Unlimited: The Church That Welcomes Sinners
Jan 31, 2019 1835
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them (Luke 15:1–2, NIV).
When Jesus was teaching, the disreputable people of the town gathered around him to be close to him. The respectable people, in this case, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, wouldn’t go near Jesus in case they ended up touching or having to talk to one of those people.
Like today, there were many religious teachers in Jesus’ day. However, one of the things that most marked out the ministry of Jesus in the eyes of his contemporaries was that he welcomed sinners, and he expects his church to do the same.
We often say that we welcome sinners, but do we really? Or do we wait to welcome them only once they have repented, reformed, and been transformed? Do we only welcome presumed “ex-sinners”?
God’s purpose for his church is that it be a place where sinners are welcomed: not acceptable sinners, not mild sinners, not reformed sinners, but actual, real-life sinners who are seeking and are skeptical of faith.
We can get very focused on our churches. There are some churches who are for older folk, while others are out to attract young families with children. Some churches unconsciously target middle-class people, and some churches work with the poor. But what if your church were simply a church that welcomed sinners? What would that look like? Would you still like to go?
Eli’s Reflection: Of course, we’re all sinners, but I’d like you to think of someone who would be considered a “public” sinner by your church. How can you personally do something practical to reach out to that person in love? Is there someone in your community who doesn’t know Christ who you can get to know?