Recently I visited with a friend who hasn’t stepped inside a chapel in years. This genuinely good guy believes that even casual church attendance should be based upon some basic level of obedience.
“I’m just not keeping enough of the commandments,” he said. “I don’t feel worthy to come on Sunday.”
My jaw dropped so far, you could have crammed both of the prophet Moses’ stone tablets into my mouth.
“Are you a sinner?” I asked.
“Well duh,” he quipped.
“Awesoooome!” I sang the word with a dash of dramatic flair. “So am I! Guess what? Church is for sinners.”
And isn’t that miraculous?
Consider this — Christ, the sinless Son of God, invites the imperfect to participate in His perfect gospel. Then, in a stunning stroke of grace, the Lord promises to be with us when we do. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
What members of the Church do you admire? Your bishop? Sinner. Stake president? Same.
What about President Russell M. Nelson? Obviously, he’s given a lifetime of devoted service to the Lord and is living the kind of consecrated life we revere and to which we all aspire.
Still, our prophet and those he serves with are sinners like us who walk into churches around the world every single Sunday as imperfect children of a perfect Father in Heaven.
Are they repentant sinners striving for more? Of course! But sinners all the same.
In Romans, the wonderful wordsmith Paul put it bluntly: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We’ve all probably heard the Church referred to as the hospital for the spiritually sick. I’ve always appreciated the metaphor, but there’s much more to it.
Church isn’t just a general hospital. It’s an emergency room, a rehab facility, a cancer center, and a specialty clinic for every imaginable spiritual ailment.
Jesus Christ isn’t just a healer. He’s the only Master Healer. He knows every single diagnosis and every possible prescription.
Do you have a drug problem? Come to church.
Are you struggling with pornography? Come to church.
Battling inappropriate thoughts? Come to church.
Do you sometimes slip and take the Lord’s name in vain? Bring the habit on Sunday and ask for help to leave it behind.
Struggle with telling the truth? Gather with your fellow sinners and immerse yourself in the greatest truth ever told.
Finally, for those of us already on the pews each week, may we remember that our job isn’t to take roll and to wonder why Brenda brought the neighborhood gossiper or why Ivan invited his friend who smells like whiskey.
Our only responsibility is to love each and every one who summons the courage to walk through the church doors. If we find this challenging, if we wonder why we’re surrounded by so many sinners, we might remember that no matter how well we think we’re doing, every morning when we look in the mirror, we find a sinner there, too.
So, are you a sinner?
Awesoooome! So am I! Come join us on Sunday. We’ll save you a seat.