Unity of Sinners With Their Lord
Wednesday of Pentecost 4
10 July 2019
The church does not stand or fall on either its people or its earthly leaders. She stands on Christ alone. Our worldly opponents are positively gleeful when there are reports of major moral indiscretions on the part of well-known church leaders, such as the Roman Catholic prelate (former) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. or evangelical leaders like Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Chicago. The church's detractors think that such clear evidence of human weakness and depravity among the church's leaders invalidates the church's message or even causes the Lord Jesus to cease to exist. "See how wickedly hypocritical those Christians are! If there were really a God, He would never let these things happen."
Such people understand neither the church nor her Lord. The church is made up of sinners who are dependent on Christ as their righteousness (Jer 23:6). That her children are sinners and do sin, should come as no surprise; except to the hypocritical. The church is the community of those in need of spiritual succor. The church has not arrived at her ultimate destination until the Christ who has redeemed her returns for her. Her children continue to pray every day, "Forgive us our trespasses." There are sinners in the church. There's a big surprise! The church does not condone the depraved acts of her leaders. The church recognizes these acts as wrong, unlike our worldly detractors who often celebrate such depravity in those who are among the chosen. The church takes sin and grace seriously, because her Lord does.
The Church's Lord is the one who invites sinners into His presence and eats with them (Lk 15:2). These are the people He actually desires in the church. Those who think that they are not sinners have no need of Him and He, for that reason, has no need of them. Those who are already well in their own eyes have no need of a physician (Mt 9:12). No, he embraces those who are unwell, spiritually downtrodden and heartbroken. Will it happen that among the people who are gathered together from among sinners that there might be someone who betrays the Lord who bought them (2Pt 2:1)? Yes, of course. We are talking about a high-risk pool.
The church is made up of sinners. But does that mean that God has failed? No, it just means humans have failed. Which is the very reason God has sent His Son in human flesh: to save failing humans. Remarkably, during His earthly ministry Jesus kept near His side the very man who would betray Him to death. And He knew it. Yet, still Jesus desired to be near Him and offer Himself and His mercy to him, even him, and especially him. The church's unity is not destroyed by the sinners, but glorified through them, because the church's unity is in the One who came to save sinners.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyprian of Carthage
"The Lord chose Judas also among the apostles, and yet afterward Judas betrayed the Lord. Yet not on that account the faith and firmness of the apostles fail, because the traitor Judas failed from their fellowship. So also in the case in question the holiness and dignity of confessors is not immediately diminished because the faith of some of them is broken. The blessed Apostle Paul in his epistle speaks in this manner: 'What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar.' (Rm 3:3-4). The greater and better part of the confessors stand firm in the strength of their faith, and in the truth of the law and discipline of the Lord; neither do they depart from the peace of the Church, who remember that they have obtained grace in the Church by the condescension of God; and by this very thing they obtain a higher praise of their faith, that they have separated from the faithlessness of those who have been associated with them in the fellowship of confession, and withdrawn from the contagion of crime. Illuminated by the true light of the Gospel, shone upon with the Lord's pure and white brightness, they are as praiseworthy in maintaining the peace of Christ, as they have been victorious in their combat with the devil."

Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church, 22
Romans 3:3-8

What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged." But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? ( I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come? - as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, keep us from taking offense against You and Your church when our leaders prove themselves to be sinners. Help us to see that we belong to You because You have bought us back from sin and death. Bring us to a wholesome confession of our wickedness that we might rejoice in Your forgiveness. Amen.
For Herbert Mueller, who is undergoing therapy for cancer, that the Lord of the church would grant him strength and healing
For all those who feel oppressed by the tyranny of modern culture, that the Lord Jesus would free them through a friend or neighbor who cares about their spiritual life
For those who are building homes for those in need of shelter, that their work would result in places of abiding for those in need of earthly rest
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by smurray@mlchouston.org in collaboration with
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