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Posts tagged ‘sin’

The Most Sinful States in America?

Here is a strange but interesting article by Gene Veith that is sure to provoke some conversation.

Researchers have attempted to quantify the sinfulness of the various states in the union.  Yes, this is absurd, as if one could measure the depravity of the human heart.  But the methodology, the findings, and the rankings are interesting nonetheless.

The researchers measured “Anger & Hatred” by looking at the violent crime rate, bullying statistics, child abuse cases, and “Share of Internet Comments that are Hostile” (!), among other factors.

Jealousy” was measured by the number of thefts per capita, the frequency of identity theft, and incidents of fraud.

Excesses & Vices” looked at the obesity rate, number of smokers, amount of alcohol drinking, amount of drug abuse, and even the amount of coffee drinking!  (How is that a vice?  Do I detect a Mormon influence?)

Greed“:  number of casinos per capita; share of gambling disorders; number of people convicted of embezzlement; rate of charitable giving.

Lust“:  use of online pornography; teen birth rate; number of arrests for prostitution.

Vanity“:  beauty salons per capita; plastic surgeries; money spent on personal care products.

Laziness“:  exercise rate; hours spent working; volunteer rate; hours watching TV; youth who are neither going to school nor working.

Here is the ranking, from Wallethub [go to the link to see how each state scored on each of the “sins”]:

1          Nevada

2          Florida

3          California

4          Texas

5          Tennessee

6          Louisiana

7          Georgia

8          Illinois

9          Michigan

10        Arizona

11        New Mexico

12        Oklahoma

13        Pennsylvania

14        Ohio

15        Alabama

16        Missouri

17        New Jersey

18        Arkansas

19        South Carolina

20        Washington

21        Virginia

22        Maryland

23        Delaware

24        New York

25        Mississippi

26        Colorado

27        North Carolina

28        Kentucky

29        West Virginia

30        Alaska

31        Indiana

32        Oregon

33        Massachusetts34        Montana

35        Kansas

36        Hawaii

37        Rhode Island

38        Connecticut

39        Minnesota

40        Wisconsin

41        South Dakota

42        New Hampshire

43        Utah

44        Wyoming

45        Iowa

46        Idaho

47        Nebraska

48        North Dakota

49        Maine

50        Vermont

Numbers 1-3, no surprises.  But who knew that the great state of Texas was so wicked?

What does it mean that so many “Bible belt” states rank so high on the iniquity scale?  It shouldn’t be too surprising to find much Christianity where there is much sin.  After all, as Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

What does it mean that so many predominantly Lutheran states rank towards the bottom of the sin scale?  Can it be that those who put the most emphasis on the role of good works in salvation produce the fewest of them, and that those who minimize the role of good works in salvation produce more of them?  Is this evidence that faith really does produce the fruit of virtue?

I would say that we should NOT draw too many theological conclusions from this research.  If we did, the predominantly secularist New Englanders–though perhaps upholding the moralism of their Puritan ancestors while trying to do without their faith–would appear to be the most righteous of all.

The point, though, is that this study is primarily about culture, economics, class, homogeneity, and regional histories.  It deals with external crimes and vices.  But it doesn’t get at what the Bible means by sin:  the condition of the human heart.  Our internal sinfulness can manifest itself in these external sins.  But it need not.

Thus, even upright, law-abiding, skinny citizens from Vermont who do not use personal care products are still sinners.


Illustration from WalletHub, who invited websites to embed the graphic, which shows the degree of “sin” by the darkness of the color.

3 Times Jesus Modeled How We Should Treat Sinners

Here is an important article by Matt Brown on how Christians should respond to fellow sinners.

We may all want to consider this Scripture-based teaching as we consider responses to all of the recent upheaval in our Church and our country.

3 Times Jesus Modeled How We Should Treat Sinners

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, which legalized gay marriage, has brought lots of scathing comments from all sides and an overwhelming amount of questions about how Christians should respond to the culture around us.

The best thing we can do is follow Jesus’ example towards sinners.

1. Jesus told us not to judge others.

Jesus clearly tells us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-2).  We can’t expect non-Christians to behave like Christians.  Instead, we should focus on being a light to them and loving them.

