Summary: A sermon about being the Church of unconditional love.
"Do they See Christ in Me?"
By Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN graceumcsd.org
Let’s ask ourselves this question.
Would the most reviled of sinners feel welcome and loved in our churches?
Would drug addicts, prostitutes, those who have lived with multiple partners, those who have addiction problems, the homeless, the mentally ill, the depressed, the marginalized, those who have spent time in prison feel welcomed and loved unconditionally?
Would they know that we love them just the way they are…
…sins, warts and all—no matter what their lifestyles, no matter their appearance, no matter what is in their bank accounts…
…would they know we love them just the way they are…
…For God loves us just the way we are as well, does He not?
For while we yet sinners, Christ died for us…
…and Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
When folks come to our churches do they see in us the kindness and richness of God’s love and tolerance and patience and forgiveness?
Do they see Christ in you, in me?
When they see our churches, drive by them…do they think we are a bunch of hateful hypocrites or loving, inclusive, non-judgemental sinners—saved by grace—but in no means—stuck up or holier than Thou?
Zacchaeus was a hated sinner.
Zacchaeus was chief among tax collectors, and I’m sure his parents never would have dreamed that he would turn out the way he did.
You know why?
Because Zacchaus’ name means “Pure” or “Righteous”.
He was given that name as a baby.
Zacchaeus’ mother and father looked down at him and thought he was the most precious little fellow in the world…so they named him “Pure.”
They knew and believed that God had great plans for his life…just like God has great plans for all our lives…so they named him “Righteous”.
And I would imagine that Zacchaeus’ parents probably did the best they could to help Zacchaeus to live into his name.
They probably took him to the Temple.
They probably taught him about God and the Scriptures.
I would imagine they loved him so very much…just like you all who have children love your children!
And through their showing an unconditional love for Zacchaeus…
…I would imagine that Zacchaeus was given just a little glimpse of the kind of love that God has for all people—including himself!
This is one of the reasons that it is of utmost importance that we bring our children to church and encourage others to bring their children to church and to Sunday school every week and to Youth Group…whether they feel like it or not!
Church is one of the most significant places we learn about God’s unconditional love.
And, as you know, we only love God when we find that God loves us!
What a horrible thing to know that there are so many children who do not know…
…have not experienced…
…have not been taught about…
…the God of love…
…within the community of faith…
…the God Who loves them more than they can imagine!
No matter what!!!
When I attended church as a child I was witness to a kind of love and acceptance that the world did not have nor offer.
I knew that there was something better than the backstabbing, conditional fake love of the World!
Today, many children think Jesus is just another curse word!
And whose fault is this?
We may want to blame their parents, and they may carry some of the blame…but, could it be that we—the Body of Christ in this world carry some of the blame as well?
After all, we are the privileged!
Have you ever thought of yourself in this way?
In Romans Chapter 5, the Apostle Paul writes: “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand…”
Do we think of “where we now stand” as a place of undeserved privilege?
And what difference would it make in our lives, in our community and in our churches if we did?
We know something about life that many folks no nothing about.
We know that God loves us.
And we know that God loves everyone!!!
And Jesus said that people will know we are Christians by how much we love.
Love is what attracts persons to Christ.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment—the two things that everything hang on are love for God and love for our neighbors.
How are we doing in these departments?
Do people see in us something that the world can’t offer…
…a superabundance of unconditional love toward all people no matter what?
Pastor and Author, Neil Cole, is doing some amazing ministry.
In his book, Organic Church, Cole writes about a time he decided to have a baptism in the parking lot of a ghetto apartment complex in Los Angeles.