Little children aren’t allowed at the dinner table until they wash up. Sometimes Christians treat people the same way.
Christians can act like church is only for cleaned up church people, all the while saying that we really support evangelism and mission work.
In the movie Walk the Line, Johnny Cash is talking to his record company executive, who is trying to dissuade him from playing concerts in prisons. The executive explains, “Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin’ to cheer ’em up.”
After a brief pause, Johnny replies, “Well, they’re not Christians, then.”
Well then. Just like Jesus said to the self-righteous church leaders who looked down on the outsiders, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).
We are behaving self-righteously, too, when we expect the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners of today to clean up their act if they want a place in our church. If people needed to get things together first before coming to church or to God, then why do they need a Savior anyway?
All of us truly need a Savior, including church people, and Jesus is the one. He “welcomes sinners” (Luke 15:2), which means he welcomes you and me and those outside the church. Nobody is more or less righteous. Jesus opens the door for all, opens his heart to all, and welcomes us all to come in without cleaning up first. He takes care of that by forgiving us in his free grace.
Oh, and I know that Johnny Cash isn’t the best role model to be giving advice about being a Christian, but isn’t that the point? Christians treasure the free grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Not only for ourselves, but for others too.
Righteous not in ourselves but by the grace of Jesus.
PRAYER: Jesus please open my heart and my church to others who need you like I do. Bless Christians everywhere with a willingness to befriend everyone, and open the doors of churches everywhere to people who think they may not be welcomed. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: In Matthew 21:28-32 you’ll get a wider understanding of Jesus’ interaction with the self righteous church leaders. He tells a parable that basically says, “There are disobedient sinners who repent, and there are obedient self-righteous people who don’t repent.” Jesus prefers one over the other. Read it on your own.