Once you clean up your act, you can come in.
Once you stop falling into the same cycles and patterns of sin, then you’re welcome here.
Once you cover up those tattoos, take your hat off, and purge your social media, then you can find community in this place.
I look around at my generation, I listen intently to the stories they’re telling. Many of them are saying that these phrases above, these litmus tests for church community, were imposed against them.
If they were pretty, pristine, clean, and family-friendly, they could find the support of a faith community and of pastors. But if they were rough around the edges, broken, struggling, and sinful, they were judged and condemned. Subtly and not so subtly communicated with to clean up their act before they come back.
Sure, Jesus explicitly stated that He came to seek and to save the lost. Sure, Paul stated that Jesus’ reason for coming was to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But that was Jesus. We’re just His people. We’re here for the nuclear families, the morally acceptable, those that know what to say and how to say it in church settings. That’s who we’re here for. That’s our calling.
God forgive us.
Jesus reinvigorate us.
Spirit guide us.
We were made for the mess. The dirty, broken, mess of life that is raw and real. Broken families. Egregious sin. Nasty rumors. Mental health struggles. We as the church are to sit, listen, encourage, and point to Jesus. But so many people in our communities won’t come in our doors. They’ve heard our gossip and slander. They’ve heard what we think about people like them.
I believe the role of the church community is to equip and empower the people of God to live in such a way that draws others into the community.
So in a sense, our Sunday morning worship services are for Christians. But they are for profoundly broken Christians. Those weekly services are to push us back into the world to reach others for Jesus.
But we sit on the sidelines.
Instead of leveraging our relationships for mission, we become codependent (this happens to me all of the time y’all).
People of God, you’re made for more. Let me show you one of the most insane examples of God’s heart for the broken.
Turn to 2 Kings chapter 5.
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5:1
My passion is to take our G-rated glasses off when we read Scripture. I want you to read that again. What stands out?
An enemy of God’s people being given victory by God.
What in the world?
Remember, at this time the people of God were the nation of Israel. The people of God transcend nations and boundary lines today. Back then it was national. But yet you still see in this story God’s heart for those who were literally His enemies.
Naaman has leprosy and God heals him through the work of the prophet Elisha.
Things get even crazier in chapter six.
You may think, okay, sure God healed this man. But maybe it was so the Aram people stop their violence against Israel.
Nope. That doesn’t happen.
2 Kings 6:8 says that the Aram people are still moving against Israel.
Elisha hears of all their plans, before God uses Elisha to blind the people of Aram. This is an extremely popular story, for it is the moment where Elisha shows his servant the innumerable chariots of fire around them, protecting them. But people stop there (again, G-rated glasses).
The blinded army come before the king of Israel. Let me show you what happens next.
When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those who you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. – 2 Kings 6:21-23 (verse twenty-four tells us the Aram army comes to attack again)
The people of God capture their enemies and then throw a feast for them?
That’s exactly what happened.
God loves His enemies as well as His own people. They are given opportunities to repent, as Naaman showed. The book of Romans says that we are all God’s enemies. Not that we’re not close with Him. Rather that we are straight up His enemies. And yet God still sent His Son to die for us.
It seems like a Jesus juke but it’s Scripturally faithful.
God’s grace is for all people.
He extended grace to His enemies, both historically and spiritually.
What roadblocks do we put in the way of those who want to experience the love of God? Naaman did nothing that was worthy of being healed. The Aram army certainly didn’t deserve to be celebrated as they were.
I am stingy and self-righteous if I believe that the grace God has given to me was because of my actions and only goes to morally good people.
I am failing to live out the heart of God if any of my preaching, teaching, or day to day life is communicating to the Christian and non-Christian alike that they shouldn’t come into community as they are.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be the type of people who celebrate with our ‘enemies’. Let’s be the type of people who know we’re no better than the non-believer. We have no high ground. We’ve simply been rescued.
Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS. – 1 Timothy 1:15b
In His Name,
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