A theme that has been in the forefront of my mind lately has been redemption as well as the church's role in the lives of sinners.
There is a problem in many churches. The problem is pride. We are all sinners, however, many times when we come forward with our sin and are upfront about it, we are judged, slandered, and gossiped about. Pride is hated by God. When we are sinful, yet try to cover it up and pretend we are above our sin that is pride. Many people believe their lives are "perfect" because it looks like it on the outside, but the truth is we are all marred with sin and for those who are in denial, they will answer to their pride. Matthew 23 speaks perfectly to God's feelings on pride. Verse 23 spoke specifically to the inability of prideful people to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
One of the imperative roles of the church is also a role that Jesus played as listener's and helpers. We need to be able to admit our own need for God's impact and redemption, seek His face completely, and be there to listen and encourage others.
I pray that those around me would be filled with the Spirit and not worried about what the world around them thinks about anyone's reputation. The Bible is full of many who had what we could consider "bad reputations." The first and foremost in my mind is Mary, mother of Jesus. Either she was truly pregnant with the son of God, or she was a crazy liar. Obviously I believe her son Jesus is the son of God, however many did not. Her husband Joseph was amazing to take her at her word and accept her and love her and to trust God through the road He led them on.
Through the forgiveness of my own sin and becoming vulnerable to confessing to the Lord and others about my own sin I have been convicted to be more accepting of others who sin and are looking for help. God has changed me for the better, squashed any semblance of pride that I've ever had, and molded me into a stronger person for it, who will have to deal with some consequences, but will accept the consequences as well as the grace and redemption that God has extended.
He is so much more than I deserve or could ask for...wait...that makes me think of another verse...
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21