Welcoming, Not Affirming

In today’s culture, the lines between what it means to welcome someone and to affirm their beliefs and behaviors have become blurred almost beyond comprehension. Many churches today are self-proclaimed “Open & Affirming” places of worship. You can even find maps online directing you to the closest “affirming” church. (Don’t believe me? Google it.)

Let’s talk for just a moment though, about why this increasingly popular trend is actually going against the Bible’s teachings and detrimental to one's walk with Christ.

If the title didn’t scare you away, I’d guess that by now you may have a few ruffled feathers, but I’d encourage you to keep reading.

So, what does it mean to welcome someone to your church? What do you think it would look like in your church? At Middle Creek, every person who walks through the doors is greeted with a warm smile and a friendly face. They are given a bulletin, find a place to sit, and mingle with members and other guests until the church service starts. No matter who you are or where you are in life, we hope that every guest leaves knowing that we were genuinely happy to have met them.

Your mental picture may be slightly different, but I’d be willing to bet there are quite a few similarities. Welcoming is something that all churches should strive to be. Jesus made it very clear that there was no exclusivity in Christianity. After all, I’m sure you can think back to many instances where he could have chosen to use an affluent person to carry out his will, but instead chose someone from the lowest of the low.

However, this idea of being welcoming isn’t synonymous with being affirming. To affirm someone’s behavior is to encourage it, to promote it, and to accept it as good. Across the country, churches are adopting the philosophy that a person’s lifestyle should not have to change in order to have a relationship with God. This is simply not God’s truth.

Each of us is born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5) and this sinful nature is the reason that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross became necessary. Though Christ’s sacrifice and offer of salvation, when we place our faith in Him, we are transformed into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Here, the argument against affirming sinful behavior becomes apparent. How can a person become a new creation if they make no effort to change their ways and carry out Christ’s will?

A wise man spoke in our church a couple of months ago, and left us with a wonderful sentiment that has stuck with me every day since: “God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.”

I hope this statement resonates with each of you the way it did with me. Because yes, we all struggle with sin. No matter how hard we work to follow God’s path, we are going to fail. That is our nature. The danger in affirming sin comes when we no longer try to grow in our faith, but condone our own sinfulness. We are called to turn away from sin (Acts 3:19) not to affirm it.

With this idea of affirming sins becoming so common in our society, it is only fitting to close with this reminder we are given in the book of James:

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  - James 5:19-2