The world is full of sinners. The church (and this church) is full of sinners. This office is full of sinners, and I’m the only one in it! The Bible is full of sinners. It’s important that we realize that there is sin everywhere. This seems obvious, but it always shocks me that it shocks people when they realize that there is sin everywhere. The important thing is learning how to live with sinners. Now it’s important to realize that I am talking about all sin. Sin is anything you do (or don’t do)  that goes against God. This includes what some have deemed “little sin, acceptable sin, or justifiable sin.” Those are all theologically incorrect terms. Trust me, gossip is just as much a disobedience to God as anything else.  Now that I am off of that soapbox, let’s look at how the Bible deals with living among sinners, because that gets a little uncomfortable for a lot of people.

Don’t avoid it completely

In the Bible, we see every example of Christ and His followers meeting sin and sinners head-on. From the woman at the well (John 4:27), to Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:7), to being anointed by a prostitute (Luke 7:39), we see them diving headlong into living among sinners. The fine line here is to not get sucked in. In high school, I heard dozens of times that people were “only going to that party to witness to people.” Before too long, people get sucked in. Make sure you don’t. Don’t cross the line. “Well, I know that woman has been flirting with me, but I am married. So, I think I’ll spend some time teaching her about Christ.” Guys, that doesn’t work. Don’t do that.

It’s possible to live among the lost without living like the lost.  (Romans 12:2).

Don’t forget where you’ve been

It’s amazing, but I think Christians have the shortest memory of any single group of people. It seems that the second that a person is redeemed by Christ, they forget that they used to live in a life of sin. Don’t forget that. Remember where you’ve been. In Exodus 22:21, God even puts in the Israelite covenant that they should be good to foreigners because they were once foreigners. God understood that they would forget that quickly, so He wrote it right into the covenant. This theme and this reminder shows up all over the place in the New Testament.

Paul continually reminds churches that they were once stuck in sin. Don’t forget that. Don’t act like you’re “above it all” now, because we all remember how it used to be.

Live with grace, not with hate

I hate that the place that gets the most attention in the media is Westboro. These guys are doing it wrong. They are living filled with hate, not with grace. Grace is a powerful tool.

Grace says “I forgive you. I don’t hold it against you.” Grace is so beautiful because it’s not deserved. Show that to the world. The local church (not just Westboro, whom I do not call a church) has failed deeply here. We have too often hung a sign that says “Sinners not welcome. We need you to clean up your act. Please fix your problems, then we’ll accept you.” We have communicated to the world that we don’t want sinners. Well…who in the world do we want??? That’s who we should want the most!  I want the sign that we hang out to say something more like this: “We love you. We don’t care where you’ve been, because someone here has been there too. Christ will accept you, and we will too. Then, together, we’ll become more like Christ.”  Sadly, that’s very uncomfortable for many long-time Christians. “A drug user sitting next to me? No thanks.”  “Did you see the empty beer cans in the back of his truck? Don’t want him.” “I know that woman cheated on her husband. Keep her away.” This is not gracious living, and it has no place within the true church.

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