Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do Sinners Belong in Church?

In church this morning our pastor shared about an interesting conversation that he had last night. He was at a wedding in which he performed the service and, afterwards, a woman came up to him asked where the church was located that he pastored. Upon learning that it was within driving distance for her, she asked him, "Are sinners welcomed?" He went onto explain to her that, yes, sinners were welcome at our church. In fact, he went onto share, that since we were all sinners she would fit right in.

Just as there are no perfect people there are no perfect churches. Since imperfect people are the ones that make up every church it naturally flows that every congregation has its flaws. It is a danger for all of us that have been Christians for some time to take on an air of spiritual superiority when it comes to those that don't consider themselves of the same faith. The reality is that we are all sinners.

I used to have the impression that sin only revolved around such things as drinking and smoking and swearing and sex. I thought that if you had your act together in these areas that it made you alright in the eyes of God. The sinners were those that did those things. But I've learned that sin is much deeper than these outward acts. Sin takes root and is birthed in the human heart. Some of the most sinful people in the world may be those that have never smoked a cigarette or ever had alcohol touch their lips. But their hearts are filled with things like pride and hatred and jealousy and anger.

The truth of the gospel of Jesus is that we are fallen and that our hearts are sinful -- whether we go to church or not. Some of us may have gotten better at covering up those things that would be frowned upon by others, but the reality is that our hearts are still wicked. We would probably all shudder to think what would happen if a video was posted on YouTube of all the the things we've thought and the true motives of our hearts were posted for the world to see!

It is because of this that we need a Savior. For those of us that have placed our faith in Him, Jesus not only offers forgiveness us for the penalty of our sin, but He is there each moment of every day when our hearts stray from Him. For those of us that are Christians I think it is appropriate to define ourselves as "saints" in a spiritual sense. If Christ has forgiven us then we have a right standing with God. But from a practical standpoint we still struggle as fallen people in a fallen world.

Fortunately for each of us, sinners most definitely belong in church. As Jesus himself said,
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
If sinners don't belong in church then we'll have a lot of empty buildings! Besides, the church is not really a building. It is God's family, made up of those that recognize their sin and their need for a Savior. It is made up of those new in a relationship with God and those that have walked with Him for decades. As I've heard it said before, those in the church are simply "beggars telling other beggars where they found bread."

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