My pastor preached this message last night. He opened by reading the following email:
I just wanted to call your attention a potential problem and I don’t know what the solution is, but we need to start talking about it and brainstorming or whatever. My wife mentioned to me a new believer with whom she works — she has recently been attending our church. Because she comes from a different background, she has a number of tattoos. She has already been spoken to in a way that I wouldn’t dream of speaking to a visitor and questioned about the tattoos. I frankly don’t know what she can do about them because she acquired them prior to salvation. My fear is even when we see someone saved through our ministry…they will end up leaving and going to another church because our church doesn’t know what to do with folks who don’t fit in and who don’t fit in quickly enough. I’m not for lowering our standards, but we have created a sub-culture that isn’t very loving or accepting and have forgotten that sanctification takes time. Thanks for listening. I just fear that if we don’t start talking about this soon, we’ll lose the opportunity to minister to some very precious people and we will become, at least in perception, irrelevant.
He explained Luke 15:11-32 as the story of the Prodigal son Prodigal Sons. He explained that we can live in three places, but that we should be living in just one of them — the choices are (1) pigpen of sin, (2) pinnacle of pride, or (3) the palace of love.
I was greatly convicted, for at times in my spiritual journey I have lived in all three places. I know the stench of the pigpen and have a box seat in the stadium of pride. Nevertheless, God is still doing that time-consuming, life-long, difficult, always worth it, but sometimes painful, work of sanctification in my heart.
Side note: here’s some great resources on this passage.
- Kenneth Baily, The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Easter Peasants.
- Tim Keller, The Prodigal God.
- John MacArthur, A Tale of Two Sons.