I was watching 3ABN and pastor Kenneth Cox was speaking during an evangelistic series. He told an intriguing story and made a serious and awesome point as to how people "ought" to be treated when they come to or through the doors of our church.
A couple came to Cox's meetings who were not members of any church. He arranged to visit them at their home. Shortly after his arrival they lamented, "Pastor Cox, we can't join the church!" and he asked, "Well why not?" "Because we smoke," they replied. Kenneth Cox answered [this is beautiful] "I didn't come here to ask you to stop smoking; I came here to ask you to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior."
In seeming shock they asked, "We can do that?" Cox answered, "Of course you can do that." Then they came back with another question that would, at first appearance, seem to put a lid on the whole issue; "Well, what about our smoking?" Cox's answer doesn't sound Adventist but it certainly sounds Christ-like: "If you want to smoke, then go ahead and smoke." They were stunned.
Cox went on to tell how whenever he saw them their attitude was completely changed. They were joyous and buoyant. But they would ask, "But what about our smoking?" and he would give them the same answer; "If you want to smoke, then go ahead and smoke." This happened several times over the course of the next few weeks and Cox always gave them the same answer. He made the point that he knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to the hearts of this couple, else, why would they keep raising the issue.
The story ended on this note: One more time they expressed their new-found joy in the Lord and finished with the question; "But what about our smoking." Cox gave the same answer but added something; "If you want to smoke, then go ahead and smoke; but if you want to quit then go ahead and quit." They quit.
I guess we church members (read, sinners) feel better about those who join our church if they come all cleaned up looking, talking, eating, and acting like third generation Adventists. Jesus didn't work that way during His ministry here on earth and neither should we. "Come unto Me all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." [Matthew 11:28].
Think and labor after the manner of Jesus Christ!
God bless. e.c.