Over and over again, the Bible tells us the importance of loving others (1 Corinthians 16:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-6, 13).

It is hard to love others, and show the gospel to them, when we are angry at them or hating on them.

Anger and hate are not the way of Jesus.


2. Jesus showed mercy to the one caught in sin.

One day Jesus was teaching crowds of people in the temple, and religious leaders brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to him and set her in front of the crowd accusing her—asking Jesus what should be done with her.

Jesus does the weirdest thing, something that still leaves Bible experts confounded. He doesn’t respond at first … he literally stoops down and starts writing in the dust on the floor.

They kept demanding an answer, and Jesus finally stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”

Then he stooped down and kept writing in the dust!

One by one, the crowd began to leave. The Scripture says, “beginning with the oldest.”  The oldest likely left first because they had realized over the years how weak and vulnerable they were to sin themselves, and how many times they had failed throughout their life to adhere to God’s law.

What was Jesus writing in that dust? It’s almost like Jesus didn’t draw a line in the sand for the sinner. Instead, maybe he was writing the sins of the various religious leaders or crowd members in the dust?  Maybe he was pointing out that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) or “if anyone claims to be without sin, they are a liar and the truth is not in them” (1 John 1:8-10).

Either way, weird, right?!

Jesus shows overwhelming, astonishing mercy to this woman caught in sin. His response to her after every single person had left like dogs with their tails caught between their legs, was …

“Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers?  Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

In a very real sense, Jesus shows overwhelming, astonishing mercy and undeserved grace to sinners, and yet Jesus send the self-righteous scurrying off like dogs with tails caught between their legs.

Jesus doesn’t give her a free-pass to remain in her sin. He tells her to “sin no more.” With another man Jesus encountered, Jesus says, “Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

So Jesus doesn’t condone the sin, but He also doesn’t condemn the sinner. He is the only One who can rightly condemn, and yet he offers overwhelming, astonishing grace to all of us.

While many Christians are out condemning sinners, Jesus did the opposite—He gave His very life to bear sinners’ sin and condemnation on the cross—for all who would trust in Him.

3. But Jesus didn’t hide the truth.

Some conclude Jesus was only gentle with sinners, and he often was … but we must also remember there were times when his hard teachings caused great crowds to leave in droves (John 6:60-68).

Jesus was clear about the truth, even when it was not popular, and even when it caused crowds to scatter. He wasn’t just trying to build a large following—He was on a mission to share both truth and love in profound ways, ways that still shake the world today.

Keep in mind that the crowd didn’t scatter because Jesus was rude and judgmental.  If our attitude or anger turns people away from Jesus, we are dead wrong.

However, there are times to share truth gently and respectfully (1 Peter 3:15), but stand for it nonetheless. Even though sometimes the world will hate us for it (John 15:18; Matthew 10:22; John 3:19-21).

There is a time to warn people, even non-Christians, against the deadly effects of the ways of this world (see Ezekiel 3:18; Acts 20:26-27).  Although mainly we should focus on preaching the hope and truth of the gospel—because only the gospel can change hard hearts—it is the only thing that worked for us.

We need both gentleness and holy truth.  We can’t be afraid to be clear about Christ’s truth.  It makes me sad when Christian leaders, or Christians in general, won’t admit to the truth of God’s Word simply because it is unpopular in culture and might turn people off.  There may be times when the crowds leave us too, as they did for Jesus, and only those true remain.

We shouldn’t be surprised by times of declining Christianity—if the crowds left our Lord Jesus because of hard teachings, there are bound to be times like this for us too.  Even in America.

So, no more angry judging.  Offer overwhelming, astonishing mercy to sinners.  But don’t hide the truth or be afraid of the crowds scattering.  Possible?

Taking Sin Seriously – Worse Than You Think

FlamesKey Bible Verse:  We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God’s anger, just like everyone else.  Ephesians 2:3

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

During my late teens and early 20s, I considered myself a Christian.  I went to church regularly, while most of my college classmates slept in.  I went to Bible studies, and worked in an outreach ministry to high school students.  I’d prayed the prayer.

Things changed, though, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years.  I met weekly with a group of friends, who discussed the Scriptures and enjoyed one another’s company.  Following one session, one of the guys asked me if we could meet during the week.  I agreed.

