Is the church a place where sinners can freely come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Last night, my wife and I were at Celebrate Recovery, as we often are on Monday nights. Generally, when someone says something they introduce themselves by saying their name and what their struggle is. Last night, I’m sitting at my table when I hear someone say his name and say “And I struggle with pornography.”
I had heard that kind of thing several times before, but this time, I couldn’t shake it. The raw candidness of the moment struck me. It might be different if this was an audience of just men, but it wasn’t. This was an audience of men and women.
And yet, in this place, there is no condemnation, which was amazing to me. Picture the idea of a guy who can stand up with mixed audience and say this kind of thing. This means that this guy is openly admitting to women that he has a problem with viewing women as sexual objects and they could be included in that group.
Yet if you know anything about a good Celebrate Recovery group, grace is a major part of it. There was forgiveness there entirely and people do accept one another in spite of our sinful selves. We know we cannot truly condemn another because we have our own struggles.
Contrast this to another situation I’ve seen recently. A friend of mine wrote an article on the LGBT community and Chick-Fil-A. What a shock it was to me when it was shared in an apologetics group I belong to with the claim that it was pro-LGBT and that by implication, Ratio Christi is being pro-LGBT. Why? Because the article opposes shaming homosexuals and that’s what we need to do.
Now I am not opposed to shaming per se. The question is who do we do it to and why? When we encounter people with sinful struggles, is it right to shame them for those struggles? I don’t see this going on with Jesus in the Gospels. The ones that get shamed are the ones that think they’re entirely alright.
We have a problem in how those dealing with sin see the church today. When you look in the New Testament, sinners aren’t scared to come to Jesus. How many people who are struggling with sin are scared to come to church today? If we are supposed to represent Jesus and they weren’t scared to Jesus but are scared to come to us, we’re not doing a good job.
This isn’t to say that we’re never tough on sin. Sometimes, some people need someone to look them in the eye and tell them they’re participating in sinful behavior. That’s a very delicate time and should be handled with precision and care. Many of us who are Christians have appreciated someone getting blunt with us and saying such.
I am thankful that there are places that Christians can go and share their struggles and hopefully, that will extend to non-Christians as well. Anyone should be able to go to your average church and say what’s really going on and if you can’t, well, perhaps we’re not being Jesus like we should. Grace and truth both must be a part of all that we do. Truth without grace will be just a bludgeon. Grace without truth will be a license. Find the balance.