Sweatin' in Church?

I am not very good at thinking on my feet. Someone will say something...and I'll give a response...and not long after I'll realize that I could have given a much better response. It's especially frustrating to me, when someone says something that is a clear Gospel opportunity...and yet I drop the ball. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been there. Something like this happened to me this past work week...

Lately, as the temperatures have finally been rising here where I'm living in West Michigan, it's been really hot in the place where I work. I think we do have AC...but I'm not sure it's been on or working very well. So, it's been pretty common for us to get pretty sweaty while working. Well, one of my coworkers comes over to another of my coworkers and says, "I'm sweatin' like a [prostitute] in church." Of course "prostitute" is not the word he used...but that's the nicer word that I am substituting. Anyway...the person he said this to, knows that I was a pastor for a year...and so she turns to me and asked me what I thought about what he said. To which I responded that it didn't offend me. This was a true statement...because, who am I to fault this likely unbeliever for his understanding of what it would be like for a prostitute to go to church? I think Christians can often spend too much time "being offended" by what unbelievers say and do. They're unbelievers...how can we expect them to behave like believers? They don't have the Holy Spirit...and if we expect them to act like believers, when they're not...we're communicating legalism, rather than the Gospel of grace that is found in Christ Jesus.

Anyway...there's a rabbit trail...but I realized soon after what I said that while what I said was true...I could have said something much better. I could have asked him about this prostitute in church...why is she sweating? Should she be sweating? I think the statement is communicating one of two reasons why she is sweating. 1: She's sweating because being with the church reminds her of God...and the fact that God knows what she's doing. And in her sin she knows deep down that she is deserving of God's wrath. And so she sweats because she becomes aware of this when she's in church. 2: She's sweating because she feels the judgement of those in the church around her. She can see their scowls, and she doesn't feel welcome...and so she sweats because she is acutely aware of this.

I'll address the first possibility first. Sweating because she is reminded of God's wrath because of her sin is good...it is this sweating that drives one to the cross. Because it is there that she can see God's grace in dying for the sins of the world...it is there that she finds forgiveness. Being with the church, and being reminded of this is good...because, hopefully...if the church is following the example of Christ...they will reach out to this woman in love...and share the Gospel with her. But before I say much more about this...this leads well into addressing the second possibility about why she's sweating...

Should she be sweating because of the judgment of those in the church around her? Anyone who is honest about what the Bible says should know what a correct response should be to this question. We in the church should respond with a resounding "NO!" Because if we're honest...we're no better than her. We were all equally needing of salvation before we were saved. None of us is better than anyone else. It's cliche, but it's true..."the ground is level at the foot of the cross." If we in the church are going to claim to be a disciple of Jesus...we should respond as He would to this woman...and over and over again we see Jesus in the Gospels loving sinners. All over the Gospels we see Jesus was a friend of sinners. He stayed away from the religious elite and spent his time with the needy sinners. He loved them...and was kind and gracious with them. This is the example we are to follow. Now, this doesn't mean we don't tell them they're sinners...Jesus calls the sinners out for their sin...but He doesn't turn them away...He offers them grace and forgiveness. Again...this is how we are to respond to unbelievers who come to our church gathering times.

If we look on them with judgment and disdain...again, this is evidence of a legalistic mind set that says they have to clean themselves up before they can come to Christ. But did we have to clean ourselves up before we came to Christ? No! We came in our brokenness...and our sin-filled state. We should communicate love and grace in our interactions with unbelievers...but also lovingly communicating to them their sin...and the grace of Jesus Christ which offers them salvation.

We could probably argue that the legalist who looks on this woman with disdain should actually be the one who's sweating more than the prostitute. Because over and over in the Gospels we see Jesus being much more harsh with judgmental legalists than He ever was with an open sinner.

So...looking back I wish I had communicated something about this. But God's grace came through...in that later in the week I was able to share the Gospel with this guy in a series of conversations we ended up having. I'm so thankful God uses broken people to communicate His glorious Gospel...