After all, the wool from the black sheep is just as warm. — The Sound of Music
This weekend, Christians are celebrating Easter. This is the season where we remember that God walks among us, and that no matter how sinful we become, we can always be redeemed. Christ did not come only for those who already believed. He also came for those whose hearts are as black as night. He also came for those whose hearts are torn with grief and anger. He came for all of us.
I think this is one of the places where the modern church fails on a regular basis. At several times in my life, I have known people who were basically shunned from their communities of faith. One was a young woman who became pregnant out of wedlock. Another was a man who got in trouble with the law. Several have been entire families that have, for one reason or another, split up. In these cases, their church families turned their backs on them, viewing their situations as too outside the tenets of the faith to allow them to remain. In most cases, this was done with the approval of the minister, if not their active participation.
I’m as guilty of this as the next guy. A lot of the things I write about here include the phrase “get a rope” and other condemnations of others’ bad acts. I forget the teachings of the Gospel when I do so, and I need to do better. To do anything less is a repudiation of Christ’s message of love and forgiveness. Yes, the sinner needs to acknowledge their guilt and make amends, but the church should be there to help them find their way back into the fold. Once that is accomplished, the sin should be forgiven and forgotten.
The homeless drunk has as much place in the church as the living saint in her Easter bonnet. The murderer in prison deserves forgiveness as much as I do for my transgressions. We have to remember that Christ comes to us as a shepherd in search of lost sheep, and it doesn’t matter to him what color the lamb is. It shouldn’t matter to any of us, either.