A few weeks ago I preached a message on how the church should treat gay people. I called it Out of the Closet and Into the Church. (http://sc.fhview.com/sc_customplayer/seriesitems/1/118751) The goal of this message was for the church to examine our attitudes towards this particular people group. After the message an elderly woman approached me. She was wearing oxygen and walking with a walker. I must admit I thought, “Here we go.” I expected her to rebuke me for not condemning homosexuality during the sermon. Much to my surprise she asked a simple question…
“What about murderers?” she inquired.
There was an unexpected brightness in her eyes, a curiosity and vigor for life one wouldn’t expect given her frail frame.
“Excuse me?” I muttered. Really it wasn’t that I didn’t hear her, I just needed a moment to collect my thoughts. I was prepared for an onslaught of fire and brimstone senior saints, not an inquisitive truth seeker.
After all, I had just preached the most controversial sermon of my career. I opened with “If you came here expecting me to condemn homosexuality today, you will be disappointed.” I chastised the church asking why we celebrated a straight couple who was sexually active, even living together, coming to church. We allowed them time for God to work on them without judgment but let a gay couple walk in holding hands…whoooo. They weren’t welcome. I did my best Jesus imitation calling us hypocrites. The church just nodded. I the weeks to follow, not one letter or disagreement. I’m so proud of our local church and their Christ-like love.
Anyways, here I was after that sermon, expecting a fight, instead facing a sweet senior saint who still wanted to grow and learn in her last years on this earth. Humbling.
“Excuse me?” I muttered. “Murderers.” She repeated more forcefully. “They are much harder to love and accept than homosexuals. What about murderers? Can they be forgiven and go to heaven?”
I explained that the Apostle Paul helped to kill early Christians before his conversion and that god didn’t just forgive Paul but wrote 2/3 of the New Testament through his hands. I excitedly told her that Michael Franzese was coming to answer that very question. To tell her how a Mafia Boss, a murderer, can be forgiven…and that no one is beyond redemption.
Three weeks later, my eyes lighted upon a pair of bright, excited eyes in a back section of a packed sanctuary. She was back to hear the former Mob Boss’ story of redemption. She smiled at me as she pointed to a row full of her family. Full of confidence in God’s love for all sinners, she had brought her family to hear that there is no one beyond redemption.