There's been a stray cat hanging around the Boykin house lately. He's just sort of made himself at home ... lounges on our deck, hangs out in our garage, walks around in the yard, etc. Though he's still very skiddish around us he's certainly not afraid to keep coming around and acting like he's at home.
Of course, Anita and I know we're not the reason this cat keeps coming back. Rather it's our own two cats, Tobias and Sagwa, who make our house an appealing place for this visitor. For some reason our cats have allowed this stranger to feel welcome ... sure, they still act suspicious around each other and have an occasional cat fight, but for the most part Tobias and Sagwa are okay with this stranger. So I guess the principle here is that cats attract other cats.
This is a principle that I have seen confirmed in much of my recent work in evangelism. Just as cats attract other cats, sinners attract other sinners. And what does that have to do with evangelism? Consider this ... often those who profess to be Christian feel the need to present themselves as something other than sinners; feel they must show how good they are; feel that while it's okay to admit to being a "sinner" in a generic sense it's just unbecoming to actually struggle with real sin. These are the type Christians who are unattractive to unbelieving "sinners." These unbelievers (sinners), at least in our culture, typically know they are struggling with life, and while they may not verbalize it as "sin" they know things aren't the way they're supposed to be.
So how do we reach them? Should we intentionally sin more so that we can relate to them in a better way? In the words of the Apostle Paul, "By no means!" (Rom 6:1 & 15). We should never intentionally sin in order to relate to sinners or to experience more of God's grace. The uncomfortable truth is that we already sin ... plenty, knowingly, abundantly, frequently ... so let's stop pretending we don't. The key in relating to unbelievers (sinners) is to admit our sin. Other "sinners" will feel much more comfortable around us as we admit we wrestle with our own frequent and abundant sin. There's a big difference in trying to present ourselves as having it "all together" and presenting the One (Jesus) who did and does have it all together. We no longer have to "have all the answers" when we can point to the One who is the answer. Unbelievers are longing to have us Christians come alongside them and simply listen, hurt, grieve, weep, and wonder with them. Once we start trying to fix them they check out. And to be honest who can blame them for that? They know what we know - that humans can't fix each other. But here's what we can do: love, care for, listen, and support one another as we point one another to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
I guess the question we must ask ourselves is, "Do we really want sinners around us?" We could, like certain cats, become very territorial and fight off any visiting sinners who may disrupt our comfort. That can easily be accomplished by our being self-righteous. Or we could be like Tobias and Sagwa, maybe a bit suspicious and involved in an occasional cat fight, but generally welcoming of the stray. My prayer for Community Presbyterian is that we'd be a welcoming place where strays, visitors, sinners, etc. would feel very welcomed. I'm convinced this can and will happen as we live more honest and transparent lives, admitting we struggle with sin, yet constantly pointing to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Will you help us take in some strays who need a home?