Jesus Friend of Sinners

A church recently observed a special anniversary as a congregation, and everyone who had ever attended there was invited to come back for a special service. A facility was rented for an after-church meal and several past and present preachers were asked to speak. People travelled from far and wide to attend this special service. In fact, the service was so special that one family member who had not been to any church churches in more than thirty years decided to come to honor the memory of a grandfather who was a former elder and “who would want me to be there.”

Timing (as they say) is everything. It just so happens that the week before this anniversary, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and refused to reinstate Proposition 8, cases that both have a profound impact on the recognition of same-sex marriage. One of the speakers for this special anniversary service used the event as a bully pulpit to rail against the Supreme Court, the homosexual agenda and called the church to take a stand against militant homosexuals. There were stirring “amens” as many agreed with his points. But as it turned out, the family member who had not been in church in more than thirty years is a homosexual. He is not “militant,” but he is indeed smart enough to know where he is not wanted— and he will likely never come back to that church. Or nay church.  Jesus was known as someone who “receives sinners and eats with them.” Sadly, His church has never seemed to work very hard to build up that same reputation.

I understand the frustration many feel with “the direction of our country.” I sympathize with those who fear our culture is going to hell in a hand-basket. I pray that our country’s leaders will lead us in the ways of peace and holiness even as I doubt that they can really lead us anywhere at all. I do believe that the practice of homosexuality is a sin… just as I believe that heterosexual sex outside of marriage, divorce for reasons other than adultery, and married people abusing alcohol are all sins as well. All of those things are legal. All of those things are bad for the institution of marriage. None of those things were prohibited by the Defense of Marriage Act.

Christians must stand for Christian morality, but we do that by living it. Seriously. Graciously. We do not stand up for Christian morality by holding up signs (literally or metaphorically) proclaiming that God hates certain people. We do not stand up for Christianity morality by standing in our pulpits railing against people  that we don’t think are there anyway. Jesus never attacked the sins of His culture of his day by standing on a street corner or in a pulpit screaming at people. He attacked the sins of His culture by sitting around a table and eating with sinners and calling them to “go your way and sin no more.”

Standing up for Christian morality has nothing to do with the political direction of our country and everything to do with us as sinners holding up the crucified Christ so He draws other sinners to Himself. We will never be followers of the One who was a friend of sinners if we are intent on driving sinners away from Him. We are not the true friends of sinners if we say nothing to them about Jesus and His will for their lives, but the chances are pretty good that we will never get to do that if we are too busy screaming at them. I can't help but think of the words of a song by Casting Crowns—

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners,
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy;
 Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours