Even Heterosexuals Are Welcome at My Church

jesuswelcomesallHer story had all the makings of a modern medical nightmare. Not for one, not for two, but for twelve long years this woman had suffered from a hemorrhage. You don’t have to be a female to imagine how this condition would have defined her everyday existence, especially in a first century Jewish culture where such bleeding would have rendered her perpetually unclean. She had tried doctors. And what did they do? We’re told she “suffered much” from many of them (Mark 5:26). I don’t even want to know what that means. Use your imagination. And just like today, it’s not as if doctors collect a fee only if they cure you. No, you get charged an arm and a leg even if you stay sick, even if you die. So with her, she “had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”

Finally, having exhausted every other option, she crafted this outrageous plan that bordered on sacrilege. Imagine if a prostitute, her body teeming with STDs, snuck into your church one Sunday morning through a back door, crawled in her miniskirt unseen behind the altar, reached up, dipped her finger in the chalice, and touched that sacred wine to her lips. And imagine if, at that very moment, she was discovered and stood, in all her unclean glory, before the pastor and congregation. That scenario, as shocking as it would be to us, is not as audacious as our friend’s plan was. This woman, who wouldn’t have even been allowed in the courts of God’s temple because she was ritually unclean, snuck up behind Jesus in a mass of people, and touched the hem of his garment. An unclean woman touched the holy, holy, holy God. If she’d made a wild dash into the temple’s inner sanctum, she wouldn’t have been closer to Yahweh than when she got her hands on Jesus.

What is even more astonishing is what happened next. I’m not talking about the fact that her hemorrhaging stopped. I’m not talking about the fact that Jesus felt power going out of him. No, the most astonishing part of this story is the Son of God’s response. He says, “Who touched me?” And when she comes forward, fearing and trembling, and tells him the whole truth, he says, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace, and be healed of your disease,” (5:34). He utters not one word of rebuke. He doesn’t go all fire-and-brimstone on her for daring to put her unholy hands on him. In other words, Jesus does what he always seems to be doing: he welcomes the outcast, embraces the pariah, and gladly and willingly pours into her his holy and healing love. What to others might seem sacrilege, to Jesus is just one more opportunity to exhibit his scandalous, transformative, sanctifying grace.

We can add this woman to the long list of others rejected by many but whom Jesus welcomed with open arms. The hated, traitorous tax collectors. The “sinful” women who sold sex to put food on the table. The woman nabbed in the act of adultery. Those with horrific skin diseases. The Gentiles. Indeed, Jesus says that he did “not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 6:32). He invites the “weary and heavy laden” to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28). He doesn’t travel around Israel looking for the right kind of people to believe. If anything, he seems to be calling to himself the wrong kind of people. Gathered around him are people with enough skeletons in their closet to stock a cemetery. They flock to him because they see in him what they never dared dream before: a God who has no qualms about sitting down in the gutter with you, a Savior who’s happy to have a prostitute weep on his feet and dry them with her hair, a Friend who’ll share a meal with the most infamous folks in the community.

The church that Jesus founded is where he’s still doling out this scandalous grace to everyone. There is no list on the front door that spells out the requirements for entrance. All are welcome: addicts, ex-cons, prostitutes and pimps; lawyers and politicians; the homeless and mentally ill; runaways and castaways; the LGBT community and the haters of gays. Amazingly, in his church Jesus even welcomes sinful heterosexuals, happily married couples, and—believe it or not—even religious leaders.

Jesus preaches the same message to all of them: repent and believe the Gospel. Leave behind a life that is a lie, the life in which you pretend you can be your own god, establish your own truths, earn your own way to heaven. You’re lost. You’re unclean. There is no hope for you inside of you. But there is abundance of hope in someone else. There is cleansing and forgiveness and peace and wholeness in the one who bleeds and dies for you. He will turn no one away. How could he? He died for them, one and all. His grace heals all wounds. His love welcomes all sinners.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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11 thoughts on “Even Heterosexuals Are Welcome at My Church

  1. We’re told she “suffered much” from many of them (Mark 5:26). I don’t even want to know what that means. Use your imagination.

    I watched this NOVA episode a few years back. It describes a medical condition called a fistula which has the same symptoms as the woman in Mark’s Gospel. I think the video gives insight into the woman’s suffering in Mark 5 and how her condition drove her to Jesus.

    Rev Tom Woodley

  2. infanttheology on said:

    Awesome post pastor. Thanks for these good words.

    +Nathan

  3. This piece reminded me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 22:

    “And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

  4. allthepretties on said:

    Pastor, this might not be the forum, but I have some questions. I thought this post was beautiful and so true! Do you allow homosexuals to serve at your church? And I may be reading this wrong but do you believe there are gay Christians? I am not in any way trying to be confrontational. It’s hard to find a pastor with a blog who will answer questions! I’m just a searcher!

    • Thank you for asking! This is a vast topic so I apologize for my brevity. I’ll focus on the essentials. First, there are no gay Christians or straight Christians. There are only Christians. If we want to put an adjective in front of it, let’s say baptized Christians. This is important because not sexual orientation but union with Christ defines us. Second, our problem is deeper than any sexual issue. It is the core unbelief and idolatry against which we all struggle. In that regard, straights and gays are just the same. Our enemy is us, the fact that we are curved in on ourselves. Third, the only transformative means of restoration to the image of God is the love of Christ. The law can and does expose our sin but only grace can save us. The church is a refuge for the weary, where homosexuals sinners and heterosexuals sinners encounter the God who calls them to death in repentance and life in him. Talking sin, sin, sin with anyone will ultimately do no good; in fact, the law excites more sin. What we all need is compassion, patience, forgiveness, love. That’s what we have in Christ, no matter what weaknesses and faults we bear.

  5. Actually, Chad, as a fellow pastor trying to serve our Good Shepherd, I’ve been wondering the same things as allthepretties.

  6. allthepretties on said:

    Thank you so very much for replying to me. I appreciate it very much. These are the same thoughts I have regarding sin and the Christian sinner. Thank you for your time and I look forward to reading the article you posted.

  7. Chad, As you can tell, I’m late to the party for your blog–and just reading through some of your posts. You are a uniquely thoughtful writer, and a breath of fresh air. What I love about this post is something that one would think is self-evident yet highly uncommon. The words of Brian McLaren, not known as a theological conservative, sum it up perfectly: “The more one loves Jesus Christ (and the gospel), the more love they should have for all human beings.” Who could argue against this point. With great respect, Dale

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