Unlimited: The Church That Welcomes Sinners
Jan 31, 2019 1623
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?
Eliezer Gonzalez, I call you out on your BS. God does not distinguish between sins and neither should we. All sins lead to death. Whether you are a liar or an adulterer or a molester of children, you are a sinner. Paul wrote that church leaders should be reputable and should have a demonstrated ability to lead their own households. It is absurd that people who glorify war and enjoy killing are held up as "heroes" while those whose convictions forbid them to take up arms are instead reviled as "cowards". Most of us lie somewhere between these two extremes but we sin in other areas. What you fail to point out is that "sin" is not a crime against God or humanity but mere human imperfection. It offends God, Who created mankind in His perfect likeness. Like a broken or warped mirror, we fail to reflect His perfection and so gall Him. I am autistic. Some other people are crippled, blind, deaf, retarded or crazy. Some have cancer or leprosy or AIDS. All of us will eventually die unless, like Elijah and Enoch, we are raptured unto heaven without tasting death. All of these faults are sins. Some people are gay or transgender. Really. They were born the way they are. It's not a choice, any more than my being autistic is a choice. Some people are born into alcoholism or addiction to crack cocaine. All human beings are born into sin in one form or another. Are we all to be "excluded from membership" on the basis of being sinners? Ridiculous! You'll have a really small church if you follow that logic, I can tell you! What the Church needs to practice is giving and receiving forgiveness. Loving without limit or condition. I know of a local church that fired its organist because he was gay. I have news for you: upwards of ninety percent of organists of either sex are gay or transgender. It probably wasn't planned that way, it just happens to be so. Maybe it's a niche that they are attracted to because it's one of the few from which they aren't excluded. Just a guess. I have been fired from jobs because I am autistic. Of course, they always give another "reason"; they'd be in trouble if they confessed that they fired me because of a mental disability. A church that pretends to "accept" me but will not allow me to serve in any capacity is not accepting me at all. Any healing that might take place can only occur when I am ingrafted into the life of the church and serving as a member. Refusal to do so is tantamount to confession that they never accepted me in the first place. A wise person once told me that "you can't receive the Good News until you believe the Bad News". The bad news is that we are all wretched, hell-bound sinners. Anyone who denies this is a fool and is calling God a liar. The good news is that, if you confess your sins before God and before your neighbors, and ask their forgiveness, you will be forgiven them--as long as you forgive those who ask you. "Forgive us our debts, as we have already forgiven our debtors," Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The fact that I forgive my neighbor for being a murderer does not mean that he has to stop murdering before I can forgive him. I can't stop being autistic unless God heals me of my affliction. I was born this way and will always be this way barring some miracle. I don't behave in a socially acceptable fashion sometimes. I'm unaware of what offends other people about my behavior. I have a niece who has excluded me from her life--and consequently the lives of the rest of my family--because of some perceived slight that she has never told me about. Your policy would accomplish the same--to what end? You say "However, if that person in the future shows clear evidence of a changed life, then the congregation may welcome them back in." How do you suppose that person's life will change if s/he is not being loved by the Church? The purpose of the Church is "to love the Hell out of sinners". The hell will never leave them unless they are in fellowship where people are loving it out of them! Certainly, in light of what Paul wrote, they should not be received as leaders. Some, like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, make a big show of crying on TV and begging for God's forgiveness--like hypocrites in front of an audience, instead of alone with God as Jesus told them. In my opinion, they are not changed men and should not be accepted as leaders. However, they should be welcomed into the church and ministered to as they are given servant roles and praised when they do them well.
What does "living in sin" mean? Ever person on earth continues to be a sinner, and to sin every day, until the kingdom of glory. The Bible teaches (e.g. in Romans 1) that sins like gossiping, selfishness, and pride as just as sinful as sins like immorality. So if you kicked everyone who was a sinner out of church, there would be no-one left, and what would happen is that the known sinners would be kicked out by the hypocrites. The church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. The purpose of the church should be to restore sinners, not to cast them out. There are some circumstances, which should not be the norm, in which particular sins bring the church into gross disrepute. In those situations, it is right for the church to show that those actions do not represent the love and the character of Jesus Christ. But removing a person from "membership" should not mean that that person should be unwelcome in the church at all. Rather it should be an occasion to love and welcome that person more. Also, there may be some circumstances in which, for reasons of the safety of the congregation, a person may need to be excluded. for example when there is a sexual predator of children. We would not wish to put our children at harm. However, if that person in the future shows clear evidence of a changed life, then the congregation may welcome them back in. All of these situations require much humility, wisdom, and prayer. In general, however, my view is that too many churches in some parts of the world are far too quick to cast people out, and this is because those churches have not understood the Gospel of Jesus, and what the purpose of the church is in representing Jesus in the world.
what can you say if someone still living in sin but he thought & think that he is a christian i mean what can you say about immorality if the church member keep on doing that but still he is attending church is the church must do something about it? do the church must give disciplinary action some said that they would kick out to church but my opinion is if that someone claiming that he is a Christian and still doing the wrong thing kick out on the church i don't think he would realize the wrong doing he has done if he is not attending to church i really had a hard time to understand this situation cause so many churches doing this things to discipline the members..can you give me your opinion about this.. thaks God Bless!!
Jan 26, 2021
Hi Michael - I agree with what you have written here, so I don't know what has upset you so much or what you are responding to. In fact, in this long piece you have written you are responding to a piece of mine (above) that says the same thing as you are saying. So, good on you!