Sin and Acceptance

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Several years ago, Dev and I visited one of his old friends in Ohio. That Sunday, we went to his church — a denomination I'd never been to before. It happened to be communion Sunday. And it was open. Completely open. Anyone could partake, no matter denomination, religion, or salvation status.

And it felt so right.

Everyone in that big sanctuary, taking the cup and the bread together. No one excluded. Every church I'd ever gone to had limited communion to Born Again believers. Some to those who had been baptized. This was a new experience for me, and it was surprisingly emotional. It felt like this was the way it should be.

I think of that Sunday sometimes when we have communion at our current church. As I munch my rice cake bit and drink the bitter grape juice. And I think of the other ways churches exclude people from full communion in the body. How people are excluded because of preference or culture or social constructs.

A woman visited our church the other week. She had pink hair. Did she feel comfortable? As she looked around at all the blonde, browns, and greys, did she suspect that last year my hair was magenta? Did she think we cared she was a single mom? Did we care?

The Roman Catholic Pope hosts a symposium on the sacredness of marriage, and a high-profile Evangelical goes. Was his attendance a sign of ecumenism? Or of his support of biblical marriage?

In my circles, the opinions about Obama's illegal immigration statement range from a curt "Don't reward law-breakers" to "The Bible says we're to care for immigrants" with the befuddled ambivalent sitting silently in the middle. But what if an illegal immigrant family came to my church? How would we see them? As law-breakers? As unfortunates temporarily protected by questionable legislation? As brothers and sisters in Christ, seeking to worship with us?

We like boxes. But we also like open space. I'm beginning to realize that both are lies.

The box is comfortable. We can exclude everyone who doesn't get it right. Lock the doors and bolt the shutters. Refuse to talk to Catholics about marriage. Insist that the act of acknowledging the hardships of growing up African American directly disrespects the sacrifices of those in law enforcement — or vice-versa. Make people go through an orientation class and get baptized in the denomination and become a member before they can take communion. Complain about illegal aliens so much that their children fear us

Get the beliefs specific enough that everyone's on the same page, and we'll find ourselves on the outside of the door.

The open space has breathing room. Everyone's welcome. Social injustices are fought together. All viewpoints are accepted. Sin itself is disregarded as mistakes — although there isn't even a consensus on what constitutes "sin." And the inclusiveness feels really good.

It feels good because that's how we were made to be — in communion with everyone around us. We're supposed to agree and accept and even base our decisions on what feels good, to an extent. So we redefine sin as cultural and scientific advancement and value harmony above all else until we're forced to realize it would mean accepting harm to ourselves and others.

If we actually read the Bible, we'll find that Jesus didn't teach that someone needed to follow the rules to be loved. Neither did He teach that love meant total acceptance. He fully acknowledged that the human condition is a whole lot more complicated than that. The sinner is to be forgiven, but the sin is to be stopped (John 8:1-11). Sin is to be dealt with (Matthew 18:15-17), and the sinner restored (Galatians 6:1). It isn't loving to justify a systemic acceptance of sin in order to have pseudo-harmony in the short term. Any sin, including unkindness, dismissiveness, or callousness.

One day, we will have full communion with everyone around us. We will not have to worry about sin or differences. Pink hair will be a cause for celebration. That day and any moment of communion we experience on earth will not be because we ignored sin or because we made our box small enough. It is and always will be because of the work of Christ.

Which is why He came.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Image Credit: Teri Vogel; "Harmony"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Current-Issues  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published 12-1-14