One of the most interesting things about Jesus’ ministry is how much time he spent with sinners and tax collectors. Rather than hanging out with the religious elite, he hung out with society’s worst.
That’s become one of the most emphasized parts of Jesus’ ministry. We’ve all heard a million sermons about that. “This church is a place that welcomes the broken, the messed up, the misfits, the rejected… because that’s what Jesus did.”
We’ve all heard that. It’s a great thing the church is becoming more accepting of outsiders.
Here’s a potential problem though: A sinner’s acceptance by the church is not what makes him eligible to receive God’s grace and forgiveness.
Jarrett Stevens said it better than I could ever say it: grace isn’t grace until sin is sin.
A person can’t experience God’s grace until they acknowledge their sin. A person can’t receive the good news until they recognize that there’s bad news.
The sinners that Jesus hung out with knew they were sinners. They even felt shame because of it. Many of the sinners we need to reach don’t want to admit that’s what they are. That’s a huge difference. The guy who sins all the time and is content sinning all the time is not the guy who should be accepted the way Jesus accepted Matthew and Zacchaeus.
To quote Soul City again, we have to accept everyone, and then expect everyone to grow. That’s going to involve lovingly pointing out sin.
“The church can’t become a place that’s known more for what it’s against than what it’s for.” OK, that’s true… but we’re still against stuff, and we still have to talk about that stuff.
Have you met people unwilling to acknowledge their sin? How did you approach the situation?