Do sinners belong in the church? Theirs are the only applications the church accepts.
— Glenn T. Stanton, Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor
WHAT disqualifies people from affiliation with ‘church’? Perfection. The perfect person, by definition and designation, has no need of the church — they are disqualified from attending and being a member. They don’t need Christ. Anyone who has no need of Christ’s atoning work — because they have not sinned — has no need of the church. They may freely walk past. God can do nothing for them.
We, on the other hand, fit right in.
But we sometimes also still struggle with certain types of people coming to darken the foyers of our churches with their shadow. The Pharisee in each of us is never too far away if we are honest. Yet Jesus delighted more to recline with sinners than hobnob it with the religious elite.
Some of those we may struggle with, in accepting and including, are those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
We are to be understood and empathised with if we find some great difficulty warming to actually active homosexual people — couples, as a manifestation. But it’s no different from trying to identify with others we ordinarily have no connection with. It’s not wrong to feel uncomfortable, but it is wrong when we act on those uncomfortable inclinations. Where is grace living and active in the minutes and seconds of our lives? What sacrifices are we making to obey Jesus’ and his Word?
This issue of a lack of tolerance for homosexual people has broader application.
It always has the application in “What other kinds of sinners don’t we like?” The truth is we take issue with almost every kind of sin and sinner that we are not personally connected to or assimilated with. We might have a propensity for culinary sin (we eat too much and the wrong foods — and this has control over our lives) but we tolerate others who battle the same sin because they encourage us that we are not alone. But if someone comes through the doors of our church and they have a record of paedophilia, we are alarmed. (Well, we should be alarmed if children are at threat, so we put wise safety measures into place.) Or if someone attends our services and they reek of alcohol are we to reject them? Of course not. They are in the exact place where help can be found.
The fact is, everyone who is imperfect belongs in church. If they didn’t belong then we’d be a club (not a church).
And another fact is certain sinners will expose our own preformed and incorrect prejudices. It’s not their issue, but ours. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community belong in church; your church; any church. Do we rapidly elevate them into leadership? No. Hopefully nobody’s elevated to leadership without much prayer and consideration. And if there is anything that a disciple cannot promptly surrender as far as sin is concerned, then there’s the matter of ineligibility for leadership, for leaders must live committed to Jesus’ biblical teachings — as imperfectly as they might be.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.