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Church of the Scumbags

• Greg Boyd

Jesus never asked for background checks on people before he ministered to them. His life and death reflect an all inclusive love and grace toward all people. Through Christ, God gives a massive bear hug of love and forgiveness around humanity.

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When Jesus was on the cross, there were two thieves also being crucified. One thief asked Jesus to “remember” him. Jesus responds, “Today you’ll be with me.” Notice what Jesus did not say during this exchange. He did not interrogate the thief to make sure that he had the right theology or ethics. The thief knew he was a sinner in need of grace and believed that he could find hope in this person hanging on the cross next to him and that is all Jesus needed to know.

This was Jesus’ pattern throughout his ministry. He never asked for background checks on people before he ministered to them. Jesus’ life and death reflect this all inclusive love and grace toward all people. Through Christ, God gives a massive bear hug of love and forgiveness around humanity.

If Jesus reveals a God who is so outrageously generous with his love and acceptance, and if churches are called to reflect the character of Jesus, why does Jesus’ attitude toward the thief on the cross seem so rare in Christianity?

Most communities throughout history are defined by their parameter, which defines who’s in and who’s out, thereby creating an “us verses them” mentality. The same is often true in the church.

But if a community is going to be centered on the Jesus who told the thief he’d be with him, no questions asked, it must be a community that’s defined not by the parameter, but by the center, who is Jesus. That is the difference between a bounded community and a centered community.

The Kingdom is to be a community defined by the center, not the parameter. There is no need for security guards to police the parameter. We hold up the center and together help each other move toward it, conformed to image of Christ.

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Topics: Heaven, Judgment, Repentance

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 23:39-46

    One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"
    But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don't you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
    Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
    The Death of Jesus
    It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

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14 thoughts on “Church of the Scumbags

  1. Lindy Combs says:

    It never fails to be fascinating how the Holy Spirit sculpts Greg’s delivery! Sometimes it touches me like an ocean wave hitting a massive rock formation (major stronghold I didn’t know I had) and then sometimes it lands where God already softened me and it just feels wonderful as a total confirmation.
    One thing though, Pastor Greg, I know you will grin at this…therefore I feel comfortable posting it…so that you know what I mean, will you consider downloading the sermon to your Windows Media and look at those “dancing” stripes on that shirt. Nice shirt– however I found it quite an eye strain. (Or was it just my monitor?…ha!)

  2. Michelle says:

    Thank you Greg.This is a beautiful message. I am still trying to find this place for our family.

  3. Michelle says:

    Scare them & save them.

  4. Lee says:

    Good message, I never liked how people would always use the slogan “no compromise” and now I see it is probably because it was used moreso in trying to maintain the perimeters, but I don’t have a problem using it in terms of maintaining Christ’s unique “way” – big difference.

  5. Victoria Vallejo says:

    America, the land of the free, if you can pay your taxes.

  6. Teresa says:

    I agree all people are precious and that God wants none to perish, so I love the idea of having a Christ centered community without parimeters. A couple questions though.
    Aren’t we putting a parimeter around our lives/communities when we only let certain people speak into our lives?

    I mean, what if God wants to use an “outsider” (someone we didn’t “invite in on our life”) to speak to someone who hasn’t invited them in – who are we to say He can’t do that? We see Him doing that a lot in scripture. He’s the head as well as the center..and he’s always working in/with the Body, so why wouldn’t he prompt us to speak to those outside the closed group of people we’ve invited in on our lives? He even used a donkey to speak once, right?

    Also, doesn’t submit to “one another in love – out of reverence for christ” (eph 5) mean we have to hear each other out – even if we’re not formally invited in on one another’s lives?

    I’ve been confused about this for some time now because I dont see this ‘inviting in” requirement proclaimed in scripture… so any help would be appreciated.


  7. Jeff says:

    Thank you Pastor Greg’
    I `m in San Diego and truly feel blessed to hear/view your sermons. I attend a church that appears to accept all and yet teach the Word. If I ever have a long layover in Minneapolis on a Sunday. I will be honor to visit Woodland Hills. Also, thank you for the information on John Calvin and Michael Servetus. I found some fascinated material that linked the two of them, which unfortunately includes Michael Servetus death. Love your neighbor as thyself. That goes for great theologians also. (agree to disagree)

  8. Greg I moved back from Wisconsin just to come back to your church. Your sermons are one of the power forces that I helped me through college and family situations. God Bless you I think you know you have the gift to teach and bring us home. Thank You

  9. Nicole says:

    Oh yeah, John Calvin! I’ve been recording some chapters for an audio book of Calvin’s ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’. He was a very hard nosed individual, imho. Really hated the Catholic Church, AND Catholics! He did a lot of ‘Ranting’ in that publication.

    (Groovy is me)

  10. Scott Schneider says:

    I listened to this sermon twice yesterday. The second time was at home with my wife(we live in dayton ohio). While were listening and I saw the parameter graphics I received something very cool. When I first came to Jesus in the late 90’s one of my favorite passages was Ezekiel 38. Not the part about gog and magog but just after that. I knew that it was relating to something in the future. When I heard Pastor Greg talk about being centered and to drop the prarameters I was immediately reminded of that passage. It is about the community living in the center of the city and being an unsuspecting people(not judging each other) and being without walls and barriers and gates(parameters). In those days all the cities had walls around them for protection and safety. It was to keep un desirables out as well. It was to control the life in the city. I really felt at that moment that God was telling me that this sermon was that future passage was about. I immediately after the sermon went to get the bible and I showed my wife. Her face lit up and proclaimed that that is exactly what Greg weas describing. So I believe that this passage was God telling us how the true people of God shall and will be living. It was a very cool night!!

  11. Henry says:

    Right on my brother, the true Spirit of Christ. Good work,God bless you.

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