“For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners” Matthew 9:13b
I love this above quote from Jesus. There is a part of me that wishes this was over the door leading into either the church itself or the sanctuary (not that I don’t love our Welcome graphic or the Trinity stained glass). Why would I want this quote to be something that people see before they enter this building or worship space? Because it is a reminder that I think we (including myself) need.
There is a misconception that the church is a place for “good” people,” that the church is a place where you will find the morally perfect. But that is not the mission of the church and that is not the mission of Jesus. The church is not a place for the righteous, though we have often portrayed ourselves as such. The church is not the place for the perfect or people who never make mistakes. The church is a place for sinners.
See, we all know we sin. That is no surprise. We all know that we mess up and need the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Again, no surprise. But what is surprising sometimes to us is that we would actually welcome other sinners. What is surprising is welcoming the person that looks different from us, acts different from us, dresses different from us. What is surprising is that we might welcome people who have messed up in life in ways that often that are hurtful and shameful.
For way too long the CHURCH has tried to set itself above everyone else. But Jesus doesn’t go away from those that are stuck in the mud of sin, Jesus jumps head first into the mud with them. Jesus goes in places that drive the religious leadership crazy. A few verses before the one above, we hear this: “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” They can’t believe that Jesus would even dare get near these people. Yet, Jesus does. And so should we.
We need to be honest that we are sinners and that the church needs to be a place for sinners. Of course, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we strive to live according to God’s will. But when we falter and when we see others falter, we can’t just ignore or shun or toss out those people. We can’t ignore or shun or toss out ourselves. We must welcome and remind and forgive and inspire them through faith in Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will we really be able to change the world and show them that the CHURCH is not a place of hypocrites or a place where people look down on others, that the CHURCH is a place of forgiveness, love, and hope.
May the Holy Spirit help us in this calling and may we remember that Christ has come for us, sinners, who are in need of redemption.