Do you remember the popular television program, “Cheers”? The theme song was, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” Regulars entered the bar, not to drown their sorrows in drink, but to enjoy some camaraderie with some friends who didn’t try to “fix” all their defects and problems, or shower them with condemnation.
Nick Stumbo shares in his book, Safe, the following experience of Philip Yancey. “A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. ‘Church!’ she cried, ‘Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.’”
Sadly, that is a common impression of the church. Many people have the perception that Christians expect them to “clean up their lives” before coming to church. Reminds me of this story: Two young women finally had accepted a friend’s invitation to his church. Towards the end of the sermon, one of the gals was considering giving her life to Christ, but she wanted to talk to her female companion first. They left the auditorium, went outside, and feeling nervous, they lit up cigarettes. A deacon of the church followed them outside and berated them for smoking on “God’s property.” They left in a hurry and never came back.
That deacon understood RULES, but he didn’t know anything about the GRACE of God. He was like the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18:11-12)
Jesus addressed another Pharisee in Luke 7. He also was self-righteous and assumed he needed only a small amount of God’s forgiveness for the SMALL amount of sin in his life. However, he thought that most people were not as good as he was, and therefore they needed LOTS of God’s forgiveness. He didn’t realize the magnitude of his own sin.
Not only do we need God’s grace for salvation, but it is GOD’S GRACE that enables us to live the Christian life. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11–12) Daily, each of us needs His grace, much like daily we need air to breathe.
In seminary I read a book about preaching by Haddon Robinson. He was a well-known and highly respected preacher at the time. He wrote, “If people really knew me, they wouldn’t want to listen to me.” But that’s the beauty of grace – God does know everything about me, including my thoughts, and He loves me in spite of it. That’s GRACE.
Let’s be liberal on the amount of oil of grace we spread around. Who knows? Maybe people will choose to come to church instead of going to the bar.