Saturday, September 24, 2005


Saints are sinners that keep going. – St. Augustine

One of my biggest roadblocks to Christ is shame. I often look back on my past not with a healthy contrition, but a dose of shame. Shame that is not of God. To make matters worse, all around me I watch as Christians, churches and non-believers approach Christianity as if a follower has to be a perfect human being – always polite, always well groomed and always, always smiling. No matter what, you must smile. Saying things like “I’ll be praying for you” or “Bless you,” is expected, even when you don’t mean it. You have to be a “nice guy” and you certainly shouldn’t struggle with sin. Just a few things they never say but often mean; as man looks on the outside of things, God looks at the heart.

As a result, many quit the race, and even fewer start, because of the burden on the believer to “have it all together” – and in place of that level of perfection, many who remain compensate by covering their sins. This covering of sins only adds to the world’s perception that Christianity is only an act.

Without question, perfection should be our aim -- but a culture that does not treat "sin struggles" with understanding, patience and love destroys the openness the community was intended to provide. After all, what is community if it’s not a support system for encouraging each other to continue the honest pursuit of Christ? In fact, instead of openness, we in the church find ourselves holding stones instead of forgiveness – adding to the weight of shame. We don’t encourage the prostitute to “go and sin no more,” we talk about how shameful she is. The stones we hold today aren’t rocks – but looks, snide comments and exclusion. We exclude the sinners from the church -- as if we ourselves are blameless apart from Christ.

Nowhere else is this more true today than in the church’s dealings with homosexuals. I look out and see the church taking two terrible extremes: condemning and condoning. The conservative churches say such terrible things against homosexuals that none would dare step foot in the doors -- shaming the sinner for sinning. The liberal churches, however, seem to say you can be a practicing homosexual and at the same time a follower of Christ.

In my opinion, both have terrible consequences. Christ did not come to heal the well, but the sick. The church’s mission today is to offer that healing through Christ rather than take potshots at specific groups of sinners. Imagine if a doctor condemned you for being sick? Would you ever go back to that doctor? At the same time, no one can remain who they are after deciding to follow Christ. Even “good” people. You, and everything in your flesh, must be crucified and die so that Christ may live in you. Homosexuality, love of money, lust, anger, jealousy and all other sins must be abandoned for Christ’s sake. Not once -- every day. And everyday our aim should be to pursue the grace of God and be a means of grace for others. One of the toughest questions I face is how to make clear the path for sinners to meet with the only God who can redeem them. In other words, how do you love the sinner without condoning the sin?

Through all this, I’ve found it true that the more Christ-like I become, the greater consumer of grace I am. I need grace to hold me up in righteousness, every day, in every moment. I will never be “there.” I will never be above temptation or stumbling – I will never be “good” as God is good. But one thing is for sure, I can not allow the fact that I am “not good” to stop or discourage me from approaching the holy and dangerous God I serve. I can, in fact, approach God with the confidence that my sins, though shameful, have been forgiven and forgotten because of the Son. I only wish we could all approach the American church with that same confidence.


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