Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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. -1st Corinthians 6:9-11
In the Bible belt, church attendees are taught (verbally or otherwise) to dress presentably on Sunday mornings. I have often heard it said, “You must dress your very best for Jesus!” As if our omniscient Lords presence is relegated only to the gathering place of the church. Now I am not against dressing up for church gatherings; I myself tend to wear khakis and a button up. But I think many of us understand the absurdity of “dressing up” for Jesus. As God told the prophet Samuel, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
When the church focuses on external appearances instead of the internal conditions of the heart, legalism, which is a false gospel, tends to flourish. The Apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth (cited above) to pursue righteousness and holy living because of the radical salvation they have experienced in Christ Jesus. Notice what kind of people make of the church in Corinth-
- Former sexual deviants
- Former idolaters
- Former adulterers
- Former homosexuals
- Former robbers
- Former(ly) greedy/manipulative people
- Former abusers
- Former con-artists
Now I ask the question, would your church welcome these people on Sunday mornings?
Is a man or woman living in sin allowed to come as they are and hear the gospel message?
Does your community know that you accept people, all people, for worship services on Sunday morning?
Now I am not advocating that we allow unrepentant sinners to become members of Christ church, the church is the body of Christ. But do we open our doors to the lost in our community? Or have our church services merely become “echo chambers” in which the truths proclaimed are agreed by everyone in attendance?
When the church focuses on external appearances, we subtly teach our people that they must earn their righteousness before God. They must “dress up” or “clean up” their lives before coming to know Jesus. That is not the gospel. There is a reason Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”. Jesus invited them to come as they were, but they did not stay that way. Tax collectors became philanthropists. Prostitutes became missionaries. Murderers became apostles. Cowards became evangelists.
And such were some of you.