Is the church a hospital for sinners or a barracks for soldiers? In other words, is the church a community of broken and needy people, slowly being healed through God’s help, or a triumphant army of overcoming warriors empowered by His Spirit? The answer, of course, is “both.” A discussion that took place in my small group following last week’s message (in which I referenced pornography) reminded me of how important it is to hold both of these realities in fine balance.
The discussion centered on the question: “How can our church community live out our faith in such a way that we can be a place where people struggling with sin (pornography for example) can find healing?” One of our members talked about a gay relative whom she is trying to love, who was hurt by the church in the past. We wondered aloud if prostitutes and others with “notorious” sins would feel as eager to spend time with us as they did with Jesus during earthly ministry.
As a church we face a tension. We need to be striving for holiness; however, there is always the temptation, if we experience some success at it, that we will forget how desperately we still need grace daily, and how long a way we each still have to go before we will be like Jesus. If believers become self-confident rather than “Christ-confident” an inevitable smugness creeps in. Struggling people sense the judgmentalism and will stay away or hide their struggle.
With the Spirit’s help, we can each embrace our identity both as a “needy saint” and an “overcoming warrior.” Then our community will be characterized by the sweet atmosphere of truth and love—a community that is truly authentic, a place where people will be challenged to grow even as they receive support and encouragement. In that way we will grow together toward the maturity in Christ that Paul, in Ephesians 4:15, encourages every church to strive for.
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