There is a very sad misconception that many people have about Christianity. It is an extremely common error held by many non-Christians, but even more unfortunate, it is even believed by many people in the Christian faith. A big part of the reason the myth is so bad is that the myth is nearly the exact opposite of what the bible, and Jesus, teach. What is it?
Many people think that only the righteous, the ‘good’ people who lead exemplary lives, can be part of the Christian church, the Christian faith and that only such righteous people can enter the kingdom of God. The truth is that the Christian church is for sinners, for people who have messed up repeatedly and for those who are nowhere near being righteous. Many times, when I’ve explained this, I’ve had people saying things to me like, “But brother Rex, how can that be? Are you saying that the Christian church is filled with screw-ups, sinners and wicked people?”
Not only is that exactly what I’m saying, I praise God for it. Let me explain why.
Ever since the original sin of defying the word of God and his commands, as well as doubting him, every man and woman has been sinful. It is as stated in Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
That means that all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, are sinners. Jesus was the only man who was without sin. That means that he was the only one who was righteous. Oh, we receive righteousness through Jesus and the bible explains this, but we are not otherwise righteous. That means that there isn’t a single Christian who isn’t a sinner, who is righteous or who deserves to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Because there aren’t any people anywhere who aren’t sinners and who don’t fall short of righteousness. Not one of us deserves to enter the kingdom of God.
Before anyone thinks that this is very gloomy news, think again. It is actually the most tremendous news we could hear. You see, Jesus suffered, shed his blood and put up with torment at the hands of men for only one purpose: So through Him and because of the grace of God, we can live in the kingdom of God. Re-read that last statement. Notice that it doesn’t say that we can live in the kingdom of God so long as we didn’t do one thing or another. It is all inclusive. Everyone can have entrance to the kingdom of God, regardless of what they’ve done wrong in the past, no matter how great the mistakes in their lives have been and no matter how wicked they’ve been in the past. All are free to share in the glory, the love and the everlasting joy of God.
It can be hard to grasp the fact that our Father is that loving. Even the disciples questioned it. They did so because time and again, Jesus ministered to the least worth, the greatest sinners; thieves, prostitutes, murderers and adulterers. Others asked the question, too. Mark 2:16-17 explains it in a crystal clear way:
16 When the scribes who were Pharisees [eg., holy men] saw Jesus eating with these people [eg., tax collectors and sinners], they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The more sinful a person is, the more in need of Jesus that they are and the more ready He is to help them. Again, we are all sinful and broken. We’ve all made mistakes and some of them might have been exceptionally bad ones. But Jesus didn’t die on the cross and spill his blood for people who were without sin. There weren’t any except Jesus, but still, the whole point was that he lived and died in order to open the door to the kingdom for people who were formerly sinners.
“Brother Rex, it can’t be that simple.” You’re right, it isn’t, but it isn’t much more complex, either. To enter the kingdom, we must repent from our wrong-doings and ask Jesus for his forgiveness. We must also believe in Jesus, acknowledge that he was the Son of God and that he died for us before being ressurrected. John 3:14-18
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
I’d say that this is putting it pretty plainly and it would be hard to mistake what is expected. God deserves that praise and far more, while we don’t deserve to enter the kingdom. It also makes it plain that no Christian should treat another person with a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, because we’ve all sinned an no person is better than another.
Christianity isn’t just a faith for the righteous, the exemplary or the unflawed. It is a faith for the real people who have and do make mistakes, that have and do sin and who are broken. This is whom Jesus ministered to and these are the people that God loves as His children. That should give hope to all, because saying that you’ve “made mistakes that were too bad for you to ever receive God’s blessing” has no meaning. You are welcomed by God, the Father who has always loved you, even when you didn’t love him.