Is it possible that you are “saved” and in the family of God, but you are sinning and you don’t even know it? If this paper is going to Baptists, I’m assuming your answer is yes. Even if your answer is “no,” I’d bet you still would admit to sinning sometimes when you do know it. And yet, here you are, still secure in the grace of God. So I have one more question for all of us:
Why do we often try to convert the lost out of their sin before we bring them to Jesus?
I recently read an article by Andrew Alleyne, a minister from Canada, called “I hate Church.” (Alleyne didn’t really hate church, he just wanted to grab attention.) Alleyne had found that, when talking to people on the street about Christ, many people said they didn’t want to go to church because of the way they had been treated by Christians. So Alleyne and his wife decided to see for themselves if these were legitimate complaints or convenient excuses.
The Alleynes started visiting prominent churches around Toronto. Andrew would wear baggy jeans, put in earrings and wear a hat, backwards, and his wife would wear a short skirt. They would basically come under the guise that they were new and didn’t know how church “worked.” What they found was that in almost every church, no one even said hello to them, but the people were happy to stare. Well, I take that back — sometimes Andrew would get a tap on his shoulder and be asked to remove his hat. The Alleynes found that they, like so many others, had no desire whatsoever to go back.
At this point you might be tempted to get defensive. Please, don’t. Just hear me out and understand that I, myself have a 6”X6” self-righteous beam sticking out of my face. If my tone seems aggressive, please understand that I’m angry at myself.
Some of you might be thinking, “Well, the church is a house of worship and people should be more respectful.” I’m going to challenge that.
The church is not a building. The church is the body of Christ. Too often, we think that being a church member means going to a place where we talk about Christ, we worship Christ, but are we concerned enough with being Christ? Sometimes, I think it might be better that, when we are “in church,” we think of ourselves sitting on the ground in a Middle-Eastern desert somewhere instead of a multi-million dollar facility. Buildings are great, don’t get me wrong, but Jesus did not come to establish more physical temples, he came to build his church out of people who would represent him.
So what do you think Jesus would do if he was out in the desert and met a woman who had had five husbands? What about a prostitute? What about a traitor to the nation?
Church, to do what Jesus would do is our job. Our job is not to try to impress God with a spit-and-polished congregation and worship service. Yes, corporate worship is important, but over and over in the Gospels we see Jesus greatly concerned with meeting the needs of individuals and bringing them in. Remember, Jesus said that serving others, even prisoners, equated to serving him.
The next time you see a person with lots of tattoos or a miniskirt or a hat on in church or someone you know to be a practicing homosexual or a Democrat (some of you need to hear that one) or a drug addict walk into your sanctuary, what are you going to do? Because, if you answered yes to any of my questions in my first paragraph, then you would be a complete hypocrite to judge them as someone less-than-worthy of being introduced to Christ – and you and your church are the body of Christ.
“But Klint, sin is sin and we have to be repentant of it, we can’t just let it go.” You’re right, so how about dealing with our own sin, first. So often, when we meet people who don’t know Christ, we are tempted to try to get them to stop sinning. We tell them those things are wrong and try to convince them to stop because, how can they be saved if they aren’t repentant? Well, you’ve already admitted it’s possible to sin and not know it. So you’re not repenting of all your sins, either.
We can lead people to Christ without convincing them of every sin in their lives because conviction is the job of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:8-9 that “when (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
Even though it is easy for us to fathom someone being saved, who is prideful/ greedy/ lustful (heterosexuals only) and then sanctified over time, meaning that they don’t act perfect right away; for some reason we don’t grant the same possibility to homosexuals/ bartenders/ people who vote the “wrong” way/ people with lots of piercings and tattoos. No, for them, we want immediate, obvious, dramatic change, and usually we try to make that change happen before they accept Christ.
I think it’s time that we trust the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. If someone wants to come to Christ because they know they are lost — even if they don’t acknowledge every individual thing we think they are doing wrong — I believe Jesus’s work on the cross is big enough to save them and begin the process of sanctification.
Mark Lowry said it best: “I never figured out how do you ‘love the sinner but hate the sin? There’s too many of you…’ Hating my own sin is a full-time job! How about you love the sinner and hate your own sin.”
The sin certainly exists, but lets invite dirty people into our dirty congregations and let the Holy Spirit give us all a bath.