As we sat in his apartment a few days later, he gently but firmly said to me, “I don’t think you get it.  You don’t understand the depth of your sin, and I don’t think you understand the grace of God in offering you His gift of salvation.  He didn’t die on a cross just to give your life purpose and meaning.  You were His sworn enemy, and He came to rescue you from the punishment in hell you deserve!”

His words stung my soul.  I left feeling week in the knees.  For the first time, I found myself humbled before an almighty God who’d chosen to spare my life instead of giving me eternal punishment.

—Robert Lepine in The Christian Husband


My Response: In what ways have I been God’s enemy?


Thought to Apply: No man ever enters heaven until he is first convinced that he deserves hell. —John Everrett (author)

Adapted from The Christian Husband (Servant, 1999)



Prayer for the Week:  Forgive me, my Savior, for my denial of, or my cavalier attitude toward, my sins that cost You Your life.



Taking Sin Seriously – Cruel Delights

BB GunKey Bible Verses:  I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong … but I can’t help myself.  – Romans 7:16-17

Bonus Reading:  James 1:13-16

On my eighth birthday my parents gave me a BB gun.  This beautiful gun and I formed a deadly partnership.  Cans, bottles, road signs—nothing was safe from us.  Well, almost nothing.

One afternoon I took aim at a bird perched in the willow tree in our backyard.  Just as I was about to squeeze the trigger, my sister, Patsy, ran into the yard waving her arms and yelling.  As the bird fluttered away, her smug smile as good as taunted, “Ha! Ha! I showed you who’s in charge around here.”

Something inside took control. I lowered the barrel and aimed at my sister.  A look of horror replaced her smug confidence, and she took off at a full run.  Sit on this! I thought as I aimed and pulled the trigger.

The BB found its mark.  She grabbed her posterior and darted into the house screaming, “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!”  For a moment I wondered what had made me do something so cruel—then I realized how much I enjoyed it.

My dad disciplined me and confiscated my gun.  But while he could take away the tools I used for evil, he wasn’t able to take away that dark side of my personality that enjoyed doing wrong.

—Bill Perkins in When Good Men Are Tempted


My Response: When have I enjoyed doing something wrong?


Thought to Apply: We are not stray sheep or wandering prodigals even, but rebels taken with weapons in our hands.  —P. T. Forsyth (British pastor and educator)

Adapted from When Good Men Are Tempted (Zondervan, 1997)



Prayer for the Week:  Forgive me, my Savior, for my denial of, or my cavalier attitude toward, my sins that cost You Your life.

Taking Sin Seriously – In Denial?

In DenialKey Bible Verse:  If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.  1 John 1:8

Bonus Reading:  Romans 1:21-25

Imagine discovering a sore on your arm.  You immediately apply an antiseptic and wait for healing.

But what if the sore is the result of skin cancer?  The surface treatment won’t touch it.  New lesions will appear and the cancer will continue to spread internally.

The Bible teaches that just such a cancer is infecting our souls: sin.  If we suffered from cancer, we’d do whatever was necessary to be healed of its ravages.  So why do we hesitate to seek God’s treatment for the spiritual cancer of sin?

Part of the answer lies in our culture’s discomfort with directly acknowledging this destructive force.  The fields of psychology and sociology, observes social critic Henry Fairlie, contend that “our faults are the result of some kind of mechanical failure, which has only to be diagnosed and understood for us to set it right.”

Psychologist Karl Menninger documented our collective loss of any sense of personal wrongdoing in Whatever Became of Sin?  His book traces how the theological notion of sin became the legal idea of crime and then was relegated to the psychological category of sickness.  Today sin is regarded as little more than a set of emotions fixed in our genes.

—James Emery White in Long Night’s Journey into Day


My Response:  What have I viewed as a problem to solve that’s really a sin to confess?


Thought to Apply: In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pastor and theologian)

Adapted from Long Night’s Journey into Day (WaterBrook, 2002)



Prayer for the Week:  Forgive me, my Savior, for my denial of, or my cavalier attitude toward, my sins that cost You Your life.



