We are sinners, every last one of us. And the church, if it is growing as it should, will at times be a rather messy place. Just like a growing family can have a messy home and can require a watchful eye and busy parents (and older siblings), even so the church is a place where sinners can come to faith in Christ and repentance unto life in Him, and begin with the baby steps of following Christ all of their days.
Rome was not built in a day, and neither are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not a single one of us are finished products yet, not even close.
As the saying goes, the church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. And if we are reaching out with the gospel of Jesus Christ the way we should, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ, who is even now ruling over all things for the sake of His church, will be sovereignly lavishing His saving grace on all kinds of sinners! Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Look at the kinds of sinners who were saved, washed, and sanctified by God’s grace in Christ there in Corinth – real, actual sinners! The sexually immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, drunkards and thieves!
Wait – you mean that Jesus saves those kinds of people too?!? Of course He does! Or do we think that the arm of the Lord is too shortened to reach and save the lost? Is He only able or willing to save people like us who only sinned in the more respectable or socially-acceptable ways? No, he came into the world to save sinners, among whom Paul saw himself as the chief – the worst of the bunch (1 Timothy 1:15)! “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), not merely just to help those who help themselves.
Do we mentally exclude people from our witness because they are too far gone? Do we think that those with serious sin issues are beyond the reach of the grace of Christ? Remember that Jesus is a friend of sinners. He spent a lot of time around real, live sinners! Matthew 11:19 says,
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
Do we require people to clean themselves up first before they can come to Jesus (or before they can come to our church)? Or do we share the gospel with them, confident that (as Paul says in Romans 1:16) it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”? We might read 1 Corinthians and shake our heads, but that church, despite all of her obvious (and serious) problems, was still a church where the Lord was at work in saving and transforming sinners. It was a messy church, but it was messy for the right reason – because God was at work.
Certainly in the church “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40, ESV), but decently and in good order does not necessarily mean that everything must be neat and tidy, does it? May your church and mine become a little messier because God is at work in our midst saving all kinds of sinners.