My wife Barbie is a hospice chaplain and being careful to keep the HIPAA confidentiality rules, I enjoy hearing her share some of her stories. Last week she was visiting an elderly gentleman whose wife was desperate for him to pray the sinners’ prayer before he died and she voiced that in front of her husband and Barbie. The dying man turned to Barbie and said something to the effect “so am I a sinner and in need of praying?”. Barbie replied “well, I’m a sinner and I pray all the time”. Her answer seemed to lower his defenses and they were able to have a conversation that went deeper than his pain or comfort level.
I think this encounter illustrates well one of the biggest barriers to the church being able to reach the un-churched. The un-churched get the feeling that sin has been distilled down to simply not being a Christian or not going to church. And frankly, I tend to agree with their assessment. Once “saved” and in the church, we all too often become spectators not really engaged in the daily battle against sin. We may not murder, but I suggest sin is just about as rampant in the church as it is just outside its doors.
Galatians 5: 19-21, 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In the verses above we have numerous things from sex outside of marriage to envy as disqualifiers to be heirs of the kingdom of God. And a similar list in Romans 1:26-32 list everything from male and female homosexuality along with gossips and those being disobedient to their parents in a list of wickedness and identifying those who participate in them as worthy of death. And these are just a couple of similar list given throughout the New Testament.
I suggest our attitude towards the un-church should be much more like the person stuck in the mud (who has some experience getting out) and he ask the person next to him if he/she would like to work together to get out of the “miry clay”. Yes the un-church must realize, as we hopefully have, that they are stuck in the mud, but they are much more likely to consider that truth from a fellow muddy person rather than from someone who has simply “put on” some really clean “looking” clothes.
Barbie’s answer to that dying man has challenged me, a sinner, to pray more.