Taking Sin Seriously – Squeaky Clean Traitor

SpyKey Bible Verse:  “Are they ashamed when they do these disgusting things?  No, not at all—they don’t even blush”  Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 6:13-15; 8:4-13

Robert Philip Hanssen, the former FBI counterintelligence agent, caused the worst intelligence breach in U.S. history.

Ironically, this self-confessed traitor considered himself a devout Christian.  Throughout his 25-year FBI career, Hanssen told friends and colleagues that without religion, men were lost.  When FBI agents held going-away parties at strip clubs near the bureau’s headquarters, Hanssen refused to attend, saying it would be a sin.

When he was arrested on charges that he’d been spying for the Russians since 1985, those who knew him were stunned.  His closest friends and colleagues said they could only guess why a man who seemed to possess such strong Christian faith would engage in anti-American espionage.

In the Charlotte Observer, Philip Shenon speculated that he “must have been able to compartmentalize his life, deluding himself into thinking that espionage was simply an exciting intellectual challenge that had nothing to do with leading a good, moral Christian life.”

—James Emery White in Long Night’s Journey into Day

Adapted from Long Night’s Journey into Day (WaterBrook, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Forgive me, my Savior, for my denial of, or my cavalier attitude toward, my sins that cost You Your life.

Taking Sin Seriously – The Best Defense…

Protective ShieldQ. Why do I need an early-warning system for sin?

A. Because our sin employs three clever avoidance strategies to avoid detection:

One of those strategies is denial.  Denial says, “Who me? I don’t have a problem.”  How many people have been destroyed by a problem they didn’t have!

A second strategy is rationalization.  This world-class excuse making says, “I know it might look like a problem to some people, but I know all the reasons it isn’t.”

Finally, there’s scapegoating.  It says, “I don’t have a problem.  It’s you that’s the problem.”  Scapegoating is a skunk diverting attention from itself by saying somebody else smells worse.

These attempts to avoid responsibility for our actions must be jettisoned if we desire to please Christ.

How can I strengthen my defenses against temptation?

·         Look at the type of temptation.  Certain temptations have felled us many times in the past.  Satan’s a pragmatist.  He’ll use what’s worked in the past as long as it still works.  So these attacks shouldn’t catch us off guard.

·         Notice the timing of temptations.  Do I know when I’m vulnerable?  How do I react when I’m fatigued?  How do I respond to discouragement?  Have I been undone in the wake of a success?

·         Consider the degree of strength of temptations.  A simple law of biology applies: If we feed something it will grow.  Resolve to deal with your temptations while they are small.  If you indulge and feed them, you may not like what comes back the next time you encounter them.

David Swartz is pastor of Dubuque Baptist Church in Dubuque, Iowa.

Adapted from The Magnificent Obsession (NavPress, 1990)


Prayer for the Week:  Forgive me, my Savior, for my denial of, or my cavalier attitude toward, my sins that cost You Your life.



Taking Sin Seriously – Eye to Eye with Evil

HolocaustKey Bible Verse:  Greatly distressed, one by one they began to ask him, “I’m not the one, am I, Lord?”  – Matthew 26:22

Bonus Reading:  Mark 7:14-23

Adolf Eichmann was one of the worst of the Holocaust masterminds.  When he stood trial, prosecutors called a string of former concentration camp prisoners as witnesses.  One was a small, haggard man named Yehiel Dinur, who’d miraculously escaped death in Auschwitz.

On his day to testify, Dinur entered the courtroom and stared at the man—behind the bulletproof glass—who’d presided over the slaughter of millions.  As the eyes of the two men met—victim and murderous tyrant—the courtroom fell silent at the tense confrontation.

Then suddenly, Yehiel Dinur began to sob, collapsing to the floor.  Was he overcome by hatred, by the horrifying memories, by the evil incarnate in Eichmann’s face?

No. As he later explained in an interview, it was because Eichmann was not the demonic personification of evil he’d expected.  Rather, he was an ordinary man, just like anyone else.

In that one instant, Dinur came to the stunning realization that sin and evil are the human condition. “I was afraid about myself,” Dinur said. “I saw that I’m capable to do this … exactly like he.”

Dinur’s shocking conclusion?  “Eichmann is in all of us.”

—Charles Colson in A Dangerous Grace


My Response:  How aware am I of my capacity for evil?


