“Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'” (John 3:3-4).
For thousands of years, men and women have travelled the world to spread a simple, yet powerful message: Believe in Jesus Christ and be born again. That message has transformed the lives of millions upon millions of people—idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, swindlers, and those practicing sexual immorality. As Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 6: “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 for two thousand years, the world has fought to silence that message, questioning its truthfulness and punishing its messengers. Even Nicodemus was incredulous at the suggestion that a person can be born again.
This battle continues in California, where the legislature is attempting to outlaw the ability of counselors, ministries, and even pastors to provide paid counseling for individuals seeking to address unwanted same-sex attractions or questions over their gender identity.
The bill, AB 2943, makes it a deceptive practice to offer so-called “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), defined as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
With respect to the government, a better summary of this description is “transformation.”
Just as Nicodemus sought out Jesus for answers, so too have countless individuals experiencing attraction to someone of the same sex or confusion over their gender sought out counselors, pastors, and support groups to help them faithfully live out their identity in Christ. The Gospel offers hope to these individuals, teaching them that they are not a slave to their feelings or attractions.
But AB 2943 declares that it is a false and deceptive practice for any paid counselors, pastors, or support groups to offer hope and support to these seekers who want to live in accord with biblical principles. As the bill states, “claims that sexual orientation change efforts are effective in changing an individual’s sexual orientation may constitute unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business practices.”
That means, if AB 2943 is enacted, it would be deceptive and fraudulent among other things for:
- A licensed counselor to help a married mother of three who seeks him out to help her live chastely despite feelings of attraction to a close female friend;
- A religious ministry to hold a conference on maintaining sexual purity if the conference encourages attendees to avoid homosexual behavior; or
- An individual to be paid for speaking at an event to address current social topics encouraging attendees that they can prevail over feelings that they were born the wrong sex.
At the core of the Gospel is the belief that a person can be born again and transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. But California is labeling that belief as deceptive and fraudulent. By doing so, the state is conditioning people to reject the Gospel without even having the opportunity to hear it. It celebrates being “born this way” while openly mocking the hope of being born again.
While California legislators have offered assurances that this would not apply to free pastoral counseling, we must not waver in our resolve against AB 2943. Should our freedom to present the full Gospel be limited simply because a counselor requires payment for his services or because a ministry charges an attendance fee for a conference? And if it is fraudulent to encourage people to change their gender expressions or behaviors to live in accord with biblical values in the context of a transaction, wouldn’t it also be deceptive if you do it for free?
In fact, this is what happened in Michigan. After Metro City Church offered a conference for teenage girls that encouraged them to find their identity in Christ rather than in a sexual orientation or gender identity, two state legislators demanded that the Michigan Attorney General investigate the church for engaging in an “unconscionable” and “deceptive” practice.
We should all be troubled by government officials labeling any part of the Gospel as unconscionable or deceptive—especially when it is backed by the force of law and threat of ruinous lawsuits.
But there is an even more important reason we must stand united against legislation like AB 2943: Souls are at stake. There are individuals who, through the power of the Gospel and the help of biblical counseling that AB 2943 outlaws, have experienced true change. This is why we fight to keep the door open to the Gospel and to share that message in love with everyone, including those who identify as LGBT.
Yes, California, a person can be born again. The Gospel has not lost its power, and we will always fight for the freedom to proclaim it.