Sinners Welcome!

I was checking out the website of a friend’s church recently and noticed an interesting statement. It merely said, “Sinners welcome…others tolerated.” I love that! It sounds quite simple, but there’s a lot of depth there.

It should be every congregation’s attitude that sinners are welcome. Since we’re all sinners, that should be a no-brainer.Unfortunately, that sentiment is often missing in our assemblages. We talk agood game, but when someone comes along and colors outside of our churchpractices (so to speak), sooner or later we give them the cold shoulder. Iftheir sin is not like ours, somehow it’s not acceptable.

Those Other Guys

 Of course, when we cop that kind of attitude, we begin to accept our own sin as okay. After all, we’re normal sinners. Those other guys are beyond the pale. There’s definitely something wrong with them. They need to become more like us.

If this attitude continues, we eventually don’tlook upon ourselves as sinners at all. We merely view ourselves as less thanperfect. We see “not perfect” as good and sinning as bad (as if there’s adifference). Any introspection at all reveals that this kind of rationale isfaulty at best. Avoiding that kind of introspection is imperative to maintainour holier-than-thou stance, so we don’t think about it.

 That’s where the second part of the website statement comes in. “Others tolerated…” If we’re all sinners (which we are), then there are no “others.” If you ARE one of the others, the rest of us sinners will stick around and put up with your high mindedness. This is such a great slogan! I wish I had thought of it.

Probably the one thing most nonbelievers hate about us is that we can be such hypocrites. They think we’re hypocrites because we think we’re better than sinners like them. The real problem is that, half the time, they’re right about us. We can be really good at self-deprecation until we begin comparing ourselves with people we think are below us. Then, all of a sudden, we’re looking pretty good (in our own eyes). What we keep forgetting is that, in God’s eyes, we’re still sinners. We may be saved by His grace, but we are sinners nonetheless.

The Room to be Self-Righteous

 The long and short of it is that we’ve got nothing on anyone else. Jesus tried to help us understand that in various ways. One occurred when He told Peter that forgiveness was something he (Peter)should be prepared to do without limit. When you forgive someone, you give up the right to hold their sin over their head. Living that humbly doesn’t give one the room to be self-righteous. Yet, self-righteousness seems to describe us far too often.

We should always keep in mind that Sinners welcome butted heads with the Pharisees. Why? Because they were hypocrites. They were sinners just like everyone else, but they couldn’t admit it—not even to themselves. Don’t look now, but they sound a bit like today’s church.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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