Thought to Apply:  The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Russian author)

Adapted from A Dangerous Grace (Word, 1994)



Prayer for the Week:  Forgive me, my Savior, for my denial of, or my cavalier attitude toward, my sins that cost You Your life.



Church: It’s Not About Me – Why Not Leave?

ReconciliationKey Bible Verse:  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2: 5-11

The pastor preaches about generosity in giving, and you’re battling selfishness.  A small group studies moral purity, and you’re crossing biblical boundaries.  A Sunday school leader teaches on integrity in the workplace, and you’re taking shortcuts.  Your discomfort is no reason to leave; it’s a good reason to stay.

Don’t go looking for a church that lowers biblical standards just to make people feel comfortable.

You’ve been caught in a sin.  You’ll be tempted to run away and start fresh in a church where no one knows about it.  Yet God often wants a person in this situation to stay right where he is and let his church family love him and help him through this difficult time.  The community of faith can keep you accountable, ask tough questions, and pray for you.

You’ve had a conflict with someone.  When tensions have flared, hard words exchanged, and feelings hurt, you might think about leaving to avoid the difficult process of reconciliation.  Usually the wisest choice is to stay and work through a process of relational healing.  Otherwise you might find you have to leave a whole series of churches.

—Kevin and Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love


My Response: When I’ve sinned, am I committed to coming clean and trusting the body of Christ to restore me?


Thought to Apply:  The house of God is not a safe place.  It is where we are challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.—Madeleine L’Engle (writer)

Adapted from Finding a Church You Can Love (Zondervan, 2003)



Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.



Lenten Devotional – Day 39 – Good Friday

Good FridayGood Friday.

I wonder what goes through the minds of people in the world who don’t “get” Christianity.  I bet they wonder why Christians remember the day Jesus died as “good.”

I hope someone asks me sometime.  I don’t know what I would have answered before, but now I would speak honestly about my sin.  I would acknowledge that my life is out of whack and I recognize that my sin hurts others and me.

Worst of all, my sin separates me from the one True God who loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life.

Today, Good Friday, is good because God’s Son, Jesus, drank the cup of wrath that my sin birthed.  Because of His perfection, He broke the cycle.

Today is good because Jesus willingly died to bring me Hope.  He conquered sin.  Death has no claim on those who choose to trust Christ alone.

In light of the Lenten season, I have come think of my sin and my Savior in tandem – like pedals on a bike.  It is for my good to live in the reality of my sin and even more vital to balance that by focusing on Jesus and His saving love.

Because His death met a deep need of mine.

He is so good.

Lenten Devotional – Day 6

Lent 3I once had a pastor explain about our sin nature in terms of computer settings.  He said that as humans born after the events recorded in Genesis 3, our default setting toward God is rebellion.  I want my own way.

When I try to “do” better in the name of being a better Christian, I’m merely overriding the default setting for the moment.  But, after some time, that gets exhausting and I give in.  I revert back to my default setting.

So in order to look more like Jesus and wear His name well, I must somehow un-choose my default setting.  I must learn to call out my sinful actions, inactions, motivations, beliefs, grudges or prideful thoughts and then choose to identify myself with Christ.  He is to be my identity.

His grace.

His love.

His patience.

His words of truth.

His motivations toward others.

I call myself a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ.  In that I am telling the world that I desire to be like Him.  Today is an opportunity to more fully choose His Holiness rather than default settings of my sinful nature.

Take a moment to do a mental inventory.

Think about a few of your default settings.  If specific names of emotions come up with an item, write them down.

Now, don’t try to solve anything.  Don’t make a plan for change.  Don’t mentally explain those things away.

Instead, consider Christ’s character.  List something that is true about Him.  

This list has nothing to do with you.  It’s all about what He brings to the table.

Consider ending your time today by offering a prayer of thanks.  Maybe something like this:


You are sufficient.  Your work is finished.  You see the default settings of my heart.  You know the spidery webs that go out from each of these acts ________ of rebellion and yet you choose to offer me your love and grace.

Savior, I want to look and love more like you.  I want my life to glorify you in observable ways and in the private thoughts and attitudes of my heart.

In moments of decision help me call sin what it is- rebellion against You.  In those moments help me to see the righteous path you offer.  Give me the courage to choose your grace and your response.

