I struggled for years with the loud and persistent message of God against sinners. The idea was that if you were a smoker, a drinker, a skimming-off-the-top candlestick maker, God despised you and your evil ways and you might as well stay away. His salvation, they implied, was for the good; for those who had it all together. He only gave his gift to the worthy. You didn’t have to be perfect, of course, but you had to be trying.
That’s a lie.
It’s not only a lie, it’s the antithesis, the absolute opposite, and enemy of the Good News that Jesus lived, died and rose again for we sinners.
We are born into our brokenness. We are a people whose sinful nature has been passed down to us from Adam. No matter how much we give of our time, money and efforts, how little we hate, how much we love, or how often we darken the doors of a church on Sunday morning, we are intrinsically infected with a nature that is a slave to sin.
God did not call us to try harder or obey a list of rules, because all our good deeds are conceived in an un-virtuous womb. Our attempts to do what God wants us to do are imperfect, and God demands perfection. “If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (Gal 2:21b). So, no, he didn’t say, wash your hands and come to dinner. Put on your best clothes and I’ll let you in.
He just opened the door.
To do that, he lived the life we couldn’t live. He died the death we deserved. Then he rose again to defeat death and assure us a future.
So, all our self-righteous pleas to sinners to stop their unlawfulness are useless prologues to the Good News. Because God came for sinners, not those who think themselves righteous. All our so-called virtuous stances against homosexuality and pro-abortion activists and whoever else we see as somehow less than us are not the point. They may well be in line to get into heaven before you. Because all anyone has to do is come.
We want to put the Cross on a high mountain and tell the world to make themselves worthy by climbing to get to it. But God came near. He came near to take the hand of the murderer, still wet with blood. To hold close the still naked body of the adulterer. He came for all people--even me.
The message of the gospel is Jesus for sinners. There are no prerequisites. There are no ifs ands or buts. There is nothing any of us sinners must do except see our need for God and come.