Recently I visited with a friend who hasn’t stepped inside a chapel in years. This genuinely good guy believes that even casual church attendance should be based upon some basic level of obedience.
“I’m just not keeping enough of the commandments,” he said. “I don’t feel worthy yet to come on Sunday.”
My jaw dropped so far, you could have crammed both of the prophet Moses’ stone tablets into my mouth.
“Are you a sinner?” I asked.
“Well duh,” my friend quipped.
“Awesome!” I sang the word with a dash of dramatic flair. “So am I! And guess what? Church is for sinners.”
Isn’t it miraculous?
Consider this – Christ, the sinless Son of God, invites the imperfect to participate in his perfect gospel. Then, in a stunning stroke of grace, the Lord promises to be with us when we do. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
What church members do you admire? Your pastor? Sinner. Bishop? Same.
What about our global Christian leaders? No matter what faith they lead, no matter how devoted they are, no matter how much we revere them, each is a sinner just like us. Every weekend they walk into a church somewhere as imperfect children of a perfect Father in Heaven.
In Romans, the wonderful wordsmith Paul put it bluntly. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23).
We’ve all heard the Church referred to as the hospital for spiritually sick. I’ve always appreciated the analogy, but there’s much more to it.
Church isn’t just a general hospital. It’s an emergency room, a burn unit, a rehab facility, labor and delivery, a cancer center, and a specialty clinic for every imaginable spiritual ailment.
Jesus Christ isn’t just a healer. He’s the only Master Healer. He knows every single diagnosis and every possible prescription.
That pain you’re feeling? He felt it first, and no matter how hard life gets, you will never outsuffer the Savior of the world.
Do you have a drug problem? Come to church.
Are you struggling with pornography? Come to church.
Battling inappropriate thoughts? Come to church.
Do you sometimes slip and take the Lord’s name in vain? Bring the habit to church and ask for help to leave it behind.
Struggle with telling the truth? Gather with your fellow sinners and immerse yourself in the greatest truth ever told.
Finally, for those of us already on the pews each week, let’s remember that our job isn’t to take roll and to wonder why Brenda brought her big bag of gossip or why Frank invited his friend who smells like whiskey.
Our responsibility is to love each person who summons up the courage to walk through the church doors. If we find this challenging, or if we wonder why we’re surrounded by so many sinners, we might recall that no matter how well we think we’re doing, every morning when we look in the mirror, we find an imperfect person there, too.
So, are you a sinner?
Awesome! So are we! Come join us on Sunday. We’ll save you a seat.