our mind on the things above, not on our self. We are told to put away the old self and live for His glory! 1 Corinthians 6 talks about our bodies being members of Christ, fleeing immorality, and that we have been bought with a price. Why do we not hear Christian counselors speaking the truth in love?

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. –1 Corinthians 6:15, 18-20

Again, these scriptures do not only apply to homosexuality. In fact, the scripture above is referencing being joined together with a prostitute. Sin is sin, it does not matter whether it is homosexuality, adultery, stealing, murder, etc. The scriptures are consistent when it comes to dealing with sin. So why are we learning that Christian counselors are not warning people about sin and the consequences of sin, whether it’s while on this earth or the eternal consequences? What has happened to sound biblical counsel?

“I’m still friends with both of my counselors. Just yesterday, Ryan told me that when my partner and I come to visit, we’re always welcome to stay at his house.” –Ibid

Love Yourself FirstSo in other words, all is well since Brandon Ambrosino “likes himself” and has come to terms with his homosexuality (sin)? THIS is the message that the counselors left him with. Ryan is actually confirming Ambrosino’s sin by welcoming him and his partner to stay at his home. And this is what is happening in churches all around the world. Sin is not being dealt with from a biblical position. In 1 Corinthians 5 we learn of the man committing adultery who is not dealt with by the church. Paul tells them to remove the wicked man from among them. In fact, we are told not to associate with an immoral person:

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. –1 Corinthians 5:11

Nowhere was repentance spoken of throughout anything I read concerning this topic. Instead, it has been replaced with a “love yourself” gospel. This is exactly what we are witnessing in many churches today. It’s the seeker-sensitive mentality. The mentality of the Emergent Church. Don’t talk about sin, we’ll lose members! Is Liberty University taking this same approach so they won’t lose (paying) students? Now what we see are churches filled with drunkards, adulterers, fornicators, who use foul language and don’t really give it a second thought. Why? Because a Mark 3:28 mentality is being preached with no accountability to the scriptures. The bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). Consider Romans 11:22:

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. –Romans 11:22 (Emphasis added)

How did everything end in Ambrosino’s mind and who was it that helped him come to the conclusions he did? I’ll let him explain:

“Eventually, though, I decided that if Jesus met me some time, and if he got to know me, and hear my ideas, and listen to me laugh, then he would like me. What made me come to that conclusion? Meeting people like Dr. Prior and Dr. Reeves. All these people—including Jerry Falwell—helped teach me about Jesus, and I figured that if they liked me, then maybe Jesus might, too.” – Ibid

Here’s something which might surprise Ambrosino: Jesus already knows you! He knows your thoughts, your ideas and, yes, He’s even heard you laugh. Jesus is God! And God says in his Word that there is none good, no not even one! We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are sinners, myself included! We need to repent and turn to Jesus as not only our Savior but also our Lord! He needs to rule and reign in our lives. Is this always easy? Of course not. But Jesus tells us to cast our cares upon Him, for his yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

Here are some more quotes concerning people involved in sin for which no one in leadership is doing anything about:

“This young man who had been leading all the worship, it was discovered, had been living an open homosexual lifestyle — living with a boy and having a relationship for a while,” he said. “And the university just completely swept it under the rug and it went away.”
–Jesse Boyd, “Liberty Univ. Under Fire for ‘Destructive’ Counseling, Winking at Sexual Immorality on Campus” by Heather Clark, Christian News Network, April 10, 2013

“We [know] someone very close who worked at the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center, and you’d be surprised how many Liberty students are pregnant without having the covenant of marriage behind them — wanting abortions, by the way,” he advised. “So, it’s a real mess, and it’s only going to get worse because it’s not being dealt with.”
–Pastor Paul Michael Raymond, Ibid

It is commendable that those caught up in sin are dealt with in love, for this is scriptural. But we are also taught to “restore” people as well.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. –Galatians 6:1

Did you catch that last part? So that we too “will not be tempted!” In her piece, Heather Clark let’s us know where Brandon Ambrosino is now and what he’s up to.

“Ambrosino states that he came out to several other professors on campus, who all told him that they loved him, but never urged him to turn from his homosexuality. He is now a writer for The Huffington Post, where he blogs about spirituality, homosexuality and other modern-day issues.” –Heather Clark, “Liberty Student Turned ‘Gay’ Counseled to ‘Like Himself,’ Tells of ‘Homoerotic Man Games’ on Campus,” Christian News, April 7, 2013

How many more people who are caught up in sin will be tempted to continue in their sin because no one took the time to “restore such a one” (in a spirit of gentleness) and now these same people will potentially influence many others to stumble in their walk with the Lord? They will all be deceived into thinking they are right with God! 1 Corinthians 6:9 is clear, it tells us “Do not be deceived” and then gives a list of sins which, if not repented from, these same will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We now have Christian universities and churches following the same strategies and mantras of the Emerging Church and the seeker-sensitive movements, where there is no accountability to what the scriptures teach on topics of being obedient to Christ and seeking to live a holy life.

I understand that this article is based on a homosexual’s struggle, but one could easily go through this article and replace the word “homosexual” with any other sin and it would still be relevant to this discussion. This isn’t so much about the sin of homosexuality as it is about the sin of not calling sin for what it is! And not biblically dealing with sin when it is rampant within our so-called Christian organizations. Whatever happened to the mantra “Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!” Too many within the church think lightly of His kindness and do not fear the Lord!

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? –Romans 2:4

It is God’s kindness, love and mercy in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), but we must repent from our sins and seek to live holy lives. We do a disservice to the grace of God when we let sin go unchecked and we do not deal with it. And we must do so according to Matthew 7, looking to ourselves first and examining ourselves to make sure we are right before God before we try to restore another in gentleness.

I leave you with these verses, which are very relevant for the times we live in:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:2

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” –1 Peter 1:14-16

Grace and peace to you in the name of Christ.

One comment

  1. Shapestone Kazembe

    I like what you were showing on Inspiration TV, the interview with the agent of satan and how the two presenters concluded the show. Please continue informing us the truth that we should never miss heaven. We watch you alot in our house on several tv channels. Am from Malawi, in the city of Blantyre. Keep it up and we continue to pray for you. send me the Bible and the way of the master Bible not forgeting telling me how I can join school on line