Our church family is a community of hopeless, helpless and depraved sinners. I’m not sure what I expected when I got into pastoral ministry, but I’m realizing more and more that a community of faith, simply put, is a community of sinners. Liars and cheaters are two accurate descriptors of all of us. And here’s what I’m realizing even more: I’m the leader of the pack.
Without Jesus as the sole focus of our attention, we can easily move toward the desires of our own flesh. The enticement of the world is incredibly appealing. The Kingdom of God teaches us to consider others before ourselves, but that’s not nearly as satisfying to the flesh as going after what satisfies the desires of our hearts quickly and temporarily. Instant gratification is a lot more convenient than patiently waiting for the promise of perfect satisfaction from God.
Sunday afternoons can sure be a striking transition. After being led in a time of focused worship, we can quickly move toward selfish motives, desires and actions. All it takes is fixing our eyes on ourselves instead of the One that saves, rescues and restores our hearts.
If we are so easily swayed, what is the remedy?
I think part of it is just coming to the conclusion that a community of faith is a community of sinners. The common bond that holds the Kingdom of God together, however, is the unexpected, unreasonable grace that is shown to such a community by the love, power and forgiveness of Jesus.
My heart has been rescued by Jesus. But that doesn’t mean I can’t move back into my old ways. If I remember that I am a sinner, it helps me to remember that I need the continued grace of Jesus to move forward with my days. I mess up. So do you. And if we realize that we’re a community, flawed by our human nature, we’ll be quick to forgive others and find patience with our community of friends and acquaintances when we realize how patient God has been with us.
In his treatise on pastoral ministry, The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson encourages pastors to simply embrace themselves (and their congregation) as sinners:
“The happy result of a theological understanding of people
as sinners is that the pastor is saved from continual surprise
that they are in fact sinners…
So ‘sinner’ becomes not a weapon in an arsenal of
condemnation, but the expectation of grace.”
For all that call Center City Church your community, look around. We gather as a community of sinners on equal footing. All of us hopelessly dependent upon Jesus to unite our hearts in our shared need to give and receive undeserved grace.
We are a community of sinners, found completely free from sin when we gather around the only one that frees us from our plight: Jesus Christ.