I wasn't raised in the church. Sure, I went to Vacation Bible School a couple times when I was little; my parents drug me to a few Easter Sunday services and a couple Christmas Eve services at the local Methodist Church (but we weren't even Methodist; that's just where most of the people in town went). Twice I went to the local Church of Christ to impress a girlfriend. But I wasn't raised in the church.
In fact, in the town I grew up, I had a reputation for being a real troublemaker-the kind of kid parents didn't want their sons hanging around or their daughters dating. Even though there was no railroad in town, I was the kid "from the wrong side of the tracks." To the people in town who identified themselves as Christians, I was one of two things: I was either a project, or, worse yet, a lost cause. I was either someone who needed fixing up so I could live up to my potential, or I was hopeless-someone who had no hope of being anything more than a failure.
When I was 23 years old, a guy I met at the gym drug me to St. Paul Lutheran Church. That morning in the fall of 2003, I heard something there that I had never heard in any church service I had been to, or from any Christian I had talked to. I heard that God had a decided preference for sinners. I heard that God, in Jesus, came to seek and to save the lost; that Jesus ate with sinners and forgave them their sins. What I heard for the first time was the good news that Jesus came not to call those people who had their acts together and were living up to their potential, but sinners: those people "from the wrong side of the tracks."
Some of those people from my hometown were more right than even they knew. I was hopeless, a lost cause. There was no hope of fixing me-or them. But God is the God of the lost causes. He's the God who sent His Son headlong into sin and death, so that every unfixable situation or person we would ever face could be met with His gracious words: "I forgive you all your sins."
God doesn't write us off or leave us to our own fixes. But precisely because there is no fix, He gives His Son into death and raises him up again. Jesus didn't come to fix us. Instead, on the cross, He makes our unfixable lives His opportunity to show us His grace and mercy. And there is the good news-the good news of the love of God that doesn't quit, but goes all the way to the cross for you. The good news of God's unwavering commitment to redeem you from the brokenness of sin and death. The good news that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost."
Rev. Luke Edwards serves as Pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran in Oneida, Trinity Lutheran in Blunt and Immanuel Lutheran in Harrold, South Dakota.
Created: October 13th, 2015