I was listening to a radio talk show recently and the topic was homosexuality. The practice that some Christians have of shunning homosexuals, even repentant, former homosexuals, was being considered. During the conversation a somewhat flippant suggestion was made that the name of the Lord’s church be changed to Sinners Anonymous, reflecting the truth that since we are all sinners we should not be too quick to shun others who, after all, are no worse in God’s eyes than we are (Matt.7:1-2; James 2:9-10). Even though the suggestion to change the name of the Lord’s church was not intended to be taken seriously, it did remind me of what I consider to be a rather serious problem among the Lord’s people.
It would do us all good to remember the following three points: First, All Christians are converted sinners and continue to sin even after conversion (I Jn 1:8). Secondly, Christians should never become arrogant, thinking of themselves as better than others (I Cor 5:1,2). And thirdly, it would possibly be easier to bring other sinners to the Lord by formally recognizing the fact that we also are sinners (I Tim 1:15).
Without going so far as re-naming the church, Christians do need to reconsider how they view themselves in contrast to those who have not been saved. We must not have the arrogant, “holier than thou” attitude of the Pharisee who “stood up and prayed thus with himself , ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men’…” – Lk?18:11. Rather, we need to see ourselves as sinners, like the tax collector, described as “standing afar off, and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me a sinner’.” – Lk 18:13. If we are saved it is only because we have been blessed spiritually through the benevolence of God (For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and that not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.- Eph 2:8,9).
The growth of local churches of Christ has doubtless been stunted by the refusal of Christians to sincerely welcome into their fellowship those former sinners who are still seen as spiritually “challenged”– such as the former homosexual. This un-Christlike behavior is seen not only in public worship services, but also in our personal and business activities as we consciously avoid anything other than a distant and casual acquaintance with those whom we misjudge as being spiritually and/or morally inferior.
Jesus was not afraid to go to the poor, ignorant, downtrodden, socially outcast, morally decadent and physically diseased masses. Neither were his apostles, and neither should we. (Mt. 4:23; 6:2; 8:3,14,28; 9:6,32; 10:1; 12:10; 14:36; 15:22,30; 16:1; Acts 28:7-9; I Pet 2:21. Read ’em!).
The church in Corinth was made up of sinners of the vilest ilk, male prostitutes, homosexuals, etc., Paul however, tells them reassuringly, “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” (v.11). We must not shun such people, but rather accept them as fellow Christians, no worse than we.