Take control over the settings of my heart and make me the kind of person you want me to be.  


Lenten Devotional – Day 5

Lent 3One night last week, I made a decision to stay home.  I’ve learned that in order to press in with God, it will take clearing some mental and emotional space.

So, I had a quiet dinner, relaxed in front of the T.V. for an hour, had an unhurried conversation with my grandma and went to bed early.  When the lights went out and the room went quiet, my head and heart began to reconnect.  And the tears flowed.

So, I did what I have done since high school.  I pulled out my journal and began to write an honest prayer to God.  Elements of fear, frustration, discouragement, conflicted emotions; deep questions and hurts flowed out on the page.

The next day I reviewed my midnight journaling session and a question started haunting me.  The basis of my struggles all pertain to the curse that was put on all mankind and recorded in Genesis 3.

When Adam and Eve chose rebellion against God in paradise, the world as it was created was forever stained by selfishness, mistrust in God, greed, silence and several dozen other dark words.

Everything I have ever known is broken.  Relationships, starry nights, weather patterns, heart motives…everything.

If I were in Adam or Eve’s position after the fall, just East of the garden’s gate, I wonder, what or whom would I miss the most?  Would I miss the gifts of the garden more than face-to-face conversations with God?

If I’m honest, I often want the gifts more than the giver.  Do you do that?

Like Adam and Eve, I let the enemy question my knowledge of God’s heart and character. I begin to question His motives, His timing or His plan.  A few mental sidesteps later and my view of my Savior is completely distorted.  

I often start to think that I need to somehow protect myself from God. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I hope one benefit of this 40-day process will be a deeper appreciation for Jesus – The Sacrificial Lamb.  I want to know Him.  I want to be certain of His qualifications.  Every Monday I plan to look at Jesus’s character instead of my own.  I want to shape my life in response to what is true about Him, not the gifts he gives.

          Katie Croft

Lenten Devotional – Day 3

Lent 3The wonderful part about a Christian taking time to look at their sin is, at the end of the day, I can trust my nasty thoughts, wrong choices, dark heart attitudes, rebellious actions and hurts toward myself and others are paid for in full already.

I do not need to manage my emotions better.  Berating myself for wrong choices will not solve anything.  I can’t pay Him back for my wrong thoughts, attitudes or choices.  Those things are already accounted for, forgiven.

What I can do is channel my guilt, shame, remorse and heartbreak to Jesus.  Trusting Him to once again reassure me that He knew about these acts of rebellion when He chose to die on the cross for me.  He died setting me free to be with Him.

That offers me a different motivation for my reform.  When I talk with Jesus about my sin, acknowledging that it’s what he died to save me from, then I want to honor his sacrifice by fleeing from rebellious thoughts, habits, actions and motives.

I don’t have to dig my heels in and “try harder” in my own strength.  He sent His spirit to give me strength..

Today I’m looking at my sin out of a desire to more fully give up my grasp on these dead habits, half-hearted beliefs and manipulative actions.  They no longer hold me in the eternal realm, but old habits die hard.

I want to address a few of these rebellious areas directly and ask my Savior to help me live more fully in light of my eternal reality where I am freed from sins curse.

United Methodists and Communion: Some Questions and Answers

CommunionWhy do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?

Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings.

  • Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place.
  • Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church.
  • Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal.

By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act. 

What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?

Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us.  They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance.  A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.

Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?

No, we believe that the change is spiritual.  They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood.

We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”

I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist.  Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?

Yes indeed.  It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you.As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.”

We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive.  Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.

I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination.  May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion?

Yes indeed.  We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.

Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?

Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned.  He still does.

None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace.  Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith.  Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. 

No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table.  Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.

May young children receive Communion?

Certainly.  As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” 

We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).

But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?

Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament?  No, and neither do any of us.  It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery.

Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table.  Young children experience being loved by being fed.  They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. 

They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored . Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).

May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?

Certainly.  In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated.

If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served.  You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served.  Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.

If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?

Certainly.  As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service.  This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.

Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?

Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.

– Excerpt from United Methodists and Communion: Some Questions & Answers by Hoyt L. Hickman.

  • Additional information concerning communion can be found in this video episode of “Chuck Knows Church“.