Last Sunday, I made a statement during the course of my message that could have made our church family a little uncomfortable. However, when I said it, not a single eyebrow was raised. It was as if what they heard was expected, or commonplace, or already understood. For that, I am profoundly grateful for the church family I have the privilege of serving, North River Community Church. I pray God allows them to see fruit from the ease with which they readily embraced this.
I shared with them a question I was asked a few weeks earlier during our Tuesday morning men’s Bible study. We are a small bunch, and while there is a structure to what we do, it is not particularly rigid, allowing for discussion, debate, encouragement, and questions, sometimes (ok, often) tangentially related to the text we are studying. That was the case when a brief discussion about a hot topic came up, leading to the question – “If a homosexual couple came to this church, would they be welcome?”
I answered that question for our church family on Sunday, and am expanding it a little here:
Let me say that I want our church gatherings to be filled with people just like you. Just like us. (Ok, there was a smidgen of brow lifting at that statement, but they quickly dropped back into standard brow position). Sinners. Sinners are welcome here. Sinners will always be welcome here, because that is precisely what we are. We are sinners in need of Christ’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. We are sinners who have experienced Christ’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. I want as many people here as possible who need Christ’s grace and mercy and forgiveness.
Yes, the homosexual is welcome here. The doors will always be open to them. They are open to the homosexual, the bisexual, the transsexual, and the heterosexual. They are open to the heterosexual who is unfaithful in his marriage. They are open to the adulterers, fornicators, and those given over to pornography. The doors are open to those who have been in prison and to those who probably should be in prison. They are open to the liars, cheats, tax evaders, and swindlers. They are open to the gossips, slanderers, and tongue waggers. They are open to the drug users, the drug sellers, and the alcoholic. They are open to those who look badly, dress badly, smell badly, and live badly. The angry, the violent, and the dangerous are welcome to come and find their passions replaced. Both the unrighteous and the self-righteous are welcome to discover Christ’s righteousness. The questioners, the doubters, the curious, the uninformed, the skeptics, and the defiant protestors are welcome to ask their questions here, and find answers through God’s grace.
Why? Because in this church, we preach Christ and Him crucified. The enduring message of our church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have no other message. We have no other purpose than to proclaim Christ. Christ changes lives and transforms hearts. While all would be welcomed, that does not mean that all behavior is condoned. We will lovingly, graciously confront sin – not because we have it all figured out, but because Christ does, and we preach Christ and His power. We want as many as God would graciously permit to come to saving, transforming, life altering knowledge of Jesus Christ. Those without Christ have no rest in their souls. The promise of Christ is this:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
We preach Christ, and all are welcome to hear and experience His grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and power. Would they be welcome? Absolutely, because we are they. As we have been welcomed, so will we welcome.