Recently I’ve faced a situation in my neighborhood that has really caused me to stop and consider the power of the Gospel and the need for God’s grace. While Kim and I were at the beach our girls came running to us saying, “Mom, Dad! A sex offender is moving into our neighborhood!” After a few minutes of excitement I discovered that a sheriff deputy had posted a notice that a registered sex offender was moving into our neighborhood.
I sat on the deck of the condo and thought about our neighborhood. We live in a great community. On our street alone there are 23 children under the age of 16 and one of the things we’ve enjoyed is a real sense of safety. Our children walk around the block, they ride bikes, they cruise the neighborhood in the golf carts, and they swim down at the lake in the commons area…it is often like a scene from one of the old TV shows set in the 50’s. I love our neighborhood and as I thought about the neighborhood I wondered if all of that was going to change…would we still feel that same sense of safety, would we still feel free to let our children roam the neighborhood.
I also thought about the man who was moving into our community. I won’t go into detail about what he did, but it is suffice to say he is a registered sex offender who was found guilty, who served time, and is now free. How would I respond to him? Would I be the first in line to run him out of the neighborhood on a rail? Would I shun him? Would I treat him like the woman in the Scarlet Letter? Would I place “GO HOME!” signs in his yard? I knew that I had to make some real choices and that the choices I made would be a testimony of what I actually believed about the Gospel.
I’m not sure I really knew what I would do until the day I came home. As I mowed my yard I thought about what we would do and I just kept thinking about statements I’ve heard about men like this. Statements like, “You know people like this don’t change…” It was then I knew what I would do. I would do all that I could to keep open the door of grace with this man. I would welcome him to our neighborhood. I would be kind. I would invite him to our church (more about that in a moment), and I would do all that I could to prove the words of Romans 1:16.
Either the Gospel is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” or it isn’t. If I truly believed that the Gospel could not change anyone…if I truly believed that a living person sinned themselves beyond the reach of God then I would have to stop preaching. I believe in the power of the Gospel and I believe God can change anyone. If I believe that then I must also live that.
Now let me say, being Gospel centered and Grace giving does not mean being stupid! Grace loves a kleptomaniac—stupid is leaving your family heirloom in the room with them. Grace loves the alcoholic—stupid is sending them a bottle of wine for Christmas. Grace feeds a junkie—stupid is giving them money for food right outside of a crack house. Grace loves a registered sex offender—stupid would be inviting him over to baby sit your daughter. Have I made my point?
At FBC we are going to welcome anyone who wants to come to hear the Gospel preached. We want anyone to come to hear the Word preached and to sing and worship with us. We want anyone to come and attend our Small Groups and to hear the Word taught. We want anyone and everyone to come because we know the Great Physician is here for the sick and the needy. That doesn’t mean certain sins will not have consequences. For example the man I’ve spoken about will be welcome to attend our church, and to attend our adult Sunday School classes, but he would not be welcome to walk through our Children’s Building or our Student Building. First, it would not make sense to place someone in a place where they might be tempted, second, it would not be safe for our children, and third, it would be against the law.
So let me boil it all down to one statement. When it comes to sin and sinners, of whom I am the worst, I WILL CHOOSE GRACE!